Monday, July 17, 2006

difficult passages, part 2 (or, salome as hero)

Inspired by our worship yesterday (and, perhaps, by the heat), I've come up with a new option for interpreting the story of the death of John the Baptist. (My thanks to Karen and Marty for pushing me this way during talk-back time.)

What if Salome is using her request as a subversive way to expose and embarrass her mother and Herod?

Sure, Herodias (the mother) wanted JohnB dead, but surely she didn't want his severed head to appear at the party. That's over-the-top.

Mark doesn't tell us what happens to the party after the head is presented. It only says that Herodias asked her daughter to request JohnB's head, and that her daughter asked Herod for JohnB's head "on a platter." Then, they go immediately kill him, and present the head to the daughter, who gives it to her mother.

Perhaps Herodias was hoping she could carry out this vengeful plot of stage. But her daughter (who we call Salome, thanks to the historian, Josephus's record) forces it on-stage. She says, "Fine. Have your vengeance. But it's gonna be in your face, and in front of your friends."

I wonder what this would have done--at the party--to the other guests. I mean, it's fine to play along, but then, as if all of a sudden, there are severed heads on platters. This party has gone too far, and this host is clearly sick.

And Herod was clearly worried about what other people thought--Mark tells us that the reason he went ahead with his daughter's request is that he had made the offer (to give her anything she wanted) in front of everyone, and he didn't want to fail on his oath. Perhaps he didn't really want to see the implications of his actions, either...

The image is just so jarring--a head on a platter.

(Martha would NOT say that this is a good thing.)

As I said, this option came to me on a very hot day, with no scholarly evidence, but I think it sounds exciting. (Subversion in the Gospels is almost always a good thing..)

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