Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the Wise-men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the male children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had exactly learned of the Wise-men. (ASV)
This atrocity is not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament, or even by outside historians like Philo and Josephus. They had portrayed him as murderous and paranoid, willing to order the assassinations of family members to keep them from challenging him; in their portrayal, such an atrocity would be completely in character for him.
However, this attempt to kill Jesus Christ in his infancy fits Lord Raglan's Mythic-Hero profile very well; several other mythic heroes had attempts on their life in their infancy:
King Herod vs. Jesus Christ Pharaoh vs. Moses King Amulius vs. Romulus and Remus King Laius vs. Oedipus King Acrisius vs. Perseus Hera vs. Hercules Kronos vs. Zeus King Kamsa vs. Krishna
JW: No historian writing close to this time mentions any such massacre. The author of Luke doesn't mention it either. Josephus thoroughly documented the brutal deeds of Herod during Herod's final years yet makes no mention of this incident which easily would have been Herod's worst. Christian apologists estimate that there would not have been much more than 20 such murders of baby males in Bethlehem by Herod based on assumed population and birth rates thereby arguing that such a low number may have escaped Josephus' attention. Even 20 murders of babies would have been Herod's worst act. The apologists ignore that the text also says "and the regions all around it" (in all the coasts thereof). The early Church assumed that according to Matthew thousands of male babies were killed in the "massacre".
The late great Raymond Brown, the top conservative Christian Bible scholar of our time, in my opinion, wrote the currently definitive book on the infancy narratives, "The Birth Of The Messiah". 752 pages devoted to the infancy narratives of "Matthew" and "Luke". At the end of the book Brown concludes that the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke cannot be reconciled and come from two different traditions. This is the biggest hit Christianity has taken in some time (you no longer need non-Christian Bible scholars to tear apart the Gospels, the Christian Bible scholars are doing it for us).
According to Brown the best translation based on context is "Bethlehem and the regions all around it", of course the underlying Greek for "regions all around it" could also have other translations such as "all the coasts thereof" so it is unclear exactly what geographical area is being referred to. Brown points out that the word "all" is used twice, "all around it and massacred all" giving the impression of big numbers. Brown concludes that Matthew 2:16 is probably not entirely historical.
--JoeWallack 14:03, 26 Dec 2006 (CST)
The PRO argument for error is an argument from silence and such arguments prove nothing.
That could mean that historical accounts of that time are rare and not comprehensive or that the event described was insignificant relative to the other atrocities committed by Herod.
The arguments presented lack proof and are no more than speculations about what might have happened as an alternative to that contained in the Biblical account.
Edit this section to note miscellaneous facts.