Mark Chapter 6:17-29

Chapter 6 continues with the story of the (spoiler alert!) death of the Baptist. It has more text than the previous post, but I suspect this will not require too much comment.

17 Αὐτὸς γὰρ ὁ Ἡρῴδης ἀποστείλας ἐκράτησεν τὸν Ἰωάννην καὶ ἔδησεν αὐτὸν ἐν φυλακῇ διὰ Ἡρῳδιάδατὴν γυναῖκα Φιλίππου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ, ὅτι αὐτὴν ἐγάμησεν:

For this Herod sent for and arrested (lit = took into his power, or ‘overpowered’) John and he locked him under guard on account of Herodias, the woman (= wife) of Philip his (Herod’s) brother, because he  (Herod) married her.

17 Ipse enim Herodes misit ac tenuit Ioannem et vinxit eum in carcere propter Herodiadem uxorem Philippi fratris sui, quia duxerat eam.

18 ἔλεγεν γὰρ ὁ Ἰωάννης τῷ Ἡρῴδῃ ὅτι Οὐκ ἔξεστίν σοι ἔχειν τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου.

For John said to Herod that, “It is not allowed to you to have the wife of your brother.”

This is exactly the point that Henry VIII made when he wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon. She had been married to his brother, who then died. Henry was eager to marry her himself, but then started looking for a way to get out of the marriage when she failed to produce a male heir.

18 Dicebat enim Ioannes Herodi: “ Non licet tibi habere uxorem fratris tui ”.

19 ἡ δὲ Ἡρῳδιὰς ἐνεῖχεν αὐτῷ καὶ ἤθελεν αὐτὸν ἀποκτεῖναι, καὶ οὐκ ἠδύνατο:

So Herodias had a quarrel with him (John) and (she) wished to kill him, but was not able.

Presumably, she has a quarrel about what John was saying about the marriage.

19 Herodias autem insidiabatur illi et volebat occidere eum nec poterat:

20 ὁ γὰρ Ἡρῴδης ἐφοβεῖτο τὸν Ἰωάννην, εἰδὼς αὐτὸν ἄνδρα δίκαιον καὶ ἅγιον, καὶ συνετήρει αὐτόν, καὶ ἀκούσας αὐτοῦ πολλὰ ἠπόρει, καὶ ἡδέως αὐτοῦ ἤκουεν.

For Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous man and holy, and he imprisoned him, and hearing him (John) he (Herod) was much puzzled, but he (Herod) listened with pleasure.  

Herod is conflicted. He is disturbed by what John says, but, as a Jew, he recognizes the propriety and the righteousness of it, so he listens willingly.

20 Herodes enim metuebat Ioannem, sciens eum virum iustum et sanctum, et custodiebat eum, et, audito eo, multum haesitabat et libenter eum audiebat.

21 Καὶ γενομένης ἡμέρας εὐκαίρου ὅτε Ἡρῴδης τοῖς γενεσίοις αὐτοῦ δεῖπνον ἐποίησεν τοῖς μεγιστᾶσιν αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῖς χιλιάρχοις καὶ τοῖς πρώτοις τῆς Γαλιλαίας,

And it became an opportune day that Herod was on his birthday he gave a banquet for the big standers (notables/nobles) and for the army commanders and the leading (citizens) of Galilee.

21 Et cum dies opportunus accidisset, quo Herodes natali suo cenam fecit principibus suis et tribunis et primis Galilaeae,

22 καὶ εἰσελθούσης τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτοῦ Ἡρῳδιάδος καὶ ὀρχησαμένης, ἤρεσεν τῷ Ἡρῴδῃ καὶ τοῖς συνανακειμένοις. εἶπεν ὁ βασιλεὺς τῷ κορασίῳ, Αἴτησόν με ὃ ἐὰν θέλῃς, καὶ δώσω σοι:

And the daughter of Herodias herself  coming and dancing, she pleased Herod and those reclining with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me for what you wish, and I will give (it) to you.”

22 cumque introisset filia ipsius Herodiadis et saltasset, placuit Herodi simulque recumbentibus. Rex ait puellae: “ Pete a me, quod vis, et dabo tibi ”.

23 καὶ ὤμοσεν αὐτῇ [πολλά], Ο τι ἐάν με αἰτήσῃς δώσω σοι ἕως ἡμίσους τῆς βασιλείας μου.

And he swore much to her, “What you may ask me for I will give you until half of my kingdom.”

“Swearing” here means making oaths that he will do as he says. “I swear I’ll give you half my kingdom…”

23 Et iuravit illi multum: “ Quidquid petieris a me, dabo tibi, usque ad dimidium regni mei ”.

24 καὶ ἐξελθοῦσα εἶπεν τῇ μητρὶ αὐτῆς, Τί αἰτήσωμαι; ἡ δὲ εἶπεν, Τὴν κεφαλὴν Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτίζοντος.

And going out she said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She (Herodias) said to her, “The head of John the Baptist.”

24 Quae cum exisset, dixit matri suae: “ Quid petam? ”. At illa dixit: “ Caput Ioannis Baptistae ”. 

25 καὶ εἰσελθοῦσα εὐθὺς μετὰ σπουδῆς πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα ᾐτή σατο λέγουσα, Θέλω ἵνα ἐξαυτῆς δῷς μοι ἐπὶ πίνακι τὴν κεφαλὴν Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ.

And immediately with haste  coming in to the king, she asked, saying, “I want so that you may give to me upon a plate the head of John the Baptist.”

25 Cumque introisset statim cum festinatione ad regem, petivit dicens: “ Volo ut protinus des mihi in disco caput Ioannis Baptistae ”.

26 καὶ περίλυπος γενόμενος ὁ βασιλεὺς διὰ τοὺς ὅρκους καὶ τοὺς ἀνακειμένους οὐκ ἠθέλησεν ἀθετῆσαι αὐτήν:

And the king was stricken because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to refuse her.

26 Et contristatus rex, propter iusiurandum et propter recumbentes noluit eam decipere;

27 καὶ εὐθὺς ἀποστείλας ὁ βασιλεὺς σπεκουλάτορα ἐπέταξεν ἐνέγκαι τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ. καὶ ἀπελθὼν ἀπεκεφάλισεν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ φυλακῇ

And immediately the king having sent for the executioner ordered him to bring his (John’s) head.  And going out (he) beheaded him in the prison.  

27 et statim misso spiculatore rex praecepit afferri caput eius. Et abiens decollavit eum in carcere

28 καὶ ἤνεγκεν τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ πίνακι καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτὴν τῷ κορασίῳ, καὶ τὸ κοράσιον ἔδωκεν αὐτὴν τῇ μητρὶ αὐτῆς.

And he brought his head upon a plate and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother.

28 et attulit caput eius in disco; et dedit illud puellae, et puella dedit illud matri suae.

29 καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἦλθον καὶ ἦραν τὸ πτῶμα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἔθηκαν αὐτὸ ἐν μνημείῳ.

And hearing, his (John’s) disciples came and took up the corpse and took it to a tomb.

29 Quo audito, discipuli eius venerunt et tulerunt corpus eius et posuerunt illud in monumento.

OK. This is another of Mark’s long, set-piece stories. These are definitely a feature of this gospel. I don’t recall noticing that the Matthew or Luke do this in the way, or to the extent that Mark does; however, I am more–much more–familiar with Mark than I am with the other two. It would be interesting to know the provenance of these stories; did Mark compose them, or just set them down? I’m not sure what the consensus is on this is.

Interestingly enough, the historian Josephus, a Jew who lived  in the First Century and wrote a history of the Revolt of 67-70 corroborates much of this story. He doesn’t provide all of the details about Herodias’ daughter dancing, and her asking for John’s head, but he does corroborate that Herod both feared and respected John, and that he ordered John’s execution. Josephus also corroborates that John did, in fact, baptize people, but says that the act was to provide final purification of the body, the soul having previously been purified prior to that by way of righteous living. 

One thing: I have found it all too common that any corroboration of any part of anything in the Bible leads to the conclusion that the whole story, even the whole book, has been corroborated. For example, reference to the house of David proves that there was a David, and he was some sort of notable, but it does not imply the whole story of the kingship, the Twelve Tribes, Solomon, the two kingdoms, etc. So with John: he was a baptizer, who was executed by Herod because the latter suspected the former might cause political unrest. But this does not demonstrate any relationship between John and Jesus, or say anything about Jesus at all. So, we take what we get, and don’t try to make it into more than it is.

As to whether this Josephus mentioned Jesus, the answer, IMO, is ‘probably not.’ There is a very small section on Jesus, but much, if not all of it really feels like an interpolation. In fact, it feels like several layers of interpolation, so I personally don’t have a whole lot of confidence that it records anything like what Josephus wrote, if he wrote anything at all about Jesus.

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About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on March 7, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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