Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Death of Herod Agrippa I in Acts 12 and Josephus

Last Sunday afternoon I exposited the account of the death of Herod Agrippa I as recorded in Acts 12:17-25.  In preparation I ran across this helpful compilation by G. J. Goldberg of parallels between the New Testament and Josephus.

The Acts account of Herod Agrippa I's death is indeed nicely paralleled by Josephus' account in his Antiquities of the Jews (see here).

Among details that concur:

1.  Herod had traveled from Judea to Caesarea before his death;
2.  Herod was "arrayed in royal apparel" (Acts 12:21; Josephus says he wore a silver garment which resplendently reflected the sun's rays);
3.  Herod gave a speech and his sycophants praised him as a god;
4.  Soon after the speech, Herod became violently ill and later died.  Josephus says he had a "violent pain" in his "belly" while Luke says "he was eaten of worms" (Acts 12:23).  Luke also adds that he was smitten by "the angel of the Lord" because "he gave not God the glory" (Acts 12:23).

Of note is the way that Josephus' account supports the historicity of Luke's account in Acts.  Luke adds a distinctive theological interpretation, but his account agrees with Josephus in the main details.  This parallel and others like it support the conclusion that Luke was a reliable ancient historian and counters those who would dismiss the historicity of his narrative or suggest that Luke was prone to fabrication.


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