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.


Herod is presented in the Old Testament in several ways, always at the start of the actual story. He is Jacob the ancestor


with the many sons representing the tribes (= regions or successor states to Herod’s kingdom); he is Solomon, builder of the temple, after whose death the kingdom fell apart into a northern and southern kingdom, as it did after Herod’s death.

However, Herod is also the Pharaoh in Exodus 1f, who compelled the Israelites to forced labour on his great building programme (Exod. 1:11), as Herod did in reality, and who was out to kill Moses, as Herod killed both the children in Bethlehem in Matt. 2, and his own sons.

Herod is also Saul, the first king of Israel, chosen by God and later rejected, whose dynasty failed and who lost the kingdom to David (= Jesus).


Before P. Quintilius Varus lost both the battle and his life

Hatra, temple
Hatra, temple

in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, he was previously Roman proconsul in Syria from 6 – 4 BC and ruthlessly put down the Jewish rebellion in 4 BC after Herod the Great’s death.

The great Varus had ruled in Syria and Palestine, clearly with God’s approval, yet he suddenly suffered such a humiliating defeat in Germania. For the Jews, this could only be explained by assuming that God had rejected him.

The story of Saul’s rejection in 1 Sam. 15 has its historical model in Varus’ defeat; even the ambush in the valley that was fatal for Varus is mentioned in 1 Sam. 15:5.

Jesus and Paul were also people of their time and inevitably influenced by Rome, but in different ways. More on this in later theses.