Word of the Day: King (βασιλέως)

“In the first scene to be investigated, Matthew compares Herod with Jesus. Jesus’ birth is presented as a threat to Herod, the vassal king of the Romans, who acknowledged Rome as “masters of the world”.

Matthew introduces Herod and Jesus each as a king (βασιλέως) by way of contrast: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King (βασιλέως) Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king (βασιλέως) of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him’” (Matt. 2:1-2).

The magi come from the east, the location of Rome’s enemy Parthia. Not surprisingly, they do not recognize Rome’s puppet king, Herod. Their question was highly non-diplomatic revering Jesus’ position of king above that of Herod’s. This puts the magi in their conventional role as posing a threat to ruling powers. This juxtaposition is so frightening to Herod that he seeks to kill Jesus.”

Source: Viljoen, F. (2011). Power and authority in Matthew’s Gospel. Acta Theologica, 31, 329-345.