Herod ... was exceeding wroth ... slew all the children that were in Bethlehem (massacre of the innocents)

Steven Avery

Matthew 2:16-18
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth,
and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem,
and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under,
according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping,
and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children,
and would not be comforted, because they are not.

A few writers have done an excellent job on the historicity and apologetics issues.


SOLID ARTICLES AVAILABLE ON NET - Kiefer, Franz, Christiancadre


The Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke - Part 2
James Kiefer

James E. Kiefer - same gentleman, based on bio series being referenced at both sites


The Slaughter of the Innocents: Historical Fact or Legendary Fiction?
Gordon Franz

Good bibliography and interesting comments on the first one.

Gordon Franz



The Slaughter of the Innocents in Matthew
Layman - Chris Price - May 30, 2005

How Many Children in Bethlehem Did Herod Kill?By Layman
Layman - Chris Price - August 02, 2005

Nine Things You Didn't Know About Christianity, and Some Are True!: Part I
Who knows more about the history of Jesus Christ than John Dominic Crossan?
BK - March 27, 2007

BK summarizes Layman (Chris Price) and Joe L. Hinman

The Plausibility of the Slaughter of the Innocents
BK - December 11, 2009


This is planned for expansion to a full bibliography and a summary article.


Ancient Writings that touch on subject

Suetonius - Life of Augustus

Assumption of Moses


Craig A. Evans
on Macrobius and Suetonius

The strange story of Herod’s murder of the infants finds a parallel in Roman literature. In reference to the circumstances leading to the birth of Augustus, Romes greatest emperor, Suetonius relates:

“According to Julius Marathus, a few months before Augustus was born, a portent was generally observed at Rome, which gave warning that nature was pregnant with a king for the Roman people; thereupon the senate in consternation decreed that no male child born that year should be reared” (Augustus 94).

That is, the Senate, fearing that its supremacy over Rome would be eclipsed, desired that no male child born the year of the portent be allowed to live. Jews, of course, would see Herod’s murder of the infants in and around the village of Bethlehem as in some way parallel to Pharaoh’s killing of the Hebrew male infants (as noted earlier).
p. 60
Herod, growing weaker and suffering from dementia in his declining years, and entangled with various palace intrigues involving his children, his current wife, and ex-wives and various other friends and relatives, executed his sons Alexander and Aristobulus, whose mother was the Hasmonean princess Mariamme I. Sometime later, Herod’s oldest son, Antipater, who also had contributed to the plot that had led to the execution of his brothers, became involved in yet another plot, this time to poison the ailing king. Herod imprisoned him and then had him executed just four days before his own death. Although a full account is provided by Josephus, we find an interesting reference in a work by a fifth-century Latin writer:

“When he [i.e., Augustus] heard that among the boys under the age of two years, whom in Syria [i.e., Israel] Herod the king of the Jews had ordered to be put to death, was the kings own son, he exclaimed: ‘I’d rather be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son’” (Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.4.11).

Because this text, influenced by Matthew’s story of the slaughter of the infants (and somewhat confused, for Antipater was not “among the boys under the age of two”), is written in Latin, the play on words docs not work (i.e., porcum (“pig”] in contrast to filium (“son”]). The original language must have been Greek: “I would rather be Herod’s pig [hus] than his son [huios]” Augustus implies that the life of a pig, which Jews do not slaughter and cat, would be longer than that of a royal prince, whom Herod was very apt to have put to death. Macrobius or the tradition before him has linked the remarkable pun of Augustus, originally in reference to Herod’s brutality near the end of his life, to Herod’s murder of the infants. p. 59-60



BCHF - 2017

Herod and the slaughter of babies-- messianism too!!

Library Resources

Herod and the Children of Bethlehem
Richard Thomas France (1979)
JSTOR: Novum Testamentum, Vol. 21, Fasc. 2 (Apr., 1979), pp. 98-120

In my experience, this would be available at a university library.

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