The role of the prophet, the fate of the prophet

Press Release Responding to John the Baptist’s Denunciation of Herod Antipas

A spokesman for Herod, tetrarch of Galillee, has denounced as “further authoritarian righteousness” a condemnation of his marriage by the preacher John. Herod recently married Herodias, the former wife of his brother Philip, tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis.

John, known locally as “the baptist” because of his practice of anointing sinners with water, has been attracting large crowds along the edge of the Judean desert where he is said to live. He has consistently condemned Herod for alleged abuses of power.

The Galillean tetrarch’s spokesman said last night that John’s condemnation of Herod’s marriage went beyond the bounds of normal public discourse. “Surely the private lives of public figures ought to be their business alone, as it is with everybody else,” he said.

“This is just another example of the distasteful neo-puritanism now sweeping the country and which seems to consider everyone in authority fair game for the ugliest scrutiny.”

The spokesman agreed that recent financial and sexual scandals, allegedly involving Herod, had contributed to this atmosphere but he insisted that the intolerance of human frailty now so evident on the part of “these so-called prophets on the margins of life and society” could lead to greater abuses. “It is a recipe for tyranny, the tyranny of a rigid orthodoxy,” he said.

The High Priest, Dr Caiaphas, declined to comment on the controversy. However, a source close to his office said that though it could be said Herod’s relationship with Herodias may not be in accordance with the laws of God, this was difficult to prove.

“How do we know the nature of their partnership?” he asked. “It is possible, after all, it has not been consummated. But we can only know if the couple wishes to talk about it, and they obviously do not. The alternative, if we are to know the truth, is to spy in their bedroom, which is as patently ridiculous as it is unseemly. It is best such matters are left to the mercy and wisdom of God.”

His strongest criticisms, however, were for the cher John.

“We have had a plethora of those self-styled prophets and even Messiahs these past months, and it is time the civil authorities dealt with them. Any vagabond, and usually with no visible means of support can, it seems, claim to be speaking as God or in his name and get away with it. Everywhere they create discontent among the people, attacking lawful authority, religious as well as civic.”

Irish Times, “Herod marriage criticised by `baptist’ John”  Jan 3 2000; online edition
Image: NARA & DVIDS Public Domain Archive, PD

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