TWH: An issue dealing with the Herodians arises when we take a look at two of the canonical Gospels, namely Matthew and Mark. We mentioned the verse in Mark at the end of the previous post. Here it is again: "And he was giving orders to them, saying, 'Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod" (Mark 8:15). I've reproduced the translation that is found in most English translations. The first problem we encounter is when we compare Mark to Matthew. In Matt. 16:6 we do not find a reference to the Pharisees and Herodians. Rather, we find one to the Pharisees and the Sadducees: "And Jesus said to them, 'Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.'" Sadducees or Pharisees? Did Matthew get it wrong? Did Mark (which is actually the collection of Peter's messages in Rome)? There's an issue here, right? Could it have been all three, and both Matthew and Mark opt to include, in addition to the Pharisees, a different group? Or perhaps the Sadducees and the Herodians are one and the same group? To make matters even more difficult, we have a textual issue in Mark 8:15. One reads "leaven of Herod" and another "leaven of the Herodians." Here they are below with a selection of the evidence.
Reading One: τῆς ζύμης Ἡρῴδου ("the leaven of Herod") א A B C D L Δ 0131 33 157 180 579 Byz
Reading Two: τῆς ζύμης Ἡρῳδιανῶν ("leaven of the Herodians") P45 G W θ f1 f13 28 205 565Textual criticism involves an analysis of both external and internal evidence (or, at least, it should!). External evidence deals with the extant manuscripts––their date, geographical distribution and what's known as text-types, and quantity. Internal evidence deals with matters like whether a textual reading matches or reflects the author's style and theology, which reading is the shortest reading, which is the harder one, etc.
So, what of the issue with the parallel passages and the textual issue found in Mark? Well, let's think about the textual issue first. I'm just going to comment on the external evidence briefly (though I do believe the external evidence is primary in textual criticism). The earliest manuscript has "leaven of the Herodians." But that's probably the strongest case one can make with this reading. Not much later are some of the manuscripts containing the other reading ("leaven of Herod"), which is not limited to a single geographical region // text-type. That P45 contains "Herodians" just tells me that people were trying to "fix" this issue early on. Why would they try and "fix" the word "Herod" with the word "Herodians"? This one is fairly easy . . . Because they wanted the two expressions that begin with "leaven of _____" to be parallel. The first refers to a group of people, so they changed the name "Herod" to more precisely refer to the group associated with him. Jesus didn't mean Herod as an individual, and scribes made the change for the sake of clarity (though none was needed, since everyone who read Greek knew what the text was saying when it was originally written). At the end of the day, the text ends up meaning basically the same thing. Now what about the fact that Mark mentions the group associated with Herod and Matthew mentions the Sadducees? If I had to land my plane, and I always tell my students to do so, I would say this: Notice when groups of opposition appear in the Gospels, they are always groups of two. I'm not sure why this is per se, but we never find a group of three. My best assessment is the Herodians and the Sadducees are distinct enough that it is safe to distinguish between them, but they are close enough ideologically/politically that it is safe to––if you had to choose to include just one . . . because you always only have groups of two––you would keep Pharisees and choose to either mention the Sadducees or Herodians. Matthew opts for the former. But Jesus mentioned all three in his warning.