Historical evidence of Herod's decree

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by dan e., Dec 20, 2006.

  1. dan e.

    dan e.
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    I saw on CBS the other night a documentary on Jesus' birth, and whether or not the gospels of Matthew and Luke can be reliable with their accounts of it. They interviewed the typical guys who discount some of the details about the birth, but the last guy they interviewed, Ben Witherington, closed the show providing his thoughts on why you can trust what Matthew and Luke tell about Jesus' birth. One thing he mentioned, responding to lack of evidence for the killing of baby boys by Herod's decree, was that the reason there may not be a mass grave is because there probably weren't that many killed in the first place. I've heard numerous times that there is no account of such a decree by Herod, and if there were, we would definitely have been able to uncover some sort of grave site. Any thoughts? I thought it was interesting that Ben suggested that there probably weren't that many killed anyways. I, like many others, would have expected a lot of dead children. Evidence, or lack of (funny how the Bible doesn't count as evidence), doesn't change what happened in history.
     
  2. Raindrop

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    Uh... why would they be buried in one place? The soldiers cut them down where they were and left them. Then the families buried them as they would any other family member who had passed away.
     
  3. Helen

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    If I knew that my baby was under sentence of death by a madman, I would take the child and hightail it out of there very quickly. So I'm sure some children escaped.

    Others may have been hidden. Others killed. They would have been put in family tombs.

    Such a decree of death was totally in character for Herod.
     
  4. MNJacob

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    Why would anything be written at all? Covert operations are not a modern invention. 1st century Bethlehem just wasn't that big a place, and it is only 6 miles or so from Jerusalem, and about the same distance from the Herodium. Remember, Herod built about six palace compounds throughout the country, and the order could have been given while he was at any of them. Herod could have given the command at dusk and less than 2 hours later the deed would be completed.

    The children would not have been buried in a mass grave anyway. Family burial places in the 1st century were usually caves, where the deceased were placed until only bones remained and then the bones were placed in communal pile still in the caves.
     
  5. dan e.

    dan e.
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    Great replies...I appreciate it. I thought some similar things as well to oppose those who would make arguments like that.
     
  6. JustPassingThru

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    As already stated, Bethlehem was a small village.

    It's been a longtime since I heard this, and so I do not remember the particulars, but someone has estimated the number of males under the age of 2 may have been a dozen or less. Maybe 2 dozen. But a relatively small number, regardless.
     
  7. David Ekstrom

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    It is not surprising that Josephus doesn't record the arrival of the Magi or of the slaughter of the innocents. In fact, if you showed me a copy of Josephus that did record it, I would strongly suspect a Christian gloss. Josephus ignores Jesus completely. (A short side reference smacks of a Christian gloss.) So shall we say that Jesus of Nazareth didn't exist because Josephus chose to ignore Him? Even an unbeliever wouldn't be that unreasonable.
    So should we expect Herod to have recorded this? "Scribe, take this down. A sign was given that the King of the Jews has been born. Obviously someone other than ME. So I slaughtered infants to stop this." Given Herod's worldview, he would have taken the sign from the Magi very seriously.
    I also have heard that there may have been less than a dozen or so children actually killed.
    This was a contemporary account. Had Matthew dared make up this story, people would have raised objections at the time. Was Matthew really that stupid?
    This action was completely in character with Herod who killed his own sons and his most beloved wife. This is the man who ordered the most beloved leaders of Israel to be slain when he died, just so that there would be weeping at his death rather than celebration.

    If Josephus or someone else says something happened, historians assume it's true unless there is evidence to the contrary. But when the Bible says something happened, it's assumed to be false unless it's validated elsewhere.
     
  8. Martin

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    ==I would raise several points in support of Matthew's account and in support of what Dr Witherington has stated. First this slaughter of the innocents is in perfect agreement with what we know of Herod during this time. The man was paranoid to the extreme. If he thought you were plotting against him you were, well, dead. So if he believed that a future king had been born in Bethlehem, and that the future king was a male under two years old, it is easy to see Herod giving such an order. Second it is possible that, based on average statistics, Bethlehem would have had fewer than thirty babies that fit the description in Herod's order. If that is true, and I think it is, then history probably would not take special note of the event. Finally I would point out that the Holy Spirit had Matthew right it, so it happened.

    I would recommend two history books for you. Neither are quick reads but both are worth the time...

    "New Testament History: A Narrative Account" -Ben Witherington III

    "Jesus & The Rise of Early Christianity" -Paul Barnett

    Both are good history books covering history, New Testament backgrounds, the life of Jesus, Paul, and others. Sure there are a few points I would disagree with but generally I think they are both very helpful books.
     
  9. gb93433

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    Witherington has written many excellent books. I find his to be some of the best researched and well thought out.
     

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