Dear Friends,
How old was Herod? He seems to be everywhere in the New Testament. I really enjoy reading a good mystery novel. I love discovering a new series – books with the same set of main characters who develop over the course of many novels. One problem that authors and readers have is how to deal with the characters aging. Some writers, Ian Rankin’s Rebus and Michael Connelly’s Bosch, have their characters sort of retire. They also slow down time and start removing some time markers. Tony Hillerman had his main character, Joe Leaphorn, actually retire and he transitioned his novels to a younger police officer, Jim Chee. Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels have taken a different tack. They have basically decided to have the main characters stop aging – perpetually in their mid-40’s. The world Spenser writes about is always contemporary, but his main characters do not age.

So, what about the New Testament? Is it not like a Spenser novel where some people do not age – coming in and out of the story as it suits the author who is creating a story out of his mind?

Not at all. The Gospels and Acts are histories. They are concerned with telling us what happened. Did you know that some Israeli (Jewish) archaeologists go to the New Testament for help in finding the locations of first century settlements and buildings? They have seen the remarkable historical accuracy of the New Testament so they use it as a tool. (For more on this go to “Dig and Delve” and seek out the presentation by Craig Evans.) So what’s up with Herod? He is important in the birth of Jesus (sometime between 6BC and 4BC) and Herod shows up later in the Gospels and then he is in the book of Acts towards the end. In other words, Herod is important around the year 60AD.

There are four generations, each one having a Herod. The New Testament gets the details right – but in our casual reading we do not notice that a different person with a similar name is being referred to.

Herod the Great (King from 37-4BC) is the man who tries to kill Jesus when Jesus is a baby. Herod the Great is referred to in Matthew 2 and Luke 1. Three of Herod’s sons are mentioned in the New Testament: Herod Philip II in Luke 3:1 and Herod Philip I (died AD34) (Matthew 14:3; Mark 6: 17). It was a third son of Herod the Great, Herod Antipas (Tetrach from 4BC – 39AD) who put John the Baptist to death and this same Herod was the one Pilate sent Jesus to. In the third generation of Herods, Herod Agrippa I (King of Judea from 37AD – 44), is the one who had James the Apostle put to death and threw Peter in jail. Finally, there is the fourth generation of Herods. It is Herod Agrippa II before whom Paul makes an apologia for Jesus’ resurrection and Paul’s innocence in Acts 25: 13-26:32.

The bible makes big claims while being historically accurate. Trust it and read.

Merry Christmas!