Order of John’s Imprisonment

Clark’s chronology suggests John the Baptist defense of the Savior occurred in the summer of AD 27. In general, the dates for the remainder of this year appear to be defined simply by lack of content in the Gospels to account for any other activity prior to the next dateable event.

The order of events when John reproves Herod, is imprisoned, and the Savior leaves Judea for Galilee is not clear in the synoptic Gospels. Yet logically we can infer at the order for the first two.

MatthewMarkLuke
3 ¶ For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife.4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.Matt. 14:3 – 517 For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her.18 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.19 Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not:20 For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.Mark 6:17 – 2019 But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done,20 Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.Luke 3:19 – 20

Herod being reproved by John is recorded by Matthew, and Mark much later in their narratives than in Luke.  It is primarily Luke that places this event prior to John being put in prison.  Although both Matthew and Mark record John being put in prison at this point in their narratives, certainly he was not put in prison before he had committed some offense, such as calling Herod to repentance.

JST MatthewMatthewMarkLuke
… and now Jesus knewthat John was cast into prison, and he sent angels,and, behold, they came and ministered unto him (John) … (According to JST MS. 1, p. 7.) JST Matt. 4:1112  ¶ Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;Matt. 4:12 14  Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,Mark 1:14 19 But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done,20 Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.Luke 3:19 – 20

Mark and Luke place John’s imprisonment as near (either just before or just after in Mark’s case) the temptations of the Savior.  This event is certainly aligned with John the Baptist’s testimony about needing to decrease, recorded in John after the passover.

The imprisonment couldn’t have been before the baptism of the Savior, for obvious reasons; or before the conclusion of the temptations of the Savior, for John had to testify of Christ to his own disciples after the temptations.  It had to be after the Savior and his disciples had baptized people so John could bear his “I must decrease” witness.  So it was some time after this later of the Savior testimony.

And how fitting that his chief forerunner—than whom there has been no greater prophet born of woman—should precede him in birth, precede him in his ministry, precede him in death, and precede him in his future Second Advent. 

(Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, Vol.1, p.302 – p.303)

I can see no internal evidence in the scriptures for a dating of these events in November or December of AD 27, other than lack of other material to fill the time before the passover the following year.

It is clear from John’s statement in John 3:23-24 that “And John also was baptizing…For John was not yet cast into prison,” that there was a connection between the events being described and the imprisonment of John.

 

Jesus leaves Judaea for Galilee

MatthewMarkLukeJohn
12  ¶ Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;Matt. 4:1214  Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,Mark 1:1414  ¶ And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee:and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.Luke 4:141  WHEN therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,2  (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)3  He left Judæa, and departed again into Galilee.John 4:1 – 3

Was John’s imprisonment one factor causing the Savior to go into Galilee?  Certainly potential opposition from the leading Jews was one cause (John 4:1-4).  But John the Baptist was taken into prison in Galilee.  It seems unusual that he would go into the country where John was imprisoned if that was his motivation. 

But Mark makes it clear that “After John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee (Mark 1:14).  He then outlines the calling of the 12, which happened on his second trip into Galilee.

Matthew also makes in clear that after the temptations John was cast into prison (Matt 4:11, 12 particularly the JST).

In summary, the synoptic gospels lay the order fairly clear, and the book of John is clear about when Jesus went to Galilee the 2nd time, after John’s testimony about decreasing.  This is a pretty clear synchronization point in all of the Gospels.

Again, I see no internal evidence for a suggested timing of December AD 27 other than lack of content in the Gospels to suggest other activities.

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