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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Manaen (2)

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MANAEN (Μαναήν, Acts 13:1 = Menahem, מְנַחֵם, ‘comforter,’ 2 Kings 15:14 etc.).—Two facts only are recorded in Scripture concerning Manaen. In his old age he was a Christian minister; in youth he was foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch, i.e. Antipas (Acts 13:1). But this must be read side by side with a statement of Josephus, who tells us (Ant. xv. x. 5) that, some few years before, another Manaen (or Manaem) had come into touch with another Herod,—the Great. The double parallel appears too striking to be mere coincidence. It seems more reasonable to assume a connexion between the two stories, and from them we may inferentially derive much light.

1. The connexion between the Manaen of Josephus and Herod the Great.—When Herod was yet a schoolboy, he was one day greeted in the street by this Manaen, who patted him on the back, and saluted him as future king of the Jews. As Antipater, Herod’s father, was only a military governor, the prediction seemed absurd. But Manaen was an Essene, one of the stalwart Puritans of that day, who had a reputation not only for austerity but for predictive powers (Josephus BJ ii. viii. 12); and the words induced the lad to make further inquiry. Manaen persisted, adding that the coming dignity would not be accompanied by righteous living, and that God’s punishment would visit his later life. About fifteen years later (b.c. 37), when the first part of the prophecy was fulfilled, Herod sent for the old Essene, and ever after honoured him and his sect. If, as Lightfoot conjectures, he was the same Manaen who, being vice-president of the Sanhedrin under Hillel, led away eighty others to the service of Herod, and inaugurated a system of laxer living, then the connexion did not issue in the moral profit of the older man, and he may have been alluded to (as Plumptre thinks) by our Lord under the figure of the shaken reed (Matthew 11:7), and as a soft-clad dweller in royal households. Perhaps, too, this defection was the origin of the sect of the Herodians (Mark 3:6, etc.).

2. Connexion between the later Manaen and Herod Antipas.—The facts related above seem to constitute an intelligible foundation for the circumstances of Manaen’s life noted in Acts 13:1. Antipas was a son of Herod the Great, and if the old king had an elder Manaen living in his household, nothing would be more natural than that a young Herod and a young Manaen (perhaps a grandson, since Manaen the elder was a man of standing when Herod the Great was a boy) should be brought up together. What this implied it is difficult to determine, since ‘foster-brother’ (σύντροφος) has both a narrower and a wider meaning. It may only indicate that the children were much together. Manaen may well have shared both the home-life and the subsequent education, under a private tutor at Rome, which Antipas and Archelaus enjoyed (Ant. xvii. i. 3). On the other hand, Archelaus is not mentioned here, so perhaps the narrower sense of σύντροφος may be pressed, that Manaen’s mother was also nurse to Antipas. In either case it is suggestive to contemplate the murderer of John the Baptist and paramour of Herodias, side by side with the man of ascetic Essene stock, subsequently a teacher in the Church of Christ.

3. Manaen’s religious development and influence.—One wonders how the companion of Herod became the servant of Christ. His name (‘consoler’) may indicate that his parents were of that spiritually watchful circle who waited for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25). According to the Talmud (Jerus. [Note: Jerusalem.] Ber. ii. 4), Menahem was to be one of the titles of the Messiah, and indeed it became so (see 1 John 2:1 παράκλητος, used in Job 16:2 [Aq. [Note: Aquila.] Theod. [Note: Theodotion.] ] as translation of מְנַחַם). The name was sometimes given to children at this period, with Messianic thoughts and hopes. Manaen is like a ferrychain whose ends are visible and whose centre is submerged. We know of his childhood and old age: his mature manhood we can only conjecture. But we know at least that he passed through the Gospel period of John the Baptist’s preaching and Jesus Christ’s ministry. He may have been amongst the number of those who listened on the Jordan’s banks, and brought tidings to Antipas. At any rate, in Herod’s household he must have heard the stirring words of the rugged prophet of the old Essene type, and if Herod ‘heard gladly,’ how much more Manaen! The twin-texts, ‘Repent ye’ and ‘Behold the Lamb,’ may well have become the head-lights of his course, and the forerunner’s words have led to Christ one more fruitful servant. There is much to indicate that the lonely ministry in the castle of Machaerus was not barren of results. Besides Manaen, we know of spiritual interests kindled in Joanna, wife of Herod’s major-domo (Luke 8:3), in the king’s courtiers (βασιλικός, John 4:46), perhaps in Herodion (Romans 16:11), whose name indicates court connexions; we know, further, that there were servants to whom Herod talked on religious topics (Matthew 14:1 f.). And among these Manaen may well have been one of those unseen influences for good which alone can account for some of the better impulses of Herod’s inconsistent life. What passed between the foster-brothers after John’s murder? Was Manaen a silent or a protesting spectator when Jesus was mocked? Did the death of Christ complete a work of grace already begun at the death of John? Did the Resurrection of Christ (no rumour this time, Matthew 14:2, but a well attested fact) seal for ever the allegiance of a halting disciple? Did he remain in the train of his foster-brother till the latter left for Rome in a.d. 39? If so, he may have gone to Antioch at that date, and been one of the founders of the Church in that city, which comes into view about a.d. 41 (Acts 11:19). He would then rank amongst that honoured company whose consistent practice of the faith they professed first won them the name ‘Christian,’ Christ’s man,—honoured since with world-wide acceptance wherever the gospel message has spread. At Antioch, in any case, we find him four years later occupying a position of authority (Acts 13:1). If he was a prophet, we have an interesting link with the old Essene foreteller of Herod the Great’s reign. But perhaps the copulative particles, strictly pressed, rank him as teacher and not as prophet. He must by this time have become somewhat advanced in years. If St. Luke also came from Antioch (Euseb. Historia Ecclesiastica 3, 4), it may have been from Manaen that he learned certain details concerning Herod and John which are peculiar to his Gospel. We last catch sight of Manaen in that hallowed gathering when he and his fellows in the ministry willingly surrendered their two ablest men, Barnabas and Saul, for the evangelization of the world. He who was called by his parents ‘the comforter’ cheerfully yielded to the higher voice of the heavenly ‘Comforter’ (Acts 13:2), and tarried by the stuff, while others went forth to the fight.

Literature.—Lightfoot, Pitman’s ed. iii. 211; Josephus Ant. xv. x. 5, BJ ii. viii.; Plumptre, Bib. Educ. ii. 29, 82; art. in Smith’s, ‘Hastings’, and Fairbairn’s DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] (by Hackett, Cowan, and Dickson respectively), and in Eneyc. Bibl. (by Cheyne).

H. C. Lees.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Manaen (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/m/manaen--2.html. 1906-1918.

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Friday, August 14th, 2020
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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