TechHistoric breakthrough: Archaeologists claim to have found location of John the Baptist's beheading

Historic breakthrough: Archaeologists claim to have found location of John the Baptist's beheading

Machaerus - illustrative photo
Machaerus - illustrative photo
Images source: © Getty Images | Simone Crespiatico
9:08 PM EST, January 16, 2024

The Gospel of Mark provides a biblical narrative of John the Baptist's final moments. It hints that Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee, was led towards a fatal decision against John the Baptist by his wife, Herodias's daughter. Herodias had been the wife of Antipas's brother, Philip - a marriage that aroused the disapproval of John the Baptist. Salome - the daughter in question - performed an enchanting dance on Herod's birthday to the delight of the king and his guests.

The New Testament documents, "The king said to the girl, «Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you» and he solemnly swore to her: «Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom». Salome then consulted her mother, Herodias, about what to demand from Herod. Herodias instructed her to ask for John the Baptist's head.

Herodias had already nursed a grudge against John the Baptist for criticizing her marriage to Herod. John the Baptist's denouncement - «It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife» - was a particular sting. Herod had imprisoned John the Baptist for his outspokenness. Salome's request then provided the chance to eliminate the prophet, particularly since it was Herodias's daughter making the demand for John the Baptist's head.

Herod acquiesced to this demand and, therefore, did away with John the Baptist. Scripture chronicles that the prophet was murdered on the dance floor after Salome's performance, and that King Herod was handed his head on a platter. Archaeologists have long tried to pinpoint the exact location of this horrendous occurrence.

Archaeologists claim to have found location of John the Baptist's execution

IFL Science reviewed work by archaeologist Győző Vörös, author of the book "Holy Land Archaeology on Both Sides: Archaeological Essays in Honor of Eugenio Alliata". Vörös asserts that he has discovered the dance floor mentioned in the Bible. He believes it is in a courtyard unearthed as early as 1980 atop a hill bordering the eastern coast of the Dead Sea in Jordan. Previously, archaeologists had not taken note of a recess in the form of an apse, which Vörös considers a likely portion of Herod Antipas's throne.

Not all scholars concur with Győző Vörös's conjecture. Several are skeptical of his findings while others await further research. IFL Science recalled a 2021 statement from Jodi Magness, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Magness lauded the efforts of Vörös and his team, nevertheless, she voiced her doubts. She observed that the recess found in Machaerus seems small compared to King Herod's throne, discovered in the winter palace in Jericho. Yet, it does resemble other recesses in Herodium, not categorized as thrones.

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