were referred to in the New Testament and in Josephus, but not in the scrolls, on which various theories have been held (H. Rowley identifies twelve: more could be added). The Gospels suggest that Herodians had a social-religious program, though Josephus implies that they were a political, not well-defined group. The relatively late evidence has encouraged proposals that behind the Herodians are Agrippa I or II.

Mark 3.6 and 12.13 (c.70 ce) claim that at the time of Jesus, Herodians (using the latinized Greek form hêrôdianoi) were associated with Pharisees, but only one parallel (Mt. 22.16; c.85 ce) follows Mark. Mark 8.15 has a variant, “Herodians,” for “leaven of Herod,” but neither Matthew nor Luke refers to either Herodians or Herod, suggesting that neither knows the group; Mark, or his source, knows them only slightly.

Josephus's earlier work, The Jewish War (c.75 ce), describes conditions in the period 40–37 bce when Herod's supporters appear as a loose coalition (The Jewish War 1.319, 326, 356; using the Greek forms hêrôdeioi, tous ta hêrôdou phronesantas, tous ta autou phronêsantas eunousterous). In only one case does Jewish Antiquities (c.95 ce) use this vocabulary (Antiquities 14.450; contrast 14.436?, 15.1–2). Josephus, like the Synoptic Gospels and at about the same time, minimizes the group's significance as he moves farther from his source (Nicolaus of Damascus). The Gospels and Josephus do not support the view that the term Herodians refers primarily to supporters of Agrippa I or II.

Proposals that the scrolls allude to Herodians have been made. Yigael Yadin argued that the Temple Scroll's allusion to seven baskets of bread in an Essene ordination ritual (11QTa xv.3–5) is reflected in the reference in Mark to seven baskets of crumbs (Mk. 8.14–21), and that Jesus' warning against the leaven of Herodians in 8.15 (v. 1) supports Constantin Daniel's argument that Herodians are simply Essenes, a view dismissed by Willi Braun. Eisenman and Wise suggest that marriage with nieces and relationship with gentiles in the Damascus Document should be linked with marriage questions in Miqtsat Ma῾asei ha-Torah (4QMMT B39–49, 81–82; CD v.7–9; iv.14–19; cf. 11QTa lxvi.15–17) and understood as prohibitions against Herodians in the period 40–66 ce. The dating of the texts, however, makes it unlikely that either intends to refer to Herodians.

Some hold that the group originated under Antipas (4 bce–38 ce; see Bikerman). More logically, it derives from Herod the Great's reign, as a sociopolitical movement upon which Herod depended for legitimacy. While it probably began with members of the elite who agreed with Herod's entente with Rome and supported his hold on power, it may have developed later as a group with quasi-religious features, possibly including views of Essenes and others such as Boethos (Hoehner), who owed his position to Herod. There is no evidence that Herodians viewed Herod as the Messiah (contra Epiphanius). [See Herodian Rulers.]


  • Bennett, W. J. Jr. “The Herodians of Mark's Gospel.” Novum Testamentum 17 (1975), 9–14.
    Herodians are a creation of Mark
  • Bikerman, E. “Les Hérodiens.” Revue biblique 47 (1938), 184–197.
    Patristic and linguistic evidence suggests that Herodians first appear about 30 ce
  • Braun, Willi. “Were the New Testament Herodians Essenes? A Critique of an Hypothesis.” Revue de Qumrân 14 (1989), 75–88.
    The Daniel/Yadin hypothesis—that the Herodians are Essenes—fails to persuade
  • Daniel, Constantin. “Les ‘Hérodiens’ du Nouveau Testament sont-ils des Esséniens?” Revue de Qumrân 6 (1967), 31–53.
  • Hoehner, Harold. “The Herodians.” In Herod Antipas, pp. 331–342. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1980 [1972],
    Appendix X. Herodians are Boethusians
  • Rowley, H. H. “The Herodians in the Gospels.” Journal of Theological Studies 41 (1940), 14–27.
    A useful survey of various patristic and modern views

Peter Richardson