The Herodians: A Case Of Disputed Identity A Review Article Of Nikos Kokkinos, “ The Herodian Dynasty” -- By: David J. Bryan

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 53:2 (NA 2002)
Article: The Herodians: A Case Of Disputed Identity A Review Article Of Nikos Kokkinos, “ The Herodian Dynasty”
Author: David J. Bryan


The Herodians:
A Case Of Disputed Identity
A Review Article Of Nikos Kokkinos, “
The Herodian Dynasty” 1

David J. Bryan

I. Introduction

At a time when there is a renewed interest in Herod, Nikos Kokkinos has recently offered a welcome study which seeks to present a social and family history rather than focus upon important individuals. In so doing, Kokkinos set out to fill what he perceives to be a lacuna in Herodian studies by looking at the story of the dynasty from beginning to end. Along the way he investigated the following subjects:

  • the origins of the family;
  • the social and political conditions of Idumaea in the 2nd century bce;
  • the strongly Hellenized ideology of Herod the Great;
  • the complexity of his genealogy;
  • the status of the members of his family in Roman Judaea after Archelaus’ fall;
  • the role of the dynasty during the first Jewish revolt;
  • the centrality of the dynasty in the workings of the Roman Empire in the east;
  • the gradual eclipse of Agrippa II;
  • the transfer of Herodian power to the wider Greek world in the second century ce.

Kokkinos tackled these with the confidence of a classical historian who has an impressive knowledge of the main literary sources and the extant documentary evidence (epigraphic, papyrological, numismatic and archaeological). Scholars will appreciate in particular Part II, ‘The

Herodian Family and Social Structure’, which is a detailed analysis of the 144 members of the family that are mentioned or implied in the texts and sources. Kokkinos engages fully with conflicting evidence, particularly in Josephus’ writings, and puts forward various, innovative solutions (e.g. in respect of the sequence of Herod’s marriages in chapter 8). However, my main interest was captured by the bold hypothesis that is presented in the first part of the book, namely that the Herodian dynasty had a Hellenistic Phoenician rather than Edomite background, and that this remained a dominating influence as the dynasty emerged and developed. Indeed, Kokkinos argues that even Agrippa I, who is thought to have adhered more seriously to Judaism than other Herodian rulers, did so primarily for diplomatic reasons.2 In the first section of this paper I will outline the basis for Kokkinos’ hypothesis. I will then offer a critique in which I shall refer to the other significant monograph that appeared around the same time, but which offers a quite different perspective on this dynasty and on Herod the Great in particular, namely Peter Richardso...

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