The Corner

Hollywood vs. the Bible

Today, millions of people in mainline Protestant and Catholic churches heard the Gospel story about how King Herod was persuaded to behead John the Baptist. In this fascinating sermon (the link is to an audio of the whole service; the sermon begins at 34:20), Father Joel Daniels of St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue points out that — contrary to Hollywood and other myth-makers — there is no evidence in the text that the dance of the little girl was lascivious. And she was a “little girl” — not a sexualized teenager or young woman. A fascinating perspective on a very old story. (Father Daniels suggests, later, that the Salome mentioned in Mark 15:40 as a disciple of Jesus present at the Crucifixion may be a Marcan suggestion that nobody is beyond the reach of Jesus’ redemption, not even the little girl once trapped by circumstance in the plot against John the Baptist. He is not claiming, it should be noted, that the two Salomes are the same person — merely that the coincidence of name serves a literary purpose. But undercutting this theory is that Mark does not actually name the girl in the John the Baptist story as Salome — which he probably would have, if he were striving for an echo in Chapter 15.) 

CORRECTION: Apologies. Today is one of the scattering of Sundays on which the Catholic Lectionary diverges from the Common Lectionary, so Roman Catholics would not have heard the story of the beheading of John the Baptist today. 

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