Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The Slaughter Of The Innocents And The Weakness Of Many Appeals To Silence

"Examples abound of cases where we would think a certain writer would surely have reported a certain event or fact, yet he does not do so. Ulysses S. Grant in his memoirs never mentions the Emancipation Proclamation. Should this cause us to doubt other sources that tell us that Lincoln issued it? Obviously not. Two contemporary Romans who describe the eruption of Vesuvius fail to mention the destruction of Pompeii. The church historian Eusebius apparently deliberately suppressed the Emperor Constantine's brutal killing of his wife Fausta and his son Crispus. No doubt Eusebius had his political reasons for doing so, not wholly laudable, but the point is that his mere silence in no way means that Constantine did not carry out the killings. Grafton's highly regarded English Chronicles discuss the reign of King John but never mention Magna Carta. Marco Polo never mentions the Great Wall of China." (Lydia McGrew, The Eye Of The Beholder [Tampa, Florida: DeWard Publishing, 2021], 274-75)

I've sometimes cited Josephus' silence about the Slaughter of the Innocents as an example. Other non-Christian sources provide partial corroboration of Matthew's account of the Slaughter, and Josephus' silence makes sense under a scenario in which the Slaughter did occur. Josephus tells us that he's being selective in which misdeeds of Herod he reports, and the Slaughter has multiple implications supportive of Christianity that neither Josephus nor his Roman audience would want to acknowledge or promote. Why mention an event so supportive of Christianity when mentioning the event can so easily be avoided? See my article on the Slaughter here for further details. Josephus' silence weighs much less than the testimony of Matthew, including the internal evidence for Matthew's account, and the partial corroboration offered by some non-Christian sources other than Josephus. Again, see my first post linked above for more about those non-Christian sources.

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