Thursday, December 14, 2006

HEROD THE GREAT -- not such a bad guy after all?
Historians, Fans Defend the 'Real' King Herod
By Nicole Neroulias
Religion News Service

He ruled over the ancient Jews for 37 years, and when it comes to bad publicity, King Herod has reigned supreme ever since.

Annually vilified in Christmas pageants as the tyrant responsible for the slaughter of Bethlehem's baby boys and for chasing Mary, Joseph and Jesus into Egypt, Herod the Great should receive more balanced treatment, some historians and academics argue.

Like most biblical villains -- Judas, Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate, take your pick -- Herod has simply gotten a bad rap, some say.

For example, historians say Herod probably never ordered the Massacre of the Innocents that Christians commemorate in late December.

True, but, as the article notes later on, the deed would have been entirely in character.

The article is quite right that Herod accomplished some remarkable things during his reign, including the rebuilding of the Second Temple. But such information as we have about him (and to be fair, most of it comes from Josephus who is not always to be trusted) indicates that he was also murderously ruthless and was probably not in the best of mental health, especially later in his life.

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