I am beginning to do dissertation research on the literary and
theological function of Acts 12, particularly vss. 19b-24. In these
verses , Herod Agrippa I returns to Caesarea after having beheaded James
and arrested Peter (who escaped). After reaching an agreement with "the
people of Tyre and Sidon" concerning some unnamed disagreement, "Herod"
appears befor the crowd in his royal garb. After he speaks the crowd
shouts, "the voice of a god, and not of a mortal." Immediately he is
struck down by the angel of the Lord and eaten by worms for his failure to
give the glory to God.
Part of the data I plan to examine is comparative materials in
Jewish and Greco-Roman writings. Three obvious examples are:
1) Jos. Ant. 19.343-350, which is a parallel account of Agrippa
I's death. Here Agrippa comes to Caesarea to participate in a festival
honoring Caesar. When he appears befor the corwd wearing a garment made of
silver and the sun reflects off the garment, the crowd addresses him as a
god. Shortly afterwards, an owl appeared as a bad omen, and immediatley
Agrippa felt a pain in his heart and abdomen. Although he makes
statements which show a recognition of his own mortality, the pain only
grows worse and he dies five days later.
2) Jos. War 1.33.5, which is the story of the illness that leads
to the death of Herod the Great, Agrippa I's great-grandfather. Herod had
executed some men who protested structures he built as being infractions
against Torah. At this point, the illness which Herod had had for some
time grows much worse, with one of the symptoms being the engendering of
worms. The response of diviners is to pronounce the illness a judment for
his execution of the above mentioned men.
3) 2 Maccabees 9, the death of Antiochus Epiphanes. Upon
arrogantly vowing to make Jerusalem a "cemetery of Jews," God strikes him
with an illness, one of the symptoms of which is his body being engendered
with worms. Antiochus recognizes the illness as divinely sent and repents
of his arrogance just before he dies.
I would be very interested in hearing any comments concerning Acts
12 that you might have. But it would be especially helpful to be pointed
in the direction of other such comparative stories. You can reply over
the net or send e-mail to me directly. Thanks in advance.