Herod said, or others said; elegen, or elegon
An interesting variation occurred when an epsilon (e) was confused for an omicron (o) or visa versa, causing some manuscripts to read elegen; “he said” while others read elegon; “they said”. In the uncial letter type, these two letters can easily be confused with one another.
It is also possible that this variation could have its origin due to a hearing mistake when a scribe heard elegen instead of elegon, for the two words also sound much alike. I doubt this second possibility, since I am of the opinion that this variation originated much earlier, as will be seen later. Hearing mistakes happened only at the time when copies were actually made in scriptoria where the overseer read the source manuscript while the scribes made their copies.
Mark tells of the anxiety of Herod when he heard of the ministry of Jesus. Not long before he had John beheaded. Had John risen from the dead? His conscience as well as his fear for the God of John must have caught up with him.
According to the King James Version Herod came to this conclusion himself:
“And king Herod heard of Him (for his name was spread abroad:)” (KJV)
(elegen; He said: Greek manuscripts up to 500 A.D.: 3, later another 32; Antique Translations up to 500 A.D.: 9; later another 10.
According to the NIV and most modern versions it was Herod’s informants that made this conclusion: “King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, ‘John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’ ”
(elegon; They said: Greek manuscripts up to 500 A.D.: 2; Antique translations up to 500 A.D.: 4, and also August †430 A.D.)
According to the manuscript evidence the version where Herod himself made this statement has more weight.
Looking at the context, both are equal possibilities.
According to the variation where these words come from Herod himself, it confirms his own conviction that Jesus must be John the Baptist whom he had beheaded just before. The comments his informants gave, should then be seen as their attempts to comfort him. After that Herod made a final statement concerning John the Baptist. “John, whom I had beheaded – it is he who was raised from the dead!”
According to the variation where the informants made this statement, it would boil down to them giving their opinions, one being that it must be John the Baptist. After considering this, Herod gave his final answer. “John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
From the context, both variations are possible.
In the parallel version in Matthews 14:1 – 2, it is Herod making this statement.
This is a strong indication that the copy of Mark that Matthews used, agreed with the first variation. “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” (Matthews 14:1 – 2.)
According to Luke it was Herod’s informants who made this statement. But then Herod confessed that he had John beheaded. And to him that is a case done. There is no possibility that it could be John that was raised from the dead.
Luke 9:7 – 9: “Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed, because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?’ And he tried to see him.” That means that the copy Luke had been using had the second variation.
Yet both Matthew and Luke used the gospel of Mark to compile their gospels.
Could it be possible that we are dealing with a variation that originated when one of the very first copies had been made from the gospel of Mark, even before Matthew and Luke had been written?
Why else would Matthew correspond with “elegen”; “he said”?
And Luke with “elegon”; “they said”?