New Testament Significance

Although the fortress itself is not mentioned in scripture, it is the supposed site of the imprisonment and beheading of John the Baptist, as described in Mark 6:17-28 and Matthew 14:1-12.  The reason for the connection comes from the writing of Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in his text, The War of the Jews.  From a combination of these sources, the story can be drawn.

Salome dance

Salome dances for Herod Antipas, her stepfather.

Herod Antipas had married Herodias, who had been previously married to his half-brother, also called Herod.  This was against Jewish law, as a woman was not allowed to divorce without the written consent of her husband.  Thus, the marriage between Antipas and Herodias was unlawful, a fact that John the Baptist did not hesitate to point out.  In scripture, this is given as the reason for John’s imprisonment, although Mark and Matthew disagree as to whether Herod wanted to kill John, or if he refused his wife’s request that he did so.

Caravaggio, Beheading of John the Baptist.

Caravaggio, Beheading of John the Baptist

Regardless, John remains in prison, until one evening when Herodias’ daughter, Salome (who is only named in Josephus) dances for the court.  Herod is so pleased with his step-daughter that he promises her anything she desires.  Scripture agrees on the fact that it is her mother’s influence that causes the girl to ask for the head of John the Baptist. The prophet’s beheading swiftly follows and his head is brought to the party on a platter.

Caravaggio, Salome with the Head of John the Baptist

Caravaggio, Salome with the Head of John the Baptist

New Testament Significance