Herod the Great gets all the press. His son Herod Antipas is known mostly,as the Herod for whom
Salome danced and who ordered John the Baptist to be beheaded.
Many people mistakenly think it was Herod the Great for whom Salome danced. This is
understandable because the Gospels refer to Herod Antipas simply as “Herod,” or occasionally as
“Herod the tetrarch” or even as “King Herod” (Mark 6:14), but never by his common name Antipas.
Herod Antipas ruled Galilee for most of Jesus’ life. His father, Herod the Great, reigned from 37 to 4
B.C. Jesus was apparently born in about 6 B.C. If so, from the time Jesus was 2 years old until his
crucifixion in about 30 A.D., Herod Antipas governed Galilee (and Perea, where John the Baptist
came from). Antipas served as tetrarch (appointed by the emperor Augustus to rule over one
quarter of his father’s kingdom) from 4 B.C. until 39 A.D., almost exactly the time of Jesus.
In Matthew and Mark, Herod Antipas is ambivalent with regard to Jesus. Both gospels quote Herod
Antipas as saying, after he has had John the Baptist executed, that Jesus is actually John
resurrected (Matthew 14:1–2; Mark 6:14–16). Both gospels state that Antipas was actually
saddened by Salome’s request to have John beheaded (Matthew 14:9; Mark 6:26), and they seem
to blame Salome and her mother, Herodias, for John’s execution. Bound by his own oath, Antipas is
nevertheless forced to fulfill his promise to Salome.
At the same time, however, we get the feeling in Matthew and Mark that Antipas is a shadow of
death over Jesus. When Jesus hears that John has been killed, “he withdrew from there in a boat to
a lonely place,” apparently fearful of Antipas (Matthew 14:13). In Mark 3:6, the Herodians counsel
about how to kill Jesus, just as Jesus in Mark 8:15 warns against “the leaven of Herod.”
Luke’s account differs from Matthew’s and Mark’s by concentrating mostly on the trial of Jesus, for
which Luke skillfully prepares his reader by references to Antipas along the way that build up an
intense question in the reader’s mind: Is Antipas interested in Jesus or is he trying to kill him? (See
Luke 3:19–20, 9:7–10, 13:31–33.)
He is widely known today for accounts in the New Testament of his role in events that led to the
executions of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth.
After being named to the throne by Augustus upon the death of his father, Herod the Great, in 4
BC, and subsequent ethnarch rule by his brother, Herod Archelaus, Antipas ruled Galilee and
Perea as a client state of the Roman Empire.
Antipas divorced his first wife Phasaelis, in favour of Herodias, who had formerly been married to
his half-brother Herod II.
(Antipas was Herod the Great's son by Malthace, while Herod II was his son by Mariamne II.)
According to the New Testament Gospels, it was John the Baptist's condemnation of this
arrangement that led Antipas to have him arrested; John was subsequently put to death in
ohn the Baptist – in 28/29 AD according to the Gospel of Luke – began a ministry of preaching and
baptism by the Jordan River, which marked the western edge of Antipas' territory of Perea.
The New Testament Gospels state that John attacked the tetrarch's marriage as contrary to Jewish
law (it was incestuous, as Herodias was also Antipas' niece, but also John criticized the fact that she
was his brother's wife in Mark 6:18, lending credence to the belief that Antipas and Herodias
married while Herod II was still alive).
John's public influence made Antipas fearful of rebellion. John was imprisoned and executed.
According to Matthew and Mark, Herod was reluctant to order John's death but was compelled by
Herodias' daughter (Salome), to whom he had promised any reward she chose as a result of her
dancing for guests at his birthday banquet. She wanted John's head to be served on a plate.
In 39 AD Antipas was accused by his nephew Agrippa I of conspiracy against the new Roman
emperor Caligula, who sent him into exile in Gaul. Accompanied there by Herodias, he died at an