Monday 29 August 2016

Beheading of John the Baptist, 29th August

Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife,  because John had been telling him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”  Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded him as a prophet.  But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod  so much that he promised on oath to grant her whatever she might ask.  Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.”  The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given;  he sent and had John beheaded in the prison.  The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother.  His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus. (Matt 14:3-12)   This event described in the Gospel according to Matthew is the basis for todays fest day of the Beheading of John the Baptist.
 John is almost like a hinge between the Old and New testaments; he is rooted in the traditions of the prophets of Israel but prepares the way for and witnesses to Jesus, the Christ.  He heralds Jesus with the words "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world". (John 1:29). John also speaks on behalf of the Old Testament upholding the Jewish Law which Herod had broken on two counts: he had divorced his wife with no good reason and he had take his brothers wife as his own wife. 
So we see that in Herodias' eyes he was a threat to here position as Herod's wife and when the birthday party came she sent in her instrument for getting her way; her daughter (according to Josephus she is called Salome) who dances for the King; Herod, besotted by the dancing and makes her a promise with the result that she asks for the head of John the Baptist on a dish and so we have the scene depicted by so many artists including Caravaggio and Hendrick ert Bruggen

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