The Beheading of St. John the Baptist

Icon of the Beheading of St. John

"The king was greatly distressed but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in prison. He brought the head back on a platter and gave it to the girl.... When his disciples heard about it they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb."

Mk 6:26-29

St. John the Baptist The death of St. John the Baptist is reported in varying amounts of detail throughout the synoptic Gospels and Mark and Matthew report the event with the most detail. In Mark's Gospel, John was arrested and imprisoned because of King Herod's fear of him. John had been openly censuring Herod for taking his sister-in-law as his own wife, and Herod was afraid that John's preaching would start a revolt against him.

Although Herod feared John, he would not kill him because he knew John was a righteous and holy man, and he liked hearing John speak. Herodias, Herod's wife, did not share his respect for John and looked for any chance to have him killed. Herodias' chance came when her daughter Salome's dancing so pleased Herod and aroused such irrational lust in him that he promised her anything she desired. Herodias prompted her daughter to ask for the death of John the Baptist. Herod granted her wish and John was killed.

The day for this feast is taken from the date when the Church of St. John was dedicated at Sebaste, in Samaria. This church is located at what is traditionaly thought to be the burial site for St. John.

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