Although Saints Zechariah and Elizabeth brought into the world one of the most important men in history, almost nothing is known about them except what can be found in the Bible.
According to tradition, they were both born in Judea sometime during the last century B.C. Zechariah was a priest from the line of Abijah. Elizabeth was a direct descendant of Aaron. Luke 1:6 says: “Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly”. This good reputation, however, was not enough to keep the local gossips quiet. Because they were childless, it would have been thought that they were being punished by God and that Elizabeth in particular might have been trying to hide some sin.
Their lives changed forever when, during the year 1 A.D., Zechariah entered the sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem to perform his priestly duties. While he was there, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him and announced that, although he and Elizabeth were far too old to become parents, God had willed that they bring forth the man who would announce the coming of the Messiah. Gabriel further told him that the child’s name would be John and, like Samson, Samuel, and other special children of the Old Testament, he should be consecrated to the Lord and never drink alcohol.
Zechariah’s big mistake was when he doubted what the angel said (Luke 1:18). As a punishment, his voice was taken away. When he and his wife returned home, Elizabeth discovered that she was pregnant.
When Gabriel later appeared to Mary, Elizabeth’s cousin, he told her Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story to prove that “nothing will be impossible for God” (Luke 1:37). Mary then went to visit Elizabeth and the infant John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb at the sound of her voice.
Saint Elizabeth was the very first person to call Mary the Mother of God when, in Luke 1:43, she says: “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
The last mention of Saints Zechariah and Elizabeth in the Bible is when the former has his speech restored after insisting that his son be named John. There is, unfortunately, no further record of the parents of John the Baptist that is considered at all trustworthy.
There is an old legend that, during the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, Herod the Great’s soldiers tried to murder John the Baptist and that Zachariah was killed defending his son. This, however, is very unlikely for several reasons, one of which is that Zachariah and his family were probably not even near Bethlehem when the Massacre took place.
Saints Zechariah and Elizabeth are venerated by an extremely large number of Christian denominations. They are also given a place of honor in Islam. In the Catholic Church, their feast day is November 5.
Source: Footnotes and Study Material from Catholic Bible Press’ 1987 Edition of the Holy Bible