Herodians

HERODIANS (hĕ-rō'dĭ-ănz, Gr. Hērōdianoi). A party mentioned only three times (Matt.22.16; Mark.3.6; Mark.12.13) as joining with the Pharisees to oppose Jesus. Nothing more is known about them than what the Gospels state. It appears that they were neither a religious sect nor a political party, but Jews who supported the dynasty of Herod and therefore the rule of Rome. The first time they are referred to they are seen joining with the Pharisees to destroy Jesus; the second time, trying to trap Jesus by asking him whether it is proper to pay tribute to Caesar.


HERODIANS hĭ rō’ dĭ ənz (̔Ηρῳδιανοί, G2477). A party, mentioned in the gospels, who cooperated with the Pharisees on two different occasions in opposition to Jesus (Mark 3:6; 12:13; cf. Matt 22:16). Composed of the name Herod and the familiar suffix -ianos, the name designates partisans of Herod the Great or his dynasty (see Herod). The Herodians are named only in Matthew and Mark. Josephus does not mention them, although he speaks of τοὺς τὰ ̔Ηρῳδου φρονου̂ντας, “those of Herod’s party,” referring to those who were favorable to Herod the Great before he became master of the whole country (Jos. Antiq. XIV. xv. 6). That the party mentioned by Josephus are the NT Herodians is doubtful. The designation indicates that the Herodians were adherents of a Herod or the Herodian dynasty, but a more specific identification is a matter of conjecture. Varied suggestions concerning them have been made: that they were soldiers of Herod; courtiers of Herod; Jews belonging to the northern tetrarchies ruled by sons of Herod; supporters of Jewish aspirations for a national kingdom who favored Herodian rule vs. direct Rom. rule; political supporters of Antipas. Of these, the last is most probable and receives wide support. Grant suggests that they were “members of the Herodian party, satellites of the tetrarch Antipas, royalists who hoped for a restoration of the Herodian monarchy” (see Bibliography). Unlike the Pharisees, they were not a religious party but rather a political group concerned with the interests of the Herodian dynasty. Theologically, their membership doubtless cut across recognized party lines. They may have had Sadducaic proclivities, but the gospels never suggest that the Herodians are to be equated with the Sadducees. That Matthew 16:6 substitutes “Sad ducees” for “Herod” in Mark 8:15 (a few MSS read “Herodians”) does not establish the identity; Matthew simply omits the reference to Herod or the Herodians and names another group.

The Herodians in the gospel accounts first appear in Galilee where they joined with the Pharisees against Jesus to attempt to destroy Him (Mark 3:6; cf. Matt 12:14, which omits them). The politically minded Herodians would be interested with the ecclesiastical Pharisees in preserving the status quo. During Passion week they joined with the Pharisees in seeking to trap Jesus on the question of paying tribute (Mark 12:13; cf. Matt 22:17). Filson suggests that the Herodians as supporters of Antipas were “in Jerusalem to forestall the supposed revolutionary tendencies of Jesus” (see Bibliography). However, they would naturally be in Jerusalem for the Passover.

Bibliography

A. B. Bruce, “The Synoptic Gospels,” EGT (n.d.), I, 273; B. W. Bacon, “Pharisees and Herodians in Mark,” JBL, XXXIX (1920), 102-112; E. Bickerman, RB, XLVII (1938), 184-197; H. H. Rowley, “The Herodians in the Gospels,” JTS, XLI (1940), 14-27; F. C. Grant, “Mark,” IB (1951), VII, 683; F. V. Filson, “Matthew,” Harper’s NT Commentaries (1960), 234.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A party twice mentioned in the Gospels (Mt 22:16 parallel Mr 12:13; 3:6) as acting with the Pharisees in opposition to Jesus. They were not a religious sect, but, as the name implies, a court or political party, supporters of the dynasty of Herod. Nothing is known of them beyond what the Gospels state. Whatever their political aims, they early perceived that Christ’s pure and spiritual teaching on the kingdom of God was irreconcilable with these, and that Christ’s influence with the people was antagonistic to their interests. Hence, in Galilee, on the occasion of the healing of the man with the withered hand, they readily joined with the more powerful party of the Pharisees in plots to crush Jesus (Mr 3:6); and again, in Jerusalem, in the last week of Christ’s life, they renewed this alliance in the attempt to entrap Jesus on the question of the tribute money (Mt 22:16). The warning of Jesus to His disciples to "beware of the leaven of Herod" (Mr 8:15) may have had reference to the insidious spirit of this party.