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Home » Daily Gospel, Daily Readings

The Beheading of the Baptist

Submitted by on Monday, 29 August 2011No Comment
  • Reading I:  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 96
  • Gospel Reading: Mark 6:17-29


Today is the feast of the Martyrdom of John the Baptist, and the gospel reading, taken from Mark, gives us the narrative account of his beheading. We have written something about this in the article "The Anti-God Family" based on the account in Matthew.

At the center of the narrative is Herod, Herodias and her daughter Salome. Herodias, we are informed, had a grudge against the Baptist. John had denounced her marriage to Herod Antipas — a union which was adulterous. It was this denunciation that led to the Baptist’s imprisonment.

Until that day that Salome danced, the Baptist was kept in chains. We are told that Herod used to listen to him. The king was somehow fascinated with the prophet. But on the birthday of Herod, Salome danced, and that was the end for John.

It is said that Salome danced the Dance of the Seven Veils. This is conjecture of course. But the Dance of the Seven Veils could explain why Herod got so excited that he even promised her half of the kingdom. The King, of course, was just a Roman puppet and had no authority to give any kingdom to anyone. But the dance added to what he had been drinking with his friends probably got into his head.

Paul Delaroche - Herodias-sm

The Dance of the Seven Veils is also thought to have originated with the myth of the goddess Ishtar and the god Tammuz of Assyrian and Babylonian lore. In this myth, Ishtar decides to visit her sister, Ereshkigal, in the underworld. When Ishtar approaches the gates of the underworld, the gatekeeper lets Ishtar pass through the seven gates, opening one gate at a time. At each gate, Ishtar has to shed an article of clothing. When she finally passes the seventh gate, she is naked. In a rage, Ishtar throws herself at Ereshkigal, goddess of the underworld; but Ereshkigal orders her servant Namtar to imprison Ishtar and unleash sixty diseases against her. After Ishtar descends to the underworld, all sexual activity ceases on earth. Papsukkal, the messenger-god, reports the situation to Ea, king of the gods. Ea creates a eunuch called Asu-shu-namir and sends him to Ereshkigal, telling him to invoke "the name of the great gods" against her and to ask for the bag containing the waters of life. Ereshkigal, having promised to grant Asu-shu-namir’s wish, is enraged when she hears the demand, but she has to give him the water of life. Asu-shu-namir sprinkles Ishtar with this water, reviving her. Then Ishtar passes back through the seven gates, getting one article of clothing back at each gate, and is fully clothed as she exits the last gate. Her release is, however, granted only under the condition that she find someone to replace her in the underworld. Tammuz, Ishtar’s husband, has been making merry while she has been dead, and so the goddess sends Tammuz to Ereshkigal. From WikiPedia

See also this page from the WiseGeek

John the Baptist was beheaded on the king’s birthday. It was instigated by Herodias with the full cooperation of Salome and approved by Herod. Herod who had high regard for the John Baptist still approved his beheading, preferring to honor a word declared under the influence of wine and lust over the one who spoke God’s word.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
View in: NAB NIV KJV Vulg Greek
13For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again; even so them who have slept through Jesus, will God bring with him.
14For this we say unto you in the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them who have slept.
15For the Lord himself shall come down from heaven with commandment, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead who are in Christ, shall rise first.
16Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord.
17Wherefore, comfort ye one another with these words.
Mark 6:17-29
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
17For Herod himself had sent and apprehended John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias the wife of Philip his brother, because he had married her.
18For John said to Herod: It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.
19Now Herodias laid snares for him: and was desirous to put him to death, and could not.
20For Herod feared John, knowing him to be a just and holy man: and kept him, and when he heard him, did many things: and he heard him willingly.
21And when a convenient day was come, Herod made a supper for his birthday, for the princes, and tribunes, and chief men of Galilee.
22And when the daughter of the same Herodias had come in, and had danced, and pleased Herod, and them that were at table with him, the king said to the damsel: Ask of me what thou wilt, and I will give it thee.
23And he swore to her: Whatsoever thou shalt ask I will give thee, though it be the half of my kingdom.
24Who when she was gone out, said to her mother, What shall I ask? But she said: The head of John the Baptist.
25And when she was come in immediately with haste to the king, she asked, saying: I will that forthwith thou give me in a dish, the head of John the Baptist.
26And the king was struck sad. Yet because of his oath, and because of them that were with him at table, he would not displease her:
27But sending an executioner, he commanded that his head should be brought in a dish.
28And he beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a dish: and gave it to the damsel, and the damsel gave it to her mother.
29Which his disciples hearing came, and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

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