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historical Jesus

Aug 02, 1996 06:13 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

Hello Abrantes.

I wrote:
>>Yet Josephus does not mention the murder of the children spoken
>>of in the Bible.  HPB finds it improbable that Josephus would
>>have failed to mention such a hideous crime yet chronicles many
>>others of lessor note. This is an indirect evidence against the
>>historicity of the Biblical Jesus.

You wrote:
>Herod was increasingly more tyrannical near the end of his
>career (Ant. 16. 11. 8;Jewish War 33). This may provide the
>background to the slaying of the children recorded in Matthew
>2:16. Herod was certainly, according to Josephus, not only
>capable of such a horrible crime, but was indeed disposed toward
>such evil acts. Note: It appears that this terrible event is not
>recorded in Josephus.

I don't think anyone will dispute the fact that Herod was
tyrannical and committed many heinous crimes.  The historian
Josephus had a particular dislike for the man and recounted his
crimes in detail, thus leaving a record of his "evilness" for
posterity.  Herod's reputation as an evil king was so legendary
that even the late writers of the gospels would have known of it,
though they may not have been able to recall his exact crimes.  A
man with a reputation for evil often gets glamorized and receives
credit for crimes he never committed.  Even recent history
teaches this.  In the American Southwest during the last century
there was a renegade native American named Geronemo, who raided
camps and killed many European settlers.  The public was so
terrorized by him, that even long after he had been captured and
imprisoned, there were still newspaper reports of raids and
murders that he could not have committed.  Perhaps you have
incidences like this in the history of your own country.  So, it
is not unreasonable that Herod might have been credited with the
crime of murdering the town's children when he was actually
innocent.  This might be especially true if such an event would
fulfill a prophecy, as you suggest.

To put it another way, the fact that Herod *might* have been
capable of such a crime is very different from actually
committing it.  That Herod killed his own eldest son was
certainly a heinous crime that caught the attention of his
people.  Josephus recorded this event.  Can you imagine how much
more hatred the people would have felt against Herod if he had
killed all of the children in Bethlehem?  It is one thing to have
a King kill his own child, but to have a King kill your own
children is even more memorable.  Do you honestly believe that is
it really probable that Josephus could have forgotten to record
such a crime?

HPB is not alone in doubting that Herod committed this crime.
This appears to be an almost unanimously held opinion among
modern biblical scholars.

>Observe that even Justin recognice slaying of children by Herod,
>and the Jesus lived under Pilate, so refutes the belief stated
>by HPB that Jesus lived one century before.

Not necessarily.  Justin was not a Rabbi, therefore it is
unlikely that he would have been initiated into the Jewish
traditions concerning Jesus.  Also, Justin lived in the second
century long after the Pilate tradition was already established
in the first century; so it would be expected that a non Jew of
the second century would assume the established tradition of the
early church to be authoritative.  Therefore Justin is not
necessarily refuting the Jewish tradition cited by HPB, rather he
was just following the established tradition of the church.  If
you can find evidence that Justin cited and renounced the Toldoth
story, then we could say that he refutes it.  But even if this
proves to be so, I do not see how it proves the nativity of Jesus
one way or the other.

Further, the quotation you furnish from Justin is a very polished
statement of second century Christian doctrine.  In other words,
Justin was just repeating established canon.  In truth, the whole
birth story of Jesus in Bethlehem, the star, the census and the
Magi are presently very much in doubt among the more critical
eyes of the modern biblical scholars.  These stories are found to
be contradictory and inconsistent and are suspected of being
fabricated in order to fulfill OT prophecy.

On the matter of the historical Jesus of the Jewish tradition:
since you are investigating the background of HPB's references on
www, I would be interested in knowing what you might find
concerning the Ophite sect of Gnostics and the "Syrian heresies."
These should throw more light upon where HPB was coming from.
I'm not equipped nor skilled nor do I have the time to search www
myself.  So you would be doing both of us a favor if you do so.


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