King Herod heard about Jesus (Mk 6:14-6:14)

“King Herod

Had heard

That Jesus’ name

Had become known.

Some were saying.

‘John the baptizer

Has been raised

From the dead.

For this reason,

These powers are

At work

In him.’”

 

Καὶ ἤκουσεν ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἡρῴδης, φανερὸν γὰρ ἐγένετο τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔλεγον ὅτι Ἰωάνης ὁ Βαπτίζων ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐνεργοῦσιν αἱ δυνάμεις ἐν αὐτῷ.

 

This mention of Herod can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Matthew, chapter 14:1, Luke, chapter 9:7, and here.  The Roman educated Herod, was the ruler or tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 BCE-39 CE, as a client ruler, part of the Roman Empire.  This Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great.  He had built and named the capital city of Galilee, Tiberias, since the Roman Emperor Tiberius (14-37 CE) was his favorite emperor.  Mark called him a king.  King Herod had heard reports (Καὶ ἤκουσεν ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἡρῴδης) about Jesus, because his name had become well known or famous (φανερὸν γὰρ ἐγένετο τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ).  Jesus was a celebrity in Galilee.  Here we have the intersection of the Galilean official of the Roman Empire, Herod, and the famous Galilean preacher and faith healer, Jesus.  Herod, the Roman ruler in Galilee, or those around him said (καὶ ἔλεγον) that Jesus might be the resurrected John the Baptist, since some people believed that righteous people rose from the dead.  Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead (ὅτι Ἰωάνης ὁ Βαπτίζων ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν).  How ironic, since Jesus was to rise from the dead.  Herod thought the miraculous powers of John the Baptist were at work in Jesus (καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐνεργοῦσιν αἱ δυνάμεις ἐν αὐτῷ).  He and his people thought that John might have reincarnated himself in Jesus,

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John the Baptizer (Mk 1:4-1:4)

“John the Baptizer

Appeared

In the wilderness.

He was proclaiming

A baptism

Of repentance

For the forgiveness of sins.”

 

ἐγένετο Ἰωάνης ὁ βαπτίζων ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν

 

There is something similar, but not quite the same in all 4 gospel stories.  Matthew, chapter 3:1-2, called John the Baptist (βαπτιστὴς) not the Baptizer (ὁ βαπτίζων), but John was in the wilderness, like here, calling for repentance.  In Matthew, John also warned the people that the kingdom of heaven was near.  Luke, chapter 3:2:3, is actually closer to Mark, since he used the exact same words about John in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  John, chapter l:19-29, had a long dialogue with John and the priests and Levites about what he was doing.  Mark has this simple statement that John the Baptizer, or the one baptizing, appeared (ἐγένετο Ἰωάνης ὁ βαπτίζων) in the wilderness or desert (ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ).  How and what he did before or after did not matter.  He was there proclaiming or preaching a baptism of repentance, a life change, or metanoia (κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας) to have sins or faults forgiven or wiped away (ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν).  John tied this repentant change of life style baptism with the forgiving of sins or wiping away of past faults, since he was calling for repentance.  John and Jesus are linked in some ways like Aaron and Moses or the later Peter and Paul.  One is superior to the other but the other plays an indispensable role.

John the Baptist (Mt 3:1-3:1)

“In those days,

John the Baptist

Appeared

In the wilderness

Of Judea,

Preaching.”

 

Ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις παραγίνεται Ἰωάνης ὁ βαπτιστὴς κηρύσσων ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τῆς Ἰουδαίας,

 

Matthew now switched to more common material about Jesus and his life. John the Baptist is mentioned in all four canonical gospels. In fact, if anything, Matthew seemed to be following Mark, chapter 1:4, since Mark began his gospel with this story. Matthew began this episode with his trademark transitional phrase, “In those days it happened (Ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις).” John the Baptizer (Ἰωάνης ὁ βαπτιστὴς) came preaching (παραγίνεται…κηρύσσων) in the wilderness or desert in Judea (ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τῆς Ἰουδαίας). This wilderness was southeast of Jerusalem and west of the Dead Sea. Apparently, John the Baptist was a Jewish itinerant preacher in the early first century CE. He used baptism, some kind of dipping in water, as the central symbol or sacrament of his messianic movement. Thus, he became known as the one who baptizes, the Baptizer, John the Baptist. He certainly had a relationship with Jesus, but the exact relationship between John and Jesus is also problematic. According to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1:36, John’s mother and Jesus’ mother were relatives of some sort. Both John and Jesus may have originally been co-workers. However, they separated as Jesus went along a different route. However, the shadow of John the Baptist appeared again and again in the biblical stories about Jesus and his apostles. Some believe that Jesus may have been a follower or disciple of John, but the textual indications are that John saw himself as subservient to Jesus. Some of Jesus’ early followers had previously been followers of John, as in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 19:2-6. There may have been some contact between John the Baptist and the Qumran-Essene community, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Thus, John might have been associated with them or part of their community for a while. John the Baptist died by beheading, as explained later in this gospel, chapter 14:10. Thus, John the Baptist has been revered as a prophet and a Christian saint throughout the centuries.