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.


The Old Testament accounts of Agrippa show that not only did he inherit Antipas’ kingdom, he also wanted to continue Jesus’ work

West Bank, roadblock on 05 September 1990
West Bank, roadblock on 05 September 1990

in founding an ideal Jewish monarchy. The church’s sensitive reaction in Acts 12:23 makes clear that the Apostles saw Agrippa as a rival.

Jewish standpoints evolved during Antipas’ rule and the main narrative threads of the Old Testament, the stories of David, the Kings and Joseph were all begun. Under Agrippa, these narrative threads were pursued further and the writing continued.

The efforts made to create great Jewish literature, imitating and also competing with Rome, and to found a great Jewish cultural tradition are noticeable in the text.


Jesus is almost always presented in a positive light in the Old Testament. Elisha and the Man of God are positive figures,

Gerizim, Samaritan mosque, congregation
Gerizim, Samaritan mosque, congregation

even though the Man of God is not entirely innocent. Absalom and his rebellion are presented sympathetically; we discover that David (Antipas) mourned Absalom (Jesus) after his death. Only Aaron (Jesus) has a negative role in relation to Moses (Antipas).

The friendship between the youthful David (Jesus) and Jonathan the king’s son (Antipas) is a special chapter of the Jewish Messiah story: it sanctions the transition from Herod’s dynasty to a new line of rulers starting with Jesus.

To sum up, one can say that Jesus enjoyed great respect among the Jewish community in the period before the Jewish rebellion, when these texts were written down. The separation between Jews and Christians after 70 AD was still far in the future.


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.