Jesus' Trial before Herod Antipas
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The episode of the trial of Jesus before Herod Antipas, being unique to Luke’s Gospel (23:6-12) – and despite the popular notion that it does not contribute to the development of the Lukan Passion Narrative – is nevertheless shown to fulfill a pertinent and multi-faceted function. In the course of the literary analysis, the most intriguing problem discussed was the origin of this narrative. Despite the prevailing opinion arguing for the Markan origin of the text, it seems more reasonable to assume the existence of an independent source (or sources), written or oral, which gave rise the whole tradition of the encounter between Jesus and Herod. Luke was fully responsible for the wording of this episode. As to the historicity of this encounter, there are good reasons to accept the fact that it really took place. All the objections advanced by a substantial number of authors can be reasonably countered. The exegetical analysis pointed out the importance of Jesus’ silence, the act of putting a white robe on Jesus, and the reconciliation between Herod and Pilate. Each of these three realities has profound christological meaning, revealing Jesus’ true identity. The main objective of this article was the search for the most plausible reason(s) for including this episode within the Lukan Passion Narrative. Jesus always plays an active, dynamic role elsewhere in the Lukan Passion Narrative, but in the Herod pericope there is a striking contrast as Jesus remains passive. Jesus likewise usually dominates the Passion scenes, yet even when that domination is not by means of his words and deeds, as is the case in this episode, he remains in control through his silence. It seems that the main stress of the whole narrative lies on Jesus’ innocence. Under that overriding theme, the passage is seen to have at least a four-fold purpose: historical (Jesus was guiltless despite being placed on trial); christological (the true identity of Jesus’ person and mission is disclosed by Jesus’ behavior and its effect, i.e. reconciliation); pedagogical (Jesus is a model for later Christians to imitate, and Herod is an anti-model by his lack of faith); and apologetic (Jesus, and consequently Christians, are innocent of the charges brought against them by both Rome and the Jews).
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