67 Murder of the Bethlehem Children. Mat.2:18

Murder of the Bethlehem Children. Mat.2:18

When Jesus was born and soon afterwards, some terrible things happened because Satan wanted to prevent Him growing up and bring the salvation to mankind as was ordained even before the creation of earth. One such an event was the massacre by Herod of the little boys in Bethlehem.

The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the books of the Bible. The question is how we should understand and interpret it. Did the Holy Spirit dictate, reducing the Bible writers to nere writing machines? Or did the Holy Spirit inspire them from within, resulting in the deposit of some of some of their own humanly character in the final Scripture? More important is the question whether an author of Scripture could make a mistake while under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Could Matthew for instance, misquote the Old Testament? That is the important aspect under scrutiny in this post on Matthew 2:18.
Did Matthew quote Jeremiah correctly with a three fold lament, or made a mistake with only two lamentations?

Mat. 2:18, KJV: “In Ramah was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”

Mat. 2:18, NIV: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Septuagint: “A voice was heard in Rama, of lamentation, and of weeping, and wailing; Rachel would not cease weeping for her children, because they are not.”

Matthew 2:18

Possibilities: Two fold Lament: Three fold Lament:
Witness: Greek: Translations: Church Fathers: Greek: Translations: Church Fathers:
101-200 Justin, Diatessaron
201-300 Sahidic Origen*
301-400 Sin. B 1 Old Latin, Vulgate, Bohairic Hilary W 2 Syriac
401-500 3 Old Latin, 2 Syriac, Ethiopic Augustine, Jerome C, D 1 Old Latin, Armenian, Georgian
501-600 1 Old Latin,
601-700 1 Old Latin, 1 Syriac
701-800 0250 2 Old Latin L
801-900 1 Old Latin K, Sangallensis, Petropolitanus, Minuscule 33
1001-1600 f1 1 Old Latin f13, 28, 18 Minuscules, 4 Byzantine Lectionary

Manuscript evidence:
From the manuscripts evidence the following is clear:
Up to the year 400 A.D. we have three Greek manuscripts containing the first part of Matthews. Both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, reckoned as the most important manuscripts of the New Testament have the twofold lamentation. The Washington codex that shows clear signs of being a compiled document of uncertain origin is the oldest Greek manuscript containing the threefold lamentation.
During the same period we have four different antique translations with the twofold lamentation, and only two Syriac translations with the threefold lament.
Both Justin the martyr (165 A.D.) as well as the Diatessaron (±170 A.D.) of Tatian support the twofold lament while the oldest document with the threefold lament, the commentary of Origen, dates 100 years later.
When we double the period of investigation to 800 A.D. we have three Greek manuscripts supporting the twofold lament versus four for the threefold, but fourteen ancient translations versus six and five church fathers versus only one! This lets the pendulum swing in the direction of accepting that Matthew had in fact written down a twofold lamentation.
There are many examples in the manuscripts that confirm that scribes often “corrected” quotations to correspond to the Septuagint, the commonly used Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. Therefore it is not surprising that most manuscripts dating after 800 A.D. correspond with the threefold version found in Jeremiah.

Let us consider how Matthew might have gone about writing his Gospel. He was busy recording the dreadful murder by Herod of the little boys in Bethlehem when the Holy Spirit revealed to him that it had been prophesied by Jeremiah. During that time, very few people could afford the manuscripts of the Old Testament, most possibly also not Matthew. So he quoted the prophecy from memory and a little of his humanly failure got laid down in writing in the Word of God.

Does the possibility of a human mistake in the Bible cause me to doubt the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Not at all! To the contrary it lets me go onto the pulpit with awe and confidence and proclaim “thus says the Lord God”! And I can remember countless times when I made a slip of the tongue, but then the Holy Spirit turned my stuttering proclamation of the will of God into a power of salvation in the hearts of lost people.
It also gives the child of God the confidence to share his/her testimony with someone else to the glory of God.

My God never reduces His servants into passive, irresolute puppets on a string. Not even the authors of the Biblical books!

God bless,


Comments welcome below.

About Herman of bibledifferences.net

The reasons for the differences between older Bibles like the King James Version and newer Bibles like the New International Version have fascinated me ever since my studies in Theology at the University of Pretoria in the seventies. I have great respect for scribes through the ages as well as Bible translators, so there must be good reasons for the differences. With more than 5600 Greek manuscripts and more than 19000 manuscripts of ancient translations to our disposal, the original autographs of the New Testament can be established without doubt. I investigate the reasons behind the differences and publish the facts in a post on my blogs www.bibledifferences.net (Afrikaans: www.bybelverskille.wordpress.com) to enable my readers to judge for themselves. Personally I love to make an informed decision based of facts. That is why I endeavor to provide that same privilege to the readers of my blogs. Since 1973 I am married to my dear wife and greatest friend, Leah Page, founder director of Act-Up Support (www.actup.co.za) a prayer ministry for families struggling with drug-, occult- and other dependencies. We are blessed with two daughters and two sons, four grand sons and two grand daughters. God is alive and omnipotent! Glory to His Name! Herman Grobler.
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2 Responses to 67 Murder of the Bethlehem Children. Mat.2:18

  1. David Smith says:

    “the question whether an author of Scripture could make a mistake”
    Define mistake.
    I think it was CS Lewis in his “Fernseeds and Elephants” who said something like, scholars were expecting a Victorian biography. Apparently, you expect Matthew to write like a modern theologian.
    Compare the Greek of the passage to the Greek of the LXX. Not a good match, is it? Look at a translation from the Hebrew and count the cries. I am but a child on this, but I’ve seen how Matthew had chosen how he would present the O.T. and see that he has a pattern. I have yet to understand his pattern, but I’m fully confident that the Jews of his age would have understood what he is getting at. Occasionally he is obviously targuming, but sometimes he seems to be pulling out a translation from mid-air, yet the context is such that I can see he has a point well beyond my ken — I’m not a 1st century Jew.
    For instance Matt 5:31 compared with Deut. 24:1.

    abide in the Blessing,

    • Thank you David.
      The point I wanted to make is whether the difference with the quotation of the Old Testament by Matthew, was in fact done by himself, being under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? I agree with your interpretation and would like to see the results of your study on how Matthew uses the Old Testament.
      God bless

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