This article argues that women and domestic intrigue are prominent within the Herod narrative in Josephus’ Jewish War for a specific rhetorical reason. While the first half of the narrative presents the famous king in encomiastic terms, using him to illustrate Josephus’ contention that Jews generally were content to remain loyal to Rome, the second half of the account subtly presents a rather different thesis. Attention to domestic drama allowed Josephus to suggest that Herod was a man who was unable to control either his own emotions or his turbulent family, and so was unfit to rule. Ultimately for Josephus, the ideal constituency for Judaea is not monarchy (as represented by Herod) but the theocratic reign of priests.
This study outlines E.P. Sanders’ views on the Jewish ‘trial’ of Jesus, paying particular attention to the following topics: ‘who ran what’ at the time of Jesus; the involvement of the Jewish leaders; the role and character of the high priest Caiaphas; what sources we can rely on at this point; and the differences between Sanders’ views in Jesus and Judaism and the later (and more popular) Historical Figure of Jesus. It concludes by suggesting ways in which scholars can build on Sanders’ insights, not only in terms of historical reconstruction but also as a starting point for a fuller appreciation of the evangelists’ narrative and creative art.