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.


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.


In thesis 2.2.1 the first part of the story of Joseph was interpreted to depict Jesus’ life up to his death. Joseph

Nablus, Joseph's tomb
Nablus, Joseph’s tomb

(= Jesus) was killed by his brothers and buried. Under Agrippa the story continues: the next episode states that Joseph (now to be taken as representing Agrippa) was not killed; instead he was simply imprisoned and must now travel to a distant country, Egypt (= Rome).

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In the Old Testament writings, Antipas’ achievements are depicted in a positive light in three narrative threads. (1) The Moses narrative

Gerizim, modern place of sacrifice
Gerizim, modern place of sacrifice

from Exodus 1 tells of how Antipas (= Moses) frees the people of Israel (= Galilee) from the rule of Pharaoh (= Herod) who was active in building on a large scale and demanded enforced labour. Pharaoh also hoped to kill Moses. The parallels to the narrative of the massacre of the infants in Bethlehem are very clear.

(2) 2 Samuel describes the period of David’s (= Antipas) rule. Antipas’ concern to create a religious focal point for his princedom is documented in the narrative about the Ark of the Covenant and brought to a positive conclusion.

(3) An essential feature of a stable government at that time was that the succession should be regulated. In 2 Sam. 7, Yahweh speaks through the prophet Nathan to assure David (= Antipas) that his rule will continue through his biological descendants.


III  1 Looking for a state religions

After Herod’s death in 4 BC, the Emperor Augustus divided the kingdom among Herod’s sons. Antipas was allocated

Mosul, Jonas mosque
Mosul, Jonas mosque

Galilee and Peraea, an area with a large Jewish population. However, the Yahweh temple in Jerusalem, the centre of Jewish religious practice, was outside his princedom.

To weld his princedom together, Antipas required an ideology, either a religion or a cultural idea to legitimise his claim to rule and to give a sense of community to the mainly Jewish population.