Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Herodians: The Intersection Between Historical And Textual Issues (Part 1)

TWH: There are just three references to "Herodians" in the New Testament (Matt. 22:16; Mark 3:6; 12:13). Mark 3:6 describes an event that transpires during Jesus' ministry in Galilee. Matthew 22:16 and Mark 12:13 are parallel verses, meaning they cover the same event. That event takes place following Jesus' entry into Jerusalem for the final time before heading to the cross that same week. In each place, in all three verses, the Herodians are mentioned alongside the Pharisees. To this we can also add the reference in Mark to the "leaven of Herod" (8:15), but we shall return to this verse later. Normally when we see the Pharisees named with another group, that group is the scribes or the Sadduccees, not the Herodians. For examples, we find the following expressions in the Synoptic Gospels; I've included the references to the Pharisees without any group in the middle of the list just to give a visual of how often they are mentioned:
1. the scribes and the Pharisees (Matt. 12:38; 15:1; 23:2; 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29; 2:16 ["scribes of the Pharisees"]; Mark 7:5; Luke 5:21; 5:30 ["the Pharisees and their scribes"]; 6:7; 11:53; 15:2)
2. the Pharisees and teachers of the law/lawyers (Luke 5:17; 7:30; 14:3)
3. the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Matt. 3:7; 16:1, 6, 11, 12)
4. "the Pharisees" (Matt. 9:11, 34; 12:2, 14, 24; 15:12; 19:3; 22:15, 34, 41, 26 [vocative/singular]; Mark 2:18, 24; 3:6; 7:1; 8:11; 10:2; Luke 6:2; 11:39, 42, 43; 12:1; 13:31; 14:1; 16:14; 17:20; 19:39)
5. the Pharisees and all the Jews (Mark 7:3)
6. the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees (Matt. 9:14; Luke 5:33) 
7. the chief priests and the Pharisees (Matt. 21:45; 27:62)
The Pharisees are clearly the most influential opponents during Jesus' ministry. That's no indication of  whether Jesus was most at odds with this group, or in other words, that he had less in common or fewer disagreements with the hermeneutic and worldview of the Sadducees. What these references do tell us is that Jesus' understanding of the world, the law, and the kingdom which he announced was seriously at odds with the teaching of not just one group, not just one Jewish group in particular, but with each of the most prominent groups in first-century occupied Israel. Since the Herodians appear only a few times in the Gospels, it's pretty likely that a lot of people have little to no idea who they were. Hopefully we can nail it down a little bit in this post. But mostly we'll pay special attention to a parallel passage issue in Matt. 16:6 and Mark 8:15 and a textual issue associated with the latter.

From their name we can deduce that they have at least some affiliation with the Herodian dynasty. The Herods were already at odds with Jesus' forerunner before the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Matthew provides the account of the magi who arrive in Jerusalem following Jesus' birth. Their question definitely raised Herod's eyebrows: "Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him" (Matt. 2:2). Matthews reference to "all Jerusalem" in 2:3 sharing the same concern of Herod is probably a reference to the group he identifies in the next verse, namely the chief priests and the scribes. Herod had not been born king of the Jews. His lineage would not have stood the slightest scrutiny (and everyone knew it!), and the idea that people were coming to worship one who had just been born must have come both as a slight and a threat––a slight because no one that we know of ever traveled such a distance to worship him, and a threat because if a child's renown had spread beyond the environs of Israel within just a couple of years and those from afar wanted to worship him, then it was only a matter of time, Herod feared, that Israel would turn their allegiance to this child when he came of age. According to Matthew, Herod flipped out and executed a bloody plan to prevent such a thing from ever happening. To this we could add the account of John the Baptist preaching about Herod's unlawful actions, the imprisonment of John, and eventually the request that led to the severing of John's head.

Before we go any further, let's stop and provide you those verses in which we find a reference to the Herodians:
"He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching him to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, 'Get up and come forward!' And he said to them, 'Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?' But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against him, as to how they might destroy him." (Mark 3:1–6)
"Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to him in order to trap him in a statement. They came and said to him, 'Teacher, we know that you are truthful and defer to no one; for you are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? . . ." (Mark 12:13–14)
Note: Matthew (22:15–16) has some differences when compared to the text of Mark, such as, Matthew indicates that the Pharisees sent their disciples along with the Herodians. In other words, the big names among the Pharisees didn't go, rather the ones that they were training. The Pharisees seem to plot among themselves and the Herodians join in on the trip to trap Jesus.

And here is Mark 8:15: "And he was giving orders to them, saying, 'Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.'"

We'll pick up here tomorrow.

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