Sunday, July 15, 2018

Absolute Power Beheads

This Sunday's Gospel reading from Mark 6:14-29 retells the horrible murder of John the Baptist.

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’
For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.’ And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’ Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. 
 History has shown time and time again that when power is concentrated in the hands of a few, bad things happen, and the Bible is a rich source of that history. That is why I am so grateful for our founding fathers who, in their wisdom, formulated our system to separate power into three branches of government and gave us the freedom to publicly criticize the sexual wrongs of our leaders. The quest for power will always be with us, a constant danger not only in government but in any number of organizations. 


  1. That would be Herodias's daughter, not "his daughter Herodias," who came in and danced.

  2. That's the NRSV for you. They do have a footnote that clarifies it, but many Sunday pewsitters will not have the footnote.

  3. Hmmm. My Oxford Annotated RSV, printed in 1977, has it correctly. It's obvious from the context that the NRSV is wrong; first it says Herodias was his wife and then his daughter. My ESV is also correct. Maybe you could change the version you're getting your posts from.

  4. This is the version used in most Episcopal parishes today. In part because it uses “brothers and sisters” in place of “brethren” or “brothers”.

  5. Ah, that's why, Pewster. The ESV uses what the Hebrew or Greek said as nearly as possible. My first thing to do when looking at any translation is to go to Psalm 1. If it says, "Blessed is the man," it's probably a reasonably literal translation.