03.06 The Advent Of John The Baptist And Jesus (7-5 B.C.)

03.06 The Advent Of John The Baptist And Jesus (7 – 5 B.C.)

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 14, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.06 The Advent Of John The Baptist And Jesus (7 – 5 B.C.)

Unit 03

Historical Background

 Chapter 06

The Advent Of John The Baptist And Jesus (7 – 5 B.C.)



03.06.00.A. BIRTH OF THE SAVIOR (2)03.06.00.A. BIRTH OF THE SAVIOR. Artist Unknown. The miraculous births of various prophets in the Old Testament Era ended with John the Baptist who was born to elderly parents, but these incredible events were superseded by the virgin birth of Jesus.

03.06.01 John the Baptist is Born; Roman Peace

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 14, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.06.01 John the Baptist is Born; Roman Peace

03.06.01 7 – 6 B.C. John the Baptist is Born; Roman Peace

John the Baptist was born in Ein Karem,[1] a small village outside of Jerusalem that today has been absorbed into the city limits. Both John and Jesus were born and lived under Roman authority. In essence, throughout their entire lives, they were Roman subjects as were all the Jews of Israel. Scholarship seldom studies their lives from the perspective that they were orthodox Jews living in a Roman-Greek culture.

He was well acquainted with the evils of the time; the hypocrisy of the religious parties, the inroads the Roman-Greek culture had upon the common people.  In light of that, he not only told the Jews to repent and be baptized; the mere fact that they were descendants of Abraham would not be sufficient for admission into the Kingdom of Heaven.

[1]. There is some debate among scholars as to where John was born. A minority viewpoint is that his birthplace was in Hebron. See Geikie, The Life and Works of Christ. 1:111.


03.06.02 The Birth of Jesus

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 14, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.06.02 The Birth of Jesus

03.06.02 6 – 5 B.C. The Birth of Jesus

Nearly all scholars today agree that Jesus was born in 6 or 5 B.C.   Yet this seems hardly possible to the novice who would wonder how Jesus could have been born 6 or 5 years “before Christ.”  This miscalculation occurred in 533, when Dionysius Exiguous (Exiguous meaning insignificant) was commissioned by Pope John I to reckon a calendar to determine the date of the birth of Christ. He carefully made his calculation and decided that March 25 was the day of the conception of Jesus, which was celebrated in the church’s Feast of Annunciation.  This day was also to be the first day of the New Year in his calendar.[1] By the time the error was discovered, people had been using the calendar too long as a basis for writing history, that the change was not made.

If one considers that Jesus was born in 5 B.C., then according to the Roman calendar that birth date would be 748 A.U.C. ab urbe condita, meaning “from the founding of the city.”[2] In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII sponsored the research and development of a new calendar that is now known as the Gregorian Calendar.  It replaced the Julian Calendar that had been used since the year 45 B.C.  It was Pope Gregory who introduced the years “B.C.,” meaning “before Christ,” and the Latin term ab incarnatione Domini meaning, “from the incarnation of the Lord.” [3]  But the term was changed in later traditions to anno Domini, meaning, “In the year of our Lord.”[4] More recently, B.C. has been replaced with B.C.E. “before Common Era,” and A.D. has been replaced with C.E. meaning “Common Era.” Since the pope used the calculations of Dionysius, the errors of Christ’s birth remain unchanged.

The birth of Jesus was placed on December 25, a pagan holiday in the Roman Empire.  The Roman festival was the feast of Sol Invictus, meaning the Unconquerable Sun, and  was  a  few days from the feast of Saturnalia that the Romans incorrectly thought was the winter solstice of December 25 (instead of December 21).  Since the pagans were already celebrating various gods, Dionysius simply added the birth of Christ to their celebration without any real evidence of the actual date of birth.[5]  Unfortunately, Dionysius was less than accurate by at least four years in calculating the year of the birth, since Herod died in 4 B.C.[6]  While the actual day of the birth of Jesus remains unknown, recent Messianic scholarship has offered some clues that will be discussed later.[7]

[1]. Geating. “The Star of Bethlehem.” 121.


[2]. Maier, In the Fullness of Time. 24-25.

[3]. Cosby, Interpreting Biblical Literature. 299.     


[4]. Finegan, Handbook rev. ed., 1964, 132.

[5]. Maier, In the Fullness of Time. 10, 29.

[6]. Keller, W. The Bible as History. 366.

[7]. See  04.03.10.Q2 “When was Jesus born?”


03.06.03 Mary, Joseph, and Jesus Flee to Egypt

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 14, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.06.03 Mary, Joseph, and Jesus Flee to Egypt

03.06.03 5 – 4 B.C.  Mary, Joseph, and Jesus Flee to Egypt

The gospels recorded the account of Mary and Joseph taking their child, Jesus, to Egypt to escape the coming slaughter by Herod the Great.  They remained there until after his death and order was restored in the land.[1]

04.05.00A. JOSEPH, MARY, AND JESUS RETURN FROM EGYPT. Artwork by William Hole of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art, 1876. 

[1]. Additional details follow the biblical narrative below in 04.05.01.

03.06.04 The Death of Herod the Great

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 14, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.06.04 The Death of Herod the Great

03.06.04 4 B.C. The Death of Herod the Great

Herod constructed and reconstructed a number of fortresses, huge temples, and other buildings. The following is a summary of his projects only within the Jerusalem vicinity.

  1. He remodeled and enlarged the Jewish temple built by Zerubbabel five centuries earlier. The construction began in 20/19 B.C. and ended in A.D. 62, decades after Herod’s death – only a few years before the Romans destroyed it.[1]
  1. In Jerusalem, he rebuilt a beautiful palace for himself in the Upper City by the gate that is known today as the Jaffa Gate.[2]
  1. He built three massive towers near his palace and named them after his friend Hippicus, his brother Phasael, and his favorite wife, Mariamne.[3]
  1. At the northwest corner of the temple was the Bira or Baris Fortress (Neh. 2:8; 7:21) that was rebuilt in the second century B.C by the Hasmoneans. In 35 B.C. Herod enlarged and renamed it the Antonia Fortress.[4] It is called a “barracks” in Acts 21:37 and is where Paul gave an address to the Jews in Acts 22:1-21. Pilate may have judged Jesus there or at his palace at the western end of the city.
  1. He built the Herodian palace-fortress with a splendid tomb for himself just south of Bethlehem. In doing so, the top of one small mountain was placed on the top of another.[5]
  1. He built a theater within the city limits of Jerusalem.[6] Its location remains a mystery although seat tokens have been found.
  1. He built a hippodrome but its location is also unknown.[7] The model 50:1 first-century model of the city of Jerusalem at one time placed it within the city, but recently it was removed as scholars continue to debate the location.[8]
  1. A water channel, or aqueduct, that brought water from a spring near Bethlehem to serve the temple. This pipe was ten miles long from beginning to end and had a drop of only 200 feet – and incredible engineering feat. However, Herod died before its completion, and when Pilate raided temple funds to complete the project, the Jews rioted.[9] One ancient writer said it was lined with lead and lime mortar, which is probably an accurate report.[10]
  1. Herod at one time stole more than 3000 talents of silver from King David’s tomb. However, after an angel of the Lord killed two of his guards, he immediately constructed a beautiful memorial over the tomb.[11]
  1. Finally, within Jerusalem he built five impressive porticoes, each about 27 feet high, around and across the twin pools of Bethesda (Jn. 5:2).[12]

For his architectural achievement, Herod certainly deserves the title of “the Great.” However, his personal and political life was a disaster. In his final years, he became miserably ill and in a great deal of pain.  He frequently went to the hot springs of Hammat-Tiberias (in Tiberias), or to his preferred hot springs in Callirrhoe, east of the Dead Sea to find the relief he so desperately desired.  At the age of seventy, the brutal life of Herod ended.  His reign can be delineated into three distinctive periods.

  1. Even though he was titled “King of the Jews” by the Roman senate in 40 B.C., he had to fight various nationalistic factions as well as the Parthians from 40 to 37 B.C. Thereafter, from 37 to 25 B.C., he consolidated his power and he eliminated rebels and challengers to his throne.

He was always suspicious of anyone he perceived to be a challenger to his throne.[13] For that reason, his body guards were from Galatia, Thracia, and Germany.[14] When Queen Cleopatra of Egypt committed suicide in 30 B.C., Emperor Augustus sent the 400 body guards she had to serve Herod.

  1. From 25 to 13 B.C. was a period of massive building projects, stability, growth, and expansion. During this period the Jewish people prospered even though there was a two-year drought that caused widespread famine (22-21 B.C.). It is for his success in construction and economic growth that he was titled “the Great” by historians.
  1. Finally, from 13 to 4 B.C. he was plagued with a diversity of problems within his family and his own mental instability. Fearful of losing his throne, he became extremely paranoid, thinking that his closest family, as well as others, would overthrow him.

The longer he ruled, the more his life disintegrated.  While he was a great architect and administrator, his personal life was in shambles.  He exploited his subjects and family.  He murdered innocent people of whom he became suspicious. He usurped the kingdom of his sovereign from the last unfortunate Hasmonean.  To legalize his treachery, he married a Hasmonean princess, Mariamne. From this point on, his ruthless tactics went unchecked within his own family. A summary list of survivors is as follows:

  1. Herod’s first wife was Doris. Together they had a son, Antipater, who was beheaded shortly before Herod’s death. He divorced Doris.
  1. Herod’s second wife was Mariamne and they had two sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, both of whom were strangled to death by Herod in 7 B.C.[15] She also had two daughters Salampsis and Kypros. Salampsis married her first cousin Phasaelus, and they had three sons and two daughters. Mariamne was a Hasmonean princess.
  1. Malthace was a third wife with whom he had two sons, Archelaus and Antipas and a daughter, Olympias. Antipas married Herodias whose first husband was Herod (son of Mariamne). Malthace was a Samaritan woman, whom Herod probably married in an attempt to make peaceful a relationship with the Samaritans.
  1. In 24 B.C., he married his fourth wife, Mariamne who was the daughter of Simon Boethos, the high priest of Alexandrian origin.[16] Together they had a son Herod who was the first husband of Herodias (daughter of Aristobulus and Bernice). This Mariamne is not to be confused with his second wife by the same name whom he killed earlier in 29 B.C.
  1. Then came Cleopatra of Jerusalem which whom he had two sons, Philip and Herod. Philip married Salome, the daughter of Herodias who was the wife of Herod and Antipas.
  1. Pallas with whom he had a son named Phasael.
  1. Phadra, who had a daughter named Roxana
  1. Elpis, who had a daughter named Salome
  1. Name unknown – a brother’s daughter, no children.
  1. Name unknown – a sister’s daughter, no children.

Thus, some scholars believe Herod the Great had five wives, but others say the number could have been as many as ten.  He also had nine sons and five daughters. The king most certainly had several other partners as well,[17] because Josephus said that at one time he gave a concubine as a gift to King Archelaus of Cappadocia.[18] His personal life was an on-going disaster filled with bribery, broken loyalties, lustful sex, scandalous banquets, revenge, and murder. Those who survived were said to be more miserable than his victims.[19]

His enemies, knowing his sense of suspicion, had taken advantage of every opportunity to portray Mariamne (wife # 2) as an unfaithful queen. So he had her executed, but when he realized his horrific error, his mental illness became obvious to everyone. He would lament over her, he would call her as if she was still alive, for a while he even gave up all affairs of state and even fled to Samaria where he had married her to seek relief from his haunting guilt. He finally fell into an unpredictable state – sometimes sane, sometimes insane. There were many in his immediate family who were murdered, not to mention others who also met their end at his hand. A summary list of those who died is as follows:

  1. In the year 37 B.C., Herod, with the help of his friend Mark Anthony, had Mattathias Antigonus executed. Herod then proceeded to have 45 associates of Antigonus executed.[20]
  1. The grandfather of his second wife, Mariamne, and her brother, both died at his command.
  1. In 35 B.C., Herod had his 17-year old brother-in-law, Aristobulus of the Hasmonean dynasty murdered. The young man was to be the high priest in the temple. For some reason, Herod became distrusting of the youthful priest and had him drowned by “accident” in the royal pool of his Jericho palace. Thereafter, Ananelus resumed the priesthood while Herod and all of Jerusalem deeply mourned for the young man’s death.[21]
  1. He condemned his brother-in-law, Joseph, to death.
  1. In 30 B.C., he had his brother-in-law, John Hyrcanus II strangled over an alleged overthrow plot.[22]
  1. In 29 B.C., he had Mariamne, his favorite wife murdered on a baseless suspicion. Afterwards he wept bitterly and had illusions that she visited him.[23]
  1. About the year 28 B.C., he had Alexandra, the mother of his wife Mariamne, murdered.[24]
  1. His death squads also killed two friends, Dositheus and Gadias.
  1. Around 20 – 19 B.C., about the time he began to rebuild the temple, he established an internal spy network and arrested those whom he suspected of a revolt. Most of them were taken to the Hycania Fortress[25] where they met their end.[26]
  1. Rabbi Ben Buta was a mild mannered rabbi who spoke against Herod, and for this his eyes were gouged out.[27]
  1. A distant kinsman Cortobanus died an unnatural death. Herod was highly suspected.
  1. Dosithai was a zealous opponent of Herod, and unfortunately, the long arm of Herod put an end to his life.[28]
  1. In the year 7 B.C. he had 300 military leaders executed.[29]
  1. Mariamne and Herod had two sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, both of whom were strangled to death by Herod in 7 B.C.[30] She also had two daughters Salampsis and Kypros. Salampsis married her first cousin Phasaelus, and they had three sons and two daughters. Mariamne was a Hasmonean princes.
  1. In 4 B.C. Herod was near the end of his life and still constantly threatened that power, wealth, and authority would be taken from him. In spite of being well-grounded in Jewish sensitivities, he had his soldiers hang a golden eagle over the temple gate. It was the Roman custom to hang golden shields in all the temples and dedicate them to the gods as an acknowledgement of some deliverance, or thankfulness in health and fortune.[31] However, two rabbis, Judah of Sarafaus and Matthew of Margoloth with their followers, tore down the Roman icon. They were soon captured and sent to Jericho where they were burned alive. Josephus reported that on that night of their execution there was a lunar eclipse.[32]
  1. Herod believed that the high priest was involved in some way with Rabbi Judah of Sarafaus and Rabbi Matthew of Margoloth. So the priest was tied to the corpse of one of his rebels. Consequently, the high priest died a slow and agonizing death as the corpse decayed.
  2. When he was about to die, he ordered the death of another son, Archelaus, but the order was never carried out.
  1. In 4 B.C., his son, Antipater, was beheaded at his command.[33] This was only five days before Herod’s own death. Antipater, the son of Herod’s wife Doris, was buried at the Hyrcania Fortress without honors or ceremony.[34]


Unfortunately, the list above is not complete, as any pretender to his throne made him tremble.   His reputation of cruelty was well known throughout the empire. The Roman historian Macrobius recorded these choice words of Caesar Augustus concerning him:

On hearing that the son of Herod (Antipater),[35] had been slain when Herod ordered that all boys in Syria under the age of two be killed, Augustus said, “I’d rather be Herod’s pig than his son.”

Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.4[36]


Augustus no doubt used a deliberate play on words, as in Greek the words pig and son sound similar.[37]  Furthermore, pigs were a forbidden food to the Jews, and hence, Herod would permit pigs to live in peace. His family died out within a century with one or two obscure exceptions.[38]  There is little question, when considering how many of his own family Herod ordered to be  killed, that he was completely capable of murdering innocent little boys in Bethlehem in order to wipe out any possible challenger to his throne.

Amazingly, some critics of the gospels in the past century have stated that the slaughter of the innocent boys in Bethlehem is mythical. They say there is no proof that his personality would command such an act. On the other hand, psychiatrists have debated whether he was paranoid schizophrenic or had a similar mental disorder.

Yet, among his numerous acts of terrible wickedness, there were acts of kindness. His international reputation was favorable not only among the Romans, but also among Jews scattered in the Diaspora.  He contacted other monarchs, intervening on behalf of Jews in their countries and, thereby, making life easier for them.  Consequently, foreign Jews loved him while those at home hated him.


03.06.04.A. THE FAMILY TREE OF HEROD THE GREAT. This genealogical chart shows the only relationships of significant descendants to each other. Herod could have killed more of his family than are shown. Courtesy of International Mapping and Dan Przywara.


The following image can be found in the full single-volume eBook of Mysteries of the Messiah as well as in the corresponding mini-volume. Search for the following reference number: 03.06.04.B. NASA GRAPHIC OF THE LUNAR ECLIPSE ON MARCH 12, 4 B.C. The Voyager astronomy computer program indicates that there was a lunar eclipse over Jerusalem on March 13, 4 B.C. If this is the eclipse Josephus meant, then the birth of Jesus would have been as early as 5 or 6 B.C. Graphic courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The last months of Herod’s life were misery beyond description. Being in constant fear, he immediately killed those he imagined would challenge his throne, and he removed a son from his last will and testament. In a single day he deprived Matthias the position of high priesthood, and had another Matthias and his companions who raised a conspiracy, burned alive. That night, as if an ominous sign came from heaven itself, Josephus said that there was an eclipse of the moon.[39]

The day of Herod’s death was a festival for the Jews. His death was recognized by Josephus to be a divine judgment and he said it was as if eternal hell came upon him as various horrible diseases slowly engulfed him. The historian said,

But now Herod’s distemper greatly increased upon him after a severe manner, and this by God’s judgment upon him for his sins: for a fire in him glowed slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly as it augmented his pains inwardly; for it brought upon him a vehement appetite to eating, which he could not avoid to supply with one sort of food or other.  His entrails were also exculcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay in his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquid also settled about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly.  His private member was putrefied and produced worms, and when he sat up, he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, because of the stench of his breath and the quickness of its returns.  He had convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased in strength to an insufferable degree.

He also sent for his physicians and did not refuse to follow what they prescribed for his assistance; and went beyond the river Jordan, and bathed himself in the warm baths (natural hot springs) that were at Callirrhoe … which water runs into the lake called Asphaltitis (Dead Sea).

Josephus, Antiquities 17.6.5 (168-171)[40]


Amazingly, his body began to putrefy while he was still alive. Worms consumed his organs as he groaned in agony. He burnt up with fevers, gasping air; he could hardly draw his tainted breath. He attempted suicide, but that failed.

There simply was no relief for the dying king. He had a personal physician, but all the physicians in the land could not bring him comfort.[41]  Herod’s final act was to gather all of the prominent men of Judea and Israel together in his hippodrome in Jericho. He instructed his assistants to kill them at the moment of his death, as he feared that there would be no mourners.  Josephus tells that he died a painful, prolonged, and agonizing death at age 70.[42]  When his life departed, fortunately, his assistants failed to carry out his orders.[43] Ironically, he died on the Feast of Purim and there was much rejoicing at the death of Herod the wicked.[44] His body was buried in a hidden area of the southern fortress-palace, the Herodian which has now been found. Josephus described the lavish funeral appointments:

The bier was of solid gold, studded with precious stones and draped with the richest purple embroidered with various colors. On it laid the body wrapped in a crimson robe, with a diadem resting on the head, and above that a golden crown and the scepter by his right hand.

Josephus, Wars 1.33.9 (671)


Many breathed a sigh of relief upon his demise. By his ten wives and many concubines, he had nine surviving daughters and five sons who miraculously outlived him. However, God’s judgment was to come, as within a century the entire Herodian family dynasty was utterly destroyed by disease and violence.

Prior to Herod’s reign, the country enjoyed prosperity with low unemployment as he was determined to bring the glory of Rome to Jerusalem. Even in the early years of this reign, the nation faired well.  However, his greed drove the nation into bankruptcy, financially and morally. Upon his death, the nation was demoralized by the Hellenistic inroads and impoverished by the high taxation – Judea alone had to pay 600 talents annually.[45]

Note the words of the historian:

When he took the kingdom, it was filled in an extraordinary flourishing condition, he had filled the nation with the utmost degree of poverty; and when under unjust pretenses, he had slain any of the nobility, he took away their estates and when he permitted any of them to live, he condemned them to the forfeiture of what they possessed. And, besides the annual impositions which he laid upon every one of them, there were to make liberal presents to himself, to his domestics and friends, and to such of his slaves as were vouchsafed the favor of being his tax gatherers, because there was no way of obtaining a freedom from unjust violence without giving gold or silver for it.

Josephus, Antiquities 17.11.2 (307-08)


With his passing, those with nationalistic dreams were motivated to revolt against the Herodian Dynasty and the Romans. In fact, there were so many revolutionary movements, that historians have difficulty counting them. Would they have been an organized cohesive force, the Romans would have had a serious challenge. Josephus said there were “ten thousand other disorders in Judea,” [46] which might have been an exaggeration, but clearly stated the war-like tension of the time. Among them were two thousand of Herod’s old soldiers who fought against the Herodian dynasty. The final outcome was not written, but it is assumed they were either killed in battle, crucified, or fled the country.[47]


[1]. When Jesus spoke with the Jews in A.D. 27 and said that if the temple would be destroyed He would raise it in three days (Jn. 2:20), Herod’s temple was still under construction, but Jesus was referring to Himself as the “Temple.”  See 03.05.31.B.


[2]. Josephus, Wars 5.4.4 (176-83).


[3]. Josephus, Wars 5.4.3-4 (171-76).


[4]. Josephus, Wars 5.5.8 (238-47). A model of the Antonio Fortress can be seen at the upper right corner of the Temple enclosure on 03.05.31.B.


[5]. See 03.05.26.C and 03.05.26.D.


[6]. Josephus, Antiquities 15.8.1 (268). See 03.05.26.H.


[7]. Josephus, Antiquities 15.8.1 (268); 17.10.2 (255); Wars 2.3.1 (44). See 03.05.26.F.


[8]. Visitors today can see the model of first-century Jerusalem at the Israel Museum, behind the Shrine of the Scroll (Dead Sea Scrolls).


[9]. Josephus, Antiquities 18.3.2 (60); Wars 2.9.4 (175). See 09.03.08.A and 10.01.20.A.


[10]. Pseudo-Aristeas 90. At this time lead was a relatively new metal to the ancient world and its bio-hazard qualities were unknown.  Lime mortar was used for centuries as a sealant in water cisterns and aqueducts.


[11]. Josephus, Antiquities 16.7.1 (179-82); Wars 7.9.1 (392).


[12]. Scholars debate the date of the construction as well as whether Herod built it. The consensus is that he did, but future archaeological discoveries may prove otherwise.


[13]. For example Josephus said that once the Pharisees plotted, with some women in Herod’s court, to have him put to death.  See Antiquities 17.2.4.


[14]. Josephus, Antiquities 17.8.3.


[15]. Josephus, Antiquities 16.11.7-8 (392-394).


[16]. Geikie, The Life and Works of Christ. 1:50.


[17]. Scholars who believe that polygamy disappeared may have to reconsider their position. Johannes Leipoldt in Jesus und die Frauen, Leipzig: Quelle & Meyer, 1921 (reprint 2013), 44-49, gives a number of examples in his notes.  See also Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 93.  


[18]. Josephus, Wars 1.25.6 (511).


[19]. Metzger, The New Testament. 44-45; Pasachoff and Littman, Jewish History in 100 Nutshells. 59-61; Farrar, Life of Christ. 19.

[20]. Josephus, Antiquities 15.1.2 (5-10).


[21]. Josephus, Antiquities 15.3.3 (50-56).


[22]. Josephus, Antiquities 15.6.2-3 (173-178).


[23]. Josephus, Antiquities 15.7.4 (222-236).


[24]. Josephus, Antiquities 15.7.8 (247-251).


[25]. The Hycania Fortress was one of several fortresses along Herod’s southern border.  See map at 03.05.26.Z.


[26]. Josephus, Antiquities 15.10.4 (365-372).


[27]. Geikie, The Life and Works of Christ. 1:227.


[28]. Geikie, The Life and Works of Christ. 1:227.


[29]. Josephus, Antiquities 16.11.7-8 (393-394).


[30]. Josephus, Antiquities 16.11.7-8 (392-394).


[31]. Josephus did not record this event, probably because his source of information was Herod’s personal friend and historian, Nicholas of Damascus. But neither did Nicholas record the slaughter of infant boys in Bethlehem. The burning of the rabbis and their students was recorded by the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alesandria in Embassy to Gaius. 38:299-305.


[32]. Josephus, Wars 2.1.2 (5) and Antiquities 17.6.2-4 (149-167, esp. 151).


[33]. Some scholars believe that Doris was Herod’s concubine or “consort,” rather than his wife.


[34]. Josephus, Antiquities 17.7.1 (182-187).


[35]. Insert mine for clarification. The son was Antipater whom Herod the Great ordered killed five days prior to his own death.


[36]. Farrar citing Microbius, Saturnalia, II.4 in Life of Christ. 19; Johnson, “Matthew.” 7:260.

[37]. Another example of a wordplay is a statement by Jesus when He quoted Psalm 118:22 in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mt. 21:42-44). There, the words “stone” and “son” sound similar in the Hebrew and Aramaic languages. (See 13.03.05).


[38]. Geikie, The Life and Words. 1:570.


[39]. Josephus, Antiquities 17.6.4.


[40]. Insert mine.


[41]. Josephus, Wars 1.1.5 (657).


[42]. Josephus, Antiquities 17.6.1 and Wars 1.23.1.


[43]. Josephus, Antiquities 17.6.5; 17.8.1-4; Kokkinos, “Herod’s Horrible Death.” 28-35, 62.

[44]. For the origin of Purim, see Esther 8:15-17. Chronology established by Eugene Faulstich, “Studies in Old Testament and New Testament Chronology.” 110.

[45]. Josephus, Antiquities 17.11.4 (320). That was a huge sum and, according to Tacitus (Annals 2.42), in the year A.D. 17, the provinces of Syria and Judea begged to have their taxes reduced, but their petition was denied. See also 02.03.03 “Economy.”


[46]. Josephus, Antiquities 17.10.4.


[47]. Josephus, Antiquities 17.10.4.


03.06.05 Jews Revolt at Passover; Thousands Killed

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 14, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.06.05 Jews Revolt at Passover; Thousands Killed

03.06.05 4 B.C. Jews Revolt at Passover; Thousands Killed[1]

The death of Herod immediately inspired great hope of Jewish nationalism and independence. That hope was connected to a long-standing opinion that the messiah would appear at Passover to defeat the Romans.  In the year 4 B.C., while Caesar Augustus and the Roman senate were evaluating Herod’s last will and Testament, the Jews began a rebellion.[2] It was started by a shepherd known as Athronges, and with his four brothers, they led a revolt at Passover against the Romans and their sympathizers.  Passover was believed to be a key to their victory.  They had a common belief that God would intervene if they went to war in faith, believing God for the victory.  To be assured of victory, Athronges claimed to be the king of the Jews, wore a crown, and served in a self-appointed judicial capacity.[3]   During this revolt, two scholars at the temple were covered with oil, set on fire and called “Roman torches,” and burned to death.

While Jews were uprising in Jerusalem, there was another revolt only three miles from Nazareth in Sepphoris[4] which was led by a Zealot named Judas ben Ezechias. According to Josephus, the news of the uprising spread quickly, and just as quickly the Roman legate of Syria, Quintilius Varus, sent the Roman army into Galilee. [5]  At the same time Aretas, king of Arabia, sent infantry and cavalry to assist the Romans.  Together they not only crushed the Jewish rebellion, they also burned Sepphoris and sold many residents into slavery.[6]  Under the command of Varus, in the Jerusalem area thousands were slaughtered and 2,000 crucified.[7]  Any suspected revolutionaries were captured and quickly crucified.[8]

Another revolutionary was Simon, a former slave of Herod the Great.  He placed a diadem on his head, then gathered discharged soldiers and attempted to overthrow the Herodian dynasty. He attacked the Romans and Roman sympathizers, burned down a palace in Jericho, and a number of other royal facilities. After causing havoc throughout Judea, Herod’s cousin, Achiab, and his loyal army captured and beheaded him and his rebel soldiers.[9]

The religious, cultural, and political tensions, underscored by the rebellions and subsequent widespread slaughter and crucifixions when Jesus was a child, are clearly indicative of a social environment that was far more explosive than the Middle East is today. This was the tension-filled environment in which Jesus grew up.


03.06.05a (2)


While the death of Herod brought increased passion for national sovereignty, there was a restless mood for independence. As was stated previously, from the time the Romans arrived in 63 B.C. until the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, there were thirteen rebellions[10] and sixty claimants to the title of messiah[11] but only one of them, Menahem ben Hezekiah, claimed to be a descendant of David.[12]

[1]. The Romans had to contend with several minor Jewish revolts and four major ones in 4 B.C., A.D. 66-74, The Kitos War of A.D. 115-117 , and Bar Kokhba Revolt of A.D. 132-135. Historians, however, refer to the revolt of A.D. 66-74 as the “First Revolt” and to the Bar Kokhba Revolt of A.D. 132-135 as the “Second Revolt.” These two conflicts (First and Second) had a major impact upon Jewish and Christian lives.  The Jews who lived in the districts of Galilee, Judah, and Perea revolted thirteen times between the years 63 B.C. and A.D. 132. Little wonder then, that when the Second Revolt started, the Romans wanted to eradicate them.

[2]. A partial listing of an estimated 60 messianic pretenders is found in Appendix 25 “False Prophets, Rebels, Significant Events, And Rebellions That Impacted The First Century Jewish World.”


[3]. Josephus, Antiquities 17.10.7 and Wars 2.4.3.


[4]. At this time Sepphoris was the capitol city of the District of Galilee. Later the capital was moved to the new city of Tiberias along the Sea of Galilee.


[5]. Josephus, Antiquities 17.10.5.


[6]. Batey, Jesus and the Forgotten City. 53-54, 76.

[7]. Josephus comments on the Jewish Revolt of 4 B.C. in  Antiquities. 17.9.6-7 and in Wars 2.1.1; Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 167.

[8]. Neusner and Green, eds., Dictionary of Judaism. 65.

[9]. Josephus, Antiquities 17.10.6.


[10]. See Appendix 25 for a listing of false prophets who had messianic expectations and for a partial listing of revolts and social disturbances from 63 B.C. to A.D. 70.


[11]. Geikie, The Life and Works of Christ. 2:114.


[12]. Jerusalem Talmud, Berakhoth 2.4, 5a.18. Menahem ben Hezekiah was a major leader in the revolt of A.D. 66 (Josephus, Wars 2.17.8). For more than a hundred years the Hezekiah family was involved in various revolts, and mutinies.  This has given credibility to some that they were of royal lineage as they claimed.


03.06.06 The Divided Monarchy

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 14, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.06.06 The Divided Monarchy

03.06.06 4 B.C. – A.D. 41 The Divided Monarchy

Herod’s body was not even in the Herodian tomb when his sons began to squabble about their inheritances. Philip and Antipas each felt they deserved their own kingdom – which they received. But issues concerning Archelaus were different – he wanted to be king.



03.06.06.Z THE DIVISION MAP OF HEROD’S KINGDOM.  After the death of Herod the Great, the Roman Senate reviewed his last will and testament. While the former monarch desired his kingdom to go to his three sons, the Senate modified Herod’s final request and gave parts of it to others who would be more effective administrators. Courtesy of International Mapping and Dan Przywara.   

Herod’s widow Doris and his sister Salome went with Archelaus to Rome.  Archelaus believed they were traveling with him to support his claim for the title of “king of the Jews,” but in reality, they traveled with him to oppose him. When they arrived, they discovered a deputation of fifty Jews had also come from Jerusalem.  They all opposed the title Archelaus so dearly desired – “King of the Jews.” However, what the Jewish delegation really desired was to be rid of the Herodian dynasty and be annexed to Syria, as it had been in the past.[1] That did not happen.  However, Archelaus was so bitter against the Jews that he mistreated them more than his father did.  It was for that reason that Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth instead of Bethlehem.

Therefore, when Rome executed Herod’s Last Will and Testament, his kingdom was divided into four districts: one was given to Syria and the others were given to his three sons as indicated below. Of Herod’s six surviving sons, three received dominions and three did not.  Notice that Rome maintained control over two small areas by Jericho and Ashkelon.

[1]. At various times throughout the Inter-Testamental period, the Jewish land was one of several districts of which Damascus was the capital city for the Greeks, and later for the Romans.


03.06.07 Herod Archelaus Ethnarch Rules over Judea, Samaria, and Idumea

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 14, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.06.07 Herod Archelaus Ethnarch Rules over Judea, Samaria, and Idumea

03.06.07 4 B.C. – A.D. 6 Herod Archelaus Ethnarch Rules over Judea, Samaria, and Idumea[1]

To have successfully ruled over these three provinces would have required considerable administrative skill, as each province had its own distinctive people group.

  1. In Judea/Israel lived the Jewish people who were divided into a number of religious sects, from the Greek-loving Hellenistic Jews on the left to the orthodox and Essene Jews on the right.
  1. In Samaria were the Samaritans who believed only in a modified version of the five books of Moses.
  1. In Idumea were descendants of Esau who were forcibly converted to Judaism in the second century B.C. In later centuries they became absorbed into the Arab world.

The nineteen year old Archelaus inherited these three provinces but had none of his father’s administrative qualities. When his father passed away, the people rejoiced at the death of the tyrant and were delighted to see a new monarch come to the throne. In a public speech in the temple Archelaus wished them peace and prosperity. However, once his position was secured by Rome, his attitude change and he became far more brutal than was his father.

Coin of Herod Archelaus-Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Coin of Herod Archelaus-Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons


At this time the hatred and conflicts between the Samaritans and Jews was well-known. But a common enemy can turn squabbling neighbors into cooperative teams. The persecution initiated by Archelaus upon both groups was so severe, that for a while the two groups set aside their hatred and bitterness for each other, and formed a delegation that went to Rome and appealed to Caesar Augustus.[2]  While there, Jews revolted in Jerusalem and the Samaritans did likewise in their communities. Roman soldiers responded in Jerusalem by robbing the temple treasury and setting fire to the temple pillars.[3]  When the people protested this evil act, 3,000 more were slaughtered in a single day by Herod’s son, Archelaus.[4] Because of his brutality and ongoing conflict, when Joseph returned from Egypt, he most likely took his young family along the Via Maris northward along the coast, and then inland to Nazareth.[5]  Joseph avoided Bethlehem and the area ruled by the nineteen year old tyrant.

In response to the sacrilege of the temple, more Jews joined the riots and nearly every Roman garrison was attacked.  By the time Archelaus returned, the Roman generals enforced Roman peace – Pax Romana.[6] The Jewish people continued to appeal to Rome for a change of leadership and a greater degree of self-rule. Rome finally agreed and in the ninth year of his reign, Archelaus was banished to Vienna in Gaul (modern France).[7] The office of “kingship” was replaced by the office of “procurator,” a Roman governor.[8]

From this experience, the procurators who reigned were wise enough to forbid Roman soldiers from entering the temple area that was restricted to only Jews. Soldiers who did so were put to death by the order of the procurator. Of all the people groups within the Roman Empire, the Jewish people were the only ones who were granted the following exemptions:

  1. They did not participate in Roman worship and,
  1. The Romans agreed not set up any images in their temple. In fact, Roman generals even agreed not to have their soldier’s units carry images of military eagles throughout Jewish territory.[9]

In spite of the cruelties of Rome, these two concessions show that the Romans were willing to compromise with their subjects in order to maintain peace.

[1].  Since ancient writers, as well as other writers throughout history, have used the terms “Judaea,” “Judea,” “Judah,” and “Israel,” interchangeably, see “Judaea” in Appendix 26.


[2]. Finegan, Chronology. 300; Josephus, Antiquities. 17.9.6; Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 163.


[3]. Golub, In the Days. 268.


[4]. Keller W. The Bible as History. 371.

[5]. See map 04.05.02.Z depicting the most likely route of travel for the Holy Family.


[6]. Lee, The Galilean Jewishness of Jesus. 72-73; Mellowes and Cran, Executive Producers. From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians. (DVD). Part 1; See “Pax Romana” in Appendix 26.

[7]. From 4 B.C. to A.D. 6 is nine years, not ten, because there is no year “zero.”

[8]. Golub, In the Days. 268.


[9]. Golub, In the Days. 270-71.


03.06.08 Herod Philip, Tetrarch, Rules Over Northern Districts

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 14, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.06.08 Herod Philip, Tetrarch, Rules Over Northern Districts

03.06.08 4 B.C. – A.D. 34 Herod Philip, Tetrarch, Rules Over Northern Districts

Herod Philip (Lk. 3:1) had a small kingdom known as Gaulanitis, and related regions north and east of the Sea of Galilee, namely Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Batanea, and Auranitis – in what is now Syria[1] which did not affect the life of Christ.[2] These districts were largely non-Jewish and Herod Philip was a surprisingly mild and peaceful ruler as evidenced by the length of his reign.

[1]. Mantey, “New Testament Backgrounds.” 6.

[2]. Finegan, Chronology. 300; Josephus, Antiquities. 18.4.6.


03.06.09 Herod Antipas, Tetrarch, Rules Over Galilee and Perea

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 14, 2016  -  Comments Off on 03.06.09 Herod Antipas, Tetrarch, Rules Over Galilee and Perea

03.06.09 4 B.C. – A.D. 39 Herod Antipas, Tetrarch, Rules Over Galilee and Perea

Since Herod the Great’s title, “king of the Jews,” had caused a furor, his son Antipas was titled “ethnarch,” meaning “ruler of a nation” by Rome.[1]  Herod Antipas, who is often referred to as “Herod” in the gospels,[2] was known for his lavish lifestyle and deceitful manners.  He (Antipas, son of Cleopatra of Jerusalem) is at times confused with Herod Philip (son of Mariamne II).[3]  The primary responsibility of Herod Antipas was to maintain the peace and forward the taxes from Galilee and Perea to Rome. He caused the death of John the Baptist and found Jesus innocent of Jewish accusations. Later, in A.D. 39, his wife Herodias convinced him to travel to Rome to request the rank of king.  No doubt, it came as a great surprise when Emperor Caligula instead, exiled him to Lyons in Gaul where he and Herodias eventually died.[4]

[1]. Batey, Jesus and the Forgotten City. 52-53.

[2]. Mk. 6:14-29; Lk. 3:1; 13:31-35; 23:7-12.


[3]. Finegan, Chronology. 300; Josephus, Antiquities. 18.7.2.


[4]. Metzger, New Testament. 26.

  • Chapters