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A head on a silver platter – rethinking John the Baptist and Oscar Wilde
Salome kisses the head of John the Baptist. A play based on the biblical story is getting a new translation.
February 2nd, 2012
05:00 AM ET

A head on a silver platter – rethinking John the Baptist and Oscar Wilde

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Charlottesville, Virginia (CNN)— As Oscar Wilde imagined it, the execution of John the Baptist was packed with love, lust, incest and murder.

The Irish playwright spun the ancient biblical story into "Salome," a one-act tragedy written in 1863 in French that today is getting a fresh look thanks to Joseph Donohue, a theater historian hell-bent on changing the way the play is read in English.

In the biblical account, John the Baptist was a prophet and the cousin of Jesus. King Herod, who had imprisoned John fearing a rebellion, promised his sultry stepdaughter Salome anything, including half his kingdom, in return for a striptease.

Herod got his dance and Salome, at the suggestion of her mother, who was not a fan of John's proclamations against her, asked for and received the Baptist’s head on a silver platter.

“It’s a rather shocking story,” says Donohue, a professor at the University of Massachusetts and an expert on all things Wilde.

Donohue has long loved "Salome" but hated the English translations. So he set out to complete a new translation. Donohue wanted prose that would be closer to Wilde’s heart, using English vernacular and eschewing the Biblical “thees” and “thous” that other translators had shoehorned in.

Joseph Donohue awaits the staged reading of his translation of Salome.

When Wilde wrote Salome,” he used poetic license in filling in narrative gaps from the accounts of the head-on-the-platter story in the gospels of Matthew and Mark.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

“Herod, shall we say, has a thing for Salome. But none of that is in the Bible,” says Donohue, explaining how Wilde used that license to tease out explicitly what the gospel writers wrote implicitly.

Interpreting the head on the platter

The Bible’s account is a complex story that is critical to the New Testament’s overall narrative, according to biblical scholars.

“Theologically, John is lifted up as an important figure in the Christian community, but put in place as less important, as a forerunner [to Christ],” says O. Wesley Allen Jr., a synoptic gospel scholar who is an associate professor at Lexington Theological Seminary.

"It is interesting that so much of the artwork on this theme, Wilde's play and the opera that followed [which was based on the Wilde play], have focused on Salome as the interesting character," he says.

But the main character for Allen is John the Baptist.

“If I were preaching this text I would ask the congregation to focus on why John was considered a threat [by Herod], and how we who strive to live a righteous life can do the same,” Allen says. “It comes back to speaking truth to power, regardless of the risk to ourselves.”

N.T. Wright, a New Testament scholar and former Bishop of Durham, concurs with Allen that the story is very much about John the Baptist.

Wright adds there is a political complexity to the story. John the Baptist’s “criticism of Herod for divorcing his first wife and stealing his brother's wife is not simply a question of marital morals," he says. “The subtext is whether Herod can really be 'the king of the Jews' or not.”

“[John the Baptist’s] point is that if he was the real 'king of the Jews' he wouldn't be doing this stuff,” says Wright. “This then colors the later moment when, in the same geographical location, Jesus is asked whether he approves of divorce. That's rather like asking a bishop, at the height of the Clinton scandal, how he thinks employers should treat young women - knowing that whatever he says will be taken as comment on the big man.”

As a narrative structure for the authors of the gospels, John’s execution was paramount in foreshadowing Jesus’ death, the scholars say. But as for the sexy maven who asked for that execution, Salome is never even referred to by name in the gospels. Most English translations refer to her only as "the daughter" or "the damsel."

For Wilde she is the star.

"Salome" was a commercial flop for Wilde and he missed the premier by an avant-garde Parisian theatre company in 1896 because he was in jail for " 'gross indecency' between men," Donohue writes in the Translator's Preface.

Today the book market for English translations of unsuccessful one-act French plays is small. So Donohue teamed with famed illustrator Barry Moser, whose work on the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible, "Moby Dick" and "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" has been hailed.

Illustrator Barry Moser added portraits for Donohue

Moser would pen portraits of the "Salome" characters to help attract a wider audience in the arts community.

With Moser on board, the project was an easy sell to the University of Virginia Press, which recently published Donohue’s new translation in plain-spoken English.

Where the early English translations had Herod begging for his dance as:

"I am sad to-night Therefore dance for me. Dance for me, Salome, I beseech you. If you dance for me you may ask of me what you will, and I will give it you, even unto the half of my kingdom."

Donohue turned the vernacular French into something closer to contemporary English:

"I'm sad tonight. So dance for me. Dance for me, Salome, I beg you. If you dance for me you can ask me for anything you like and I'll give it to you. Yes, dance for me, Salome, and I'll give you all you ask me for, even if it's half my kingdom."

“My translation is as faithful as an idiomatic translation can be, I would be so bold as to say,” Donohue said.

Raising the curtain on a new translation

In early December, the University of Virginia Press teamed with the school’s drama department for a staged reading of the new translation.

On the night of the reading, as the caterer was milling around the sparse fourth floor theater at Live Arts in Charlottesville, Virginia, Donohue sat in the back of the room waxing poetic about Wilde.

His neatly trimmed gray goatee and wispy white hair made him the perfect model for Moser’s sketch of King Herod. His face lit up with each excited point about the French play.

“Wilde was an amazing scholar,” Donohue said. An Oxford graduate, Wilde was well versed in not just the Bible but also in first century historians like Josephus.

“He could have been, if he wanted to be, a superb classical scholar … but that seemed dry as dust to him.”

Wilde wove that biblical scholarship into the text and characters in "Salome," despite the fact Wilde was not terribly religious. Donohue notes Wilde wasn’t a churchgoer.

“I would like to think this is viable stuff,” Donohue said as he waited for the world premier of his translation.

The actors took their places in front of the packed house of about 100 and Donohue beamed from the front row as the reading got under way. He was listening intently and promised earlier if he heard a line that was “a clunker” he would change the text.

The actors were in partial costume and held their scripts in hand.

King Herod wore a cape and crown with a cable knit sweater and grey khakis. John the Baptist popped up shirtless from behind the cistern with a shaggy beard and spiral-bound script.

Kerry Keihn, a senior from UVA, portrays Salome.

At times the actors were a half beat off, looking down at their scripts to dutifully stay on the text. This night was more about the text of the play than the margins, less of a full-blown production and more of an experiment.

There was the occasional unscripted long pause.

“Sorry, probably my line. Indeed!” the actor playing Herodias said, dipping out of character for a moment and drawing a laugh from the crowd.

Wilde wrote "Salome" as a tragedy, but this night was filled with laughs, something the author would have approved. Donohue said Wilde liked to play on an audiences’ awkwardness and dig at social mores.

The crowd laughed nervously when Salome asked for the head of John the Baptist and when Herodias nagged her husband, Herod, about hitting on her daughter – murder and incest not exactly classic comedy moments.

“Sometimes when you laugh at something, it reveals how terrible it is,” Donohue said with a wry smile.

At the end of the play, like in the biblical story, Salome got her wish.

She held the severed head of John the Baptist and finally got the kiss she craved. As she planted a kiss on the lips of the bodiless head, Herod called for her to be killed, too, the lights went dark and the play ended.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Books • Christianity • Ireland

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soundoff (93 Responses)
  1. The Phist

    Is the just sayin troll the same as george and the prayer queen poster retard? It's difficult to imagine people that are so stupid that when shown factual information, they just ignore it and keep preaching.

    February 2, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Prayer is effective
    Prayer is enlightening
    Prayer is elevating
    Prayer changes things

    February 2, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Nope

      ~~The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.~~

      February 2, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Samsword

      @Nope Where are these studies I'd like to red them, and see how accurately they are measured.

      February 3, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @samsword: the Templeton Foundation did a study on this. Do a simple google search on it...numerous articles that show the stats.

      February 3, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  3. Enoch

    Now Christopher Hitchins has died, the Atheist-gangs of the Wild Wild West have their new apostle> Oscar Wilde!

    February 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • The Phist

      Never heard of the guy until today. And, I really don't care.

      February 2, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • You will never go broke by underestimating the intelligence of a Christian

      So Christopher Hitchens is no longer an atheist "apostle" because he is dead, and has been replaced by Oscar Wilde, who has been dead for 111 years? That makes sense to you?

      Love the Christian brane thunking thing that you do so well.

      February 3, 2012 at 3:55 am |
  4. WRITTEN IN STONE

    open mind

    February 2, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  5. Bo

    There is one slight, but important error in this article. It was not Herod’s fear of John the Baptist that brought about his death, but Herodias’s fear and contempt of John. If Herod had not been so drunk and of clear thought, he might have adverted the death of John by telling Salome , “Yes, you can have the head of John on a silver platter, but your mother’s head will be served first. Would you like to change your wish?" Read it again in the Bible.

    February 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • *frank*

      Wilde > the authors of the bible.

      February 2, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  6. Ran

    Only a crazed man like Wilde can misconstrue and bas tardize a Biblical story of such significance.

    February 2, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  7. VanHagar

    Doc...I disagree. It was the actions of the crowd which were immoral, not Lot's choice. He was damned either way.

    February 2, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • VanHagar

      Sorry all, that should have been posted below.

      February 2, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  8. gold almond

    According to media reports in Mongolia, December 22, a born in Tibet, living in India, the Dalai Lama's help to become Mongolia "Religious leader" of the so-called "ninth Religious leader " somehow got stroke, unconscious. However, just before the November 2nd, the Dalai Lama personally to cheer for Mongolia, the two friendly interviews. History is known as the Living Buddha of Mongolia's largest served “Religious leader " life is not long, the short-lived on the third world die before the age of 16 baffling disease. "Ninth World" finally live a long point, the Dalai Lama saw the terminally ill, ordered a few will do, this is it coincidence?

    February 2, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • sam

      What the hell are you even talking about?

      February 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • The Phist

      I concur. Did he write this post while being beaten to death with his own shoes?

      February 2, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  9. Joe T.

    I've read the Bible four times, three times as a believer and once as a non-believer. Can anybody tell me the signifigance of Lot's daughters getting him intoxicated and raping him?

    There is a lot of goofy and sick stuff in that book. Take for instance, the account of Ehud killing Eglon. It goes into very gross detail that you would think a book that is supposed to be holy and have a meaningful purpose, would not.

    February 2, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • hippypoet

      his daughters thought that they were the ONLY humans on earth....so they took it upon themselves to repopulate the globe – and in there defense, they were doing exactly what was asked of them as women in those days... only it was poor judgement to bed the dad!

      however, interestingly enough, shame, according to many biblical scholars, believe is placed as a conscience to understand the weight of choice and the burden of free will. Shame is the reason why the daughters needed to get there dad drunk.

      February 2, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • VanHagar

      Joe...you suggest that the Bible is a "book that is supposed to be holy and have a meaningful purpose." In many respects it does. It is also a story (true IMHO) so it will include the good and the bad and the ugly (sorry Mr. Eastwood). But, that is one of the reasons (of which there a more) why I find it credible–it isn't filled with simply warm thoughts–it reads just as history is...good, bad and ugly.

      February 2, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @vanHagar
      It reads as history – except for all the supernatural bits.
      Neither snakes nor donkeys nor flaming foliage have ever uttered a coherent sound.

      February 2, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Joe
      I've always wondered how Lot could be considered a righteous man in the eyes of the Lord if he was willing to throw those same daughters over to a mob to be rap/ed!

      February 2, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • VanHagar

      Sorry for the typo "are more" please.

      February 2, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • VanHagar

      Doc...you and I will simply have to agree to disagree on the supernatural parts. As for Lot, it's easy, thousands of years and many cultures away to second guess him, but middle eastern culture at that time dictated that guests were to be safe guarded at all cost. Lot was, I'm sure, not pleased by the choice of evils, but at that time, in that place, his decision was consistent with the cultural norm.

      February 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Reality

      Read the OT/Torah as mostly a fictional doc-ument.

      An example:

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      February 2, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @VanHagar
      A fine argument in favour of moral relativism.

      February 2, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • just sayin

      Lots conduct has been explained multiple times but some moron like yourself continues to try to use it as immoral.
      A few points
      1.You are not righteous and have no basis for understanding what righteousness is
      2. Lots daughters were never used even though offered, God used a different solution
      3. Lot offered his daughters as Abraham offered his son, in the full confidence that God would return their children unharmed, righteousness is by faith.

      February 2, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • sam

      just sayin', quit being a righteous, boring pr!ck.

      February 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Snow

      so out of curiosity.. you mean to say that in order to be righteous, one has to be religious? how the F are they even connected? do you really need a book to tell you the stealing is bad? that killing others is bad? that you have to walk on the right side of the state's law?

      besides, talking about Lot's righteousness, what is the primary responsibility of a family head? to protect the guests or to protect his family? and would you, "just sayin" do the same with your daughters?

      February 2, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Snow

      A sane man with good conscience would say "you would have to go through me to get to the guests under my protection. I will fight to death to protect them"..

      but apparently a righteous christian is supposed to say "leave my guests alone, but take my little daughters and do whatever you wish with them.. I don't care"

      wow.. great god.. and hats off to their morality..

      February 2, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • VanHagar

      Wow–a lot of talk about Lot, or rather, a lot of conjecture about Lot.

      @just sayin...brother be careful. We don't know what was going through Lot's mind. It was most certainly a stressful situation.
      @snow...Lot's reaction is not necessarily an indication of who God is. It may very well be that Lot's choice was not the one God would have had him make. Lot was credited for being a good man–but not a perfect man.

      The focus is on Lot–IMHO that's the wrong focus. He was placed in a no-win situation. It was the crowd that was immoral.

      February 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • just sayin

      Hard to face truth sam and find out you've been sucked into lies all this time?

      February 2, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • just sayin

      since none of you are righteous none of you have a clue what you are talking about. Righteousness only comes by having faith in God no faith no righteousness no knowledge of what righteousness is.

      February 2, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Snow

      It is so easy to make a blanket statement that offers no explanation.. so here is one for you "just sayin".. and unlike you, I can back it up with facts when asked for..

      "You have absolutely no understanding of the religion or god you claim to follow.. if you were, you would have realized the mistake of your own statements.. read your own posts right in this page and you would know why.. But I can tell you that if you follow the same path you are on now, your own god will spit you out of his sight in disgust"

      February 2, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • sam

      Speaking of sucked...

      February 2, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • just sayin

      for the learning impaired
      FACT : if you are not righteous you do not have a clue as to what righteousness is

      February 2, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Pope Tweet

      @just sayin & Van
      Appeal to Special Pleading fallacy.

      February 2, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • The Phist

      just....

      Righteousness is contrived stupidity. Many of us have a clear understanding of what it is because we were once believers. Having experienced the brainwashing ourselves, we have more of an insight than you do. The reason for this is that we understand your religion better than you do. We have the advantage of having been on both sides of the fence. It's a lot easier to see the flaws when you're on the outside looking in after you've been on the inside. I view christianity as a prison. I did my time. People such as yourself who have only spent time in this prison and nowhere else don't understand what the real world is like. Maybe someday, you'll educate yourself and you can get out of that little bubble you're in and get a glimpse of reality. Until then, shove your righteousness. It is meaningless. That's a fact.

      February 2, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  10. RightTurnClyde

    This posting got off to a good start and then flopped. It was trying to connect too many dots and failed. Was John the Baptist a political figure? (well .. in ancient Israel politics was religion .. it was a theocracy). What was the connection between John, Salome and Herod. Herod was not a king (as the bible says) but a Roman appointee (a governor). Pilate was a mere Justice of the Peace (not a wise man - a proculator) Israel was in turmoil .. it was a few years away from total destruction. There were many internal conflicts (divisions). The Apostles were not politicians (nor a preachers today). So the gospels are a poor source for history. There were MANY sub-plots inside the greater historical picture. The real story will never be understood (it is too complex).

    February 2, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  11. myweightinwords

    I've long held that the stories of the bible, put in the context of their time and culture, make for great theater, especially if taken out of the hands of the very religious, who necessarily view the stories only through the lens of their faith, ignoring the true telling details of the society in which they are based in order to wring Truth from them.

    Some great stories in that book, they just need a better editor.

    February 2, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      That's just what Schlafly though when he commissioned the Conservative Bible.
      A brand new AMERICAN to combat the "liberal bias" of other translations.
      That bleeding heart, commie Jesus in the KJV just isn't right wing enough for the modern Christian Republican.

      February 2, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • BRC

      I'm slowly working my way through the bible as an academic exercise. I was reading on a plane when the flight attendant said "it's good to see someone reading the greatest book ever written". Even if it was all true, and it wasn't full of deplorable acts, IT IS A HORRIBLY WRITTEN BOOK. Its prose is terrible, it uses obfuscating and unclear language for the sake of seeming grandiose (irony intended), its repettion is attrocious. The Bible is what happens when a large group of people poorly record oral traditions and then refuse to proof their work because it's "Holy".

      February 2, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • SeanNJ

      @myweightinwords: That's why they made such good Hollywood epics back in the 50's. Cecil B DeMille + Charlton Heston + Old Testament = Box Office Gold.

      February 2, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @BRC
      The King James Bible was actually designed to be accessible to everyone!
      The King created multiple committees, each tasked with translation a section using the least flowery language possible so that everybody could understand the message. When a chapter was completed, it was presented to a larger group of scribes/scholars/clergymen who would pick it apart further and try to eliminate obfuscation and poor translation.
      It's just that the English language has changed quite a bit in 400 years!

      February 2, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • myweightinwords

      BRC, exactly....the story conc.epts have merit, the ex.ecu.tion is lacking.

      February 2, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • BRC

      @DOC,
      I'm reading the King James version, and in y opinion, mission failed. And mind you, I primarily read old works (I had no probelm dealing with teh repition in Homer because I understood why he was doing it). I don't need a translater for Shakespear, or when reading Fauste, or any long dead philosophers. The only author I read that is still alive is Pierce Anthony, when I need to come up for air and read some really easy puns.

      But even with all of that, to me the Bible (at leas tthe old testament), is VERY poorly exexuted.

      February 2, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Brad

      BRC-

      I sometimes use a Greek New Testament with interlineal English. It's remarkable because the actual language is so spare. The actual Greek is extremely blunt and matter-of-fact, not at all obfuscating. I think that's the nature of the dialect used at the time. It was a very plain tool for easy communication between people who were not native Greek speakers.

      February 2, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Yes, quite true. Preachers today cannot see or experience real life. They are so crippled. They filter everything they see and hear and then filter again when they speak. Most of what they say is unintelligible (which is probably why they make good preachers .. and so few of us do). That is also why the greatest detractor to Christianity are the preachers. Life is about a.p.p.e.t.i.t.e.s and motivations and ... obsessions. Intense desire leads to intense behavior .. life is not a milk-toast goody goody experience.

      February 2, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • MarkinFL

      BRC, I had the EXACT same response when I read it more than 20 years ago. What an appalling book on ALL levels!

      I DO agree that there are some interesting stories in there, just told badly. "Jesus Christ Superstar" is the only telling of that particular story that is worth a hoot.

      February 2, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • BRC

      @Brad,
      I might try that one day.

      February 2, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  12. Doc Vestibule

    "Wilde was not terribly religious"
    Talk about understatement!

    February 2, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  13. tea party

    Oscar Wilde was a genius ....his quote Science is the death of all religions" so true....He was persecuted for being g-ay something that was NOT his choice....

    February 2, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  14. hippypoet

    America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.

    Oscar Wilde

    February 2, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  15. Just Me

    gross

    February 2, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  16. ziahshah

    The more we know and learn about John the Baptist more apparent it becomes that Pauline dogma regarding atonement and resurrection of Jesus, had nothing to do with the Jewish faith or faith of John the Baptist and Jesus himself. Paul Johnson writes in his book, the History of Christianity:

    "Most important of all, John the Baptist had broken away from the absolute exclusiveness of the Essenes, teaching that God’s special favours were to be offered to the entire Jewish people, not just to the sect. John was not yet a Universalist, but he was moving in that direction. He was, in short, a carrier, bringing certain key Essene doctrines out of their narrow, bellicose, racist and sectarian framework, and proclaiming them in a wider world.
    The logic of this analysis, then, is that the Baptist was in a sense Jesus’s teacher, and that the pupil improved on, expanded and transformed his master’s ideas. But it is at this point that our evidence breaks down. If anything, it points in another direction. John did not claim to teach the Messiah, merely to identify him; indeed, he specifically rejected any master-pupil relationship. The fact that Jesus was baptized by John does not imply any inferiority, submission or acknowledgement of higher wisdom. The trouble is that we do not know precisely what John taught. We do not know his history or education. We do not even know whether he had a complete theology or cosmology of his own, whether his eschatology was limited to the crude Messianism reflected in the gospels, or, as seems more likely, was elaborate and sophisticated." Read further:

    http://islamforwest.org/2012/01/04/john-the-baptist-a-witness-against-pauline-dogma/

    February 2, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  17. Reality

    A more accurate account?

    "An account of John the Baptist is found in all ex-tant ma-nuscripts of the Jewish An-tiqu-ities (book 18, chapter 5, 2) by Flavius Josephus (37–100):[45]

    "Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exe-rcise virtue, both as to rig-hteousness towards one another, and pi-ety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remi-ssion] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly pu-rifi-ed beforehand by right-eo-usness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mi-schief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sp-aring a man who might make him rep-ent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's susp-icious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him.[46]

    As with other pa-ssages in Josephus relating to Christian themes concern remains over whether the pa-ssage was part of Josephus's original text or instead a later addition – it can be dated back no further than the early 3rd century when it is quoted by Origen in Contra Celsum. According to this passage, the execution of John was blamed for a defeat Herod suffered c. AD 36. Divergences between the passage's presentation and the Biblical accounts of John include baptism for those whose souls have already been "purified beforehand by righteousness" is for purification of the body, not general repentance of sin (Mark 1:4[33])."

    See also Professor Gerd Ludemann's review in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 42-43 and also http://www.josephus.org/JohnTBaptist.htm for added history of JB's execution.

    (note: some hyphenation used to defeat the dreaded word filter)

    February 2, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  18. hippypoet

    Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.

    Oscar Wilde

    February 2, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      sorry but forgiving CA is not possible 😉

      February 3, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      sorry but forgiving CA is not possible 😉 Stupidity can be hereditary and unfortunately there is no changing that....unless of course they can force it to be sterilized and thus stop it from spreading the stupid gene to another generation.

      February 3, 2012 at 7:15 am |
    • Mirosal

      CA likes quoting redneck comedians (the sign) so here's another redneck one that applies to CA .. "You can't fix stupid!!"

      February 3, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Given the infrequency of CA's posts recently, one can only guess that CA is maybe 15 years old and only allowed access to a computer at certain times throughout the week...when its Mommy is not home to catch it browsing po.rn sites and this one.

      February 3, 2012 at 7:37 am |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    February 2, 2012 at 6:40 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Yes...prayer assuages one of guilt for not actually doing anything to help others.

      February 2, 2012 at 6:47 am |
    • captain america

      Is it common practice in canada to act without a plan, Keep your bs opinions where you are only screwing up your own country,why should it be up to US to clean up your crap. There's your sign

      February 2, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • Nope

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.

      February 2, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • hippypoet

      capt'n a moron – you keep ending your posts with "heres your sign".... just out of curiosity wheres your sign, oh thats right – you never got past the alphabet flash cards... when you get to the addition and subjection cards let me know – my daughter can help you with them.

      its people like you that perpetuate the world view of our country, dumb as nails and proud of it – you sir are a red neck!
      heres your sign – its an A for american dum.ba.ss.....have no fear however, you are not alone, sadly!

      February 2, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • captain america

      Hippy what is the best mouthwash to clear your mouth of the taste of foreign butt you've been kissing? There Is YOUR sign

      February 2, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • hippypoet

      news flash el captain – we, and i mean americans, have our DIRTY hands in every damn world afair dating back to the french revolution... we have aided the worst and the ok but never the best because they won't have us – its due to people like you. Why don't you open a history book and realize that our country is a warmongering state...our economy is bsaed on war and without war we starve. This country has been in a major war nearly every 20 years and we were only brought into one of them! Ask yourself what kind of country needs wars to live?

      THE US! the fattest, laziest, dumbiest nation on the planet. get use to it, or get better! For all our accomplishments, we are just too damn fat to get out of bed and dust them off to see what we once were and what we could be again...not that we would, we are super lazy...so i ask you, what makes you so proud to be an american?

      February 2, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • hippypoet

      here captain – chew on this from Oscar him self

      "America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between. "

      Oscar Wilde

      February 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Nope

      ~The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.~

      February 2, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Iron Man

      Cap'n – eat more fiber. It might help with your att.itude and the sht you seem to be collecting in your brain.

      February 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • hippypoet

      truly a captain america response – lacking of any real intelligence!
      Bravo, that was a grand rebuttal.
      i will understand if you need to take some time to look up the word rebuttal, you aren't on those flash cards yet.

      February 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      CA: Hippy is at least a true representation of your country..I think we shall now call him Captain Hippy and you TheTrashy American (you are not befitting of the term captain).

      February 3, 2012 at 7:10 am |
  20. Agent Rasputin

    The perils of casting pearls of wisdom at the feet of swines ...
    John the Baptist knew of these perils & it still cost him his life. The truth is that many cannot be converted from their "earthy" ways & any attempt to comment on the ways of heathens can invariably cost you your life – even in these modern days. The lack of morality has been around for thousands of years & will take some time to fizzle out. It is not our role to comment on the lack of morality outside of the Church. Doing so attracts these very perils.
    Telling someone(outside of the Church) that they shouldn't do this or they shouldn't do that is strictly forbidden. Yes, we will witness even more moral decline. Providing we aren't seen to be casting pearls of wisdom before swines then neither shall we be judged for it or suffer the perils of doing so like John the Baptist.
    Let John the Baptist & many others be a lesson to us. Sew the seeds of Faith where they will flourish.

    February 2, 2012 at 5:40 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Christianity doesn't hold a monopoly on morality and it could be argued that in certain instances the Bible gets it wrong. Morals are an emergent property of any social species and indeed are evident even in some members of the animal kingdom. You may spout your ill-informed opinion on the matter but the facts belie your assertions.

      February 2, 2012 at 6:44 am |
    • just sayin

      Only those who do not know God or the Bible would suggest it is wrong. Ignorance is no excuse

      February 2, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      As an ex-Catholic I'm acutely aware of the scriptures in the Bible. Compare various events in the Bible with current secular standards of morality. Many events in the Bible that are immoral by today's secular standards include: genocide, murder of people for their religious beliefs, mass murder of innocent children, transferring guilt and punishment from the guilty to the innocent, executing some harlots by burning them alive, etc. These are facts, not made up criticisms. Secular morality is far superior to that which is portrayed in the Bible.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • just sayin

      knowledge without wisdom is a terrible thing, knowledge without understanding is equally bad. You evidence those failings

      February 2, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      The problem with the Old and New Testaments is that they are both dated pieces of literature that reflect the values and mores of those who wrote them between 1000 BCE and 135 CE. Many passages in the Old Testament reflect a tribal mentality that portrays God as hating everyone the people of Israel hated. It also portrays God as killing the firstborn male in every household in Egypt on the night of the Passover; justifies the inst.itution of slavery (except for fellow Jews) and defines women as the property of men.
      Rationalize all you want...the truth is plain to all who look. You are trapped in a bubble of ignorance decreed by your dogma and remain blind to the obvious deceptions. And it is you who have sacrificed any semblance of wisdom and understanding for obedience to ancient tribal lore.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @just spewin: as always you sound like an ignorant dolt! AtheistSteve probably has more knowledge than you ever could wish to on the subject...thus why he's an Atheist. You are a hypocrite and if your god existed, he would condemn you to hell for being so judgmental and brain dead...after all, your god apparently states that you are not to judge or you have sinned!!!

      February 2, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • BRC

      @Agent Rasputin,
      while I agree with pretty much everything Steve said, I do want to add that I sort of agree with you. Please, PLEASE convince all very religious times to keep their pearls of religious wisdom to themselves. If we could all go even a few years without religious people telling other people what's wrong with their lives because they don't line up with the religions beliefs the world would be a MUCH better place. If you think you're doing it because of a biblical message, all the better. But really, stop sharing, those of us who don't believe will be grateful.

      February 2, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • sam

      just sayin' only 'knows' god and the bible through the incredibly narrow vision he pulls out of his a.ss.

      February 2, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • All Thumbs

      Evangelical Rule of Thumb:

      If a bible verse furthers the cause, it is to be taken literally. If a bible verse is detrimental to the cause, it is either: taken out of context; is allegorical; refers to another verse somewhere else; is an ancient cultural anomaly; is a translation or copyist's error; means something other than what it actually says; Is a mystery of god or not discernible by humans; or is just plain magic.

      February 2, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.