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Massacre of the Innocents

The Massacre of the Innocents is the name given to the alleged slaughter, according to the Gospel of Matthew (2:16), of all boys "from two years old and under" of Bethlehem when Jesus was born. This was ordered by Herod the Great because he had been informed that, according to old prophesies and the appearance of a star, one of them would be known as "King of the Jews", but he did not know which boy.

However, Joseph, Mary and Jesus had fled to Egypt after they had been warned by an angel.

The Eastern Orthodox Church calls the victims "Holy Innocents", the first martyrs for Jesus Christ, and commemorates them each year on December 27.

The Catholic Church commemorates it on December 28. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia,

The Latins keep it on 28 December, the Greeks on 29 December, the Syrians and Chaldeans on 27 December.

Although medieval writers talked of 144,000 victims, currently it is estimated that, if the story is true, 8 to 30 little boys were killed.

The Massacre is not mentioned in any other canonical gospel, nor by any secular historian. However, Christian scholars take Jeremiah 31:15 to allude to it: "Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. (KJV)"

In Spain, 28 December is prank day, equivalent to April 1st in Anglosaxon countries. Prank victims are called inocentes.

See also List of most expensive paintings.

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