Publication Date

Spring 2024


King Herod the Great’s reputation in 17th-century England was so vile that several theologians and writers took it upon themselves to write biographies of him, styling him as one of the worst men who ever lived. He had become a monolithic example of evil, tyranny, and unrighteous wrath divorced from the historical reality. Modern historical consensus on Herod is that he was a troubled ruler with paranoia and a temper, but little more. Meanwhile, followers of the Christian faith know him for orchestrating the Massacre of the Innocents—an event wherein an untold number of baby boys in Bethlehem were murdered in an attempt to kill the newborn Jesus Christ. This reception study asserts that Herod the Great’s historical image was manipulated by Christian authors from Matthew to the 16th century Catholic church to reinforce ideas about good, evil, and Jesus Christ’s status as the messiah. This case demonstrates a potential pitfall for historians, where bias and misinformation originates not from a figure’s contemporaries or predictable enemies, but from later authors with little investment in the figure beyond their convenience in making a point.



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