Freemasonry has adopted Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist as its Patron Saints. The reasoning for this is that these Patron Saints belonged to a Lodge which is presumed to have been in the city of Jerusalem. By this tradition, all subsequent Lodges were born from this Lodge, and therefore all Masons came from such Lodge.
Ancient Saint John Lodges belonged to these Masons, who were a part of the fraternity prior to the organization of the first premier Grand Lodge of England. In the exposed rituals of 1723, emphasis was on Christian Doctrine; however, by 1830 the union of two English Grand Lodges eliminated Christianity from its ritual and changed the work to "the God we all Worship."
Nevertheless, the newly formed Grand Lodge of England still organized its annual assemblies and feasts on the birthdays of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. Thus, all current Lodges are now dedicated to these Patron Saints as opposed to King Solomon.
Saint John the Baptist
John the Baptist was born on June 24th, 6 B.C. He was the son of Zechariah, a Jewish Priest, and his wife Elizabeth, a daughter of Aaron. Elizabeth had lost hope of giving birth due to her age, but received a divine message in her sleep that she would conceive a child.
Saint John the Baptist lived a very simple life as a grown man. He wore clothes made of camel skin, carried a staff, and enjoyed simple meals of natural food found in the region, which sometimes included locusts. He was a practicing Jew who lived by Jewish laws. While preaching to obey the laws of God, he baptized members of the faith at the River Jordan, which included Jesus of Nazareth and his Apostles.
Herod the Great had John the Baptist imprisoned because he denounced Herod for marrying his brother's divorced wife, Herodias, which was against Jewish law. During John's imprisonment, Herodias conspired with her daughter Salome to dance before Herod. After the dance, Herod told Salome he would grant her any wish she requested. Salome asked for John's head on a platter. Herod complied, and John the Baptist was executed.
Saint John the Baptist was regarded as a Prophet by the famous Jewish historian Josephus in many books of faith, including Christian, Islam, Bahia, Aramaic Matthew, Qur'an', and the New Testament. However, Josephus gives a different account surrounding the reasons for the execution of John. As he accounts, John had acquired a large following of people by his preaching and baptisms. This following posed religious and political threats to Herod, as Herod considered the possibility of rebellion. Therefore, he ordered the execution of Saint John the Baptist in 36 C.E.
Saint John the Evangelist
John the Evangelist was born on December 27th, 1 A.D. His father was the son of Zebedee, and his mother was Salome. He came from a family of fisherman, including his father and brother James the Great. John was one of the original twelve Apostles of Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus was brought before the Jewish priests for trial, John accompanied and remained with Jesus throughout the decisions of Pontius Pilate, the carrying of the cross, and the crucifixion. He was also among the first, together with Peter the Apostle, to see Jesus after his resurrection and ascension.
For approximately twelve years, John remained in the region and began a journey to Asia Minor, where he continued his work for many years following. He returned to Jerusalem in the year 51 A.D. to meet with the ministers of the new Christian faith.
John the Evangelist has been recognized as the author of the Three Epistles of John and the Book of Revelations. He is associated with the Masonic and Military Order of The Red Cross of Constantine.
Source: RW C. Don Prosser, 33rd Degree; Coils Masonic Encyclopedia; and G.L. of FL Mentor's Manual