Slightly related.

This topic has been on my mind lately. According to Josephus, Herod's father Antipater was the son of Antipas, one of the Edomites converted by Yochanan Hyrcanus. I asked one of the rabbis in my yeshiva and he said that though in the first place the conversion was problematic, בדיעבד it counts, which means that Herod's paternal side was Jewish. The problem starts with his mother Cypros, who, again according to Josephus, was born a Nabatean-Arab princess (Antiquities 14:7:3). There is no evidence that she properly converted, though as the note there in the Gutenberg version states, her name as it appears in Josephus is the Judaic/Hebraic version of the Greek name Cypris.1

Though I can't find it right now, I remember that the Talmud concludes that he was a "Canaanite slave", though I'm not really sure how that makes sense in light of Josephus - was that statement meant to be taken at face value? Yes, I'm aware that there are discrepancies between Josephus and the sages. But is that really the case here?

Therefore, I was wondering whether anyone was aware of sources that discuss the status of Herod's Jewishness, other than the gemara. I'm particularly interested in sources that are familiar with what Josephus or other historians wrote about his lineage.

1 Likewise, many Greek names were altered through the Second Temple and Talmudic eras' Hebrew/Jewish Aramaic, such as Nicodemus becoming Nakdimon.

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    He was a slave according to the gemara at the beginning of baba batra
    – kouty
    Commented Dec 25, 2021 at 22:38
  • @kouty I saw that when writing the question. So there isn't an explicit gemara that states he was a Canaanite slave? Because עבדא דבית חשמונאי seems pretty ambiguous.
    – Harel13
    Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 5:53
  • It’s as you said, he was from a family of converts but many didn’t consider him Jewish Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 19:32
  • @RaulValdezJr. May very well be, but I'm looking for discussions on the matter. The big issue here is his Nabatean mother.
    – Harel13
    Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 20:00
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    A reasonable supposition is that Josephus' report of the "conversion" of the Edomites is actually their initiation into the status of Canaanite slaves. The process is, after all, identical in actions, milah and tevilah, and Josephus' non-Jewish audience certainly wouldn't have known or cared about the nice differences.
    – Meir
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 18:16

1 Answer 1


Why did you reject :בבא בתרא ג? The גמרא seems pretty explicit.

For example, Herod says:

אמר: מאן דריש ״מקרב אחיך תשים עליך מלך״? רבנן. קם קטלינהו לכולהו רבנן

We see that he wasn't Jewish, because if he was Jewish, he wouldn't have to kill the רבנן.

  • 1
    That would be true if the gemara was saying that the sages simply ruled according to the p'shat of the verse, and that made Herod angry. But that's not what the gemara says. The gemara says that the sages expounded (דריש, from drash) the verse. This is evidently a reference to the drasha of "מקרב אחיך - ממובחר שבאחיך". See Tosfot there. Herod is saying: "Who are the people who expounded the verse in a manner that delegitimizes my rule (which otherwise would have been legitimate מדאורייתא)? The sages."
    – Harel13
    Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 5:30
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    However, I'm not sure this proves that he was Jewish, because we know that his grandson Agrippas cried over the verse "לא תוכל לתת עליך איש נכרי", and so the sages had to say: אחינו אתה (you are our brother) (M. Sotah 7:8). Were they saying אחינו אתה because his maternal side was Jewish or because both of his sides were Jewish? And if it was clear that he was Jewish, why did he cry because of this verse?
    – Harel13
    Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 5:31
  • @Harel13 Another possible proof, although it’s not foolproof, is ב״ב ד עמוד א׳ where the גמרא says איבעית אימא שאני עבדא דאיחייב במצות, implying that only because he’s an עבד he’s חייב in מצות. Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 23:57

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