Summary: To facilitate better understanding of "one Herod too many" conundrum especially to the new readers of the New Testament!!!
THE HERODIAN CONUNDRUM!!!
Hmmm...some Cricket here please...
Sharma caught Sharma bowled Sharma...
One can well imagine plight of a Cricket aficionado going through a batting Score-card (of say a West Zone Vs North Zone- Deodhar Trophy match- in the Sports page of a Newspaper) if he were to come across a section such as the one captioned above missing out conspicuously on the prefixes’ of the players’ concerned. By the same token, one can well imagine that same distraught reader now sighing with relief once he is given the complete picture notably that the batsman in question was Rohit Sharma, the fielder Joginder Sharma and the wicket taking bowler...Ishant Sharma.
Now ditto the situation of a first time, uninitiated NT reader who comes across mostly villainous Kings all bearing the same dynastic title “Herod” (akin to “Nizam of Hyderabad” in the modern Indian context or “Pharoah of Egypt” in the OT context) one after another in its first five Books barring the John’s Gospel !!! By the way the title Herod in Greek means “Song of a Hero”.
Having been born-again 1983, I started reading the Bible at a time Tim Berners Lee (inventor of World-wide web in 1991) was still a starry-eyed young man toiling away in his first employment at CERN, France and the only Science-related Apple (thanks Steve Jobs), the most of the World knew about was the Newton’s “Gravity-related” one. With no access to Cyber World and its vast libraries then and my Church leaders (for whatever reasons) themselves not able to throw light on this dicey topic, I remember my struggle coming to terms with this peculiar “one Herod too many” syndrome. Boy, compounding my problem at that “taking baby steps in faith” stage was the repetitive annual screening in Local DD Channel (during Christmas time) of a popular Telugu movie “Karunamayudu” (viewed in hindsight, inadequate research preceded making of it) on Christ wherein “Herod” who tried to kill Baby Jesus and the one who beheaded John the Baptist, are portrayed as a same person, so much so, at one point I went around believing that the terrible death of “Herod” as narrated in Acts 12:23 was a just punishment for these very atrocities plus for the ones’ mentioned in Acts 12:1-4. Hence I can well empathize with the predicament of many a new Christian reading NT for the first time when he has to face up to this “one Sharma too many” like googly.
In this message (bearing the following sub-sections) I would like to bring out some basic facts about only those “Herods” and also a sect by name “Herodians” (Matt 22:16) who figure in the pages of the Bible (for in history...hold your breath... there are more Herods than the ones’ in the Bible) based on Biblical as well as World History accounts, so that Bible readers (I reiterate, especially the first-timers) are better equipped to understand contextually some Scripture portions, involving these characters’.
I. “Insecure” Herod the Great
II. “Inhuman” Herod Archelaus
III. “Incestuous” Herod Antipas
IV. “Innocent” Herod Philip
V. “Insidious” Herod Agriappa-I
VI. “Interrogative” Herod Agriappa –II
VII. “Invidious” Herodians
At this point, it would serve the readers well to know that these “Kings” who ruled over the Land of Palestine or some sections’ of it, were nothing more than the appointed “puppets” of the World Super power of that time -Roman Empire -which after having decisively subdued the erstwhile World-rulers (Greeks) in the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC was now indisputably Monarch of whatever it surveyed...including the “Land of Palestine” where most of the NT action takes place.
I. “Insecure” Herod the Great....
a) Period of reign: 37 BCE-4 BCE
b) Territory: At one point the whole Land of Palestine.
So power-hungry was this sly Idumean (a descendent of Esau-an Edomite-but raised as a Jew because his father had converted to Judaism) that History bears witness to the fact that he killed his own wife Mariamne and his two sons on the suspicion that they were conspiring to usurp his throne. No wonder that this insatiable hunger for power and throne which made him feel so “insecure” leading to the killing of his own family members made him react typically like “a cat on a hot tin roof” as soon as the News of the birth of the “King of the Jews” came to his notice, courtesy the Wise men (Matt 2:1-18) sometime after the First Christmas.
His colossal building projects throughout Judea (primary reason for suffixing the word “Great” to his name) including his initiation of expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (he began to rebuild it 16 years before the birth of Christ...but did not fully complete it-Source Barnes’ Notes on the Bible on John 2:20), the construction of the port at Caesarea Maritima have all to be viewed from the prism of his self-serving political ambitions which aimed at “currying the favour of the Jews”.