Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Herod the Great?

Geza Vermes has a good article about reappraising Herod as in Great or Terrible. He summarizes:

This sketchy portrait reveals that Herod was a split personality in whom the two extremes of evil and good met. Josephus hit the nail on the head when he wrote:
When we have regard to his...benefactions that he had made to mankind in general, even his detractors would be forced to admit the remarkable generosity of his nature. Yet when we consider his unjustified and vengeful treatment of his subjects and his closest relatives, and observe the unrelenting harshness of his character, we must regard him as a brute.
How did this duality emerge?

Josephus thought that the conflicting propensities arose from a single source and had a single motivation. Herod always endeavoured to please because he wanted to be admired by everyone. Josephus wrote:
Herod loved honour, and was dominated by that passion, and his magnanimity revealed itself wherever there was hope of a lasting memorial or of immediate fame.
His overriding aim was to glorify himself, and his ambition was to leave to posterity ever more imposing monuments of his reign; and this was the spur that drove him to build cities and lavish such enormous expense on the work.

I find Peter Richardson's book on Herod still the best. 

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