V  8   John

John the Baptist was one of the first political and religious leaders

Pergamum, temple, detail
Pergamum, temple, detail

to invoke Jesus after his death and to aim to follow him in his activities.

John founded the Christian Baptists, the second Jesus movement in the early phase of Christianity.

In Christian tradition, John the Baptist became not just a disciple, but also John, Jesus’ favourite disciple.

John aspired to the title of Messiah as Jesus’ successor after his death.

John was executed by Antipas in 37 AD. In Christian tradition, his successor as leader of John’s Baptist church was also called John.


Since Antipas was often out of the country and in Rome, Jesus himself had the role and duties of a local ruler

Jerusalem, orthodox Jews
Jerusalem, orthodox Jews

such as dispensing justice and attending to the economic and social problems of the land and its people, so that during his time as governor he was already seen by the people as the father of the country.

Jesus was responsible for founding and building the city of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Tiberias was a model city where Jesus could realise his concept of an ideal society in practical politics.

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V  3  Jesus – the message

The dominant master narrative concerning Jesus’ message states that Jesus was impressed by John the Baptist’s preaching

Jerusalem, Jewish family
Jerusalem, Jewish family

about repentance. In his own pronouncements, however, he proclaimed a loving God full of grace whose kingdom would soon be realised, bringing equal rights for all people; it could already be experienced in the community of the disciples.

These are my theses about Jesus’ message:

Jesus was a Jewish statesman; he was Prince Antipas’ governor and shaped Galilean politics. He viewed religion simply as a supplementary measure to safeguard economic and political developments.

Jesus imitated Emperor Augustus’ form of rule in his political work (imitation Augusti) and aimed to organise society around a monarchy.

Jesus aimed for a monarchy in Galilee headed by a Jewish monarch, a Messiah. This monarch, this Messiah, could only be the ruling Jewish prince; for Jesus, therefore, this was Antipas.


There are two accounts of Jesus’ death in the Old Testament. The first account is in 1 Kings 13:24: the Man of God is Jesus

Jerusalem, Wailing Wall
Jerusalem, Wailing Wall

while the lion stands for the Roman, Pilate. Verse 28 states that the Man of God’s body is unharmed, contrary to assumptions. This is a literary reference to Homer, the Iliad 24.18ff, where the same is said of the body of the Trojan hero Hector. In John 19:33, Jesus’ body is also described as unharmed, unlike those of the men crucified with him (his legs are not broken).

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After Jesus’ election as Philip’s successor, John the Baptist proclaimed that he was the Jewish Messiah: 1 Kings 13:23. The people of Galilee

Jerusalem, view from Mount of Olives
Jerusalem, view from Mount of Olives

hailed him as the King of Israel and Antipas was forced to flee from the furious population that associated themselves with Jesus: 2 Sam. 15:14. Jesus journeyed in triumph through Galilee to Samaria, the location of the old holy places of the northern Israelite kingdom.


Prince Antipas’ new wife used her influence to ensure that Jesus lost his position in about 32 AD. The story that comprises the Passion narrative in the Gospel texts

Jerusalem, ancient column head
Jerusalem, ancient column head

is passed down in the Old Testament as a complete account: Jesus’ conflict with the Jews and his condemnation for blasphemy.

The narrative about Naboth’s vineyard, (1 Kings 21) reflects the conflict between Antipas’ new wife and the governor Jesus. The power-hungry Herodias (= Jezebel) envied the governor Jesus his influence over Antipas (= Ahab) and succeeded in having Naboth (= Jesus) condemned and executed.

Jesus was able to flee to exile in Tyre, but it was the end of his political career: Mark 7:24-30 par. In the New Testament narrative in Mark and Matthew, the conflict between Herodias and Jesus is transmuted into a discussion about whether Jesus, now living in Tyre, was permitted to use his healing power to help a non-Jewish woman (such as Herodias) and her daughter.


Antipas rejected his wife in 31 AD and married his niece Herodias, a granddaughter of Herod. John the Baptist

Jerusalem, model of the temple
Jerusalem, model of the temple

objected to this and criticised Antipas sharply.

The conflict is recounted directly in the Gospels and described in the Old Testament in the Bathsheba narrative, where God instructs the prophet Nathan (= John) to criticise King David (= Antipas).

Josephus describes the events without criticising Antipas’ morals. Texts on the Herodias scandal: 2 Sam. 11f; Mark 6:14-29 par.; Mark 7:24-30 par.; Ant. 18.5.1-2.


In the early 30s Jesus’ situation as governor at Prince Antipas’ court became more difficult. Then it came to an open conflict.

Yad Vashem, olive tree
Yad Vashem, olive tree

On 18 October 31 AD in Rome, the equestrian Sejanus, Emperor Tiberius’ delegate, was deposed and immediately executed on the emperor’s orders.

This happened because Sejanus had sought a familiar link to the imperial family and was suspected of aiming to succeed the emperor. This made Jesus’ position less safe, as his position in Galilee was similar to that of Sejanus in Rome.


Jesus became Antipas’ governor (prime minister) for Galilee and Perea in 6 AD; Matt. 4:1-11; 1 Kings 13. The narratives of Jesus’ temptations describe Jesus’ participation in worldly power

Jerusalem, Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Jerusalem, Church of the Holy Sepulchre

at Antipas’ side. After Jesus quarrelled with Antipas the latter was seen as the devil, and after Christianity turned into a pure religion without political ambitions, Jesus’ participation in secular power was no longer politically correct. The Christians now stated that Jesus rejected a position of power, making him the model for Christian behaviour in this context as well.

There is an Old Testament parallel to the story of the temptations in 1 Kings 13, where the Man of God (= Jesus) also rejects a share in the power offered by Jeroboam I (= Antipas). In the stories about the prophet Elisha (= Jesus) however, his cooperation with King Ahab (= Antipas) is described quite openly.


The statement in Matt. 13:55 that Jesus was son of a “tekton” should be translated as Jesus is also

Jerusalem, Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Jerusalem, Church of the Holy Sepulchre

one of the tektons, as in the parallel verse Mark 6:3. In Semite culture the word “son” was used to indicated belonging. The Greek word tekton can mean a building worker; it can also mean an architect, a master builder or house builder.

Jesus is described as a tekton, an architect and master builder, because he was commissioned by Prince Antipas to build the city of Tiberias, Galilee’s new capital city.

The idea that the craftsman’s son Jesus could have acquired all his wisdom through divine inspiration rather than by hard study contradicts the principle of Occam’s Razor, whereby the simplest solution is the correct one.


Jesus received the classical education of the Roman upper class in Rome from 8 to 4 BC, along with

Jerusalem, Via dolorosa
Jerusalem, Last Supper Room

Herod’s sons Archelaus, Antipas and Philip: Ant. 17.1.3; Luke 2:41ff.; cf. Acts 13:1. The Herodian princes were sent to Rome to continue their education around 8 BC. I assume that Jesus was also sent to Rome to study with them.

Herod and his sons needed capable administrators and diplomats who were loyal to the king and his family. A good education would have been the prerequisite for Jesus’ later career.

The story of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple shows that traditions suggesting that Jesus was well-educated already existed.


Jesus was the son of an upper-class Jewish family: 1 Sam. 16; 1 Kings 19:19ff.; Luke 2:1ff. If Jesus had advanced from the lower class,

Jerusalem, Via dolorosa
Jerusalem, Via dolorosa

there should be stories about his social rise like those by Aesop, the Greek writer of the fables: see Wolfgang Müller (ed.): Das Leben Aesops, Leipzig 1974.

Jesus was brought up at King Herod’s court: 1 Sam. 16:14ff. The account of how David comes to King Saul’s court is a story about Jesus.

From his youth onwards, Jesus was friends with Herod’s son Antipas: 1 Sam. 18:1-4. The stories about David and Jonathan relate to Jesus and Antipas.


Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea: Matt. 2:1; Luke 2:4; Michah 5:1. The prophecy in Micah 5:1

Jerusalem, Last Supper Room
Jerusalem, Last Supper Room

was only formulated in Jesus’ time. Bethlehem was the only place close to Herod’s court, the castle of Herodion.

The identification of Nazara with the town Nazareth and of Nazoraios and Nazarenos as meaning from Nazareth is a later legend. The terms Nazara, Nazoraios, Nazarenos are all derived from the Hebrew NaZUR, meaning preserved.

I assume that this refers to the governor’s immunity that is also mentioned in the story of the temptation in Matt. 4:1ff and Luke 4:1ff (on the pinnacle of the temple).

The reason behind this is as follows: when someone was stoned, the condemned person was pushed down a slope and then stones were thrown at him. In Luke 4:29 Jesus is taken to a mountainside to be stoned, but the punishment is not carried out.

In the story of the temptations, this refers to the accusation of blasphemy that was punished by stoning. Satan (= Antipas) is able to save Jesus by granting him immunity.


Antipas appears in Christian tradition in the accounts of the star and the massacre of the infants in Bethlehem,

Israel, St. George's Monastery
Israel, St. George’s Monastery

though his name is not mentioned.

It was Antipas whose future kingship was indicated by the appearance of the star, according to the astrologers, and Antipas who escaped the massacre of the infants in Bethlehem.

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5.1.3.Antipas was the natural candidate for the title Messiah. Messiah is a Jewish title for king, and after his brother Archelaus was banished


Galilee, date palm
Galilee, date palm

Galiläa, Dattelpalmein 6 AD, Antipas was the highest-ranking member of Herod’s family, the ruling dynasty, so he had a claim to the highest title, that of king or Messiah.

Antipas was an educated monarch: he had studied in Rome; he had diplomatic skills; he brought prosperity and civil rights to Galilee and Perea, the areas that he ruled.

His subjects’ lives were much better than those of their parents – an important benchmark – and they lived in a community ruled by a Jewish king; the Roman Empire did not weigh on the citizens.