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;
Sargon, Nimrod, Moses, Jason, Krishna, Mordred, Oedipus, Perseus, Romulus, Remus, and Zeus.
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.
Joguth Chunder Gangooly, in his “Life and Religion of the Hindoos,” that:
“A heavenly voice whispered to the foster father of Crishna and told him to fly with the child across the river Jumna, which was immediately done. This was owing to the fact that the reigning monarch, King Kansa, sought the life of the infant Saviour, and to accomplish his purpose, he sent messengers ‘to kill all the infants in the neighboring places.'”
Mr. Higgins says:
“Soon after Crishna’s birth he was carried away by night and concealed in a region remote from his natal place, for fear of a tyrant whose destroyer it was foretold he would become; and who had, for that reason, ordered all the male children born at that period to be slain.”
Sir William Jones says of Crishna: “He passed a life, according to the Indians, of a most extraordinary and incomprehensible nature. His birth was concealed through fear of the reigning tyrant Kansa, who, at the time of his birth, ordered all newborn males to be slain, yet this wonderful babe was preserved.”
In the Epic poem Mahabarata, composed more than two thousand years ago, we have the whole story of this incarnate deity, born of a virgin, and miraculously escaping in his infancy from the reigning tyrant of his country, related in its original form. Representations of this flight with the babe at midnight are sculptured on the walls of ancient Hindoo temples.
This story is also the subject of an immense sculpture in the cave-temple at Elephanta, where the children are represented as being slain. The date of this sculpture is lost in the most remote antiquity. It represents a person holding a drawn sword, surrounded by slaughtered infant boys. Figures of men and women are also represented who are supposed to be supplicating for their children. Thomas Maurice, speaking of this sculpture, says:
“The event of Crishna’s birth, and the attempt to destroy him, took place by night, and therefore the shadowy mantle of darkness, upon which mutilated figures of infants are engraved, darkness (at once congenial with his crime and the season of its perpetration), involves the tyrant’s bust; the string of death heads marks the multitude of infants slain by his savage mandate; and every object in the sculpture illustrates the events of that Avatar.”
Sir Wm. Jones tells us that when Crishna was taken out of reach of the tyrant Kansa who sought to slay him, he was fostered at Mathura by Nanda, the herdsman.
Here is evidently one and the same legend. Salivahana, the virgin-born Saviour, anciently worshiped near Cape Comorin, the southerly part of the Peninsula of India, had the same history. It was attempted to destroy him in infancy by a tyrant who was afterward killed by him. Most of the other circumstances, with slight variations, are the same as those told of Crishna and Jesus.
Buddha’s life was also in danger when an infant. In the southern country of Magadha, there lived a king by the name of Bimbasara, who, being fearful of some enemy arising that might overturn his kingdom, frequently assembled his principal ministers together to hold discussion with them on the subject. On one of these occasions they told him that away to the north there was a respectable tribe of people called the Sâkyas, and that belonging to this race there was a youth newly-born, the first-begotten of his mother, &c. This youth, who was Buddha, they said was liable to overturn him, they therefore advised him to “at once raise an army and destroy the child.”
In the chronicles of the East Mongols, the same tale is to be found repeated in the following story: “A certain king of a people called Patsala, had a son whose peculiar appearance led the Brahmins at court to prophesy that he would bring evil upon his father, and to advise his destruction. Various modes of execution having failed, the boy was laid in a copper chest and thrown into the Ganges. Rescued by an old peasant who brought him up as his son, he, in due time, learned the story of his escape, and returned to seize upon the kingdom destined for him from his birth.”
Hau-ki, the Chinese hero of supernatural origin, was exposed in infancy, as the “Shih-king” says: “He was placed in a narrow lane, but the sheep and oxen protected him with loving care. He was placed in a wide forest, where he was met with by the wood-cutters. He was placed on the cold ice, and a bird screened and supported him with its wings,”
Mr. Legge draws a comparison to Romulus.
Horus, according to the Egyptian story, was born in the winter, and brought up secretly in the Isle of Buto, for fear of Typhon, who sought his life. Typhon at first schemed to prevent his birth and then sought to destroy him when born.
Cyrus, king of Persia (6th cent. B. C.), is the hero of a similar tale. His grandfather, Astyages, had dreamed certain dreams which were interpreted by the Magi to mean that the offspring of his daughter Mandane would expel him from his kingdom. Alarmed at the prophecy, he handed the child to his kinsman Harpagos to be slain; but this man having entrusted it to a shepherd to be exposed, the latter contrived to save it by exhibiting to the emissaries of Harpagos the body of a still-born child of which his own wife had just been delivered. Grown to man’s estate Cyrus of course justified the prediction of the Magi by his successful revolt against Astyages and assumption of the monarchy.
Alarmed at the prophecy, he handed the child to his kinsman Harpagos to be slain; but this man having entrusted it to a shepherd to be exposed, the latter contrived to save it by exhibiting to the emissaries of Harpagos the body of a still-born child of which his own wife had just been delivered. Grown to man’s estate Cyrus of course justified the prediction of the Magi by his successful revolt against Astyages and assumption of the monarchy.
Herodotus, the Grecian Historian (B. C. 484), relates that Astyages, in a vision, appeared to see a vine grow up from Mandane’s womb, which covered all Asia. Having seen this and communicated it to the interpreters of dreams, he put her under guard, resolving to destroy whatever should be born of her; for the Magian interpreters had signified to him from his vision that the child born of Mandane would reign in his stead. Astyages therefore, guarding against this, as soon as Cyrus was born sought to have him destroyed. The story of his exposure on the mountain, and his subsequent good fortune, is then related.
Abraham was also a “dangerous child.” At the time of his birth, Nimrod, king of Babylon, was informed by his soothsayers that “a child should be born in Babylonia, who would shortly become a great prince, and that he had reason to fear him.” The result of this was that Nimrod then issued orders that “all women with child should be guarded with great care, and all children born of them should be put to death.” The mother of Abraham was at that time with child, but, of course, he escaped from being put to death, although many children were slaughtered.
Zoroaster, the chief of the religion of the Magi, was a “dangerous child.” Prodigies had announced his birth; he was exposed to dangers from the time of his infancy, and was obliged to fly into Persia, like Jesus into Egypt. Like him, he was pursued by a king, his enemy, who wanted to get rid of him.
His mother had alarming dreams of evil spirits seeking to destroy the child to whom she was about to give birth. But a good spirit came to comfort her and said: “Fear nothing! Ormuzd will protect this infant. He has sent him as a prophet to the people. The world is waiting for him.”
Perseus, son of the Virgin Danae, was also a “dangerous child.” Acrisius, king of Argos, being told by the oracle that a son born of his virgin daughter would destroy him, immured his daughter Danae in a tower, where no man could approach her, and by this means hoped to keep his daughter from becoming enceinte. The god Jupiter, however, visited her there, as it is related of the Angel Gabriel visiting the Virgin Mary, the result of which was that she bore a son—Perseus. Acrisius, on hearing of his daughter’s disgrace, caused both her and the infant to be shut up in a chest and cast into the sea. They were discovered by one Dictys, and liberated from what must have been anything but a pleasant position.
Æsculapius, when an infant, was exposed on the Mount of Myrtles, and left there to die, but escaped the death which was intended for him, having been found and cared for by shepherds.
Hercules, son of the virgin Leto, was left to die on a plain, but was found and rescued by a maiden.
Œdipous was a “dangerous child.” Laios, King of Thebes, having been told by the Delphic Oracle that Œdipous would be his destroyer, no sooner is Œdipous born than the decree goes forth that the child must be slain: but the servant to whom he is intrusted contents himself with exposing the babe on the slopes of Mount Kithairon, where a shepherd finds him, and carries him, like Cyrus or Romulus, to his wife, who cherishes the child with a mother’s care. The Theban myth of Œdipous is repeated substantially in the Arcadian tradition of Telephos. He is exposed, when a babe, on Mount Parthenon, and is suckled by a doe, which represents the wolf in the myth of Romulus, and the dog of the Persian story of Cyrus. Like Moses, he is brought up in the palace of a king.
The Theban myth of Œdipous is repeated substantially in the Arcadian tradition of Telephos. He is exposed, when a babe, on Mount Parthenon, and is suckled by a doe, which represents the wolf in the myth of Romulus, and the dog of the Persian story of Cyrus. Like Moses, he is brought up in the palace of a king.
As we read the story of Telephos, we can scarcely fail to think of the story of the Trojan Paris, for, like Telephos, Paris is exposed as a babe on the mountain-side. Before he is born, there are portents of the ruin which he is to bring upon his house and people. Priam, the ruling monarch, therefore decrees that the child shall be left to die on the hill-side. But the babe lies on the slopes of Ida and is nourished by a she-bear. He is fostered, like Crishna and others, by shepherds, among whom he grows up.
Iamos was left to die among the bushes and violets. Aipytos, the chieftain of Phaisana, had learned at Delphi that a child had been born who should become the greatest of all the seers and prophets of the earth, and he asked all his people where the babe was: but none had heard or seen him, for he lay away amid the thick bushes, with his soft body bathed in the golden and pure rays of the violets. So when he was found, they called him Iamos, the “violet child;” and as he grew in years and strength, he went down into the Alpheian stream, and prayed to his father that he would glorify his son. Then the voice of Zeus was heard, bidding him come to the heights of Olympus, where he should receive the gift of prophecy.
Chandragupta was also a “dangerous child.” He is exposed to great dangers in his infancy at the hands of a tributary chief who has defeated and slain his suzerain. His mother, “relinquishing him to the protection of the Devas, places him in a vase, and deposits him at the door of a cattle pen.” A herdsman takes the child and rears it as his own.
Jason is another hero of the same kind. Pelias, the chief of Iolkos, had been told that one of the children of Aiolos would be his destroyer, and decreed, therefore, that all should be slain. Jason only is preserved, and brought up by Cheiron.
Bacchus, son of the virgin Semele, was destined to bring ruin upon Cadmus, King of Thebes, who therefore orders the infant to be put into a chest and thrown into a river. He is found, and taken from the water by loving hands, and lives to fulfill his mission.
Herodotus relates a similar story, which is as follows:
“The constitution of the Corinthians was formerly of this kind; it was an oligarchy, (a government in the hands of a selected few), and those who were called Bacchiadæ governed the city. About this time one Eetion, who had been married to a maiden called Labda, and having no children by her, went to Delphi to inquire of the oracle about having offspring. Upon entering the temple he was immediately saluted as follows; ‘Eetion, no one honors thee, though worthy of much honor. Labda is pregnant and will bring forth a round stone; it will fall on monarchs, and vindicate Corinth.’ This oracle, pronounced to Eetion, was by chance reported to the Bacchiadæ, who well knew that it prophesied the birth of a son to Eetion who would overthrow them, and reign in their stead; and though they comprehended, they kept it secret, purposing to destroy the offspring that should be born to Eetion. As soon as the woman brought forth, they sent ten persons to the district where Eetion lived, to put the child to death; but, the child, by a divine providence, was saved. His mother hid him in a chest, and as they could not find the child they resolved to depart, and tell those who sent them that they had done all that they had commanded. After this, Eetion’s son grew up, and having escaped this danger, the name of Cypselus was given him, from the chest. When Cypselus reached man’s estate, and consulted the oracle, an ambiguous answer was given him at Delphi; relying on which he attacked and got possession of Corinth.”
ROMULUS AND REMUS
Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were exposed on the banks of the Tiber, when infants, and left there to die, but escaped the death intended for them. The story of the “dangerous child” was well known in ancient Rome, and several of their emperors, so it is said, were threatened with death at their birth, or when mere infants. Julius Marathus, in his life of the Emperor Augustus Cæsar, says that before his birth there was a prophecy in Rome that a king over the Roman people would soon be born. To obviate this danger to the republic, the Senate ordered that all the male children born in that year should be abandoned or exposed. [
The flight of the virgin-mother with her babe is also illustrated in the story of Astrea when beset by Orion, and of Latona, the mother of Apollo, when pursued by the monster. It is simply the same old story, over and over again. Someone has predicted that a child born at a certain time shall be great, he is therefore a “dangerous child,” and the reigning monarch, or some other interested party, attempts to have the child destroyed, but he invariably escapes and grows to manhood, and generally accomplishes the purpose for which he was intended. This almost universal mythos was added to the fictitious history of Jesus by its fictitious authors, who have made him escape in his infancy from the reigning tyrant with the usual good fortune.
No wonder there are not traces of this fiction in the Roman catacombs or Christian art. The story seemed to appear in the fifth century.