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The Gospel according to Luke, chapter 23, verse 9, reads as follows:

So Herod questioned him at considerable length; Jesus gave him no answer. (NET)
Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing. (KJV)

Why did Jesus not respond to Herod? What reason was there for him not to do so?

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He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
(Isaiah 53:7 NKJV)

Since Jesus did speak before the High Priest and before Pilate, His not speaking before Herod is the means by which Isaiah 53:7 was fulfilled.

Each of the trials was before a different authority:

  • Religious authority - the High Priest and Sanhedrin
  • Political/legal authority - Pilate on behalf of the Roman Empire
  • King of over Galilee and Peraea - Herod the tetrarch (Antipas)

Herod was "king" over a limited territory of Israel and over a limited number of Jewish people. Jesus was ultimately executed for this reason:

Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. (John 19:19 NKJV)

This declaration by Pilate recognized Jesus as King of the Jews, a legal title which would include those Jewish people scattered throughout the Roman Empire. This contrasts with Herod whose kingship was over a limited part of Israel (Galilee and Paraea). So as a sheep is silent before its shearers, Jesus was silent before Herod who "shearing" Him of a limited kingdom (Herod's). But Jesus is not silent before the High Priest who cannot take away His position as the True and Great High Priest and He is not silent before Pilate who will recognize Him as King of all Jewish people.

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  • This is a correct answer, Jesus did nothing to provoke such abuse. Confirming the prophesies Peter wrote "When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly." 1 Peter 2:23 NRSVA – Ozzie Ozzie Oct 8 '17 at 19:55
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Mark records that the Herodians 1 were complicit in a plot to destroy Jesus:

And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.
-- Mark 3:6 (KJV)

It is recorded both in Matthew and Mark that the Herodians 1 were sent to try to entangle/catch Jesus in his talk/words:

15Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. 16And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.
-- Matthew 22:15-16 (KJV)

And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.
-- Mark 12:13 (KJV)

Mark records, also, that Herod was somewhat of a lunatic, admitting to having killed John the Baptist on a whim, and imagining Jesus to be John reincarnated,:

14And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.

15Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets. 16 But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.
-- Mark 6:14-16 (KJV)

Mark records Jesus as saying of Herod:

... Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.
-- Mark 8:15 (KJV)

Herod felt threatened by Jesus, which is the clear implication of the introductory words to the question put to Jesus by the Herodians, "Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men."

So, when he was taken to Herod, Jesus had absolutely no illusions that his talk/words would have any impact on the outcome of the meeting.


Notes:

  1. Herodians:

    Priestly party under the reign of King Herod and his successors; called by the Rabbis "Boethusians," as adherents of the family of Boethus, whose daughter Mariamne was one of the wives of King Herod, and whose sons were successively made high priests by him.
    -- Jewish Encyclopedia

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It is only in Luke's Gospel that we find Pontius Pilate asking Herod Antipas to try Jesus, as the other New Testament gospels tell us that Pontius Pilate alone tried Jesus, with no apparent possibility of those gospels merely omitting involvement by Herod: Matthew 27:11-26; Mark 15:1-15; John 18:29-19:16.

Luke chapter 23 does not tell us why Jesus did not respond to Herod, but an interpretive approach can do so. Luke 23:8 tells us that Herod Antpas was exceeding glad to see Jesus:

Luke 23:8: And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.

This is anomalous, given that elsewhere, Herod is portrayed as fearful of Jesus (Mark6:16) or threatening towards him (Luke 13:31):

Mark6:16: But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead

Luke 13:31: The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.

The clear majority of New Testament scholars say that Luke was substantially copied from Mark, with additional sayings material taken from the hypothetical 'Q' document (John Dominic Crossan says in The Birth of Christianity, pages 110-111, that the consensus for Markan priority is "massive"). The significance of this is that the author of Luke's Gospel is unlikely to have known anything about the trial and crucifixion of Jesus other than what he learnt from Mark's Gospel. The involvement of Herod Antipas was therefore an elaboration introduced by Luke's author, which explains why the other evangelists knew nothing of this, and why Herod is portrayed as uncharacteristically glad to see Jesus.

Herod did not question Jesus at his trial, but portraying Jesus as not answering him is consistent with what we are told in Mark's Gospel, when Jesus refused to answer his accusers:

Mark 15:2-5: And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it. And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing. And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee. But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled.

In summary, the author of Luke's Gospel elaborated the Markan account of the trial of Jesus, by adding the story of Pontius Pilate asking Herod to try Jesus. He portrayed Jesus as responding to Herod in the same way Jesus had responded to Pontius Pilate and to the chief priests in the original account, Mark 15:2-5.

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    D. Harfield: "majority of New Testament scholars say that Luke was substantially copied from Mark, with additional sayings material taken from the hypothetical 'Q' document" Majorities of NT Scholars do not hold much weight if you study the history of NT studies in the last three centuries majorities have held all kinds of ridiculous positions. – C. Stirling Bartholomew Jun 17 '15 at 20:55
  • For a different view on the sources behind Luke check out Randall Buth's article which claims there is gospel-length semitic source behind Luke. academia.edu/9229814/… – C. Stirling Bartholomew Jun 17 '15 at 21:15
  • @C.StirlingBartholomew (i) It is inappropriate to disparage scholars in comments to this question. If you have a relevant point to make, please include unbiased evidence for that comment. (ii) The link does not say this; it is just an ad for a book the authors want me to buy. I grant that they are well-qualified in linguistics, but perhaps not in hermeneutics. – Dick Harfield Jun 17 '15 at 22:03
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    "The clear majority of New Testament scholars say that Luke was substantially copied from Mark, with additional sayings material taken from the hypothetical 'Q' document." Can you demonstrate that this is indeed the case and explain why this majority's voice is significant? – Jonathan Chell Jun 19 '15 at 16:33
  • @JonathanChell I have added a citation to Crossan, said to be the premier scholar of the historical Jesus in recent times. He certainly knows more NT scholars than I have ever read, and he says the majority is "massive". The next sentence in my answer says why this is significant: "The significance of this is that ... " – Dick Harfield Jun 19 '15 at 21:27

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