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Herod Antipas in Galilee: Friend or Foe of the Historical Jesus?

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The quest for the secrets of first-century Galilee has recently attracted much intense interest, fuelling not least the occasionally heated debate about the cultural and socio-economic setting of the historical Jesus. Interest centres in particular on Herod Antipas’ impact on the region’s socio-economic stability. Was he good or bad news for the ordinary rural peasant population, and did his urbanization pro-gramme critically impact on Jesus and his movement? No consensus has been reached regarding this and similar questions, and Antipas is presently promoted as the key figure in conflicting views of first-century Galilee as either enjoying good and stable conditions, or subject to heavy economic pressure aggravating indebt-edness and tenancy. Surprisingly, the reign of Antipas has only been treated cur-sorily, with Harold Hoehner’s dissertation from 1972 being the one exception, since when intense archaeological activity has produced much new insight on ancient Galilee. Building on a larger study, this article therefore explores the sources, both literary and archaeological, of Antipas’ reign with a view to deter-mining its socio-economic consequences. It will be argued that Antipas’ impact on early first-century Galilee was probably more moderate than often assumed by scholars of the historical Jesus.

Affiliations: 1: University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark, Email:


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