Herod's slaughter at Bethlehem unattested outside Matt 2:16?

Discussion in 'The Gospels & Acts' started by SolaScriptura, Jan 7, 2013.

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  1. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    I'm preaching on the flight into Egypt this Sunday and I'm reading all these commentaries and they all say that outside Matt 2:16 there is no record of the slaughter of the young boys in the vicinity of Bethlehem. Of course, they give (good) reasons why that should not concern us. But then I read Calvin and he writes this comment: "The only writer who mentions it is Macrobius, in the Second Book of his Saturnalia, where, relating the jokes and taunts of Augustus, he says: When he heard that, by Herod’s command, the children of Syria under two years of age had been slain, and that his own son had been slain among the crowd, 'I would rather,' said he, 'have been Herod’s hog than his son.'"

    Ok, so Calvin seems to know about a Latin source that specifically mentions this incident... so how could literally no modern commentary author know about it? (Even if their knowledge of it is via Calvin?) So naturally I try to locate the Macrobius source and I can't find much - but what I have found doesn't have any reference to the children of Syria at all!!!

    So either Calvin got it wrong or there IS in fact an extra-biblical reference to the Herod's slaughter of the children under 2yrs of age and every modern commentator is ignorant of this source. Which is it?
    Is there anyone here who can locate this incident in Macrobius and clear it up for me?
  2. PhilA

    PhilA Puritan Board Sophomore


    Have a look at the Wikipedia article "Massacre of the Innocents". Reference is made in the apocryphal Gospel of James c. 150 AD.

    The Second Book of his Saturnalia is referenced and a link to the text in Latin!
  3. baron

    baron Puritan Board Graduate

    Wow Ben, I too have been searching for more information regarding the slaughter of males in Bethlehem. I found what you found but that it was only about 20 male children that were killed. Also to the refrence that 'I would rather,' said he, 'have been Herod’s hog than his son.'" I also found dog or pig that Augustus was supposed to have used instead of hog. The one thing I did get out of my little study that Herod was a great builder but crazy.
  4. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    Since it was a small town in ancient times, we are unlikely to hear about such incidents. But what is being said and that Herod did it fits it completely, so why would it not be true?
  5. Ruby

    Ruby Puritan Board Junior

    Twenty is a lot of little baby boys!
  6. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    20 would be a lot, indeed, and perfectly consistent with a town under 1000 people, which seems to me a reasonable size for an out-of-the-way small town like Bethlehem...and as Trent noted, it's not like it was Jerusalem wherein the slaughter took place, so the fact that it's not highly attested apart from the only attestation necessary (Scripture) is no shock.
  7. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    It is. But in the category of "atrocities" it is pretty insignificant. And for Herod that kind of butchery was par for the course. Sad.
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