The Virgin and Child Surrounded by the Holy Innocents painted by Peter Paul Rubens at the Museum of Louvre-Lens, circa 1618.
|Died||Bethlehem, Israel (martyred by King Herod the Great)|
|Events in the|
| Life of Jesus |
according to the canonical gospels
In the New Testament, the Massacre of the Innocents is the incident in the nativity narrative of the Gospel of Matthew (2:16-18) in which Herod the Great, king of Judea, orders the execution of all male children two years old and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem. A majority of Herod biographers, and "probably a majority of biblical scholars", hold the event to be myth, legend or folklore. –Holy Innocents Day (or the Feast of the Holy Innocents) – is celebrated on 28 December.The Catholic Church has claimed the children murdered in Jesus's stead as the first Christian martyrs, and their feast
Matthew's story is found in no other gospel, and the Jewish historian Josephus does not mention it in his Antiquities of the Jews (c. AD 94), which records many of Herod's misdeeds including the murder of three of his own sons. Most modern biographers of Herod dismiss the story as an invention. Classical historian Michael Grant, for instance, stated "The tale is not history but myth or folk-lore". It appears to be modeled on Pharaoh's attempt to kill the Israelite children (Exodus 1:22), and more specifically on various elaborations of the original story that had become current in the 1st century. In that expanded story, Pharaoh kills the Hebrew children after his scribes warn him of the impending birth of the threat to his crown (i.e., Moses), but Moses's father and mother are warned in a dream that the child's life is in danger and act to save him. Later in life, after Moses has to flee, like Jesus, he only returns when those who sought his death are themselves dead. The story of the massacre of the innocents thus plays a part in Matthew's wider nativity story, in which the proclamation of the coming of the Messiah (his birth) is followed by his rejection by the Jews (Herod and his scribes and the people of Jerusalem) and his later acceptance by the gentiles (the Magi). The relevance of Jeremiah 31:15 to the massacre in Bethlehem is not immediately apparent, as Jeremiah's next verses go on to speak of hope and restoration.
Some scholars argue for the historicity of the event. R. T. France acknowledges that the story is similar to that of Moses, but argues "[i]t is clear that this scriptural model has been important in Matthew's telling of the story of Jesus, but not so clear that it would have given rise to this narrative without historical basis." – no more than a dozen or so – may have been too insignificant to be recorded by Josephus, who could not be aware of every incident far in the past when he wrote it.France nevertheless notes that the massacre is "perhaps the aspect [of his story of Jesus' infancy] most often rejected as legendary". Some scholars, such as Everett Ferguson, write that the story makes sense in the context of Herod's reign of terror in the last few years of his rule, and the number of infants in Bethlehem that would have been killed
The story's first appearance in any source other than the Gospel of Matthew is in the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James of c. AD 150, which excludes the Flight into Egypt and switches the attention of the story to the infant John the Baptist:
And when Herod knew that he had been mocked by the Magi, in a rage he sent murderers, saying to them: Slay the children from two years old and under. And Mary, having heard that the children were being killed, was afraid, and took the infant and swaddled Him, and put Him into an ox-stall. And Elizabeth, having heard that they were searching for John, took him and went up into the hill-country, and kept looking where to conceal him. And there was no place of concealment. And Elizabeth, groaning with a loud voice, says: O mountain of God, receive mother and child. And immediately the mountain was cleft, and received her. And a light shone about them, for an angel of the Lord was with them, watching over them.
The first non-Christian reference to the massacre is recorded four centuries later by Macrobius (c. 395–423), who writes in his Saturnalia :
When he [emperor Augustus] heard that among the boys in Syria under two years old whom Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered killed, his own son was also killed, he said: it is better to be Herod's pig, than his son.
The story assumed an important place in later Christian tradition; Byzantine liturgy estimated 14,000 Holy Innocents while an early Syrian list of saints stated the number at 64,000. Coptic sources raise the number to 144,000 and place the event on 29 December.Taking the narrative literally and judging from the estimated population of Bethlehem, the Catholic Encyclopedia (1907–12) more soberly suggested that these numbers were inflated, and that probably only between six and twenty children were killed in the town, with a dozen or so more in the surrounding areas.
Medieval liturgical drama recounted Biblical events, including Herod's slaughter of the innocents. The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, performed in Coventry, England, included a haunting song about the episode, now known as the Coventry Carol. The Ordo Rachelis tradition of four plays includes the Flight into Egypt, Herod's succession by Archelaus, the return from Egypt, as well as the Massacre all centred on Rachel weeping in fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy. These events were likewise in one of the Medieval N-Town Plays.[ citation needed ]
The "Coventry Carol" is a Christmas carol dating from the 16th century. The carol was performed in Coventry in England as part of a mystery play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors . The play depicts the Christmas story from chapter two in the Gospel of Matthew. The carol refers to the Massacre of the Innocents, in which Herod ordered all male infants two years old and under in Bethlehem to be killed.The lyrics of this haunting carol represent a mother's lament for her doomed child. It is the only carol that has survived from this play. The author is unknown. The oldest known text was written down by Robert Croo in 1534, and the oldest known printing of the melody dates from 1591. The carol is traditionally sung a cappella.
The 17th Century Dutch Christmas song O Kerstnacht, schoner dan de dagen , while beginning with a reference to Christmas Night, is about the Massacre of the Innocents. The Dutch progressive rock band Focus recorded in 1974 the first two verses of the song for their album Hamburger Concerto .
The theme of the "Massacre of the Innocents" has provided artists of many nationalities with opportunities to compose complicated depictions of massed bodies in violent action. It was an alternative to the Flight into Egypt in cycles of the Life of the Virgin. It decreased in popularity in Gothic art, but revived in the larger works of the Renaissance, when artists took inspiration for their "Massacres" from Roman reliefs of the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs to the extent that they showed the figures heroically nude. – Bruegel's versions show the soldiers carrying banners with the Habsburg double-headed eagle (often used at the time for Ancient Roman soldiers).[ citation needed ]The horrific subject matter of the Massacre of the Innocents also provided a comparison of ancient brutalities with the brutalities of the early modern period, during the period of religious wars that followed the Reformation
The 1590 version by Cornelis van Haarlem also seems to reflect the violence of the Dutch Revolt. Guido Reni's early (1611) Massacre of the Innocents , in an unusual vertical format, is at Bologna. [ citation needed ]The Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens painted the theme more than once. One version, now in Munich, was engraved and reproduced as a painting as far away as colonial Peru. Another, his grand Massacre of the Innocents is now at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Ontario. The French painter Nicolas Poussin painted The Massacre of the Innocents (1634) at the height of the Thirty Years' War.
The Childermass, after a traditional name for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, is the opening novel of Wyndham Lewis's trilogy The Human Age. In the novel The Fall (La Chute) by Albert Camus, the incident is argued by the main character to be the reason why Jesus chose to let himself be crucified—as he escaped the punishment intended for him while many others died, he felt responsible and died in guilt. A similar interpretation is given in José Saramago's controversial The Gospel According to Jesus Christ , but there attributed to Joseph, Jesus' stepfather, rather than to Jesus himself. As depicted by Saramago, Joseph knew of Herod's intention to massacre the children of Bethlehem, but failed to warn the townspeople and chose only to save his own child. Guilt-ridden ever after, Joseph finally expiates his sin by letting himself be crucified (an event not narrated in the New Testament).[ citation needed ]
The Massacre is the opening plot used in the 2006 film The Nativity Story (2016).[ citation needed ] It is also dramatized in season 1 of the television miniseries Jesus of Nazareth (1977).
The Cornish poet Charles Causley used the subject for his poem The Innocents' Song, which as a folk song has been performed by Show of Hands with music by Johnny Coppin (on their album Witness ); by Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham; and by Keith Kendrick and Lynne Heraud (as Herod on their Album Stars in my Crown).[ citation needed ]
The commemoration of the massacre of the Holy Innocents, traditionally regarded as the first Christian martyrs, if unknowingly so,first appears as a feast of the Western church in the Leonine Sacramentary, dating from about 485. The earliest commemorations were connected with the Feast of the Epiphany, 6 January: Prudentius mentions the Innocents in his hymn on the Epiphany. Leo in his homilies on the Epiphany speaks of the Innocents. Fulgentius of Ruspe (6th century) gives a homily De Epiphania, deque Innocentum nece et muneribus magorum ("On Epiphany, and on the murder of the Innocents and the gifts of the Magi").
Today, the date of Holy Innocents' Day, also called The Innocents' Dayor Childermas or Children's Mass, varies. It is 27 December for West Syrians (Syriac Orthodox Church, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, and Maronite Church) and 10 January for East Syrians (Chaldeans and Syro-Malabar Catholic Church), while 28 December is the date in the Church of England, the Lutheran Church and the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. In these latter Western Christian denominations, Childermas is the fourth day of Christmastide. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the feast on 29 December.
From the time of Charlemagne, Sicarius of Bethlehem was venerated at Brantôme, Dordogne as one of the purported victims of the Massacre.
In the Roman Rite, the 1960 Code of Rubrics prescribed the use of the red vestments for martyrs in place of the violet vestments previously prescribed on the feast of the Holy Innocents. The feast continued to outrank the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas until the 1969 motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis replaced this Sunday with the feast of the Holy Family.
In the Middle Ages, especially north of the Alps, the day was a festival of inversion involving role reversal between children and adults such as teachers and priests, with boy bishops presiding over some church services.Bonnie Blackburn and Leofranc Holford-Strevens suggest that this was a Christianized version of the Roman annual feast of the Saturnalia (when even slaves played "masters" for a day). In some regions, such as medieval England and France, it was said to be an unlucky day, when no new project should be started.
There was a medieval custom of refraining where possible from work on the day of the week on which the feast of "Innocents Day" had fallen for the whole of the following year until the next Innocents Day. Philippe de Commynes, the minister of King Louis XI of France tells in his memoirs how the king observed this custom, and describes the trepidation he felt when he had to inform the king of an emergency on the day.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider has suggested that society is becoming ever more crueland that the feast day becomes a remembrance day for the victims of abortion and violence against children.
In Spain, Hispanic America, and the Philippines,[ citation needed ] December 28 is still a day for pranks, equivalent to April Fool's Day in many countries. Pranks (bromas) are also known as inocentadas and their victims are called inocentes; alternatively, the pranksters are the "inocentes" and the victims should not be angry at them, since they could not have committed any sin . One of the more famous of these traditions is the annual "Els Enfarinats" festival of Ibi in Alacant, where the inocentadas dress up in full military dress and incite a flour fight.
In Trinidad and Tobago, Roman Catholic children have their toys blessed at a Mass.
Bethlehem is a city located in the central West Bank, Palestine, about 10 km south of Jerusalem. Its population is approximately 25,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate. The economy is primarily tourist-driven, peaking during the Christmas season, when Christians make pilgrimage to the Church of the Nativity. Rachel's Tomb, an important Jewish holy site, is located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem.
Matthew the Apostle, also known as Saint Matthew and as Levi, was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. According to Christian tradition, he was also one of the four Evangelists and thus is also known as Matthew the Evangelist.
The Ascension of Jesus is the physical departure of Christ from Earth into the presence of God in Heaven. In the Christian tradition, reflected in the major Christian creeds and confessional statements, God exalted Jesus after his death, raising Him as first of the dead, and taking Him to Heaven, where Jesus took his seat at the right hand of God.
The Church of the Nativity, or Basilica of the Nativity, is a basilica located in Bethlehem in the West Bank. The grotto it contains holds a prominent religious significance to Christians of various denominations as the birthplace of Jesus. The grotto is the oldest site continuously used as a place of worship in Christianity, and the basilica is the oldest major church in the Holy Land.
The virgin birth of Jesus is the doctrine that Jesus was conceived and born by his mother Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit and without sexual intercourse with her husband Joseph. The Catholic church holds it authoritative for faith and Protestants regard it as an explanation of the mixture of the human and divine natures of Jesus, but the scholarly consensus is that its historical foundations are very flimsy.
In Christianity, the Passion (from the Latin verb: patior, passus sum is the short final period in the life of Jesus.
In the Christian tradition, a nativity scene is the special exhibition, particularly during the Christmas season, of art objects representing the birth of Jesus. While the term "nativity scene" may be used of any representation of the very common subject of the Nativity of Jesus in art, it has a more specialized sense referring to seasonal displays, either using model figures in a setting or reenactments called "living nativity scenes" in which real humans and animals participate. Nativity scenes exhibit figures representing the infant Jesus, his mother, Mary, and her husband, Joseph.
The biblical Magi, also referred to as the (Three) Wise Men or (Three) Kings, were – in the Gospel of Matthew and Christian tradition – distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They are regular figures in traditional accounts of the nativity celebrations of Christmas and are an important part of Christian tradition.
The nativity of Jesus, nativity of Christ, birth of Christ or birth of Jesus is described in the Biblical gospels of Luke and Matthew. The two accounts agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, his mother Mary was betrothed to a man named Joseph, who was descended from King David and was not his biological father, and that his birth was caused by divine intervention.
The transfiguration of Jesus is a story told in the New Testament when Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant in glory upon a mountain. The Synoptic Gospels describe it, and the Second Epistle of Peter also refers to it. It has also been hypothesized that the first chapter of the Gospel of John alludes to it John 1:14).
The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a festive Christian season celebrating the Nativity of Jesus. In most Western ecclesiastical traditions, "Christmas Day" is considered the "First Day of Christmas" and the Twelve Days are 25 December through 5 January, inclusive. For many Christian denominations—for example, the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Church—the Twelve Days are identical to Christmastide, but for others, e.g., the Roman Catholic Church, Christmastide lasts longer than the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The Star of Bethlehem, or Christmas Star, appears only in the nativity story of the Gospel of Matthew where "wise men from the East" (Magi) are inspired by the star to travel to Jerusalem. There, they met King Herod of Judea, and asked him:
"Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We have come to pay homage to the newborn king of the Jews."
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus, called Fasika (Easter), is the greatest of all holy days and as such it is called the "feast of feasts". Immediately below it in importance, there is a group of Twelve Great Feasts. Together with Pascha, these are the most significant dates on the Orthodox liturgical calendar. Eight of the great feasts are in honor of Jesus Christ, while the other four are dedicated to the Virgin Mary — the Theotokos.
The flight into Egypt is a story recounted in the Gospel of Matthew and in New Testament apocrypha. Soon after the visit by the Magi, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him to flee to Egypt with Mary and the infant Jesus since King Herod would seek the child to kill him. The episode is frequently shown in art, as the final episode of the Nativity of Jesus in art, and was a common component in cycles of the Life of the Virgin as well as the Life of Christ. Within the narrative tradition, iconic representation of the "Rest on the Flight into Egypt" developed after the 14th century.
The Census of Quirinius was a census of Judea taken by Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, Roman governor of Syria, upon the imposition of direct Roman rule in 6 CE. The Gospel of Luke uses it as the narrative means to establish the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, but Luke places the birth within the reign of Herod the Great, who died 9 years earlier. No satisfactory explanation of the contradiction seems possible, and most scholars think that the author of the gospel made an error.
The Nativity of Jesus has been a major subject of Christian art since the 4th century.
Joseph is a figure in the canonical gospels who was married to Mary, Jesus' mother, and was Jesus' legal father. Perspectives on Joseph as a historical figure are distinguished by some persons from a theological reading of the Gospel texts.
Christmas in Mexico is observed from December 12 to January 6, with one additional celebration on February 2. Traditional decorations displayed on this holiday include nativity scenes, poinsettias, and Christmas shoes. The season begins with celebrations related to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Patroness of Mexico, followed by traditions such as Las Posadas and Pastorales.
The date of birth of Jesus is not stated in the gospels or in any historical reference, but most theologians assume a year of birth between 6 BC and 4 BC. The historical evidence is too incomplete to allow a definitive dating, but the year is estimated through two different approaches—one by analyzing references to known historical events mentioned in the nativity accounts in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, and the second by working backward from the estimation of the start of the ministry of Jesus. The day or season has been estimated by various methods, including the description of shepherds watching over their sheep.
"Deep in the Darkness a Starlight is Gleaming" is a British Christian Epiphany hymn by Jan Berry. The hymn was written to reference to the Massacre of the Holy Innocents following the visit of the Biblical Magi to the baby Jesus.
The Version from Bramley and Stainer (1878)
Our current society is also becoming ever more cruel and filled with hatred. So we have to lift up the true love, charity.
Massacre of the Innocents
Flight into Egypt
| New Testament |
Death of Herod,
further succeeded by
Return of young Jesus to Nazareth