THE BEHEADING OF PROPHET JOHN THE BAPTIST

THE BEHEADING OF PROPHET JOHN THE BAPTIST

By Fr. Felix (African Times Guest Writer)

Matthew takes over from Mark the story of the

murder of John the Baptist. As with other lively

and picturesque narratives of Mark, Matthew

abbreviates the Arabian-Nights-style tale

drastically; he is not interested in the dramatic

details.

In the course of his abbreviations he is harder

on Herod. Gone is the questioning at the

beginning about who Jesus might be; now

Herod has no excuse; he is quite clear that

Jesus’ works of power are a repeat of those of

John.

In Mark’s version of the story Herodias wanted

to kill John; she is an evil Jezebel-figure, the

author of the plot, and Herod takes John into

protective custody to protect him from his new

wife. By contrast in Matthew Herod himself

wanted to kill John.

In Matthew Herod is more blameworthy, for in

Mark he knew only that John was a ‘righteous

and holy man’, whereas in Matthew he actually

knows that John was popularly considered ‘a

prophet’. So Herod is altogether the villain of

the piece, though the dancing daughter is egged

on by her mother.

Nevertheless, he still clings on to the idiotic

excuse that he has given the girl his oath, as he

becomes the icon of refusal to recognise the

significance of Jesus. Incidentally, Matthew

also loses the allusion to the story of Esther, to

whom King Ahasuerus promised half his

kingdom.

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