John the Baptist
John the Baptist was a wild-man prophet who also happened to be a cousin of Jesus. He was also Jewish but is now considered to be a proto-Christian. He ran a popular immersion/conversion gig, down by the River Jordan. Much later, a young woman danced naked, seeking only as payment John's severed head. She got it.
John was born in Palestine at the fag end of B.C. (round about 8 B.C.). One of the Gospels says his parents were pensioners Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, his miracle birth involving neither angels nor obstetricians. It just happened. However, three other Gospels neither confirm nor deny this account.
John always wanted to be a preacher-man, but his act required a special novelty. So after trying the more reasonable (if boring) holy man, John threw himself full-pelt into a wild man, gesticulating by the River Jordan. He threw off his usual clothes and clad himself like a caveman in animal skins and fur. John washed without soap and shampooed without conditioner, but still managed to smell like a dead goat.
John asserted that he was the Prophet Isaiah returned or rebirthed, his Earthly appearance the first musical fart that the Apocalypse was due at any moment. There wasn't a moment to lose; all sinners had to go through his grimy hands to get saved.
Those wanting to be cleansed of sin would strip off and walk into the River Jordan, where John was waiting for them. He would then grab their heads and push them under the water, claiming that God was working John's arms and that this was the best way for a free wash and a ticket to the aftershave. Men and women queued up for hours to get a thorough ducking, long before the invention of modern sewage treatment.
John's act soon reached the ears of his kinsman Jesus. The future Messiah visited John and joined the cult. Jesus gave himself to John to get a holy wash — and thereby wash away the sins that 99% of Christendom holds Jesus did not have in the first place. That may be why witnesses say a white dove appeared and said 'I'm a bird and this is the Chosen one.'
Jesus became a devotee and helped to process the queues by the River Jordan. He was all in for the Baptist's message, though he drew the line at becoming a furry. Jesus's other task was to supply fresh honey for John. He insisted they include a few squashed bees to keep up his stamina, as dunking people was heavy work.
John's daily baptisms became a tourist attraction. Those on the outside of the Jewish cultural life of the day — like the Romans and Greeks — organised day trips to watch John 'doing his stuff,' though most in the audience couldn't understand a word. John had a thick regional accent, and was yelling and raving to boot.
Eventually local ruler Herod Antipas took in the show, accompanied by his wife Herodias. Inability to understand the lyrics was no issue, as it was this or the Opera. Unfortunately, Herodias had also been the wife of Herod's half brother, 'Half Herod,' and Herod had adopted her daughter Salome. Though never saying why, the Bible was always dead set against such arrangements about brothers marrying their sister-in-laws. Incest, like eating shrimps, was an offence to be met with a thorough stoning.
The sight of Antipas especially agitated John, who started to finger-point, accused Antipas of doing the dirtiest acts of man, and let loose a string of expletives and rude hand gestures. Herod giggled, but his stick-of-a-wife Herodias took great offence and demanded John be arrested and imprisoned. Her henpecked husband gave the order. John was dragged out of the River Jordan and taken to Herod's palace of Masada near the Dead Sea.
Slow dance to martyrdom
John's former mates, including Jesus, abandoned their leader and fled back to their homes, leaving John on his own. He kept on preaching in prison — though mainly to his guards. They reported John's predictions of fire and destruction. Herod wasn't sold on them, but in the meantime, left John chained to the wall.
This displeased Herodias. She wanted John dead, sod Herod and his weak knees. So she hatched a plan with Salome. The young Jewish princess was to perform a peek-a-boo strip tease to 'encourage' Herod to change his mind about John and have him killed. That Salome was so keen to strip off in front of Herod's court of flatterers and flunkies may mean the youngster had her own reasons to want John dead.
Salome wrapped seven veils around her body and danced in front of Herod. He resisted Salome's interpretative routine until she got down to the seventh veil. It would be as far as she would go unless Herod gave the order. To satisfy the urgings both of Mrs. Herod and that Little Herod, Herod agreed. Off came the last veil and, presently, off came John the Baptist's head. Soldiers were sent to the dungeon, cut it off, and placed it on a tray with toast and marmalade. John's trunkless head was shown to the court and Salome was allowed to play with it until the drink ran out and everyone went to bed.
John's body was buried near Herod's palace but the head was kept in a glass box. It toured the Holy Land before ending up in Damascus, where it now resides inside a mosque. (The Muslims claim John as one of their prophets too.) The rest of John's body was rediscovered and was broken up to provide relics with magical powers like clinching the best-looking date at school and winning the lottery.
With John dead, many ex-followers moved over to support Jesus instead. Christian historians are nothing if not front-runners, and came up with the story that John the Baptist was a disciple of Jesus, and not the other way around.
The sacrament of baptism was John's major contribution to Christianity. Later on, this became a requirement if one chose to become a Christian, though performed by clergy these days, and not a half-man, half-hairy-monster as in the time of John the Baptist.
- You will find a lot of this in the Bible.
- Active 740-680 B.C. Wrote his best works when in a fever and refusing to eat for weeks.
- It would be like trying to make out what the hairy Scottish backers of the visiting team are saying.
- Also known as Herod Philip. All the boys in the family called themselves Herod
- Later interpretations suggested Salome had long lusted after John the Baptist. This was Salome's revenge on him for rejecting her, served sweaty and hot.
- The current count is that John the Baptist had a spare head, four arms and three legs. Likewise, eBay has several times more used tickets for Roger Clemens' notorious 20-strikeout game than there are seats in the stadium where it occurred.