The Righter Report

Matthew’s ‘Slaughter of the Innocents’

By Pete Righter

In the Book of Matthew (2:13-18) there is an account of the “slaughter of innocents” in Bethlehem, in ancient Judea, which is recorded as follows:

“…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah (31:15) was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

Skeptics of Christianity and the Bible argue such an occurrence is highly unlikely, and that there are no confirmations from any other 1st century sources of the massacre. Of course, their argument is a logical fallacy – known as an “argument from silence.” But that’s another subject altogether.

In response, the following should be noted:

First, King Herod the Great (73/74 BC – 4 BC) was no stranger to having people murdered, including three sons in his own family. According to the Associates for Biblical Research,

“The first two, Alexander and Aristobulus, the sons of Mariamme, were strangled in Sebaste (Samaria) in 7 BC and buried at the Alexandrium (Antiquities 16:392-394; LCL 8:365-367; Netzer 2001:68-70). The last, only five days before Herod’s own death, was Antipater who was buried without ceremony at Hyrcania (Antiquities 17:182-187; LCL 8:457-459; Netzer 2001:75; Gutfeld 2006:46-61).”

Also, according to the Jewish-Roman historian Josephus, during the last four years of his life Herod had some 300 military leaders executed (Antiquities of the Jews, 16:393-394; LCL 8:365).

And that’s the short list.

So, we see that King Herod was a psychotic murderer and very familiar with commanding individual and mass executions. The “slaughter of the innocents” now doesn’t seem quite so unlikely.

Next, how many children age two and under would have been murdered?

Bethlehem was known by the Biblical prophet Micah as one of the smallest communities in all of Judea. Micah 5:2 (which in Christianity is also a Messianic prophecy about the birthplace of Jesus Christ) states:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”

So, just how many infants 2 years old or younger were actually slaughtered? Skeptics argue up to 3,000, though neither Jeremiah or Matthew records a specific number. A much, much lower number is likely, though, based on the research of Archaeologist William F. Albright:

Professor William F. Albright, the dean of American archaeology in the Holy Land, estimates that the population of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth to be about 300 people (Albright and Mann 1971:19). The number of male children, two years old or younger, would be about six or seven (Maier 1998:178, footnote 25). This would hardly be a newsworthy event in light of what else was going on at the time.” Source: Associates for Biblical Research

Conclusion: Considering all the butchery King Herod was involved in, even murdering multiple individuals in his own family, it’s highly unlikely that the Bethlehem massacre of the innocents would be a major news story in ancient Judea, especially since CNN, FOX and today’s other news networks didn’t even exist back then. The skeptic’s argument is thus of no avail.

God bless,

– The Righter Report

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January 5, 2018 - Posted by | Theology Articles | , , , ,

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