Tuesday, May 8, 2007

King Herod the Great's Tomb

If you believe the BBC, someone is claiming to have found the tomb of Herod the Great. Herod the Great was a Roman client king who was unpopular with his Jewish subjects. He is called "the Great" because of the sheer number and scale of building projects that he started in Judea during his reign, including a massive rebuilding of the Temple.

And a note on his unpopularity. It was largely unjust. Herod was a monarch, certainly, and he had occasional fits of cruelty, but nothing to compare with the utter brutality of the Israelite Judges -- a self-appointed group of murderous enforcers. Indeed, during Herod's reign saw the end of banditry in Roman Palestine, making the country staff for things like the ministry of Jesus, but also trade and all that. The wealth of Palestine greatly increased during Herod's rule.

No, the center of the controversy was two-fold. First, Herod was pro-Roman. As a fact of politics at the time, any state in the area was going to be a client to either Rome or Persia, and Herod chose Rome. Still, this didn't sit well with the pro-Israel zealots who dreamt of their own kingdom. So, to some extent, that is certainly a legitimate beef. The second, and greater reason, is that Herod was only "half-Jewish". He was from Idumea, and despite his scrupulous observances of Jewish custom, tradition and law, the Jews never let Herod forget he was half-Idumean.

However, for me, the most interesting part of the article is this:

Herod was noted in the New Testament for his Massacre of the Innocents.

Told of Jesus' birth, Herod ordered all children under two in Bethlehem to be killed, the Gospel of Matthew said.

According to the New Testament, Jesus' father Joseph was warned of the threat in a dream and fled with his wife and child to Egypt.

Does this article remember the historical things that Herod did? The great works he built? His alliance with Rome? His successful campaign to end banditry in Palestine? His rebuilding of the Temple? Any of the historical things he did? No. They bring out the old fairy tale about his "Slaughter of the Innocents", recorded only in the Bible and ignored by secular historians. The evidence being, of course, that it didn't happen. The Romans were a harsh people, but under the reign of Augustus they were a very . . . legalistic people. Any client king who would massacre innocents would have been destroyed by the Empire -- and not only did this not happen, there is no record of it happening anywhere but in Matthew. It is fiction, but it is what the BBC chose to bring up about this utterly fascinating man.

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Krystalline Apostate said...

'Massacre of the Innocents' - that bumbling author of Matthew trying to shore up some sorta prophecy equating it w/Rachel's lament.
The apologists try to downplay it - "Hey, it was a small village, of COURSE there weren't any records."
It is to weep.

May 8, 2007 2:47 PM  
Chris Bradley said...

Even tho' much smaller scandals and crimes of Herod were recorded, again and again, with loving spite. Yeah.

May 8, 2007 2:56 PM  

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