WHO WERE THE “HERODIANS?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
The English word is a transliteration of the Greek “Herodianoi.” Only appearing by name thrice in the Holy Bible, who are the “Herodians?” “For what saith the Scriptures?”
We look at the three verses in a cursory manner (we will consider them in detail later):
- Matthew 22:16: “And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.”
- Mark 3:6: “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.”
- Mark 12:13: “And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.”
While an enigmatic group, their name suggests they support “Herod” (King Herod the Great, the infamously-cruel king of Matthew chapter 2, and/or his sons and grandsons who ruled after him—collectively, the Herodian dynasty). The Herodians are a political faction not a religious one… although they are united with Israel’s religious leaders in their hatred of Jesus Christ! Beyond this, it is a matter of conjecture as to who the Herodians precisely are.
The most likely explanation is that the Herodians detested direct Roman rule and preferred simply an Israeli kingdom presided over by King Herod Antipas (ruler of Galilee during Christ’s earthly ministry—see Luke 3:1 and Matthew 14:1). In Mark 8:15, the Lord issues the following warning: “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.” This reference to “Herod” is evidently the condemnation of the false teaching of the Herodians. They are secular or worldly, focused on politics and are associated with political corruption; therefore, Jesus cautions His disciples not to fall into this trap of evil doctrine.
Let us return to Matthew chapter 22: “ Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.  And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.  Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?  But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?  Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.  And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?  They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.  When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”
For sake of comparison, we read Mark chapter 12: “ And they send unto him [Jesus] certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.  And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?  Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.  And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s.  And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.”
Did you see how the Herodians appear in the context of debating governmental affairs? In this case, they want to know whether or not Jesus supports paying taxes to the Roman emperor. The Herodians evidently loathe the idea, which lends credence to the idea that they abhor Roman rule. Then again, they do not want King Jesus Christ reigning over them either. They prefer the Idumean (Gentile) King Herod! So, the Herodians conspire with the Pharisees to bring about Jesus’ destruction or death. “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:6)!