Decapitation of John the Forerunner

Passio de Iohanne Baptista

Other titles: none

Standard abbreviation: Decap. John

Clavis numbers: CANT 180.2–3; BHG 832–833

Category: Hagiographa

Related literature: Life of John the Baptist by Serapion, Life and Martyrdom of John the Baptist, Martyrdom of Zechariah, Protevangelium of James.

Compiled by Tony Burke, York University (

Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Burke, Tony. “Decapitation of John the Forerunner, by His Disciple Eurippus.” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR.

Posted April, 2017.


The Decapitation of John, the Forerunner, attributed to his disciple Eurippus, is extant in two Greek recensions and in Slavonic. The story repeats the martyrdom of John’s father Zacharias as  reported in Prot. Jas. 23–24: Herod’s soldiers, in search of infants for the Slaughter of the Innocents, kill Zechariah, but Elizabeth and John escape and hide in a mountain. When Herod dies, Elizabeth and John return home (teleported from the mountain by an unnamed angel). At the age of 30 John begins his baptism career and here draws upon the Synoptic accounts of his appearance at the Jordan and subsequent arrest and imprisonment. Additions to the story are found in Herod’s interrogation and scourging of John. Then the action moves to the birthday party as found in Mark and Matthew (Mark 6:19–29//Matt 14:5–12). After John’s death, an angel comes to Elizabeth and instructs her to collect John’s body and take it and bury it with the body of Zechariah (which mysteriously vanished after his murder). Both of them are buried beneath the altar in the temple. Then we learn the fate of the Herods, who all meet suitable ends for their roles in John’s death. The text closes with an attribution to a certain Eurippos who calls himself “the second of John’s disciples according to strictness” and says he wrote his account to encourage his fellow Christians to observe a festival commemorating John’s death August 29, which today remains the date for the commemoration of the beheading of John in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox calendars.

Named historical figures and characters: Archelaus, Caesar Augustus, Elizabeth, Eurippus, Herod (the Great), Herod Antipas, John (the Baptist), Jesus Christ, Michael (angel), Philip (tetrach), Polia (=Herodias), Salome (daughter of Herodias), Zechariah (priest).

Places: Bethlehem, Judea.



3.1 Manuscripts and Editions

3.1.1 Greek

Recension A

A  Italy, Montecassino, 431 (formerly 277; 413), fol. 58v–60r (11th cent.)

D Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. gr. 1989, fol. 232r–234r (12th cent.)

E Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. gr. 1192, fol. 65v–68r (15th cent.)

K Oxford, Bodleian Library, Canonic. Gr. 19, fol. 186v–190r (15/16th cent.; =BHG 833e)

Vasiliev, Athanasius, ed. Anecdota graeco-byzantina, pars prior. Moscow: Imperial University, 1893 (editio princeps of A, pp. 1–4).

Recension B

P Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, gr. 683, fol. 200r–201r (9/10th cent; =BHG 833d)

Q Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, gr. 770, fol. 264r–268r (dated 1315; =BHG 833g)

Recension C

S Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Coislin 296, fol. 12r-13v (12th cent.;=BHG 833)

3.1.2 Slavonic

Eight manuscripts discussed in Berendts, Die handschriftliche Überlieferung der Zacharias- und Johannes-Apokryphen, pp. 47–59.

3.2 Modern Translations

Burke, Tony. “The Decapitation of John the Forerunner, by His Disciple Eurippus.” In New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, vol. 2, edited by Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, forthcoming.

3.3 General Bibliography

Berendts, Alexander. Studien über Zacharia-Apokryphen und Zacharias-Legenden. Leipzig: A. Deichert’sche, 1895.

__________. Die handschriftliche Überlieferung der Zacharias- und Johannes-Apokryphen. TU, N. F. 26.3. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1904.

Burke, Tony. “The New Testament and Other Early Christian Traditions in Serapion’s Life of John the Baptist.” Pages 281–300 in Christian Apocrypha. Receptions of the New Testament in Ancient Christian Apocrypha. Edited by Jean-Michel Roessli and Tobias Nicklas. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014.