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{Jewish Sects and Orders}

It was in vain that Herod the Great and his descendants endeavored to propitiate the great mass of the people. Idumaean by descent, although in profession Jews, they were by education, taste, and habit altogether Roman. Repeated visits, to the capital, and constant attendance on the imperial family, necessary to the stability of their vassal throne, imbued them more and more with the ideas and principles of their heathen masters, which as far as practicable they imported into Palestine.

It is true that Herod the Great restored the temple with great splendor, but this he did in the spirit of Augustus, not of Jerubbabel; to adorn his reign, to propitiate and dazzle his subjects, and to preserve the ascendancy of his name. The Jew might be proud of those "goodly stones," but was as least equally shocked to observe here a temple and there a statue to the deified Emperor, to witness Roman games even in Jerusalem, and to see the Roman Eagle (to Hebrew eyes an idolatrous emblem) over the very portal of the temple. In a word, the Herods had largely Romanized the Holy Land and its people. Courtly Jews fell in with the fashion to their own profit, and justified it to their compatriots. These were the "Herodians," true successors of those who had conformed to the will of Antiochus Epiphanes, and had destroyed Judaism in the days of the "mingling." Their natural antagonists were the Pharisees, who prided themselves on nothing so much as on being Hebrews first and last. Yet Herodians and Pharisees, being alike underminers of the Hebrew faith - the former by their foreign corruptions, the latter by their native traditions - are condemned by Jesus in the same breath (Mark 8:15). "Beware," He said, "of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." The parallel passage (Matthew 16:6) has "Sadducees" in place of "Herod," implying that the Herodians were infected with Sadducean tenets, as indeed was natural. That the Pharisees deserved thus to be classed with their natural opponents is shown by the association of the two in deadly enmity to Jesus (Mark 3:6); and especially in proposing to Him the insidious question about the tribute money (Matthew 22:16,17). The Pharisees no doubt paid the tax, but under protest; thus at once propitiating the ruling party and saving their own conscience. Their payment showed them to be loyal subjects; their protest proved them faithful Jews: but on the other hand, if Jesus admitted the claim, the Pharisees would vilify Him to their own party; if He repudiated it, the Herodians would endanger Him with the authorities. His answer silenced both.

A view, slightly differing from that above given, is that the Herodians represented a national party in opposition to the Roman power. Herod Antipas and Pilate, we know, were "at enmity" (Luke 23:12); and though the sovereignty of the Herods was heathen in comparison with the theocracy, it was Jewish in comparison with that of Rome. The Herodian in this view would be, comparatively speaking, the patriotic party; hence their alliance with the Pharisees. Specious as this theory may be, the evidence against it seems to preponderate. Some have contended that both aspects of Herodianism by turns prevailed, but this can scarcely be regarded as probably.

He*ro"di*an (?), n. Jewish Hist.

One of a party among the Jews, composed of partisans of Herod of Galilee. They joined with the Pharisees against Christ.


© Webster 1913.

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