The Head of John the Baptist

Anxious Bench | 3/14/2019 | Staff
echolea (Posted by) Level 3
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From the Anxious Bench archives:

When I ask students to read and generate questions about the Gospel of Mark, someone always asks about the beheading of John the Baptist? What sort of mother asks her daughter to ask her father for a prophet’s head?

Question - Fig - Tree - Answer

(I can also count on a question about the fig tree, for which I never have an adequate answer).

According to Mark, John the Baptist criticized Herod Antipas for having married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Just to be clear, the brother had not died. The king had taken his wife, an act obviously forbidden by the Torah. The wife in question wanted John killed, but Herod respected John. In order to silence John and mollify his new wife, he ordered John’s arrest, but liked to chat with him.

Herod - Banquet - Daughter - Herodias - Mark

When Herod gave a banquet, his daughter (also named Herodias according to Mark) pleased Herod so much with her dancing that he offered to give her whatever she desired. Many readers presume that Herod was as infatuated with the daughter as he had been with the mother. The daughter consulted her mother, who told her to ask for “the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king did not want John dead (in fact, it seems he would have preferred to have fulfilled a rather different sort of desire), but he acquiesced. The girl then handed it over to her mother.

In his Antiquities, the historian Josephus confirms the story about the shady marriage, and he adds that Herod Antipas hatched a scheme to divorce his first wife at the same time. Joseph provides a different name for Herodias’s first husband and names their daughter as Salome. Josephus confirms that Herod had John killed, though he provides scant detail.

Matthew - Mark - Story - Luke - Story

While Matthew more or less repeats Mark’s story, Luke omits the story...
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