A group known as the “Herodians” appear twice in the course of Jesus’s ministry, once in Galilee and a second time in Jerusalem. But who were these people, and what did they stand for?
Did you know…?
- The Herodians only appear in the gospels of Mark and Matthew.
- The ending –iani is a Latinism and probably shows that the Herodians were a political party.
- Some later Christian writers thought that the Herodians revered Herod as the messiah.
- In the time of Jesus, the Herodians were probably supporters of Herod Antipas.
Where do we find references to the Herodians?
The Herodians are mentioned three times in the New Testament, two of which are in Mark’s Gospel. In
The third and final reference to the “Herodians” is in
Who were the Herodians?
The Herodians have been explained in various ways. Some have suggested that they were a religious sect, perhaps even identical with the Essenes or the Sadducees. More likely, however, they were political supporters of Herodian rule. The reasons for thinking this come from the Greek term Herodianoi itself. The word is not used before Mark’s Gospel, though Josephus uses a related term, Herodeioi, to talk about those around Herod I (War 1.319). The ending to Mark’s word (–iani) is Latin in form. Similar Latin constructs include Caesariani, which means both the household and servants of Caesar and his political supporters, and Pompeianoi, followers of Pompey the Great. (Christ-followers, too, are known as Christianoi in
Did the Herodians have religious beliefs?
A number of later Christian writers claim that the Herodians revered Herod I as the messiah. This is not impossible: Herod’s rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple may well have led his supporters to see him as a second Solomon, a new “Son of David,” an anointed king of the Davidic line. Supporters of Herod, and the dynasty more broadly, may have seen rule by Jewish client kings as their best option in the face of the ever-advancing Roman presence in the East. Perhaps those under Herod Antipas hoped that he might be made king (an ambition he shared himself), while those under Agrippa I (41-44 CE) may have thought their dreams were realized, at least until his untimely death crushed their hopes.
How do the Herodians fit into the life of Jesus?
The view that the Herodians were the supporters of Herod Antipas makes good sense of the passages where they appear in the gospels. In
Whatever we make of these two incidents, the presence of the Herodians in the gospels may well go back to an historical memory that these people were supporters of Herod Antipas.