V  8   John

John the Baptist was one of the first political and religious leaders

Pergamum, temple, detail
Pergamum, temple, detail

to invoke Jesus after his death and to aim to follow him in his activities.

John founded the Christian Baptists, the second Jesus movement in the early phase of Christianity.

In Christian tradition, John the Baptist became not just a disciple, but also John, Jesus’ favourite disciple.

John aspired to the title of Messiah as Jesus’ successor after his death.

John was executed by Antipas in 37 AD. In Christian tradition, his successor as leader of John’s Baptist church was also called John.


Since Antipas was often out of the country and in Rome, Jesus himself had the role and duties of a local ruler

Jerusalem, orthodox Jews
Jerusalem, orthodox Jews

such as dispensing justice and attending to the economic and social problems of the land and its people, so that during his time as governor he was already seen by the people as the father of the country.

Jesus was responsible for founding and building the city of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Tiberias was a model city where Jesus could realise his concept of an ideal society in practical politics.

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V  3  Jesus – the message

The dominant master narrative concerning Jesus’ message states that Jesus was impressed by John the Baptist’s preaching

Jerusalem, Jewish family
Jerusalem, Jewish family

about repentance. In his own pronouncements, however, he proclaimed a loving God full of grace whose kingdom would soon be realised, bringing equal rights for all people; it could already be experienced in the community of the disciples.

These are my theses about Jesus’ message:

Jesus was a Jewish statesman; he was Prince Antipas’ governor and shaped Galilean politics. He viewed religion simply as a supplementary measure to safeguard economic and political developments.

Jesus imitated Emperor Augustus’ form of rule in his political work (imitation Augusti) and aimed to organise society around a monarchy.

Jesus aimed for a monarchy in Galilee headed by a Jewish monarch, a Messiah. This monarch, this Messiah, could only be the ruling Jewish prince; for Jesus, therefore, this was Antipas.


There are two accounts of Jesus’ death in the Old Testament. The first account is in 1 Kings 13:24: the Man of God is Jesus

Jerusalem, Wailing Wall
Jerusalem, Wailing Wall

while the lion stands for the Roman, Pilate. Verse 28 states that the Man of God’s body is unharmed, contrary to assumptions. This is a literary reference to Homer, the Iliad 24.18ff, where the same is said of the body of the Trojan hero Hector. In John 19:33, Jesus’ body is also described as unharmed, unlike those of the men crucified with him (his legs are not broken).

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After Jesus’ election as Philip’s successor, John the Baptist proclaimed that he was the Jewish Messiah: 1 Kings 13:23. The people of Galilee

Jerusalem, view from Mount of Olives
Jerusalem, view from Mount of Olives

hailed him as the King of Israel and Antipas was forced to flee from the furious population that associated themselves with Jesus: 2 Sam. 15:14. Jesus journeyed in triumph through Galilee to Samaria, the location of the old holy places of the northern Israelite kingdom.


Prince Antipas’ new wife used her influence to ensure that Jesus lost his position in about 32 AD. The story that comprises the Passion narrative in the Gospel texts

Jerusalem, ancient column head
Jerusalem, ancient column head

is passed down in the Old Testament as a complete account: Jesus’ conflict with the Jews and his condemnation for blasphemy.

The narrative about Naboth’s vineyard, (1 Kings 21) reflects the conflict between Antipas’ new wife and the governor Jesus. The power-hungry Herodias (= Jezebel) envied the governor Jesus his influence over Antipas (= Ahab) and succeeded in having Naboth (= Jesus) condemned and executed.

Jesus was able to flee to exile in Tyre, but it was the end of his political career: Mark 7:24-30 par. In the New Testament narrative in Mark and Matthew, the conflict between Herodias and Jesus is transmuted into a discussion about whether Jesus, now living in Tyre, was permitted to use his healing power to help a non-Jewish woman (such as Herodias) and her daughter.


Antipas rejected his wife in 31 AD and married his niece Herodias, a granddaughter of Herod. John the Baptist

Jerusalem, model of the temple
Jerusalem, model of the temple

objected to this and criticised Antipas sharply.

The conflict is recounted directly in the Gospels and described in the Old Testament in the Bathsheba narrative, where God instructs the prophet Nathan (= John) to criticise King David (= Antipas).

Josephus describes the events without criticising Antipas’ morals. Texts on the Herodias scandal: 2 Sam. 11f; Mark 6:14-29 par.; Mark 7:24-30 par.; Ant. 18.5.1-2.