In a group Bible study just last evening . . . I mentioned the first verse of Matthew 14 and the fact that Herod, upon being told of Jesus's fame, said, “This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead. ” But this appears to be a problem because Matthew 14:10 says John was already beheaded. One of our group said that verse one only shows a flashback for Herod of what he has already done. This person said, “Notice the past tense usage as you move into verse three: 'For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison ...' If this is correct hermeneutics, I'm wondering why this chapter is written so awkwardly, time-wise?
Matthew 14:1-2 describes Herod’s comments about Jesus. The Holy Spirit then adds that Herod was worried that John the Baptist returned to life and that Jesus was John.
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead; and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And although he wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they regarded him as a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Thereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. And having been prompted by her mother, she *said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” And although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. And he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. (NASB) Matthew 14:1-10
I have highlighted the key word “for” which occurs two times in this passage. They introduce the flash-back in time explaining why Herod was worried. Matthew 14:3-12 is the flash back, the recall of past events, or the past history. The is not a contradiction but merely a flash back.
A correct hermeneutic considers the entire passage and seeks the best plain sense, literal understanding of the passage. When we come to problem passages, the Greek language usually helps us out. There is nothing wrong with a flash back. Matthew is not always chronological, and this is one example. His purpose is to show us that Jesus is the Messiah who is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.