Two independent historical reports about the Massacre of the Innocents


I suppose that the reports about the Massacre of the Innocents in Matthew’s Gospel Mt 2:16 and in Macrobius’s “Saturnalia” are quite independent. In “Saturnalia” we read:* "When he* [Emperor Augustus - AIR] heard that among the boys in Syria under two years old whom Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered to kill, his own son was also killed, he said: it is better to be Herod’s pig, than his son" [Saturnalia, Book II, Chapter IV,11].
Both texts talk about the same order of Herod “to kill all the boys… who were two years old and under…” but come from two independent sources. The source of Matthew’s text is Joseph or his relatives who knew about the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt. The source of Macrobius’s text is someone from Herod’s court who knew about Herod’s order and the massacre but didn’t know that the Holy Family was timely informed and could escape.
But how and when was Emperor Augustus informed about Herod’s order and the massacre? Josephus writes that shortly before his execution in 7 BC Herod’s son Aristobulus said Herod’s sister Salome: "Art thou not in danger of destruction also, while the report goes that thou hadst disclosed beforehand all our affairs to Sylleus [Syllaeus - AIR], when thou wast in hopes of being married to him?" [Jewish Antiquities, Book XVI, Chapter 10, 5]. I suppose, Syllaeus was informed about the massacre and told about it to Emperor Augustus when he met him in connection with Herod’s military actions against Nabataeans. And when Augustus “heard that among the boys in Syria under two years old …etc.” Josephus reports, that after this meeting Augustus “wrote to Herod sharply. The sum of his epistle was this, that whereas of old he had used him as his friend, he should now use him as his subject” [Jewish Antiquities, Book XVI, Chapter 9, 2-3].


Isn’t it curious that when Jesus was born that the King decided to kill off all the baby boys when exactly the same thing had happened when Moses was born?

What a coincidence. :wink:


Well, Joseph’s father in Matthew’s genealogy is named Jacob, Joseph et. al. go into and leave Egypt, Jesus teaches on a mountain, there are five blocks of discourse material all in all in Matthew’s gospel…you want me to go on? :cool:


If Reuben had been pushing the “kill Joseph” line, would Jesus have been betrayed by Reuben Iscariot?


Kaninchen. You mentioned:

Isn’t it curious that when Jesus was born that the King decided to kill off all the baby boys . . .

Jesus is the “New Moses” so this is not necessarily surprising.

There was a “baby boy” mass murdering in Exodus (1:15-16) too that Moses barely escaped.

To see parallels like this occur to the New Moses actually makes a lot of sense to me.


Makes an awful lot of sense to me.


History repeats itself isn’t it.
In fact, the reports about Massacre are only a small part of the hypothesis.
Its abstract in English you may see on the site


Certainly only part of my hypothesis but I’m Jewish and I’ve been discussing religion with Christians for a couple of decades ‘online’ so my joky/sceptical comments are not from part of your target audience. It was a bit unfair of me to interrupt your thread but, well . . . .


Never made the connection. Jesus, lead by his father Joseph, son of Jacob, also goes into Egypt to escape the slaughter. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

This is why I love these forums. We are all the body of Christ learning and journeying together.

Happy Advent.



For a conversation to be honest, one must be willing to be open to another’s point of view and to leave one’s ego or sense of intellectual superiority behind, otherwise nothing is accomplished but a dual of snarky remarks.


I have another one.

And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exodus 26:4-8)

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matt. 26:26-29)


It should be noted that Matthew had access to a lot of sources who would have been in a good position to have reliable information on Jesus’ childhood: Jesus, Mary, James, etc. (Matthew 12:46-50, John 2:1-12, Acts 1:14). And such sources continued to be available for years and, in some cases, decades (Acts 1:14, 1 Corinthians 9:5, Galatians 1:19, 2:9-10).

In addition to Macrobius, a Jewish source known as the Assumption Of Moses offers some corroboration of the Slaughter of the Innocents. The document refers to Herod as a murderer of the young in a context in which he’s compared to the Pharaoh who ordered the execution of the Jewish children in Exodus 1. The most natural implication is that the author thought Herod was involved in killing children in a way similar to what Pharaoh had done. Geza Vermes, a non-Christian scholar who was (he recently died) highly critical of the infancy narratives, even cites this passage as evidence of an atmosphere in which Matthew’s account might have arisen:

“Already, the work known as the Assumption of Moses, which probably originated at the turn of the era, depicts Herod as the king who ‘shall slay the old and the young, and shall not spare…And he shall execute judgments on them as the Egyptians executed upon them’ (Assumption of Moses, 6).” (The Nativity [New York: Doubleday, 2006], 110)

But where did the author of the Assumption Of Moses get the idea that Herod was involved in such activity? Matthew’s account provides an explanation. But even if we assume that the author of the Assumption Of Moses had some other incident or series of incidents in mind, it doesn’t seem that he’s referring to anything recorded by Josephus. If the Assumption Of Moses could be aware of one or more such misdeeds of Herod not mentioned by Josephus, then why couldn’t the same be true of Matthew?


Now come on, Kaninchen. You’ve been around the block, and you’re well-read in these areas. You surely are familiar with the Christian ideas of Typology and Foreshadowing, in which the parallels between the Old Testament and the New are extremely deliberate, and discussed at length among Christians? I mean, obviously you have your own explanation for why this is, but you surely were aware that this parallel is an acknowledged thing in Christianity, with meaning attributed to it? That’s the main context for why anyone would doubt the massacre of the innocents, and why corroborating evidence would be so exciting: because it fits too neatly with the Christian narrative.

As others have pointed out, Jesus as the new Moses is kind of Matthew’s big thing, so it’s not ‘convenient’: it’s a crucial component that a certain area of theology is built on. Is it ‘convenient’ that many things in the Jewish Scriptures come in 40s and multiples of 12, or is it expressing something else?


I hope we’re not getting to far off the subject, but since we are talking typography:

Promulgation of the Passover.

Exodus Chapter 12:21-22
Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and procure lambs for your families, and slaughter the Passover victims.
e Then take a bunch of hyssop,* and dipping it in the blood that is in the basin, apply some of this blood to the lintel and the two doorposts. And none of you shall go outdoors until morning.

Matthew 26:29

  • I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you **new in the kingdom **of my Father.”

John 19:29-30
There was a vessel filled with common wine.* So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of **hyssop **and put it up to his mouth.

  • When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.”q And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

The kingdom of Heaven is here


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