Was Saint Paul Related to Herod? 7 Reasons Paul was Herodian

Saint Paul says that he is of the tribe of Benjamin and a Hebrew of Hebrews (Phil 3:5). In my book The Catholic Perspective on Paul (2010), I assembled a historical biography of Saint Paul and showed how his life informed his theology. Since then, I have been trying to fit another piece of the Paul puzzle – Paul’s relation to Herod.

Herod's family tree

Paul was originally a Herodian. By “Herodian” I mean that he seems to have connections with the family and court of the Herods. Theologically, Saul/Paul favored the theology of the Pharisees before his conversion but his family connections relate him to the inner circle of Herod Agrippa.

Here are the reasons demonstrating that Saul/Paul had Herodian connections

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Timaeus was Plato’s Most Popular Book

1. Saul/Paul was highly educated both in Hebrew Scripture/Tradition but also in Greek philosophy. He seems familiar, for example with Plato’s Timaeus. He is Hebrew, but he also dabbles in Gentile learning and culture. This is the Herodian style: Jewish identity, loyalty to Jerusalem, familiar with the priests, but appreciative of Gentile power and learning. Sounds like Paul…

2. Saul/Paul was a Roman citizen. Jews were not typically citizens. We learn that Saul/Paul gained his Roman citizenship by birth. This means that his parents were Hebrews with Roman privilege. In the first century, Hebrews with Roman privilege were linked to the Roman appointed rulers of Palestine – the Herod’s.

3. Saul/Paul officially persecuted Christians on behalf of the Temple authorities. This is odd. Think about how hard it was for the Sanhedrin to kill Jesus Christ. Back and forth between the Roman Pontius Pilate and the Roman appointed “King” Herod Antipas the Tetrarch. Killing Christ was complicated and difficult.

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And yet somehow we are to believe that Saul received certificates of authority in around the year AD 36 to go about capturing and killing Christians without trial…even as far away as Damascus? Ahem, this is the Roman Empire with laws and rules. A man can’t get permission from the priests of one city and then go and capture people in another city.

How did Saul/Paul get that power? The High Priest and the Jewish Sanhedrin in Jerusalem could not have authorized Saul to arrest Christians in Damascus. The High Priest and the Jewish Sanhedrin in Jerusalem had no power in Damascus, a city in the Roman Province of Syria. Jerusalem belonged to the Roman Province of Judea. Saul seems to have gained an authority entrusted to him by a civil power connected to the Temple. This means that Saul needed religious authority (Temple) and he needed Roman authority in Damascus (King Aretus IV of Damascus).

King Aretus IV of Damascus. King Aretus IV who ruled over Damascus during the period of Saul/Paul’s conversion was the father-in-law of Herod Antipas the Tetrarch (d. AD 39). You might remember how Saint John the Baptist was preaching against Herod Antipas for divorcing his wife in order to marry his brother’s wife Herodias. Well Saint John the Baptist was defending the honor of Herod Antipas’ first wife Phasaelis – the daughter of King Aretus IV. Small Herodian world!

Which one politician of this period had deep connections with the High Priesthood at the Temple in Jerusalem and political influence in Damascus?  Who was the only man on earth who could arrange for Saul to act on behalf of the High Priest in the foreign city of Damascus? Oh that’s right, Herod Antipas the Tetrarch!

Why was Saul/Paul able to fulfill his desire to persecute Christians on behalf on the High Priest throughout the Roman Empire? Because his family was close to the family of Herod.

4. Saul/Paul is grouped with those raised with Herod Antipas the Tetrarch. “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers as Barnabas and Simeon that was called Niger and Lucius of Cyrene and Manaen which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch and Saul. (Acts 13.1) The Greek is unclear but there is certainly a group of young Jewish men in Antioch who are associated with Herod Antipas the Tetrarch.

According to Josephus, Herod Antipas the Tetrarch, his full brother Archelaus and his half-brother Philip were raised and educated in Rome (Josephus, Antiquities 17.20–21). Hence, those raised with Herod Antipas the Tetrarch were educated in Rome. I would not be surprised if Saul/Paul had also studied in Rome as a young man, even though he is younger than Herod Antipas the Tetrarch.

5. Saulus/Paulus was not merely a plebian rabbi. He had political clout. When Saul/Paul is arrested, the commander assigns, get this, 470 men to guard Paul’s life!

“Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. 24 Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.” (Acts 23:23)

  • 200 soliders
  • 70 horsemen
  • 200 spearmen

Yes, Paul was a Roman citizen, but Roman citizen’s didn’t normally receive 470 body guards. Saul/Paul was being protected because he was connected to the family of Herod Agrippa.

Josephus bust

Josephus the Jewish Historian

6. Josephus refers to a “Saulus” who persecuted people in Jerusalem. From the Antiquities (20.9.4) of Josephus:

“Costobarus also, and Saulus, did themselves get together a multitude of wicked wretches, and this because they were of the royal family; and so they obtained favour among them, because of their kindred to Agrippa; but still they used violence with the people, and were very ready to plunder those that were weaker than themselves.”

Is this the same “Saul”? It’s hard to tell, but a Saul who was “of the royal family” and “kindred to (Herod) Agrippa” and who “used violence with the people” sure sounds like Saul/Paul in his pre-Christian days.

7. Paul identifies his Herodian kinfolk. We don’t need Josephus to tell us about a “Saul ” was also “kindred to (Herod) Agrippa.”

In Romans 16:11 Paul writes: “Greet Herodion, my kinsman.”

Paul has connections in Rome. He even has a Jewish relative in Rome named Herodion! We don’t know who Herodion is, but his name links him to the Roman-Jewish rulers associated with the dynasty of Herod the Great.

Conclusion: Paul as Herodian Pharisee

Some might counter my arguments by stating that Saul/Paul himself clams to have been a Pharisee and not a Herodian.

But this is where things get interesting. The Pharisees and Herodians worked together!

When the Herodians are mentioned in the Gospels (Mark 3:6, 12:13; Matthew 22:16; cf. also Mark 8:15, Luke 13:31-32, Acts 4:27), they are coupled with the Pharisees. For example, in Mark 3:6, the Pharisees plot against Jesus regarding his teaching on the Sabbath day by incorporating the Herodians into their conspiracy. In Mark 8:15, Christ described the alliance of Pharisees and Herod against Him. In Mark 12, the Pharisees and Herodians together, try to trap Christ with their question about paying taxes.

The fact that Saul/Paul was a Pharisee does not disqualify him from being a Herodian. Rather, it substantiates it.

Question: Do you have any arguments pro or con regarding my Paul the Herodian thesis? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

PS: I plan to revise and update my The Catholic Perspective on Paul to incorporate this new research.

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  • Matthias

    Fascinating work!

  • Patti Day

    It is such a blessing to have this Catholic commentary on the life of Paul. I look forward to the release of your updated book. Thank you Dr. Marshall.

  • Andrew Pardue

    But weren’t the Herodians of Edomite origin and wasn’t Saul of the tribe of Benjamin. Herod the great had married into the Hasmonean dynasty who were of the priestly class i.e. Levites

    • TomD

      It may have been a link by more distant relations, or perhaps one of servitude (i.e., courtiers).

  • TomD

    “Do you have any arguments pro or con regarding my Paul the Herodian thesis? ”

    I think it is spot on. The weakest proof is #2: we know that many Jews acquired Roman citizenship in the first century, since Josephus recounts the Procurator Gessius Florus’ execution of many of them in Jerusalem in 65-66 AD. I myself have always wondered about #3 – it is obvious that the Acts account of Paul’s authority is incomplete. Great job!

    A great follow up would be to explore Paul’s links with the Hillel rabbinical school and that school’s influence on his Christian witness.

    • See my posts above, re: Paul was not a follower of the Hillel school. He followed Shammai.

  • Fr. Patrick Fodor

    What does the relationship between Paul and Hillel by way of Gamaliel say, if anything, about this? Could not Paul’s use of Artus of Soli be a reflection of the willingness (even encouragement) of Hillel’s school to use Greek poetic and philosophical materials? Also, does the interplay between the followers of Hillel and of Shammai point us anywhere in this question, given that some of Paul’s actions have been characterized as more like that of the Shammaites than the followers of Hillel?

    • Paul was probably a Shammaite – as he displayed a strict understanding of marriage and divorce. The early Saul shows the signs of being strict (Shammai) and not lax (Hillel).

      Gamaliel followed Hillel and we see Gamaliel tolerant of early Christians (Catholic tradition even records Gamaliel as having become a Christian). See Catholic Perspective on Paul, pp. 20-23.

  • Tom Hanson

    I personally think that the arguments here are thin, very thin. Linguistically the principle must turn on whether Herod was what in English would be called a first (proper) name, or a family name (surname, cognomen or as the Oxford Classical Dictionary has it, “gentile” name (from Latin “gens” or clan name). Herod the Great appears not to have been himself a Herodian but the son of an Idumaean named Antipater who dominated Idumaean politics for a generation. Given the number of Herods Herodeses, and Herodases the OCD has across national boundaries, some prior to Herod the Great,

    Herod is probably a first name, praenomen, like Thomas in English. Not every Hanson is a Thomas. And not every Thomas is a Thomasian. There are very few Thomas H Thomases. Historians speak of a Herodian family because of Herod the Great and the complexities of his terribly disfuntional immediate family tree.

    There are many other linguistic complexities involved here, as the two entries “Names, Greek” and “Names, Latin.” Add them together with possible (and to me unknown) Idumaean variances that may or may not be in the mix of languages and naming-customs across time and the head begins to hurt.

    Add to the issues you mention the question whether an Idumaean Jew could or would ever have been accepted as as fully Jewish at all by Pharisees, must be faced because the OCD, as a standard reference work, doubts that even ordinary Jews did not so accept them. Good luck. You will need it.

    • TomD

      I’d agree, that makes #7 weak.

  • TomD

    #1: “He is Hebrew, but he also dabbles in Gentile learning and culture.”

    That was not really unusual, think of the philosopher Philo. The 1st century Greco-Roman world was very successful in worldly terms when compared to its predecessors. Many Jews, especially in the diaspora, must have “dabbled”, although assuredly most were careful to create boundaries to protect their Jewish identity (the most famous counterexample was Philo’s nephew – and Herodian in-law – Julius Alexander, who became commander of the Pratorian guard under Vespasian and thus effectively the #2 man in the Empire).

    • Tom Hanson

      Sorry, I am new here and put my screed in the “join the discussion box” thinking I was replying to Mr. Marshall. Instead it shows up as a reply to you. I do think that Dr. Marshall (doctor of what?) is driving up a very blind alley. For instance, you spot the second point Marshall makes as weak, but not weak enough to suit me, and you do so while accepting the gist of Marshall’s idea.

      But Saul/Paul was from Tarsus. Not from Judea. His father lived in Tarsus and would probably have been in good graces with whoever governed Tarsus for the Romans. Herod the Great was made King of Judea, nothing else, by the Romans. Long before Pompey the Great conquered Judea there were well established Jewish communities far from Jerusalem: Rome, Athens, Alexandria, Antioch, Tarsus, Ephesus etc. And Herod and his family governed none of them. To make this second point a point at all, you have to assume that Saul/Paul’s father was in good graces with Herod and became a Roman citizen under Herod in Judea, and then moved to Tarsus with his family, which is invalid argumentation because it assumes the conclusion that Saul/Paul was tied somehow, indeed by any old how, to Herod the great. There is not one shred of evidence for anything like that having happened to Saul/Paul’s family. It is sheer speculation and not historical evidence at all.

      And my philological objection ref Herod as a first name works also in reference to Sauls who might have been relatives of Herodians. Saul was a first name just as Jesus was a first name. Just look at the efforts the evangelists have to use to keep the different Marys distinct. Ask yourself, knowing that Jesus = Joshua, how many Joshuas are named in Judean cemetaries from the time.

      • TomD

        Sure I recognize this gist as speculation. Of course it can’t be considered historical fact. As speculation I think it’s better than most.

        If Taylor Marshall were to write a novel, I’d complain if he made a Paul-Herodian link to be too tight. Be a little creative, create a backstory with a little more distance in the relationship, and it could work. As I said, the real clincher for me is the power to arrest Christians in Syria. Neither the temple nor the King of Judea nor the Prefect (not Procurator, that title came later) of Judea had such authority. All they could issue would be in effect warrants for extradition, in the modern terminology. Looking at it this way it is obvious Paul had clout.

        • Tom Hanson

          I think you are wrong when you speak of extradition and what Roman provincial officials could do. As a Roman citizen Paul was extradited not because he had to be, but because he had the right to be heard in Rome in a case which might involve execution of a Roman citizen. Paul was under that risk. Roman officials could certainly execute non-Roman-citizen criminals in their jurisdiction. My point was not made clearly I think; when he was sent to Damascus to persecute the Christians there, Paul would certainly not have been able legally to execute them. But he could be delegated by the High Priest to subject them to whatever discipline the High Priest could legally, under Roman government, inflict in Damascus. At least I think that Doctor Marshall will not feel encouraged by either of us, me for being a strict constructionist about historical methodology and you being comfortable perceiving him as a creative speculator providing ideas for novelists. Hail to the greatest speculator of them all among historical novelists: Robert Graves.

          • TomD

            Extradition is the transfer of a person from one venue to a second venue under legal procedures agreed to by both. Acts says that Paul went to Damascus to drag Christians back to Jerusalem in chains (not to execute them). Except for the missing legal fine print that fits the definition of extradition.

            I don’t think that Paul’s transfer to Rome was an extradition. He made an appeal to the Emperor, and Emperor had universal jurisdiction. There was no second venue with competing law.

            Oh, yes, Robert Graves was quite a writer. Who knows, perhaps Taylor Marshall might write one and laugh all the way to the bank. He doesn’t need to be as good as Graves, he just needs to be good enough. 😉

        • Tom D, you are misinformed on Paul as a disciple of Hillel.

          Please refer to my book *The Catholic Perspective on Paul* pp. 19-20 where I point to reasons and contemporary scholarly research (eg, NT Wright) for Paul being a Shammaite, and not a follower of Hillel.

          http://www.amazon.com/dp/0578050161?tag=canttalebytay-20&camp=0&creative=0&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=0578050161&adid=0NKA15R1FNX9AEZP4WDB

          Also, it seems that you affirm my claim that there is no way a humble Rabbinical seminarian named Saul could have received a civil license to persecute Christians in a foreign city.

          I’ve shown that the Herodians had both Roman authority and connections in Damascus to make it so. Can you offer an alternative theory to demonstrate how Saul could have gained his license to imprison Christians in Damascus. If not, then the Herodian connection is the best historical account.

          • Tom Hanson

            I believe I can. We know that a priestly examination of Jesus occurred before he was sent to Pilate for permission to execute him, without reference to the Herod who ruled Galilee. So it was possible for Pilate to say yea or nay about execution, and that the High Priest did not therefore need a Herodian to back him in his purpose of the execution of Jesus. Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, and Herod did not send Jesus back to the priests, but back to Pilate to make the decision. Who then, could it have been, who had the power to execute Jesus? Not the priesthood, nor the High Priest himself, Nor Herod.

            Remember that Herod the Great was the one who had friends in the highest of Roman circles. After the great Herod, friend of the emperor Augustus, who had quickly switched sides from being a Pompeian ally to the Julian clan, and stuck with Octavian when the second triumvirate fell apart, died messily things changed radically. The Romans , presumably to the dismay of the Herodians, broke the short-lived Herodian kingdom into fragments, regions governed by Herod the Great’s progeny and their influence fell accordingly. Even assuming that Philo’s embassy to the senate and the emperor (Caligula) was a Herodian effort, it didn’t pan out as hoped by Philo. Good evidence that Herodian influence was on a downward turn.

            Well after Saul became the Christian Paul, a Herod Agrippa may or may not have become a friend of the emperor Claudius. This happened too late to have occured before Saul had his vision. Thus Saul/Paul could have been a student of either one of the two great Jewish scholars in Jerusalem, and could easily have been zealous enough and impressive enough to be sent by the High Priest to Damascus. Proper credentials would have been supplied through the High Priest in correspondence with the Jewish leaders and the Roman governor of the province of Syria. Note that a prime directive of Roman Officialdom was keeping the peace, and Jews at the time were a troublesome people from their point of view.

            This scenario would not make a sexy novel about the shenanigans of the Herodian family, but it would be a more realistic one by far, with a lot less unnecessary speculation.

          • TomD

            Yes, I agree with your stance on Paul’s legal authority to arrest Christians. In fact it is the largest point of agreement I have with the idea. It is a strong piece of conjecture.

            I should point out that the Gospel of Matthew (2:19-23) makes it clear in the account of Joseph’s settling in Nazareth that the Herodians did not act of one mind (otherwise Joseph would have kept the Holy Family in Egypt). Still, Paul could not have mounted his persecution unless the Herodians acted in concert on this occasion.

            Sorry, I really don’t care for modern scholarly research that violates Acts 22:3 – as far as I am concerned you can only make a case that Paul was a Hillelian who was on friendly terms with the Shammaites and perhaps tried to build some bridges with them. Also, recall that the Shammaites did not respect Jews with Gentile educations. No, if the two schools were contemporary political parties, Paul would be a Reagan Democrat. I’ll read your work on this later this week, but with a critical eye.

          • I have sat under many professors – many of which I do not follow or agree with. Paul was the same. He sat under Gamaliel. His anger toward Christians shows that he was not at all Gamalielite – plus he is strongly against divorce (a Shammaite trait).

          • TomD

            “I have sat under many professors – many of which I do not follow or agree with. Paul was the same. He sat under Gamaliel.”

            Sure, I understand. It could also have been the other way, Paul could have been a Hillelian who sat under Shammai and broke with Gamaliel on only marriage and divorce, which became the more notable difference. It should be noted that such a stance is similar to Jesus’ views: Jesus’ Golden Rule is a amplification of Hillel’s ethics, which Jesus’ stand on divorce is closer to Shammai’s. Whatever differences Paul had with Christians on the Resurrection and the Trinity, he was of like mind on ethics and morals.

        • Tom Hanson

          “As I said, the real clincher for me is the power to arrest Christians
          in Syria. Neither the temple nor the King of Judea nor the Prefect (not
          Procurator, that title came later) of Judea had such authority (Acts
          speaks only of the Temple, but there must have been a civil component;”

          I don’t see the problem. The governor of Syria was responsible for Judea as well as Damascus. And a Roman official passing on a request from religious authorities ref potential violent trouble in Damascus due to what we now might call Christian Jews from the homeland would have been heard and paid attention to. Any Roman governor, or a subordinate official in Damascus would be happy to authorize sending trouble-makers from Jerusalem back where they came from on the general principle of “better to have one pot boiling instead of two.”

          • TomD

            But now you are conjecturing without evidence that Paul was a Roman official. All we know is that he was an agent of the Temple and a Roman citizen. The only way the Roman authority in Damascus would have heeded Paul if he were not an Roman official would have been if the local client ruler backed him, and that gets us back to Taylor Marshall’s idea. BTW, that Roman authority was more likely a prefect like Pilate, since the Roman legatee (governor) of Syria resided in Antioch. It would have been only a matter of luck if Paul had run into the governor on one of his inspections in Damascus.

          • Tom Hanson

            Not at all. but I was not very clear, and and I was conjecturing shamelessly in the spirit of a more realistic novel. Along the lines of: Jewish elders in Damascus complain to the High Priest in Jerusalem about these Jews who have come to Damascus with strange new ideas about an executed Jew. Which ideas do not seem quite orthodox to them, and the Jewish community are getting upset and close to violence about perceived blasphemy by these newcomers. The High Priest sends a message to Caesaria asking the Prefect for permission to haul them back to Jerusalem for official enquiries by the Sanhedrin with the object of whatever form of discipline which seems right after the enquiries. The prefect then sends the request on to the Governor of Syria in Antioch, who decides that it is an easy way to prevent Jewish violence and get rid of troublemakers in Damascus, and will shore up his relations with the High Priest in Jerusalem at the same time, and it’s bound to be a matter of Jewish doctrine and the High Priest will have to come into the issue anyway, so why not remand the Damascus troublemakers to him now and cut future red tape as well as potential violence in Damascus. He notifies the prefect in Caesaria as well as the High Priest that it’s ok with him (the governor of Syria) AND he sends the same sort of notification to the ranking Roman official in Damascus to lend a hand to whomever the Jerusalem people want to send to arrest the troublemakers in the name of the Jerusalem High priest and to back them with the Damascus Roman garrison if necesary. The High Priest chooses Saul who is intelligent and educated enough to make preliminary judgments about which of the troublemakers need to be brought back to Jerusalem, to bring them back.

          • TomD

            Very good. The only problem is that Acts makes clear that it is Paul who is a major instigator. Here is a version that fits Acts better:

            Jewish elders in Damascus complain to the High Priest in Jerusalem about these Jews who have come to Damascus with strange new ideas about an executed Jew. Which ideas do not seem quite orthodox to them, and the Jewish community are getting upset and close to violence about perceived blasphemy by these newcomers. The Sanhedran is already quite aware of the problem, especially following their illegal lynching of a man called Stephen. An intelligent and educated man named Saul has already impressed the High Priest with his approved actions against these apparent heretics, and when informed of the news from Damascus tells the High Priest his is ready to move against the heretics there as well. The High Priest sends a message to Caesaria asking the Prefect for permission to haul them back to Jerusalem…

            Yes it works. The only question is, would the Romans have wanted to insert themselves into such a religious quarrel? If so then your scenario is fine. If not, if they wanted to bide their time and observe events and let the local puppets take the blame (as Pilate tried repeatedly to do during the trial of Jesus), then Taylor Marshall’s idea is more likely. Without more evidence of the Roman views it is a coin toss. I just want to make note of the conflicting options for the Romans.

          • TomD,

            I find this possible but unlikely. Also, this is only one piece of the gigantic puzzle in the post above. Why did Paul receive 470 bodyguards?

            Was Paul just an impressive tentmaker in need of protection or was his status somehow especially protected by the Herodian powers?

            Saul/Paul received papers from Jerusalem to Damascus that deputized him the power to arrest and imprison. Saul/Paul also received 470 guards.

            This Apostle is well-connected!

          • TomD

            Well, as I intimated before, Paul’s tent-making could have been from a time when he (or his father) wasn’t so well connected. Just what is someone so well connected doing in Tarsus anyway? Here is one plausible answer.

            Think of a royal courtier of Charles I of England. Cromwell comes along, the court dissolves, the courtier has to flee to France or Holland, he’s broke but manages to get by, gets a good classical education for his sons who are born in exile, then gets back into court with the restoration of Charles II. His most able son maintains connections to court but follows a religious calling into the Church of England, all the while remaining on friendly terms with some Catholics.

            There was enough turmoil (though no Cromwell) in the Herodian court circa 12 BC – 6 AD to support such a hypothesis. Paul’s father could have been a friend of Aristobulus or Alexander, fled Jerusalem before Herod the Great arrested them in 8 BC, then returned because he was on friendly terms with Herod Antipas. The connections are restored.

          • Since Paul had hundreds of guards appointed to him from Agrippas side of the family, I imagine Paul was closer to Agrippas branch of the Herodian tree.

            There is something about Paul’s sister in Acts that likely plays into this.

          • Tom Hanson

            For TomD and Dr. Taylor Marshall,

            A) Yes, the Roman officials would have wanted to insert themselves into what we would see as a religious question. The Jews were, as at least one Roman historian (Tacitus?) famously put it, were a “stiff-necked people” and prone to rioting including famous diaspora collisions with local pagan crowds, including Alexandria itself before the the Romans took over Egypt. With the high priest being involved, (note that the Romans by this time had to approve new high-priest candidates) things clarify easily. The high priest wanted them back and had a sort of temple police force which had to be pretty large for him to send 470 men and not strip the Temple garrison. It would have meant to the Roman mind, that they as Romans were not interfering with religious matters at all, but would be seen clearly to be enabling respected Jewish religious authorities to do their peacekeeping work for them, while having the Roman Damascus garrison standing by in case things got out of hand.

            B) for Dr. Taylor Marshall. Why assume the 470 were bodyguards? Ananias sent a body of his temple cohort to arrest Jesus, and like any good policing force it would have been a substantial body to quell the very idea of a riot. Paul may have been along with the temple soldiers as the equivalent of a Catholic canon law expert on doctrinal matters to make decisions about who to bring back, and if the number of prisoners was large the 470 would function as guards on the back to Jerusalem. This is where Saul’s education as a student of Hillel or any other Jewish scholar makes sense as a speculation. Why was Paul along at all? Certainly not as commander of the 470, nor for his trade as a tentmaker. For a novel’s sake it would make sense of the choice of Saul/Paul by the High Priest.

            Also the word “Herodian” is not restricted to members of the royal family of Herod the Great. For instance, in Mark 3:6 it appears to mean representatives of Herod Antipas (per the note in The New Oxford Annotated Bible –new RSV translation.) The New Jerusalem Bible, however, disagrees with that judgment in the case of this verse, dropping down a notch, saying “NOT (emphasis added, of course) officials of the court of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, see Lk 3:1c but politically minded Jews actively supporting his dynasty and enjoying his favour cf Mt 22:11c.

            The Oxford Bible Commentary (2001) for the same Markan verse notes “and ‘Herodians’ seems implausible historically. The Herodians were not a party but may have been supporters of Herod Antipas: as such they would normally have been opposed by the Pharisees. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary agrees with the OBC. I myself suspect that the word Herodian could have also been used speaking of a slave in the house of one of the Royal Herodians which was a common usage in both Greek and Latin. In Cicero’s time, well before Saul/Paul, Herodes appears as a freedman, (former slave) of Atticus (Lewis and Short), and in Roman custom, still of his household as a client. Which means that Atticus still had mutual obligations with Herodes. Ancient Mediterranean cultures dealt heavily in doing favors and having favors owed, So it was possible to have a good friend who was a Herodian to use a favor owed to himself in your behalf, which enriched the Herodian by his having one less obligation to fulfill for you friend and now has you also as a client owing a favor to both your good friend and the the upper level Herodian whose client you now were in some small way.

            My point here is that what might be good for a novelist (fancy speculation like Graves making Livia Augusta the world’s most terrifyingly murderous grandmother without a single scrap of evidence in I, Claudius) is terrible methodology for any serious scholar. Mathematically it is a simple thing to understand. Probability of a historical fact increases with real evidence. Every piece of speculation (without evidence) in a chain of argument increases the probability that you are wrong because you are assuming things that may or may not have been true.Such a chain of unreal “evidence” reduces overall the chance that you are right in your guess about what probably happened. Speculation is intrisically not very believable.

          • Tom Hanson

            see my reply of about 14 hours ago addressed to both you and Taylor Marshall ref Romans wanting to insert themselves into a religious question.

      • TomD

        “Sorry, I am new here and put my screed in the “join the discussion box” thinking I was replying to Mr. Marshall. Instead it shows up as a reply to you. ”

        NP. I’ve reposed comments to other locations on a thread and then edited the original to read “Comment moved”.

    • Tom Hanson

      And, assuming Paul grew up in Tarsus, he grew up there as a Jew in a Hellenistic city, and could have imbibed some of that neo-Platonist culture simply by ordinary cultural osmosis. Not necessarily by studying Plato.

      • TomD

        I would think that someone with Paul’s intellectual abilities would have done more that imbibed by osmosis. It is true that we will never know this side of heaven to what extent, but if were are to speculate on the likelihoods of “imbibe” vs. “dabbled” vs. “studied” the only evidence we have is on the man’s character and abilities as recorded in Acts.

    • Most people were illiterate. It was unusual to read and to obtain manuscripts. One would have had to been literate in Greek, interested in Judaio-Greek thought (eg, Philo), and able to afford/access manuscripts. All three were extremely rare in the first century – though Herodians likely easy access to all three.

      • TomD

        True, most were illiterate (but not Jews, who had to read the Scriptures), but there must have been trickle down effects. Good ideas from Greek philosophers probably did enter common verbal currency, just as astrophysics enters our common language without most people having read anything by astrophysicists. Of course, we have mass media with drastically speeds the process, but this process is still not out of the question.
        Then again, Paul’s occupation is recorded as tent-making. Unless this is a metaphor it shows Paul was not of the upper class. He got a classical education because he wanted to, not because he had to. He was probably not alone. Travel the entire Mediterranean basin and a legion of Pauls could likely have been found, especially if the population was 10% Jewish, as some authorities state.

  • TomD

    Actually, I see one big problem with the idea: I had forgotten about the falling out between Herod Antipas and Aretas IV over his abandonment of his wife Phasaelis (Aretas’ daughter). Remember, Antipas dumped Phasaelis for his brother’s wife Herodias, which was the cause of the arrest of John the Baptist and occurred near the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. By 36-37 AD Antipas and Aretas were at war over it. Just how amenable would Aretas have been to a Herodian Paul showing up with arrest warrants from Jerusalem just a couple of years after Jesus was crucified?

    • This is a solid point and yesterday I was trying to puzzle together a chronology that would not involve Aretas for the reason you mention.

      I was working on Herodian connections with Roman Syrian legates in Antioch and I think Pomponius Flaccus fits the bill because he has a Herodian connections AND was centered in Damascus, not the typical Antioch.

      Flaccid was legate of Syria 33-35. Solid dates for Saul’s conversion.

      • TomD

        Here’s my thought: Paul is connected to the Temple via Gamaliel and Shammai, to Pilate via his Roman citizenship, and to the Herodians. He gets his charge and goes to Damascus to meet Pomponius Flaccus. He drops his charge due to his conversion. Pomponius Flaccus removes his protection due to Paul’s abandonment of his charge, and Aretas IV is now free to move against Paul? Why would Aretas IV do so? Not because he is Christian (Aretas IV has tolerated Christians up to now) but because he is Herodian.

  • Clare Krishan

    Can this line of thought be extended to argue for why the book of Tobit is seen as canonical for (certain) Christians but is not regarded as magisterial by Jews? Herod was of Arab (Nabatean) and Edomite descent, whose ancestors converted to Judaism, ergo Paul was a mere parvenue in Mosaic covenant terms. Did Paul recognize the abrupt break his line represented to custody of the sacred ground of the Temple, separating God’s Chosen People from their Hasmonean genealogical link to Jesus Christ? Did he recognize in the Tobiad narrative an inspired testimony with the power to bridge the breach, to become an adopted son of the Holy Family as recorded in Matthew?

    The Tobiads (Greek Τωβίας from Hebrew טוביה Tovya “God is good”) were a pre-exilic dynasty. Jewish tradition views the story of Tobias as local legend without universal provenance (the story didn’t pass down all branches of historical Judaism, only those with connections to the Persian merchant routes that the Hasmoneans held lucrative franchises to) but revered and valued for its consistent life ethic associated with faith and family.

    In the mystery of Divine Providence, did the parable’s framing device — the healing and guidance of the Archangel Raphael — have a role to play in working a sight-restoring miracle on Saul, blinded after his Damascus encounter? On this feast of the Archangels, I pray that you receive the grace of ellucidating this knotty conundrum, seeking the intercession of Our Lady Undoer of Knots (at the foot of who’s image Tobias and the Archangel Raphael also feature; the artist’s inspiration, the liturgical readings associated with the sacrament of holy matrimony).

    • Clare Krishan

      n.b. two supplemental remarks with links in ‘comment purgatory’ awaiting moderation