Mark 6:17-18, How Did John the Baptist Die?

For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.

//You know the story. Herodias’s daughter danced for Herod at a birthday party, and so pleased him that he promised her anything she wanted. She asked her mother, Herodias, what to request from Herod, and Herodias told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

Is this really the way it happened? Jewish historian Josephus gives us a different story. Josephus tells us that Herodias was not married to Philip, but rather to another brother of Herod who was also named Herod. Perhaps Mark’s Gospel confused the two Herods, and invented the wife-stealing story as an explanation.

If so, then how did John die? Josephus does confirm that his death was at the hands of Herod. John, according to Josephus, was “a good man” who baptized not for the remission of sins but for “the purification of the body, supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness.” Herod feared that the influence of John could start a rebellion, and sent him as a prisoner to the castle Macherus, where he was put to death.

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