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the most marked word of Mark 6. Why?


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What this Herod is most remembered for in the New Testament is that he beheaded John, the cousin of Jesus.

Mark's gospel has him confessing, in Greek, ἐγὼ ἀπεκεφάλισα Ἰωάννην, or I myself beheaded John the Baptist. Mark tells how this Ruler had been afraid of John, how he and his lover Herodias, the wife of his own brother, had despised this John. The verb ἀπεκεφάλισα isn't strange, except that it's rare. It's a unique confession.

In all of the Bible, the Septuagint included, do we read anyone's confession of beheading another human being?

Well, if we go outside the canonical scriptures of Judaism and of much of Christianity, we see but one other. He says:

ἐγὼ δὲ σπασάμενος τὴν παρ' αὐτοῦ μάχαιραν
ἀπεκεφάλισα αὐτὸν
καὶ ἦρα ὄνειδος ἐξ υἱῶν Ισραηλ.

I myself having pulled from him the sword 

beheaded him

and removed this disgrace from Israel's sons.

Why is this particular Hellene phrase for Head Lopping not much elsewhere outside of this one confession of the Psalmist David (Psalm 151 LXX)? Why does this unique phrasing rather singularly associated (just in the three synoptic gospels) with this one man, and why do Mark and Luke only record his confession by it?

Edited by jkgayle
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Why is this particular Hellene phrase for Head Lopping...


Do you mean that there are other words or phrases to describe the heinous act?

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Do you mean that there are other words or phrases to describe the heinous act?

Afraid so. Here are four, the most gruesome the third in my humble opinion:


ἀποτέμνει τὴν κεφαλὴν / κεφαλὴν ἀποτεμόντας




ἐπὶ κεφαλαῖς κεφαλὰς ἀποδειροτομουμένας


And Josephus, when quoting Strabo of Cappadocia on a beheading related to an earlier Herod than the one Mark has recorded, uses yet that fourth known word/phrase:


μαρτυρεῖ δέ μου τῷ λόγῳ Στράβων ὁ Καππάδοξ λέγων οὕτως·


“Ἀντώνιος δὲ Ἀντίγονον τὸν Ἰουδαῖον ἀχθέντα εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν πελεκίζει. καὶ ἔδοξε μὲν οὗτος πρῶτος Ῥωμαίων βασιλέα πελεκίσαι, οὐκ οἰηθεὶς ἕτερον τρόπον μεταθεῖναι ἂν τὰς γνώμας τῶν Ἰουδαίων ὥστε δέξασθαι τὸν ἀντ᾿ ἐκείνου καθεσταμένον Ἡρώδην· οὐδὲ γὰρ βασανιζόμενοι βασιλέα αὐτὸν ἀναγορεύειν ὑπέμειναν· οὕτως μέγα τι ἐφρόνουν περὶ τοῦ πρώτου βασιλέως. τὴν οὖν ἀτιμίαν ἐνόμισε μειώσειν μέν τι4 τῆς πρὸς αὐτὸν μνήμης, μειώσειν δὲ καὶ τὸ πρὸς Ἡρώδην μῖσος.”


ταῦτα μὲν ὁ Στράβων.


Here's that rendered into English by Ralph Marcus:


And my words are borne out by the testimony of Strabo of Cappadocia, who writes as follows.


“When Antigonus was brought to Antioch, Antony beheaded him. He was the first Roman who decided to behead a king, since he believed that in no other way could he change the attitude of the Jews so that they would accept Herod, who had been appointed in his place. For not even under torture would they submit to proclaiming him king, so highly did they regard their former king. And so he thought that the disgrace would somewhat dim their memory of him and would also lessen their hatred of Herod.”


That is Strabo’s account.


But I suppose it's that Herod + beheader collocate this way in Mark (and not so much that Mark chooses just a rare if descriptive Greek phrase) that seems to mark this ruler so.

Edited by jkgayle
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