Sunday, May 31, 2009

Backpedaling, Journalist Style

In the December 2008 issue of National Geographic, they said, "Herod was almost certainly innocent of [the Slaughter of Innocents at Bethlehem]." In the April 2009 issue, they replied to various letters:

We received a great number of letters protesting the article's statement that Herod was 'almost certainly innocent' of the infanticide described in the Gospel of Matthew. In the sense that the accused is 'innocent until proven guilty' we stand by the phrase. Josephus, Herod's first-century biographer, makes no mention of such a crime...

If that is what they meant, they should have said that. "Almost certainly innocent" and "innocent until proven guilty" are phrases with very distinct, and very separate, meanings.

Secondly, Christ is the defining figure in history, yet in all of Josephus' works, Christ merits a single paragraph in Book 18, Chapter 3 in the Antiquities of the Jews. Even though, in the Discourse on Hades, it is evident that Josephus had converted to Christianity, that was all he granted him, because he was writing a political history, not a general history. If the most influential character of world history gets such a short piece, how are we expect that a minor detail from his life, which had even less political impact than Christ himself, how are we to expect that it would be given more weight, or any at all?

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