New Testament Religious Groups
The Herodians

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Religious Groups in First Century
Disciples of John the Baptist
Elders   -   Essenes   -   Herodians
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Known for their sensuality and corrupt living, the Herodians were supporters of the policies and government of the Herodian family. They were a political rather than religious party. They distinguished themselves from the two great religious / political parties of the day (the Pharisees and Sadducees) by the fact that they were sincerely friendly to Herod the Great and to his dynasty.

The ruling dynasty that the Herodians supported was begun by Julius Caesar in 47 B.C. when he appointed Antipater I the Idumaen to be procurator of Judea. His son Herod (the Great), although appointed King of Judea (King of the Jews) in 40 B.C., did not begin to rule Judea until 37 B.C. Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, became tetrarch of Galilee and Perea in 4 B.C. after the death of his father. It was this Herod who jailed and beheaded John the Baptist and who sent Jesus to Pilate after his arrest.

Jesus, early in his ministry, attended a synagogue on the Sabbath where he healed a man's withered hand. The Pharisees who saw the miracle believed Jesus broke the Sabbath because they considered the healing "work." Jesus' trespass of their man-made rules (not God's law) motivated their hard hearts to seek the help of the Herodians to murder him (Mark 3:1 - 6). This is the first plot against Jesus mentioned in the gospels and the first time the followers of Herod are mentioned in the New Testament.

Map of Jesus' life and ministry
Territory ruled by Herod the Great
What did early New Testament church believe?

On another occasion the Pharisees wanted to try and trap Jesus into stating something which could be construed as being against the Roman government. Their plan was to send some of their disciples and some Herodians to Jesus and have them ask him a certain "honest" question (Matthew 22:15 - 16, Mark 12:13 - 14). The question was: "'Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?'" (Mark 12:14 - 15, NKJV). Jesus' response not only did not entrap him but had those who asked the question marveling at his answer!

Why were these individuals, who were not a religious group, so vehemently against Jesus? Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible attempts to answer this question by stating the following.

"All the friends of the family of Herod were opposed to Christ, and ever ready to join any plot against his life. They remembered, doubtless, the attempts of Herod the Great against him when he was the babe of Bethlehem, and they were stung with the memory of the escape of Jesus from his bloody hands" (comments on Matthew 12:14).

The Bible states that Jesus warned his disciples about the Herodians.

15. Then He charged them, saying, "Watch out! Be on guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod" (Mark 8:15, HBFV)

The Pharisees wanted Jesus to prove he was the Messiah by giving them a sign or performing a great miracle (Matthew 12:38 - 40, 16:1 - 4). Herod, who saw Jesus after his arrest, also desperately wanted to see Jesus perform a miracle "on command" as it were.

8 Herod was very pleased when he saw Jesus, because he had heard about him and had been wanting to see him for a long time. He was hoping to see Jesus perform some miracle (Luke 23:8, TEV)

The leaven Jesus warned of, according to Matthew Henry's Commentary, was that the Pharisees wanted a heavenly sign; and that Herod had long desired to see Jesus perform a miracle on command (Luke 23:8). The leaven was also symbolic of the teachings of the Pharisees and Herodians (Matthew 16:12) and their opposition to the gospel.

Additional Study Materials
Timeline of the New Testament
Map showing events in Early Church
Map of Apostle Paul's first missionary journey
First Century Religious Groups
EldersHigh PriestSanhedrin
Essenes PhariseesScribes
HerodiansPriestsZealots
 Sadducees 


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