St. Manaen ― A Friend to St. John the Baptist’s Murderer

Manaen shares a May 24 memorial with Joanna, whose husband, Chuza, was Herod Antipas’ chief steward.

Giovanni Baronzio, “The Feast of Herod and the Beheading of the Baptist,” c. 133
Giovanni Baronzio, “The Feast of Herod and the Beheading of the Baptist,” c. 133 (photo: Public Domain)

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. ―Acts 13:1

In the early days of the Church, Manaen (also known as Manahen) was recognized as a Christian prophet and teacher in Antioch (Syria). It is likely that he arrived in Antioch following the persecution of St. Stephen―when many Jewish Christians fled Jerusalem, looking for safer places to live out their faith. Some consider that Manaen was probably one who introduced the teachings of Jesus to the people of Antioch, including the Gentiles there, who embraced Christianity in large numbers. It was also near this time frame in Antioch that the term Christian was first used.

Manaen had a thought-provoking friendship with the tetrarch Herod Antipas. Scholars have differed over the biblical label of “close friend” found in Acts 13:1 (NABRE). Manaen was likely a close friend or a courtier, or perhaps he was raised with the ruler. Whatever the exact translation, it is clear that Manaen knew Herod Antipas well. One can only imagine how Manaen’s embracing of the Faith impacted their connection. The Bible shares that although the tetrarch was curious about Jesus, he also expressed disdain toward him. It was also this Herod who had John the Baptist beheaded.

Once while in Antioch, Manaen and some friends were worshiping and fasting when the Holy Spirit came upon the group and declared that two were to be assigned some special work. The two singled out by the Holy Spirit were Barnabas and Saul (Paul). Manaen and his brethren completed their time of praise and fasting and then laid their hands upon the chosen men. It was at this time that Saul and Barnabas set out on the first missionary journey, and Saul began to be referred to as Paul in Scripture.

Because Luke is likely from Antioch, it is thought highly possible that he knew Manaen and used him as a resource when compiling his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Manaen shares a memorial with Joanna, who also had a connection to Herod Antipas ― her husband, Chuza, was his chief steward. Most scholars consider it probable that Manaen and Joanna knew each other.


5 Days of Bible Journaling with St. Manaen

Some might consider St. Manaen as a patron saint of friendships due to his friendship with Herod Antipas. It would be fun to know more about this relationship: Did Herod ever share any concerns or insights with Manaen about Jesus? Was anything said about the regretful beheading of St. John the Baptist? Another point to ponder is how St. Manaen might have known Blessed Joanna, who also had a connection to Herod. We can only imagine. St. Manaen and Blessed Joanna share a memorial May 24. Consider spending five days with St. Manaen by reading, journaling, and pondering the five passages below.

  • Day 1) Acts 11:26b
  • Day 2) Acts 13:1–3
  • Day 3) Luke 8:3
  • Day 4) Luke 9:7–9
  • Day 5) Luke 23:6–12