John the Baptist receives more attention from the Jewish historian Josephus than Jesus and James the Just. According to Josephus Herod the Tetrarch went to Rome. There he lodged with his half-brother, Herod, who had a different mother. This other Herod was married to Herodius, the daughter or Aristobulus and sister of Herod the Great. Herod the Tetrarch convinced Herodius to marry him and he agreed to divorce his current wife, who was the daughter of Artes, who was the King of Arabia Petra. Artes’ daughter discovered the plot and told Artes. This caused a rift between Artes and Herod the Tetrarch. He advanced on Herod’s armies and destroyed them. This is where Josephus begins discussing John the Baptist. He writes,

“Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God’s displeasure to him.” (Antiquities 18.5.2)

So according to Josephus some believed that Herod’s evil against John the Baptist was the reason for why Herod was defeated by Artes’ armies. Josephus explains that John was viewed by the people to be “a good man” who commanded the Jew to “exercise virtue”, “righteousness toward one another”, and “piety toward God” and in doing this called them to baptism.

According to Josephus the reason that Herod put John to death has nothing to do with dancing women, but rather with John’s political influence over the people. John could raise the people against Herod because he had that much influence.

This indicates that John was very, very influential. Enough that Josephus thought that Herod thought John could rise to power.