Sunday, December 29, 2019

Massacre of the Innocents

Saturday December 28 on the Catholic Liturgical Calendar is a Feast day in memory of The Holy Innocents, those slain by King Herod in fear of a new King having recently been born, eventually to replace him as King. If only Herod had known that he had less than a year to live!

Much academic analysis of Sacred Scripture of the last century seems aimed at disputation of details, and many scholars have disputed the story of the Massacre of the Innocents found only in Matthew 2. There is no proof of, or absence of, the events reported, but it is refreshing to find some detailed, well referenced, analysis supporting the reasonableness of the Biblical account. I just stumbled on this Paul L. Maier article which has helpful information about 1st Century history and context, an interesting analysis of the mind of Herod, some surprising details, and a surprising ending. Don't start reading unless you have ten or fifteen minutes to get to the end. The article (which is not Sacred Scripture) is HERE.

Part of the problem in defending these mysterious Bible stories is that we read into them more than is actually written, especially in art. For example, here is an influential 1590 painting depicting the Massacre of the Innocents. Imaginations sometimes run wild, and that seems to be excessive artistic license taken with these simple lines in the Gospel According to St. Matthew. (Matthew 2:16-18)

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 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.”
Maier, by the way, is a historian and novelist and a prominent Lutheran leader, writer, and spokesman. You can read about him HERE.

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