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The Gospel According to Matthew

Matthew 14 and the death of John the Baptist

Postby Choking » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:02 pm

What was the reason that Herod had John the Baptist killed?

Re: Matthew 14 and the death of John the Baptist

Postby jimwalton » Mon Jun 25, 2018 12:23 pm

Hmm. That's a different question altogether than the subject of conversation, but I'll go there.

Josephus corroborates the Gospels' claims that Herod had divorced his first wife in favor of Herodias. We have no corroboration that John spoke against Herod, but such an idea is certainly in line with the teachings of the Torah. It was also in keeping with the idea of John being another like Elijah, since Elijah had denounced King Ahab (1 Ki. 18.18). Third, the idea of John's denunciation of Herod would have been perceived as an expression of *parresia*, boldness in speech, one of the most revered virtues of the Greco-Roman world. While the "audience" may applaud such courage, John would still be opening himself up to royal revenge. In other words, though we have no extra-biblical corroboration, this piece is very believable. Josephus also mentions that their union caused a cultural problem.

The Mark version of the story says that Herodias nursed a grudge against him, which is also believable. Matthew tells that Herod was afraid of the people because they considered John a prophet. This is accurate as far as we know.

There is no specific corroboration of this particular banquet for Galilean officials (Mk. 6.21), but such things were common so we have no particular reason to doubt it.

According to Josephus, Herodias's daughter Salome was married at the time to her uncle Philip the Tetrarch.

The Gospels say John was put to death at Herodias's request. Josephus says that Herod was afraid John might lead a rebellion. Those could both be true. The Gospels don't really tell why Herod executed him except that it was at the request of Salome/Herodias. The Gospels hint that Herodias was offended that John had dared speak against them, and Josephus hints that Herod was afraid of an uprising. Those could both be true. Unless we have another source, it's difficult to pursue the matter much further.

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