Herod Antipas letter to the
Roman Senate about Jesus & John the Baptist
Following is from documents of records
of the Roman Senate.
After many complaints/charges were apparently made about his
behavior regarding the deaths of both John the Baptist and Jesus,
the below document shows Herod Antipas, aware of his own tenuous
situation, defending himself to Rome.
Remember, at this time when Herod killed John the Baptist, the Jews
did not have the authority for capital punishment--it having been
given to Rome under an agreement which also allowed for no Roman
idolatry in their Temple.
The reader will take note that in it--Herod declares that Jesus
was not a Galilean, but was most certainty born in Bethlehem.....
|"To Tiberius Caesar
and the Senate of Rome"
"My Noble Lords,
It is true, as my opponent asserts, that I was defeated in battle with
Aretas, King of Arabia, but I was forced to fight when unprepared for
the conflict. I either had to fight or have the country overrun by this
wicked people. It is true I was defeated, but it was owing to the want
of time and better preparation. Aretas came upon me without warning.
Notwithstanding I was defeated his army was so crippled that
he had to withdraw his forces from the field, and had not been able to
rally them since. So our country was saved from the devastation of a
I understand that the superstitious Jews say my defeat was for my
wickedness in beheading John the Baptist. My understanding of the God
of the Jews is, that He does not chastise the innocent for the crimes
of the guilty. What did my actions have to do with the poor, suffering
soldier? But if He had to punish all in order to reach me, then where
is His almighty power they boast so much of? I do not know
whether their God was angry at me or not. There is one thing I know,
the act was done with the holy intention of bringing the greatest
amount of good to the greatest number of people; and if this is so, no
court can gainsay it or condemn it.
The facts in the case are about as follows: John the Baptist had set up
a new mode of religion altogether different from the Jewish religion,
teaching baptism instead of circumcision, which had been the belief and
custom of the Jews in all ages past. According to their theory, God
appeared to Abraham hundreds of years before, and told him with His own
lips how and what to do to be saved; and the Jews have lived according
to this until it had become their nature, and all their
forefathers had lived in this way. David, Solomon, Isaac, Jacob, and
all the holy prophets had gone to heaven in this way of God's own
appointment. Now, the question came to them, as they suggested it to
me: Has God found that He was wrong? Has His wisdom failed Him? Or has
the unchanged changed, and He is wavering in His purpose? Such would be
the natural conclusion of a sensible man under the circumstances. Now,
John the Baptist had no authority from God for what he was doing, as
Abraham had. All he could say was, "He that sent me to baptize is
true;" and he cannot tell who he was. Then his going into the
wilderness: God had ordered Solomon to build the finest temple that
was ever built in the world, and made promises that whosoever came to
that house with his offerings his prayers should be heard and answered.
This temple had been the place of their meeting for hundreds of years,
for the Jews think this temple the next place to heaven.
Now see the difference:
1st. John has no authorized authority.
2d. He changes God's place of worship.
3d. He changes the doctrines
4th. He changes the mode of application.
Now, the idea of Gamaliel was that John wanted to be some great man;
hence, he took this mode of eccentric life to establish it. And there
is nothing better qualified than the course he took to make an
impression upon the ignorant and unlearned--to go away out into the
wilderness by himself, get a few friends from Jerusalem to go out and
hear him, and come back and tell of the great wonders which they had
seen in the wilderness. Then John's appearance --his long, uncombed
hair and beard, his fantastic clothing, and his food, nothing but bugs
and beans-- such a course and such a character are well qualified to
lead the illiterate astray. These troubles on the Jewish mind were very
heavy, and gave such men as Hilderium, Shammai, Hillel, and others
great concern. And no wonder, for in their judgmnt it was vacating the
temple of religious worship; it was blocking the road to heaven, and
driving the poor and unsuspecting to ruin, as well as destroying the
whole nation. So it was, by their request, as so ordered, that it was
better to execute one to save the many from a worse fate. And this is
the true reason for the deed, and not to please the whim of a
dancing-girl, as you have heard. Now, my lords, if this is not
satisfactory, I would ask my accuser, Caius, to write any of the
learned Jews, and learn if my statement is not correct.
As to Agrippa's accusing me of having arms for seventy thousand
soldiers, it is correct; but they were left me by my father, Herod the
Great. And as they were needed to defend the province, and I did not
know it was necessary to report them, I never thought of keeping them
secret. But as to my being in league with Sejonius, I appeal to the
virtue of my conduct, and demand investigation.
As to what Pontius Pilate says in regard to my cowardice and
disobedience in the case of Jesus of Nazareth, I will say in my own
defence: I ws informed by all the Jews that this was the same Jesus
that my father aimed to destroy in his infancy; for I have it in my
father's private writings and accounts of his life, showing that when
the report was circulated of three men inquiring where was he that was
born King of the Jews, he called together the Hillel and Shammai
schools, and demanded the reading of the sacred scrolls; that it was
decided he was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea, as read and
interpreted that night by Hillel. So when my father learned that there
was a birth of a male child in Bethlehem under very strange
circumstances, and he could not learn who nor where the child was, he
sent and had the male children slain that were near his age. Afterward
he learned that his mother had taken him and fled into the wilderness.
For this attempt to uphold the Roman authority in the land of Judea the
world has not ceased to curse him to this day; and yet the Caesars have
done a thousand worse things, and done them a thousand times, and it
was all well. Just think how many lives have been lost to save the
Roman Empire; while those infants were only removed in their innocence
from the evil to come. The proper way to judge of action is to let the
actor judge, or the one with whom the action terminates. If this should
be done, and there is a life of happiness beyond for innocence to dwell
in, those infants as well as the Rachels should be thankful to my
father for the change. Again, my lords, Pilate is a higher officer than
I; and you know in our law the lower court always has the right to
appeal to the higher. As to Pilate's saying that Jesus was a Galilean,
he is mistaken. Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, as the records
show. And as to his citizenship, he had none. He wandered about from
place to place, having no home, making his abode principally with the
poor. He was a wild fanatic, who had taken up the doctrines of John
(but not his baptism), and was quite an enthusiast. He had learned
sooth-saying, while in Egypt, to perfection. I tried to get him to
perform some miracle while in my court, but he was too sharp to be
caught in a trap; like all necromancers, he was afraid to show off
before the intelligent. From what I could learn he had reprimanded some
of the rich Jews for their meanness, and his reproaches were not out of
the way, from what I heard they would have been much better men if they
had practised what he preached.
So this is my defense. I submit it for your consideration, praying