Who were the Herodians?

Who were the Herodians?

Herodians, A sect or party mentioned in the New Testament together with the Pharisees as opponents of Jesus (Mark 3:6; 12:13; Matt. 22:16). There are differences of opinion as to their identity, and the Church Fathers already put forward various theories all connected in one form or another with the name of Herod the Great. Some recent scholars identify the Herodians with the “partisans of Herod” mentioned by Josephus (Ant., 14:479), though he mentions them as living at the beginning of Herod’s rule in Judea. Others connect the name with Herod *Antipas, the son of Herod. In the absence of clear evidence, these must be regarded as mere conjectures. A. Schalit, who identifies the Herodians with the partisans of Herod, is of the opinion that they were his supporters among the Jewish community who urged the people to accept his sovereignty and spread messianic ideas which they applied to Herod and his rule. 1

According to many interpreters the courtiers or soldiers of Herod Antipas (“Milites Herodis,” Jerome) are intended; but more probably the Herodians were a public political party, who distinguished themselves from the two great historical parties of post-exilian Judaism (Pharisees and Sadducees) by the fact that they were and had been sincerely friendly to Herod the Great, the King of the Jews, and to his dynasty (cf. such formations as “Caesariani,” “Pompeiani”).2

Many scholars have confused the Mordechai 12:13 to tell us that there was a connection between the Herodians and P’rushim.3

Josephus does not mention the “Herodians” by that specific title. However, he does mention those of “Herod’s party.”4 As such, Josephus demonstrates the violent character of Herod and his “Party,” which I must conclude is the Herodians.5 Together with the Tz’dukim, the whole of the Temple complex was subjected to constant warfare and fighting.6 I have not inserted the works of Josephus concerning these parties here for the sake of space and time. However, I would suggest reading the cited materials for a positive understanding of just how volatile the political situation really was.

Unlike the Tz’dukim and P’rushim, the Herodians were not a religious party.7 Albeit there may have been Jews in the party, they were partisans of Herod. Other scholars suggest that the Herodians have been equated with the Tz’dukim on other occasions where the Biblical text may have been tampered with.8 If the text of Mark 3:6 were altered to read “Pharisees and Sadducees”, it would draw negative light on the Pharisees, whereas the translation of “Sadducees and Herodians” would make better sense. B. W. Bacon has tries to show a positive alliance between the Herodians and the P’rushim based on their both wanting to maintain “status quo” in contrast to Josephus view of the P’rushim.9 I must argue with Josephus that this was not the case with the P’rushim. The P’rushim did not agree with the Roman occupation. Albeit, they accepted the sovereignty of G-d as Yeshua demonstrates in our present pericope. Which, I must conclude is the genuine point that Yeshua is trying to make in our present pericope.

  1. Encyclopedia Judaica, Second Edition, Keter Publishing House Ltd Volume 9 p. 38 []
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herodians []
  3. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible, Charles Scriber’s Sons 1909 p. 346, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible in Five volumes, Regency Reference Library, 1976 Volume 3 p.145 []
  4. Ant. 14:335 []
  5. I am in contest with some authorities and aligned with others. This line of thought bears more research. []
  6. Cf. Ant. 13:293-296; 20:197-203 []
  7. Society of Biblical Literature, Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis (U.S.), Journal of Biblical literature, Volumes 21-40, American Theological Library Association, JSTOR (Organization) Scholar’s Press, 1920 p. 101 []
  8. Cf. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible in Five volumes, Regency Reference Library, 1976 Volume 3 p.145 “Herodians” Here the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia suggests that Matthew 16:6, Mark 3:6 may have been tampered with (my words) to read Pharisees and Sadducees rather than the possible Herodians and Pharisees. This would suggest that the Mark 3:6 passage should read that the Sadducees and the Herodians went about trying to find a way to kill Yeshua. []
  9. Society of Biblical Literature, Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis (U.S.), Journal of Biblical literature, Volumes 21-40, American Theological Library Association, JSTOR (Organization) Scholar’s Press, 1920 p. 101 []