Posts Tagged ‘herod’

To the layman, it may seem like as easy question to answer; December 25th, year zero! But like many subjects in Christianity, tradition has taken supremacy over actual history. Since I am never satisfied with tradition, I found it necessary to scour my resources to see if I myself could figure out just when exactly Jesus was born. It didn’t seem too hard initially since there are so many reference points; i.e. the Christmas Star, King Herod the Great, a Roman census, Roman Emperor Augustus, Herod Archelaus, Quirinus, etc. With so many historical events and figures already in place, all one has to do is match up the Biblical text and see if everything fits. And everything did fit… for the most part.

 

December 25th? Not Really…

 

First, the December 25th date should be reconsidered. It was Hyppolytus in the 3rd century that supposedly calculated Jesus’ birth to December 25th[1], though there is some skepticism as to the reasoning he used to acquire this date.  What is more substantial is that the Romans celebrated the festival of Sol Invictus on December 25th and exchanged gifts during Saturnalia from December 17-24 leading up to the 25th. The early church chose to connect this holiday with the gifts of the magi (three wise men, kings, what have you), providing an alternative holiday for the large growing Christian population and thus it became the holiday of Christmas.[2] This has only been observed since the 4th century.[3]

 

Something that should also be clarified is the misconception that the magi arrived in Bethlehem right as Jesus was born. Although we could speculate that such timing of a roughly 120 day (900 mile) journey[4],[5] through the desert concluding with such precision could only occur via divine appointment, the scripture itself does not support this. First, nowhere in Matthew’s gospel does it say the magi reached Jesus right as He was born. Second, King Herod ordered the killing of all male children 2 years of age or younger in Bethlehem right after the magi left. Why would he order the killing of male children two years of age or younger if Jesus had just been born? He did so because Jesus wasn’t a newborn at all. Whether Jesus was a few weeks, months or even two years old is still debated. Thus, we must separate the date of Christ’s birth with the event of the magi visiting Him to give gifts and worship Him which we know as Christmas. It may be possible for Jesus to be born on December 25th and the magi arriving later, or Jesus being born earlier and the magi arriving on December 25th, but both events occurring on December 25th is certainly not correct.

 

Historical Figures

There are many historical figures in play regarding the nativity story and they prove to me the most concrete factor in dating Christ’s birth. We’ll start with the big players first.

 

Emperor/Cesar Augustus: Cesar Augustus lived from 62BC to 14AD, coming to power in 31 BC, until his death.[6] He is important because in Luke 2:1 we read that a census goes out ordered by Cesar Augustus. The census being the reason for Joseph and Mary to pack up and head to Bethlehem. Now, a census in the ancient world could take up to 12 years to complete, so we’re left with a decent window of time for Jesus to be born after his family leaves town.[7] This gives us our first window, a broad one, of 31 BC to 14 AD.

 

Caesar Augustus (62 BC - 14 AD)

Caesar Augustus (62 BC – 14 AD)

Govenor Quirinius: Quirinius was a Roman aristocrat that became governor of Syria in 6 AD, presiding over the property census which occurred when Judea was condensed into a Roman province.[8] Quirinius is mentioned in Luke 2:2 in reference to Augustus’ census, more specifically that the census took place while (or before[9]) Quirinius took office. Since he took office in 6 AD, and the Augustus’ census took place before this, then our window shrinks to 31 BC to 6 AD.

Govenor Quirinius

Govenor Quirinius

 

At that, it should be mentioned that the term of office for Quirinius Luke mentions may not have necessarily been his stint as the Governor of Syria. Many historians believe Quirinius had been assigned to governing in the near-east ten years prior to his post in Syria.[10] Some speculate a date of 10 to 7 BC.[11] According to Dr. Jared M. Compton, assistant professor of New Testament studies for the Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, “Others suggest that Quirinius held some other office at the time of Jesus’ birth, a tenable hypothesis especially since Quirinius precise capacity at this time is unknown.”[12] This will become the first variable in the overall equation.

 

Herod the Great: King Herod was left in charge of Judea and Galilee in 37 BC.[13] In relation to the Bible, Matthew 2:1 says Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod. It is calculated that Herod died in 4B.C.[14] This is based on the works of ancient historian Josephus who wrote that Herod died a few days after an eclipse of the moon which was followed a week later by Passover. The only eclipse of the moon within these parameters during this time period occurred on March 13, 4 B.C.[15]

 

King Herod the Great

King Herod the Great

Other hypothesis shows King Herod died in 1BC.[16] The hypothesis that Herod died in 1 BC comes from Josephus’ writings that Herod’s reign lasted a little over 34 years from the capture of Jerusalem, which was on a sabbatical year and of which the Jewish lunar calendar held Tishri 10 during September. If we start from the winter of 4 BC as an estimated time of Herod’s death, and subtract 34 years (and handful of months) to the capture of Jerusalem we are at 39 BC. The problem with 39 BC is that it was not a sabbatical year. The year 36 BC, however, was. Take back the 34+ years of Herod’s rein to his death and you’re left with a death in 1 BC. Better yet, there was a lunar eclipse on January 9th of the year 1 BC.[17] So 1 BC appears to be the more accurate date for Herod’s death. Our window for the birth of Jesus is now smaller; 31 BC to 1 BC.

 

But the citing of “King Herod” is arguably a vague one for there were many King Herods; Herod the Great, Herod Agrippa, Herod Archeaus, Herod Antipas, Herod Philip etc.[18] How do we know which King Herod Matthew is speaking of? The King Herod mentioned above is that of Herod the Great. But there is also Herod Archelaus, one of Herod the Great’s sons who ruled from 4BC to 6AD (or 1BC to 6 AD if we are using the theory of Herod the Great dying in 1 BC). Matthew even mentions this son in 2:22 and his reign is within the window of Quirinius and Augustus. Therefore, some have proposed that Herod Archelaus is the “King Herod” Matthew originally spoke of in verse 1. But, there is a counterargument however. A counter argument which comes from the written dialogue of the Gospel of Matthew. First, why would Matthew write “King Herod” in verse 1, but just “Archelaus” in verse 22? Why not refer to him as King Herod again? Unless that is, Matthew is trying to distinguish Herod the Great from his son Archelaus. Second, and most importantly, verse 19 says “After Herod died.” Clearly, the “Herod” referred to here is Herod the Great since Archelaus is alive and well in verse 22. So it is safe to say that the King Herod Jesus was born under is indeed Herod the Great, and thus, our 31 BC to 1 BC window remains.

 

Emperor/Cesar Tiberius: Tiberius lived from 42 BC to 37 AD, and took Augustus’ seat as emperor after Augustus’ death.[19] Therefore Tiberius began his reign in 14 AD.[20] Now this becomes important because the Bible states that Jesus began his ministry when he was about 30 years old (Luke 3:23), and Luke 3:1 says that Jesus began his ministry during the 15th year of Tiberius’ reign. Granted, Jesus’ exact age isn’t given, but we do know that he was around 30 years old when he started his ministry, so we’ll work with 30 plus or minus a year. Since Tiberius began his reign in 14 AD, and Jesus started His work 15 years later, we’re given an exact date of 29 AD for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Now to work backwards: By subtracting Jesus’ age of 30 (plus or minus a year) we get a possible birth date of Jesus ranging from 2 BC to 1 AD.

 

Cesar Tiberius (42 BC - 37 AD)

Cesar Tiberius (42 BC – 37 AD)

When we compare our previous birth date window of 31 BC to 1 BC to our new window of 2 BC to 1 AD we run into our first problem. The information based off of Jesus’ adult life excludes the possibility of King Herod dying in 4 BC. If King Herod died in 4 BC, then Matthew was wrong when he said Jesus was born during his reign, or Luke was wrong when we wrote of the details of when Jesus began His ministry. However, if we accept the possibility that King Herod died in 1 BC, then we find both Matthew and Luke in harmony. Considering Matthew and Luke’s track record for historical accuracy and that they accurately recorded events from eye witness testimony I believe it reasonable to stand by their claims and side with the 1 BC death of Herod. This ultimately leaves us with a narrower window for the birth of Christ: 2 to 1 BC.[21]

 

 

The Christmas Star

Yet, historical figures aren’t the only references to be made for the birth of Christ. The Christmas star is a noteworthy (if not the most popular) historical event surrounding the birth of Christ. So if we can date the Christmas star, we can date the birth of Christ. But  first we have to establish what exactly the star was.

 

The Greek word used is aster, for star. Its biblical use being that of any luminous object in the sky.[22] It could have been a star, planet, supernova, shooting star, comet, ect. A supernova did occur in 5 BC, and a comet (Haley’s) appeared in 12 BC.[23] Although supernovas are incredibly luminescent and seem to fit the description of the Christmas star, it doesn’t fit with the text since it would have been seen by everyone, including King Herod. Herod however, had no clue about the star. This same problem persists with the star being a comet. In the ancient world when comets appeared people would, for lack of a better term, flip out. Herod would definitely know if a comet had been in the skies. This rules out comets and supernovas. Shooting stars can be ruled out easily since they last a few seconds at best. This just leaves stars and planets.

 

The Christmas star may have been a conjunction of planets and stars, when two planets move so close together (that is, in appearance in the sky) they can sometimes appear as one large star to the naked eye. The same can occur when a planet and significant star move very close together.

 

Since the solar system moves like a clock, and we know the fine tuning of that clock, we can run the clock in reverse and know what people in the ancient world saw in the night sky. For example, Jupiter and Saturn had a triple conjunction in 7BC, one on May 29th, again on September 29, and one more time on December 4.[24] Though scholars point out that that both planets never got within close enough range of another to appear as one bright star.[25] However, the conjunction was 11 months long overall, an event that occurs only every 800 years.[26] This makes the event very noteworthy, especially to the ancient world.

 

Jupiter and the star Regulus had a triple conjunction in the beginning of year 3BC.[27] Jupiter was often considered the “King” or the “King of the Gods,” in the ancient world, and Regulas was known as the “King star,” so their conjunction may have been interpreted (especially by the magi) as a heralding of the coming of the King of the Kings.

 

In 2 BC however, Jupiter and Venus came so close together they appeared in the sky as one single star. Such an event is extremely rare.[28] However, we know the magi saw the star on at least two occasions, which to many, rules out this conjunction as the Christmas star. Others point out that the “star” may have been a series of celestrial events, starting with the Jupiter and Regulus conjunction, then the Jupiter and Venus conjunction, and finalizing with a very interesting event on December 25th, 2 BC, when Jupiter appeared in the sky over Bethlehem, and then stopped periodically (in appearance in the sky of course) before retreating in the direction it came.[29] This might explain Matthew’s claim that the star stopped over Bethlehem over the place where the child was (2:9). So the Christmas star may not have been one object or event, but a combination of celestial events (conjunctions).

 

Another way to look at the Christmas star is that which defied natural law. Just as the virgin birth of Christ defies natural law, maybe such is the case for the Christmas star. This view was adopted by Archbishop of Constantinople John Chrysostom, who wrote, “We learn from scripture that this star is by no means just one of the stars. It wasn’t even a star, it seems to me, but some invisible dynamis (a sign of God) which took on the appearance of a star. And one can prove this by the route it took, for we see the sun, the moon and the other stars travel towards the west but this one went north to south. It did not appear at night but in the full light of the sun… It did not have a course of its own but went and stopped where it had to stop, according to the occasion demanded, much like the pillar of the cloud which appeared to the Jews when they had to move on or set up camp.”[30]

 

In Acts 9 Paul receives a vision from Jesus that none of the men around him saw. A similar situation happens in Daniel 10:7. It is reasonable to suggest that the magi had a likewise experience with the Christmas star. The fact remains that we should not limit God to just using the natural order of things, celestial objects and planetary motion for example, when He is fully capable of miraculous events of the supernatural, like a luminous object in the sky that only the magi saw.

 

Ultimately the Christmas star is no help what so ever in pinpointing the birth of Jesus. In order for it to help in such a way we would have to know exactly what the Christmas star was. But we do not. Instead we’re left with two possibilities; a natural conjunction of stars or a supernatural element that only the magi saw. The former fits nicely with our 2 BC to 1 BC window established earlier. The latter could also support our established window since it could have occurred at any time.

 

 

Testing the Hypothesis

If we settle on a 2-1 BC birth date then there is also an opportunity to test the hypothesis with later historical references. For example, we know Jesus started his ministry in his thirties, and, in addition, we know Jesus celebrated three Passovers during His ministry (John 2:23, 6:4, and 11:55-57). The last Passover celebration was also simultaneous with Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent death and resurrection, so three years passed from the beginning of His ministry to its end. It can therefore be concluded that Jesus died around the age of 33, plus or minus a year. Therefore, if Jesus was born in 2-1 BC, then His death occurred anytime from 30 AD (if born in 2BC and lived 32 years) to 33 AD (if born in 1 BC and lived 34 years). If we can then calculate when Jesus died based off the Biblical data available and it fits within our range of 30 AD to 33 AD then we’ll have more certainty of the birth date.

 

To calculate Jesus death, we’ll again look to historical figures. Jesus was tried by Pontius Pilate who was governor of Judea from 26AD to 36AD.[31] From this we can deduct that Jesus died within this time range. However, we can narrow down the date of Jesus’ death further based of Emperor Tiberius. If Jesus started his ministry during the 15th year of Tiberius’ reign, then His ministry started in 29 AD, and lasted three years, then Jesus was surely crucified around 32 AD.

 

Pontius Pilate- governed Judea 26 AD - 36 AD)

Pontius Pilate- governed Judea 26 AD – 36 AD)

When further examination of the calendar events around Jesus’ death are examined as recorded in the Gospels, we see that Jesus died on Preparation Day (the day before the Sabbath) as indicated in Mark 15:42. The Sabbath normally falls on a Saturday, but during Passover, Preparation day is the day before Passover begins. But since Passover can begin on any day of the week depending on the year, then the preparation day Jesus was crucified on could have been on any day. At that, we do know that Jesus spent three days and three nights in the grave after He died before He resurrected, and additionally that He resurrected on a Sunday (Matthew 12:40, Mark 14: 58, and Mark 16). So if we go backwards three days from Sunday we land on a Thursday crucifixion/death, and therefore a Thursday preparation day.

 

Since we now know the day of Christ’s crucifixion, we know that the Passover He died on started the next day, Friday. So if we look back at every Passover during this point in time that started on a Friday we’re left with 33 AD and 36 AD.[32] And though both these dates fit with the time frame for Pilate’s term of office, only 33 AD works with Luke’s dating of Jesus’ ministry in 29 AD. From this information we can conclude Jesus died on April 3rd in the year of 33AD. This date fits very nicely within the projected range of 30 to 33 AD if Jesus was born in 2-1 BC.

 

 

 

What Month?

 

So we seem to have a very reasonable two year period for Jesus’ birth. But is it possible to pin down a month? Unfortunately in my research I couldn’t settle on a month, but I could settle on a season based on the shepherds.

 

Those shepherds we always hear of in Christmas songs are said to have been keeping watch over their flocks at night (Luke 2:8). Many scholars have pointed out that keeping watch over their flocks at night reveals two facts; 1) Scholars point out that the shepherds wouldn’t watch over their flocks at night during the winter because of the cold. 2) Others argue that shepherds would only watch their fields at night in the springtime when lambs were being born.[33] So based on the shepherds we can deduce that Jesus was not born in winter, possibly fall or summer, but most likely in spring.

 

The final consensus; without more accurate historical references the exact date of Christ’s birth to the day cannot be ascertained. However, I believe it is possible to speculate with a fair degree of accuracy that Jesus was born sometime in spring in 2 or 1 BC. This projected range works with perfectly with Augustus’ census, King Herod’s reign, Tiberius’ reign, and Pilate’s time as governor. So although Jesus wasn’t necessarily born in December, it may have been the time the magi reached Jesus to give gifts and worship Him.


[1] “Was Jesus born on December 25th?” http://www.gotquestions.org

[2] Lang, J.S., (2010) 1,001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible, (New York, NY: Barnes & Noble, Inc.) pp. 305.

[3] Gardner, J., (Ed.) (1981) Reader’s Digest Atlas of the Bible (Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.) pp. 172.

[4] Geating, W., (October 2005) “The Star of Bethlehem,” http://www.biblearchaeology.com

[5] Other historians believe the journey could be done in as short as three weeks. Parpola, S., (2009) “The Magi and the Star,” as written in The First Christmas, The Story of Jesus’ Birth in History and Tradition, Edited by Sara Murphy, (WashingtonDC: Bible Archaeology Society) pp. 19.

[6] “Augustus,” http://www.pbs.org

[7] Laurentin, R., (1986) The Truth of Christmas; Beyond the Myths, (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications) pp. 328.

[8] Laurentin, R., (1986) The Truth of Christmas; Beyond the Myths, (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications) pp. 328.

[9] Luke uses the word, “prote,” which doesn’t necessarily mean “during,” but can also mean “before.” Thus, the census in question occurred prior to Quirinius term of office, which is most likely referring to his prominent one in Syria which began in 6 AD. Per Compton, J. M. (November 2009) “Once More: Quirinius’ Census,” http://www.biblearchaeology.com

[10] Laurentin, R., (1986) The Truth of Christmas; Beyond the Myths, (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications) pp. 328.

[11] Gardner, J., (Ed.) (1981) Reader’s Digest Atlas of the Bible (Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.) pp. 172.

[12]Compton, J. M. (November 2009) “Once More: Quirinius’ Census,” http://www.biblearchaeology.com

[13] Gardner, J., (Ed.) (1981) Reader’s Digest Atlas of the Bible (Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.) pp. 168.

[14] Lang, J.S., (2010) 1,001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible, (New York, NY: Barnes & Noble, Inc.) pp. 103.

[15] Geating, W., (October 2005) “The Star of Bethlehem,” http://www.biblearchaeology.com

[16] Laurentin, R., (1986) The Truth of Christmas; Beyond the Myths, (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications) pp. 328.

[18] Gardner, J., (Ed.) (1981) Reader’s Digest Atlas of the Bible (Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.) pp. 169.

[19] “Tiberius,” http://www.pbs.org

[20] Mason, S., (2009) “Where Was Jesus Born?” as written in The First Christmas, The Story of Jesus’ Birth in History and Tradition, Edited by Sara Murphy, (Washington DC: Bible Archaeology Society) pp. 48.

[21] The exact date of Herod’s death and the exact details of Quirinius’ political career in totality will ultimately impact the accuracy of these dates. Until these details can be pinned down accurately, they remain variables to consider.

[22] Lisle, J., (2008) “What was the Christmas Star?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 2, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books) pp. 179.

[23] Gardner, J., (Ed.) (1981) Reader’s Digest Atlas of the Bible (Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.) pp. 172.

[24] Gardner, J., (Ed.) (1981) Reader’s Digest Atlas of the Bible (Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.) pp. 172.

[25] Parpola, S., (2009) “The Magi and the Star,” as written in The First Christmas, The Story of Jesus’ Birth in History and Tradition, Edited by Sara Murphy, (WashingtonDC: Bible Archaeology Society) pp. 16.

[26] Parpola, S., (2009) “The Magi and the Star,” as written in The First Christmas, The Story of Jesus’ Birth in History and Tradition, Edited by Sara Murphy, (WashingtonDC: Bible Archaeology Society) pp. 17.

[27] Lisle, J., (2008) “What was the Christmas Star?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 2, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books) pp. 180.

[28] Lisle, J., (2008) “What was the Christmas Star?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 2, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books) pp. 180.

[29] This is possible because of retrograde motion. Retrograde motion is a visual effect that occurs when a viewer from a moving platform is viewing another moving object traveling at varying speeds, distances and directions. The result can make an object, such as a planet, appear to change directions in the sky despite the planet not actually doing so.

[30] As quoted in Laurentin, R., (1986) The Truth of Christmas; Beyond the Myths, (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications) pp. 396.

[31] “Pontius Pilate,” http://www.britannica.com

[32] “How Long was Jesus’ Ministry?” http://www.gotquestions.org

[33] Geating, W., (October 2005) “The Star of Bethlehem,” http://www.biblearchaeology.com

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While reading Reza Aslan’s book, How To Win A Cosmic War, I came across a paragraph that mentioned Herod the Great. Aslan writes, “History has not been kind to the man called Herod the Great. Best known for his slaughter of Bethlehem’s children in a vain search for the infant Jesus- an implausible event attributed to him solely by the Gospel of Matthew, for which there exists not a single corroborating source in any of the other chronicles or histories of the time-…”[1] Clearly Aslan doesn’t believe the event that is historically known as the “Slaughter of Innocents,” ever occurred. A position maintained by a great number of skeptics.

 

One can’t blame Aslan I suppose. Killing thousands upon thousands of children in Bethlehem alone seems ridiculous in itself… if you overlook the many times such atrocities have occurred in world history (just look at Hitler or the infanticide of the Spartans or modern day abortion) But for the Book of Matthew to be the only one source from which this historical claim is made… can we even consider Matthew to be a reliable source? You think someone else would have documented such an outrageous event. Not just a reformed tax collector that wrote about it some 50 years later or so. The whole premise relies on the assumption that the story of Christ is a true story to begin with. But this skepticism is really just a shallow denial without a thorough logical examination of the event in question when you really look into it.

 

Now of course, whether or not the story of Jesus and his existence is true I will not address here for sake of time and space. I’ve covered it a large number of times in many other articles I’ve written. So for you skeptics reading this, let’s assume for the moment the story of Christ is indeed accurate as recorded in the gospels. The gospel of Matthew reads as follows, When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape toEgypt. 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 forEgypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out ofEgypt 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” (Matthew 2:13-16 NIV).

 

From this passage take note of the requirements Herod gave for his soldiers. He told them to kill just boys. He also told them to kill only those 2 years of age or younger. This is a significant difference from the generalized notion that all the children were killed in Bethlehem, a tradition that maintains a number of anywhere from 3,000[2] to 64,000[3]. But only boys 2 years of age or younger were killed. Now consider that Bethlehem was not the decent sized city it is today. During the time of the events in question, Bethlehem was a very small village, hence why the prophecy that Christ would be born in such an insignificant location is so significant. Though we don’t know the exact population of Bethlehem at the time it was probably in the hundreds, maybe even a few thousand. 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.[4] So considering that the order was to kill only the boys of two years or younger in such a small village, how many children were actually killed? Fifty? Twenty? Who knows for sure? But we do know that it was not thousands of children killed becauseBethlehem was simply put, not big enough. In the eventBethlehem only had a population of 300 it is likely that no more than 10 children were killed.

 

The great historian Josephus wrote that Herod often killed people and was so cruel that his subjects considered the dead to be fortunate.[5] Many critics of the New Testament claim that a biased portrait of Herod is painted in the Bible because of untrue killing of innocent children. But outside of the Bible, every historian that wrote of Herod the Great remarked on how ruthless he was and that there was not a day during his reign when someone wasn’t executed. He once burned two Jewish rabbis alive and then killed all the rabbis’ students. He killed his brother in law, mother in law, three of his sons and his second wife Miriamme.[6] So Herod wasn’t exactly such a nice guy, but in historical fact a King responsible for the deaths of a great many people under his authority. So in the big picture, would the murder of a few baby boys in the littlevillage ofBethlehem be a significant historical event or be out of character for Herod? Doubtful. Would any Jewish or Roman historian take particular note of the small scale of the murders amidst Herod’s long record of murders? Doubtful. But for followers of Jesus in which it indicated fulfilled prophecy it was definitely an important event. One that needed to be recorded, and subsequently was.

 

King Herod

In addition, child death was not notable for the Roman culture either. Infanticide was widely practiced in Rome, especially in Sparta.[7] The slaughter of a few children in a Jewish province would have hardly turned any heads.  Furthermore, we must not overlook the possibility that a Jewish or Roman historian did write about the baby murders in Bethlehem, but the records were destroyed at some point or have yet to be unearthed. As the old saying goes; absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. As historian Gordon Franz writes, “Even though secular history is silent on this event it does not mean it did not occur.  When the life of Herod the Great is examined, this event is very consistent with his character and actions so this is pointing to the fact that it did happen as recorded in Holy Scripture.”[8]

 

In conclusion, Herod’s character would make the slaughter of innocents very plausible. The event itself was a small event and therefore not likely to get any “press” with Jewish or Roman historians, so we shouldn’t expect any historical record outside the Bible. And the event is recorded in the Book of Matthew which has been found historically accurate on all archaeology related accounts as noted in my other articles. In knowing this, it is hardly logical to dismiss the Slaughter of the Innocents as implausible myth.


[1] Aslan, R., (2009) How To Win A Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror, Random House,New York: NY, pp. 32.

[2] Traditional count from the Martyrdom of Matthew.

[3] Traditional count from Syrian tradition.

[4] Albright, W., & Mann, C.S., (1971) The Anchor Bible, DoubledayNew York: NY, pp. 19.

[6] Franz, G., (December, 2009) “The Slaughter of the Innocents: Historical Fact or Legendary Fiction?” http://www.biblearchaeology.org

[7] Maier, P., (1998) “Herod and the Infants of Bethlehem,” as written in Chronos, Kairos, Christos II, Mercer University Press, Macon; GA, pp. 179

[8] Franz, G., (December, 2009) “The Slaughter of the Innocents: Historical Fact or Legendary Fiction?” http://www.biblearchaeology.org