Antipas and Jesus

Antipas' relationship to Jesus is seen in three events.

The first event is when Herod Antipas first began to hear about Jesus and concluded that this one is "John the Baptist resurrected from the dead" (Matt 14:1, 2; Mark 6:14-16; Luke 9:7-9). It may have been that he was plagued with his own guilt and the possibility that perhaps God had anointed John the Baptist. He is the one that had John beheaded, and forced to do so. Now this new preacher, Jesus, was gaining even more popularity than John and what was he to do?

Antipas wanted to see Jesus but was not able to do so because Jesus not only withdrew from his territories, but also Antipas did not want to use force because he might rouse the people again as with John.

The second event to is when Jesus was on His final journey to Jerusalem. Some of the Pharisees came to Jesus and stated that He had better remove Himself from Herod Antipas' territories because he sought to kill Jesus (Luke 13:31-33).

Jesus replied by saying, "Go tell that fox" that He would continue His ministry of healing the sick and casting out demons for a short time at least, but only after He had finished His work would He go to Jerusalem to perish.

Antipas saw the potential danger of Christ's influence on the people and wanted Him to leave his domains by threatening to kill Him. Antipas did not dare to use force because there was no evidence that Jesus was causing potential trouble and the people had not forgiven Antipas for his treatment of John the Baptist whom they considered a prophet.

But Jesus saw through Antipas' scheme and called him a "fox" (the animal which is weak and uses cunning deceit to achieve its aims), hence a crafty coward. Jesus was to finish His ministry there for a short time and though Antipas killed John the Baptist in his territory, he did not scare Jesus nor control His fate.

The final event was when Jesus was tried by Antipas in 29 A.D. (Luke 23:6-12). Pilate was intimidated by the Jewish leaders who had insisted on Jesus' execution but Pilate found no guilt in Him. He found the easiest solution was to send Jesus to Antipas who was in Jerusalem for the Passover when he heard that Jesus was from Galilee.

Another reason for handing Jesus over to Antipas was for diplomatic courtesy in order to improve his relationship with Antipas which had been damaged by the Galilean massacre (Luke 13 :1) and by the incident over the votive shields being brought into Jerusalem by Pilate (Philo Legatio ad Gaium 299-304). This incident was reported by Antipas (and other Herods) to Tiberius who ordered Pilate to remove the shields immediately. Pilate had overstepped himself and was anxious to appease.

Antipas did not presume on Pilate's gesture but after mocking Jesus, Antipas sent Jesus back. The one thing that was accomplished in this trial was the reconciliation of Antipas and Pilate.

note: Many scholars consider this story as legendary since it is not in the other gospels. Luke probably included it because Theophilus, who was the addressee of the gospel and probably a Roman officer, would have been interested in the reconciliation between Antipas and Pilate (Luke 23 :12).

Certainly if Theophilus were a Roman official he would have been interested in the relationship of the Herods and the prefects of Judea.

Since the other gospels did not have a particular interest in the Herods one can see the reason for the omission of this event, especially since it adds nothing to the progression of the trial of Christ. There are some scholars who think that the source of the story is Acts 4:25, 26 (which quotes Ps 2 :1, 2) but upon close examination the opposite is true.

Other scholars say that the story’s origin is in the Gospel of Peter but if one examines the Gospel of Peter, he will see no real parallel with Luke's account of Antipas' trial of Jesus. In fact the Gospel of Peter holds Antipas responsible for Jesus' death where there is nothing of this in Luke.