12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
16 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 enquired of the wise men.
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
18 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. Matthew 2:12-19
No one from that nation, or any other nation, or of that age, or of any other age makes any mention to anything remotely resembling the supposed Herod infanticide. No Rabbinical writers that detailed Herods wicked acts in their writings ever even hinted at such an infanticide. Such a horrible and atrocious act would have been written about far and wide in that region and others.
Most certainly the Historian Josephus, who was related to Herod’s wife, and lived in that country, and professed to write, in detail, every evil act by Herod, ever even comes close to mentioning any infanticide. Josephus devoted 37 chapters to Herod and his evil acts. This type of infanticide would be a bloody deed that would be unmatched in history.
All other historians of that time who wrote about the character of Herod never came close to writing about any thing close to this alleged utterly cruel infanticide. According to best estimates, Herod was not living at the time of this fantasy killing of all male children under the age of two. According to the writings of Josephus, Herod would have been 68 or older when this major act of child genocide occurred.
I’m sure Herod was not a dummy and would have calculated that he would be dead before any an infant would grow up and have the capacity to overthrow him from his throne. Herod would have had a simpler solution of narrowing down the target to the spectacular future child and just killing that one child. This special child had three rich wise men visiting him giving him, among other things, gifts of gold. People talk.
The killing of a huge number of children and breaking the hearts of his loyal subjects would have surely overthrew him more than any other act he could do. The revengeful repercussions would be certain and big. There also would have been some evidence of a population drop. The Christian scholar Rev. Edward Evanson stated it very clearly, “It is an incredible, borrowed fiction.”
This is a standard element of the theme of the story of a mean King who has prophesy told against him that a born child will grow up and depose him. The King then kills all the male infants to prevent this deposing. This “innocents were slaughtered” myth is found in many religions;
And the Hero of the story always escapes and grows to manhood and deposes the King.
Matthew Can’t Read
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
18 “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.” Matthew 2:17-18
This is a quote from Jeremiah 31:15 but the verse is a clear reference to the captivity in Babylon as demonstrated by reading the next two verses;
15 This is what the Lord says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
16 This is what the Lord says: “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord.
“They will return from the land of the enemy.
17 So there is hope for your descendants,” declares the Lord.
“Your children will return to their own land. Jeremiah 31:16-17
The quoting of Jeremiah by Matthew was to gain believability by alledging that the infanticide was prophesied and happened. In fact the verse is about the many descendants of Rachael, mostly men (but includes women) that that were killed in battle. [Jeremiah chapter 3]
When a marvellous occurrence is said to have happened everywhere, we may feel sure that it never happened anywhere. Popular fancies propagate themselves indefinitely, but historical events, especially the striking and dramatic ones, are rarely repeated.
That this is a fictitious story is seen from the narratives of the birth of Jesus, which are recorded by the first and third Gospel writers, without any other evidence. In the one—that related by the Matthew narrator—we have a birth at Bethlehem—implying the ordinary residence of the parents there—and a hurried flight—almost immediately after the birth—from that place into Egypt, the slaughter of the infants, and a journey, after many months, from Egypt to Nazareth in Galilee. In the other story—that told by the Luke narrator—the parents, who have lived in Nazareth, came to Bethlehem only for business of the State, and the casual birth in the cave or stable is followed by a quiet sojourn, during which the child is circumcised, and by a leisurely journey to Jerusalem; whence, everything having gone off peaceably and happily, they return naturally to their own former place of abode, full, it is said over and over again, of wonder at the things that had happened, and deeply impressed with the conviction that their child had a special work to do, and was specially gifted for it. There is no fear of Herod, who seems never to trouble himself about the child, or even to have any knowledge of him. There is no trouble or misery at Bethlehem, and certainly no mourning for children slain. Far from flying hurriedly away by night, his parents celebrate openly, and at the usual time, the circumcision of the child; and when he is presented in the temple, there is not only no sign that enemies seek his life, but the devout saints give public thanks for the manifestation of the Savior.
Dr. Hooykaas, speaking of the slaughter of the innocents, says:
"Antiquity in general delighted in representing great men, such as Romulus, Cyrus, and many more, as having been threatened in their childhood by fearful dangers. This served to bring into clear relief both the lofty significance of their future lives, and the special protection of the deity who watched over them. "The brow of many a theologian has been bent over this (Matthew) narrative! For, as long as people believed in the miraculous inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, of course they accepted every page as literally true, and thought that there could not be any contradiction between the different accounts or representations of Scripture. The worst of all such pre-conceived ideas is, that they compel those who hold them to do violence to their own sense of truth. For when these so-called religious prejudices come into play, people are afraid to call things by their right names, and, without knowing it themselves, become guilty of all kinds of evasive and arbitrary practices; for what would be thought quite unjustifiable in any other case is here considered a duty, inasmuch as it is supposed to tend toward the maintenance of faith and the glory of God!"
As we stated above, this story is to be found in the fictitious gospel according to Matthew only; contemporary history has nowhere recorded this audacious crime. It is mentioned neither by Jewish nor Roman historians. Tacitus, who has stamped forever the crimes of despots with the brand of reprobation, it would seem then, did not think such infamies worthy of his condemnation.
Josephus also, who gives us a minute account of the atrocities perpetrated by Herod up to even the very last moment of his life, does not say a single word about this unheard-of crime, which must have been so notorious. Surely he must have known of it, and must have mentioned it, had it ever been committed.
"We can readily imagine the Pagans," says Mr. Reber, "who composed the learned and intelligent men of their day, at work in exposing the story of Herod's cruelty, by showing that, considering the extent of territory embraced in the order, and the population within it, the assumed destruction of life stamped the story false and ridiculous. A governor of a Roman province who dared make such an order would be so speedily overtaken by the vengeance of the Roman people, that his head would fall from his body before the blood of his victims had time to dry. Archelaus, his son, was deposed for offenses not to be spoken of when compared with this massacre of the infants."
No wonder that there is no trace at all in the Roman catacombs, nor in Christian art, of this fictitious story, until about the beginning of the fifth century. Never would Herod dared to have taken upon himself the odium and responsibility of such a sacrifice. Such a crime could never have happened at the epoch of its professed perpetration. To such lengths were the early Fathers led, by the servile adaptation of the ancient traditions of the East, they required a second edition of the tyrant Kansa, and their holy wrath fell upon Herod. The Apostles of Jesus counted too much upon human credulity, they trusted too much that the future might not unravel their maneuvers, the sanctity of their object made them too reckless. They destroyed all the evidence against themselves which they could lay their hands upon, but they did not destroy it all.
Canon Farrar, speaking of the sojourn of the Holy Family in Egypt, says: "St. Matthew neither tells us where the Holy Family abode in Egypt, nor how long their exile continued; but ancient legends say that they remained two years absent from Palestine, and lived at Mataréëh, a few miles north-east of Cairo."
Chemnitius, out of Stipulensis, who had it from Peter Martyr, Bishop of Alexandria, in the third century, says, that the place in Egypt where Jesus was banished, is now called Matarea, about ten miles beyond Cairo, that the inhabitants constantly burn a lamp in remembrance of it, and that there is a garden of trees yielding a balsam, which was planted by Jesus when a boy.