The journey to God's mountain, 6:1-10:52

1. Growing division, 6:1-8:21

iii] John the Baptist's end


The mission of Jesus has come to the ears of Herod Antipas, who thinks that Jesus is John the Baptist come back to life. Mark goes on to recount the story of John's execution by Herod, of how John was imprisoned in the fortress of Machaerus near the Dead Sea for offending his wife Herodias, and of how her daughter Salome charms Herod into presenting John's head to her on a plate.


The gospel proclaims the arrival of one greater than John the Baptist.


i] Context: See 6:7-13


ii] Background: Josephus, the Jewish historian, in his work Jewish Antiquities, c.93AD, also relates the story of the Baptist's execution. There are a number of differences in the story, eg. he names Herod's stepdaughter as Salome, not Herodias, see v22.


iii] Structure: John the Baptist's end:

King Herod receives reports about Jesus' mission and assumes that Jesus is a resurrected Baptist, v14-16;

The ground for Herod's superstition is laid out, namely his execution of the Baptist, v17-29:

Background, v17-20:

John's imprisonment, v17a;

Reason for the Baptist's execution, v17b-18;

Herod's resistance to the execution, v19-20.

The execution of the Baptist, v21-29:

The provocative dance routine and a foolish oath, v21-24;

Herod's pride resulting in the Baptist's execution, v25-28;

A dignified burial, v29.


iv] Interpretation:

This episode serves to illustrate the effect of the apostles' mission described in the previous episode, 6:7-13. The preaching of the gospel in word and sign has touched the whole Galilean countryside. Even Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, hears of the mission undertaken in Jesus' name. Yet Herod, affected by guilt and remorse as a consequence of his execution of John the Baptist, is overcome by superstition. As far as Herod is concerned, Jesus is the Baptist risen from the dead. The episode illustrates the exceeding value of the Baptist, and by implication, the value of the "one more powerful."

There is a sense where this episode prefigures Jesus' own execution. Herod rightly links Jesus with the Baptist, although he fails to see him as the "one more powerful." Both will stand together in death, unjustly condemned by an evil tyrant, yet death will not constrain the divine Son, and thus will not constrain the forerunner.

Mark has nicely woven together two separate elements of the apostolic tradition into a single episode - the link is the confusion of the populous and the confusion of Herod (is the Baptist redivivus?). This confusion illustrates the impact of the mission of the twelve, 6:7-13. The mission clearly causes a wide ranging response, but not a response of belief in Jesus as the Christ / Messiah. Amazement yes; faith no.


v] Synoptics:

Matt.14:1-12; Lk.9:7-9. Mark's account aligns with Matthew with little indication of priority, or either dependence or independence. Luke's condensed account serves to draw out the confusion caused by the disciples's mission; "Herod heard all that was happening and did not know what to make of it", 9:7


vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes John the Baptist's end

Text - 6:14

The Baptist's end: i] King Herod receives inconclusive reports about Jesus' mission: he is a resurrected Baptist, Elijah, a prophet. Herod opts for the first option - Jesus is the Baptist redivivus, v14-16.

oHJrwdhV "king Herod" - [and the king], herod. "Herod" stands in apposition to "the king." Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, 4BC-39AD. Officially, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, but not king. Under Roman administration, a tetrarch was an appointed ruler of an oriental province. Antipas' well known desire to be king, reflected by Mark's use of the term here, ultimately brought the Romans down on him.

gar "for" - [heard reports] because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Herod had heard, namely, Jesus' activities were well known.

to onoma (a atoV) "[Jesus'] name" - the name [of him became well known]. "Name" in the sense of Jesus' person. Mark underlines the effectiveness of the disciples' mission, v7-13. "For" even Herod hears of their words and signs, although in a state of guilt he assumes that John the Baptist has risen from the dead. Mark goes on to explain why Herod was so guilty. Cranfield's suggestion that Mark adds the story because he hasn't any information covering the period of the mission, is rather thin.

oJti "-" - [saying] that. Indicating an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Herod heard.

oJ baptizwn (baptizw) pres. part. "[John] the Baptist" - [john] the one baptising. The participle serves as a substantive standing in apposition to "John".

eghgertai (egeirw) perf. "has been raised" - has been raised up, woken. It is likely that Jesus' public ministry did not begin until after the arrest of John.

ek + gen. "from" - out of, from [the dead]. Expressing source / origin. A common phrase in the NT, with nekrwn always anarthrous; "from the dead."

dia + acc. "that is why" - because of, on account of [this]. Causal construction.

dunameiV (dunamiV) "miraculous powers" - powers, powerful works, miracles. Most likely meaning "miracles" rather than "powers" or "acts of power", and as such refer to the signs performed by Jesus and the disciples. Although John didn't perform any miracles, a superstitious and guilty person like Herod would tend to miss the obvious. "Who had come back to life with the power to perform miracles", CEV.

en + dat. "in [him]" - [are at work] in [him]. Local, expressing space. Note that the miraculous powers are identified at work in Jesus, not the disciples. Since the disciples perform the signs in Jesus' name there is no need to argue that the episode is dislocated and has no relevance to the ministry of the twelve.


elegon (legw) imperf. "[others] said" - [but/and others] were saying. The imperfect indicating ongoing action / imperfective. Mark continues to explain the popular understanding of Jesus. They say of him that he is the foretold Elijah who prepares the way of the Messiah, or that he is like one of the wonder-working prophets, eg. Elisha. Sadly, Jesus is not recognised as the Messiah.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement, taken as direct speech by NIV.

wJV "like" - [it is elijah, and others were saying that] as, like. Comparative.

twn profhtwn (hV ou) gen. "of the prophets" - [one] of the prophets. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.


Herod has heard of the different conclusions drawn by the people concerning Jesus and as far as he is concerned, Jesus is an apparition of John the Baptist - the one he beheaded has come back to haunt him.

akousaV (akouw) aor. part. "when [Herod] heard" - [but/and herod] having heard these things. The participle is adverbial, temporal. Herod hears the different views and we are given his opinion.

Iwannhn (hV) "John" - said [whom i beheaded,] john. The nominal phrase o}n egw apekefalesa, "whom I beheaded", stands in apposition to "John". The phrase emphasises the obvious alarm felt by Herod, although we have no record of him seeking to do Jesus harm. None-the-less, Jesus tends to keep Herod at arms length. "John, he whom I beheaded, this one has been raised."

ou|toV pro. "-" - this one. The phrase "whom I beheaded, John", is a casus pendens, an independent nominal phrase which is resumed by the pronoun ou|toV, "this one." Here the phrase is "drawn into the accusative by attraction to the relative", Cranfield, 207, but see Decker.

hgerqh (egeirw) aor. pas. "has been raised from the dead" - was raised up, woken. We are unsure if Herod thinks that Jesus is actually a resurrected John the Baptist, or an apparition, or a person possessed by the Baptist's spirit.


ii] The ground for Herod's superstition is laid out, namely his execution of the Baptist, v17-29. In the rest of the passage Mark explains what has led Herod to the rather strange conclusion that Jesus is a fleshly, or spiritual, embodiment of John the Baptist. Guilt, acting on a superstitious mind, can produce bizarre results.

Mark sets the background, v17-20. First, the reasons for John's imprisonment, v17-18. On the basis of Levitical law, John the Baptist openly criticised the marriage of Herodias to Antipas. In seeking revenge for this insult, Herodias drove her husband to arrest John and inevitably tricked him into taking his life, the life of a person Herod admired.

gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Herod is agitated.

autoV "himself" - [herod] himself. The NIV takes the pronoun as emphatic, but it could serve to reference, "the aforesaid", or simply anticipating the noun, "Herod", and so left untranslated.

aposteilaV (apostellw) aor. part. "had given orders" - having sent guards. Attendant circumstance participle expressing accompanying the main verb "arrested"; "for Herod has sent his guards to seize John and secure him in prison."

ekrathsen (kratew) aor. "arrested" - seized, arrested [john and bound him in prison]. The action is somewhat consecutive; John was arrested as a result of Herod's orders. Josephus says that John was imprisoned in the fortress palace of Machaerus in Perea.

dia + acc. "because of" - because of, on account of [herodias]. Causal. The arrest was orchestrated by Herodias.

tou adelfou (oV) gen. "[his] brother" - [the wife of philip] the brother [of him]. Genitive, standing in apposition to Phillip. Actually, his half brother.

oJti "whom" - because [he married her]. Here causal, "because he had married her", ESV. Under Roman law Herodias was legally able to divorce her husband Philip, but under Levitic law, Antipas was not permitted to marry his brother's wife, Lev.18:16, 20:21. Interestingly, Josephus, the Jewish historian, says that Herodias was married to Herod the son of Herod the Great and Mariamne II and that Philip the Tetrarch, son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra, actually married Salome. It is not easy to identify the actual relationships and names, common and proper, of Herod's family.


gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Herodias had orchestrated the arrest of John.

elegen (legw) imperf. "had been saying" - [john] was saying. Translated as a pluperfect. The sentence explains why Herodias was so bitter against John, a bitterness that drove her to have him arrested and murdered.

tw/ HJrwdh/ dat. "to Herod" - to herod. Dative of indirect object.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement / indirect speech, expressing what John was saying; "saying to Herod that ...."

soi dat. "for you" - [it is not right, proper, lawful] for you. Dative of reference.

ecein (ecw) pres. inf. "to have" - to have [the wife of the brother of you]. The infinitive forms a nominal clause which functions as the subject of the verb "is [not] permissible/lawful"; "to have the wife of your brother is not permissible." "John had told Herod that he had no right to marry his brother's wife", Barclay.


Herod's unwillingness to execute the Baptist, v19-20. Initially, Herodias' murderous intent was frustrated by Herod's respect for John. He even gave him a hearing, although with limited understanding.

de "so" - but/and [herodias]. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, possibly consecutive; "and so."

autw/ dat. "against John" - [bore a grudge against, angry with] him. When the verb takes the sense "bore a grudge against" it takes a dative of direct object, as here. "Had it in for him."

apekteinai (apekteinw) aor. inf. "to kill" - [and desired] to kill [him]. Complementary infinitive, completing the sense of the verb "wanted / desired". Note the literary parallel between Ahab and Jezebel's interaction with Elijah, and also Pilate and the Jew's interaction with Jesus. The righteous man, the wicked persecutor and the weak fence-sitter, prompts the question, "who do I stand with?"

kai "but" - and [she could not]. Here with an adversative sense; "but she could not."


gar "because" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Herod didn't execute John at the behest of Herodias.

eidwV (oida) perf. part. "knowing" - [herod feared (had a deep respect for) john] having known [him to be a righteous and holy man he and was protecting him]. The participle is adverbial, probably best taken as causal; "for he well knew that John was a good and holy man", Barclay. Again kai is consecutive, "and so he was protecting him", protecting him from Herodias.

akousaV (akouw) aor. part. "when Herod heard [John]" - [and] having heard [him]. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV.

hporei (aporew) imperf. "puzzled" - he was at wits end, in difficulties, perplexed [greatly]. The only example of this verb in the active voice in the NT. Herod was "very much perplexed", NAB, or "greatly disturbed", REB, by the mystery of the coming kingdom as proclaimed by John.

kai "and yet" - and. Here with an adversative edge, as NIV; "and yet."

autou gen. "listen to [him]" - [gladly he was listening to] him. Genitive of direct object after the verb "to hear."


iii] The execution of the Baptist, v21-29. The provocative dance routine and a foolish oath, v21-24. So it was that an opportune day came when Herodias could force Herod to take John's life. It was at a birthday party when the leading courtiers of the realm were present. The daughter of Herodias, Antipas' stepdaughter, now a teenager, danced before Herod and his guests. In polite society, dancing was usually performed by servants or prostitutes, but in first century Rome it was now "anything goes." Herod was so taken by her performance that he offered her a handsome reward. Obviously, she would know that Herod's offer of half his kingdom was nothing more than a gesture, but the offer did have weight.

genomenhV (ginomai) aor. part. "finally [the opportune time] came" - [an opportune, convenient, suitable day] having come. The genitive participle, and its genitive object "opportune day", forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal; "Finally, Herodias got her chance", CEV; "Then came a holiday", Moffatt.

oJte "-" - when [herod]. Introducing a temporal clause.

toiV genesioiV (a) dat. "[his] birthday" - on the birthday celebrations [of him]. Dative of time; on one's birth.

toiV megistasin (an anoV) dat. "for [his] high officials" - [made a dinner] to = for the courtiers, nobles, chief men, and for the military commanders]. Dative of interest, advantage, as NIV; "for his nobles .....". Is the party in Perea, or Galilee?

toiV prwtoiV dat. adj. "the leading men" - [and] for the first, prominent persons. The adjective is used as a substantive, "prominent persons." "The aristocracy of the country", BAGD.

thV GalilaiaV (a) gen. "of Galilee" - of galilee. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic, of place; "located in Galilee."


eiselqoushV (eisercomai) gen. aor. part. "when [the daughter of Herodias] came in" - [and] having come in, gone in, entered, [the daughter of him, herodias, and having danced]. The genitive participle and its genitive direct object, "the daughter of him", along with "Herodias", genitive in apposition, and the genitive coordinate participle "having dances", forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV. A stronger variant reading autou of the pronoun produces the translation, "his daughter, Herodias." It is possible that Herod had a daughter with Herodias and named her the same as her mother, but it is far more likely that it was his stepdaughter who danced, the girl known as Salome. Cranfield opts for the translation "the daughter of Herodias herself", but notes that the authV may be a redundant pronoun anticipating the noun "Herodias" - an Aramaism. She would have been a teenager at this point in time, traditionally held to be a seductress. "When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced."

hresen (areskw) aor. "she pleased" - she pleased [herod]. There are obvious sexual connotations in the use of this word. Not only did Herod take his brother's wife, he probably wanted the daughter as well.

toiV sunanakeimenoiV (sunanakeimai) dat. pres. part. "his dinner guests" - [and] the ones reclining at table with him. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of direct object after the verb "to please." Those who reclined at the table with Herod; "his guests", Barclay.

tw/ korasiw/ (on) dat. "to the girl" - [the king said] to the young girl. Dative of indirect object. As noted above, she is probably a teenager.

o} ean + subj. "for anything" - [ask] whatever [you wish]. Introducing a relative conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "whatever, as the case may be, ...... then [I will give to you]"

dwsw (didwmi) fut. "I'll give it" - [and] i will give it. The extravagance of the offer and its acceptance, serves to emphasise the value of John the Baptist and by implication, Jesus.

soi dat. pro. "to you" - to you. Dative of indirect object.


wmosen (omnuw) aor. "he promised" - [and] he made a promise, swore, vowed, took an oath. The offer of "half my kingdom" is, of course, an offer the stepdaughter of a dictator would graciously decline!

auth/ dat. pro. "her" - to her. Dative of indirect object.

polla adj. "-" - much. Variant, the adjective is used as an adverb. Numerous meanings are possible, eg., "solemnly / loudly / repeatedly."

o{ ti ean + subj. "whatever" - the what if = whatever [you ask me]. Conditional clause, as above.

soi dat. pro. "to you" - [i will give] to you. Dative of indirect object.

eJwV + gen. "up to" - until = up to [half of the kingdom of me]. Here expressing degree / measure; "up to / as far as" = "as much as."


exelqousa (exercomai) aor. part. "she went out [and said]" - [and] having gone out. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said".

th/ matri (hr roV) dat. "to [her] mother" - [she said] to the mother [of her]. Dative of indirect object.

ti aithswmai (aitew) aor. subj. mid. "what shall I ask for" - what should i ask for? Deliberative subjunctive. The aorist is futuristic. Because the word is in the middle voice, it may mean "what claim shall I make [on Herod]."

tou baptizontoV (baptizw) gen. pres. part. "[John] the Baptist" - [the head of john] the one baptising. The participle serves as a substantive, genitive, standing in apposition to "John".


The consequences, v25-28: Her mother prompts her to ask for the head of John the Baptist and she enthusiastically obliges. Herod is caught in a social trap and can't escape. His distress again illustrates John's worth, and by implication, the worth of Jesus.

euquV adv. "at once" - immediately. Temporal use of the adverb is likely. The girl seems to be eager to carry out her mother's suggestion. Did they plan to entrap Herod together?

eiselqousa (eisercomai) aor. part. "-" - having come. Attendant circumstance participle; "at once she came with haste to the king and asked, saying."

meta spoudhV (h) "hurried" - with haste, speed [toward the king]. The prepositional phrase is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of her coming. Again indicating the girl's eagerness. Possibly "eagerly."

legousa (legw) pres. part. "-" - [she made her request] saying. Attendant circumstance, redundant.

qelw pres. "I want" - i will, wish, desire. As in NIV, the request is most likely demanding. It is possible that linked with hina the construction produces a formal request, "please give me ...."

iJna + subj. "-" - that [you give]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what she wants / desires.

moi dat. "me" - to me. Dative of indirect object.

exauthV adv. "right now" - at once, immediately. Temporal; expressing eagerness.

epi + dat. "on [a platter]" - [the head of john the baptist] upon [a plate]. Spatial.


genomenoV (ginomai) aor. part. "was" - having became. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verbal phrase "did not what to refuse her", but possibly adverbial, concessive, "although he was greatly distressed", Decker.

perilupoV adj. "greatly distressed" - sorrowful, sad, deeply grieved. Predicate adjective. A strong word again illustrating the worth of John. The description is of a person in a social trap and unable to escape. It is possible that the sense here is of anger, annoyance; "the king was very vexed", Moffatt.

dia + acc. "but because" - [the king,] because of, on account of. Causal. The sense here is a little confusing. Was Herod "distressed / annoyed because of the vow and the guests" or "because of the vow and the guests he did not want to refuse her"? Most translators opt for the second option. "The king was very distressed, but because he had given her his sworn promise in front of his guests, he would not break his word to her", Barclay.

touV akakeimenouV (anakeimai) pres. part. "his dinner guests" - [the promise and] the ones reclining at table along with him. The participle serves as a substantive.

aqethsai (aqetew) aor. inf. "to refuse [her]" - [he did not want] to set aside, disappoint, break his word to [her]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "he did [not] want". The NIV follows BAGD, but "disappoint" is possible. Herod's reluctance again illustrates the worth of John. "He did not want to break his word to her", ESV.


aposteilaV (apostellw) aor. part. "so he [immediately] sent" - [and immediately the king] having sent. Attendant circumstance participle, but possibly adverbial, consecutive, as NIV; "so as a result he immediately sent .."

spekoulatora (spekoulatwr) "an executioner" - a military scout, member of the headquarter's staff, a soldier with a special commission. He might have been a member of Herod's bodyguard.

epetaxen (epitassw) aor. "with orders" - he ordered, commanded, instructed him. The sense is "sent with orders."

enegkai (ferw) aor. inf. "to bring" - to bear, bring, carry [the head of him]. The infinitive introduces a dependent statement of indirect speech / commanding, "he commanded that ...." "At once ordered a soldier of his guard to bring his head", Williams.

apelqwn (apercomai) aor. part. "the man went" - [and] having left. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "beheaded."

en + dat. "in" - [he beheaded him] in [the prison]. Local, expressing space.


tw/ korasiw/ (on) dat. "[presented it] to the girl" - [and he brought the head of him upon a plate and gave it] to the girl [and the girl gave it to the mother of her]. Dative of indirect object .


John's disciples, a group which continues to operate even after Jesus' death, takes his body and lays it in a tomb.

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "on hearing of this" - [and] having heard about this. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal; "when his disciples heard of it", ESV.

outou pro. "John's [disciples]" - [the disciples] of him. The genitive is adjectival, possessive. The existence of an identifiable group of John's disciples is again noted in scripture. It is likely that most of Jesus' disciples were originally members of this group.

to ptwma "body" - [came and carried away] the corpse [of him]. This word is only used once in Mark.

en + dat. "in" - [and placed it] in [a tomb]. Local, expressing space. "They laid it in a grave."


Mark Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]