J is for John the Baptist

a-to-z-letters-jJohn the Baptist is one of the big stars of the biblical Gospels and Qur’an. Luke says he is related to Jesus. Elizabeth, John’s mother, and Mary, Jesus’ mother, were cousins.

Christians, Muslims, Bahá΄ís and Mandaeans all consider him a prophet. In this part of the world, we know him as Yahyā ibn Zakarīyā (يحيى بن زكريا) (John, son of Zachariah).

John, the wild man, spent a great deal of time in the deserts of eastern Jordan and popped round to do a bit of preaching and baptizing. He was preaching on the eastern bank of the Jordan River at Bethany beyond the Jordan when Jesus came along one day to be baptized by him.

John’s personality was rather abrasive and his sermons stung the established religious sects. He wasn’t winning friends or influencing people in the Sanhedrin, that’s for sure!


John the Baptist Shrine, Damascus, Syria

Now, Herod, the King of Israel, was in an incestuous marriage. Oh yes. Herodias, the former wife of his brother, was his niece! The Baptist publicly condemned Herod for it, and quite a few other things. The king was enraged and had John arrested and thrown in prison at his palace down in Machaerus (قلعه المشانق‎) Qal’at al-Mishnāqá in Arabic.

Of course, we all know the story of Salome (Herod’s great-niece/stepdaughter) who asked for John’s head on a platter at the prodding of Herodias. So, off came his head.


John the Baptist Shrine, Damascus, Syria

Josephus, the first century historian, tells it a little differently. According to him, Herod had John arrested because of his huge number of followers. He was afraid John was going to foment a rebellion, and of course the best way to prevent a rebellion is to execute the leader… right?



John the Baptist Shrine, Damascus, Syria

One last little tidbit here; John the Baptist’s head is at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. I had the exciting privilege to visit the shrine before the late atrocities.

Bethany beyond the Jordan and Machaerus are major tourist sites here in Jordan and are visited by many Christian and Muslim pilgrims and tourists. I very highly recommend both!




2 thoughts on “J is for John the Baptist

  1. Hi Jim – How long have you been in Jordan? Thank you for the photos. I’ve only traveled internationally once, and after the l-o-n-g flight over the ocean not sure I will do it again, but I enjoy seeing pictures, etc. I wish I was more adventurous to get out there and see the world in person.

    • Hi Emmly Jane! Thanks for stopping at my place. I’ve been in Jordan for four years now. That transatlantic flight seems to get longer each time I do it, and takes longer to get over it. Not sure I’ll ever be able to do it again… I hope you’ll keep coming round and enjoying my posts.

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