Why Passion of St John the Baptist not Martyrdom?


Why is today called the “Passion of St. John the Baptist” and not the “Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist”?


It is martyrdom. In fact in French today’s memorial is known as “Le martyre de Saint Jean Baptiste”.

Just a semantics/translation issue. In Latin it’s “passione”.

The archaic definition of “passion” is: “the sufferings of a martyr”, or just “suffering”.

The pre-Vatican II definition of the feast is somewhat more graphic, in Latin it’s “decollatione”, which means “beheading”.

It all amounts to the same thing. He was martyred.


In the English, it’s called “The Passion of St. John the Baptist, Martyr” or “The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, Martyr”. In the Liturgy of the Hours, the sanctoral texts are from the Common of One Martyr.


In the Byzantine Catholic Church, the feast remains The Beheading of St. John the Baptist.


The parish next to where I grew up was originally known as ‘La décollation de St. Jean Baptiste’ but in recent years it’s "Martyre de Saint-Jean Baptiste.

They had a graphic mural in the sanctuary when I was growing up showing John the Baptist kneeling in front of a ‘mad-looking’ executioner raising a scimitar. For years after my first visit there I could have sworn he was holding the severed head by the hair.


Ah, beat me to it. Then again, you usually do. :wink:


Thank you to all. At last - a clear and precise answer to a direct question in a most timely manner.

The OP


As others have pointed out, the Latin name for the feast–which is the official name in the Missale Romanum–is the Decollarione, i.e., the Beheading, of St. John the Baptist. It was always translated as Beheading, even in the post-V2 English-language translations of the missal and kalendar. However, the revised translation that came in a couple of years ago, uses* Passion *of St. John the Baptist. This is an interesting English-language change, and I am not sure of the reason for it, though the revised translations generally moved back toward both greater use of ecclesiastical-sounding terminology AND more Latin root words. In this case, there may have been a perceived conflict between those two ends. :shrug:


I prefer beheading to passion in the same way I prefer Confession to Reconciliation: my choices are more direct, clear and immediate.


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