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Matthew 2: 16 and Josephus' portrayals of Herod

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Chapter Summary

Scholars frequently support Herod's image as a wicked tyrant. Recently a few discordant voices have suggested that Herod was a capable ruler and one of Rome's successful client kings. This chapter follows the lead of those scholars who assume that Josephus and Matthew have portrayed Herod the Great much more negatively than he would deserve according to ancient standards of rulership. It discusses all Herod references in Matthew 2 and concentrates on Matt. 2:16, which is part that constructs Herod the Great as a tyrant in increasingly negative terms. It then considers Matthew's passage unhistorical. The chapter deals with selective passages from Josephus' different portrayals of Herod in Jewish War and the Jewish Antiquities. It combines the analysis of Josephus' portraits of Herod with Matthew's depiction of him, which enables the location of Matthew's passage in the ongoing chain of traditions that construct Herod as a wicked and murderous ruler.

Keywords: Herod the Great; Jewish Antiquities; Jewish War; Josephus; Matthew; Portrayal; rulership



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