I don’t believe in coincidences. Monday morning I engaged into a heated Twitter conversation with a couple Episcopalians over the new and vogue liberal theological trend to paint the Holy Family (Matthew 2) as refugees as they fled to Egypt. There are so many things wrong with this picture, including the fact that until around 2015 or so, when the Obama Administration began pushing for the settlement of refugees, and making it a huge deal, the Holy Family was never, ever viewed that way – ever. Exiles, yes, but not refugees. Funny thing, that and it is all in semantics.
Monday evening I heard from Pink Flamingo reader with updates on a critical link to a Pink Flamingo article about Michael and Debi Pearl, along with the deaths of children due to their ‘training’ methods. I was getting ready to close links, when I realized all three topics, refugees, the Pearls, and the Slaughter of the Innocents are basically about the same thing.
According to historians and tradition, the Holy Family traveled via way of the sea – or the Via Maris. Contrary to the current version of the tale, they were traveling a very well-established trade route, an interstate highway of their day. And – they were very real highways with mile markers, rest stops, inns, restaurants, soldiers, highwaymen, and plenty of traffic. They weren’t fleeing into the vast desert, but hiding in plain sight. Refugees don’t hide in plain sight. Part of the route, today is the Salah al-Din Road.
The King’s highway:
“…The Highway began in Heliopolis, Egypt and from there went eastward to Clysma (modern Suez), through the Mitla Pass and the Egyptian forts of Nekhl and Themed in the Sinai desert to Eilat and Aqaba. From there the Highway turned northward through the Arabah, past Petra and Ma’an to Udruh, Sela, and Shaubak. It passed through Kerak and the land of Moab to Madaba, Rabbah Ammon/Philadelphia (modern Amman), Gerasa, Bosra, Damascus, and Tadmor, ending at Resafa on the upper Euphrates….”
“…The roads in first century Israel in the time of Jesus were as follows:
1. The road that passed northward up the coastal plain from Gaza, (the port of the Egyptian desert), past Joppa and Caesarea round the nose of Mount Carmel up to Tyre, and Sidon. This road, at a point due west of Jerusalem, had a fork running north-eastward, climbing the foothills of Samaria and going through the valleys of Samaria (including that in which Joseph was sold to the Egyptians) to the plain of Esdraelon. Crossing that plain it climbed the Galilean hills and passed between two strange rocky peaks called the Horns of Hattin down a ravine in which dwelt thousands of pigeons that were captured in Jesus’ day to be sold in the Temple for the poor to use as sacrificial offerings. Then to the Plain of Gennesaret which the road then crossed, and north through Capernaum and crossing the Jordan with Mount Hermon on it’s left, eastward to Damascus.
2. Starting in the south from Beersheba (the other port of Palestine on the Egyptian desert), a very ancient road climbed northward up the Judean hills to Hebron and through Bethlehem to Jerusalem. The Flight into Egypt from Bethlehem with the infant Jesus would probably take this route. From Jerusalem the road forked in three directions. One ran to the left down the steep ravines of the Judean hills to the coastal plain and to Joppa. It is down this road that Peter would go in the journey described in Acts. The road to the east ran even more steeply down past Bethany to the deep trench of the Jordan valley. This is the road from Jerusalem to Jericho (a descent of 3500 feet in 14 miles) that is the scene of the story of the Good Samaritan; and up its steep slopes Jesus came from Transjordania, the Jordan Valley, and Jericho, to face trial and death at Jerusalem.
3. Another road from Jerusalem ran directly northward over the hills of Judea, passing by the site of Bethel and descending into a small plain before lifting again to the hills of Samaria under the shadow of Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. Through Samaria it runs past the foot of Mount Gilboa across the Plain of Esdraelon, where one fork runs north-westward to Nazareth and another north-eastward by the foot of Mount Tabor and the north end of the Lake of Galilee, where it joins up with the great Way of the Sea. It will be seen that none of these roads to and from Jerusalem is a great international highway. The roads or tracks are there because Jerusalem exists; and they simply lead to and from the Holy City.
4. Moving still farther east we come upon another series of routes important in the life of Jesus. The Gospels tell us that He took the road from Galilee to Jerusalem through Samaria on at least one occasion. The fierce hostility of the Samaritans to the Jews, however, led Jews when traveling from the north to Jerusalem to turn eastward at Jezreel (the eastern gap from the Plain of Esdraelon into the Jordan Valley), and go down into that valley to join a road running southward on the western side of the river to Jericho. There the pilgrims to Jerusalem would turn west again to climb up to Jerusalem, having avoided Samaria.
5. Still farther east, on the Transjordania side of the Jordan River, roads ran in Jesus’ time between the Graeco-Roman cities of Decapolis. It is highly probable that in His last journey (associated in Luke with the parables of the lost money, the lost sheep, and the prodigal son) Jesus walked upon these roads, which ran through Philadelphia, Gerasa, Gadara and up to Damascus. The road from Amman also ran southward. Jesus did not take this road; but as it ran near to the Castle of Machaerus, in which Herod Antipas imprisoned John the Baptist, John himself may have been led in chains along that route.
There are so many problems here. First, there is no historical record of the slaughter of the innocents. Secondly, apparently Luke screwed up when describing the return to Bethlehem for a census. The Holy Family was living in a house (not a stable) in Bethlehem, when Joseph was told, in a dream, to basically get the hell out of Dodge. The journey out of the legal territory (think going from South Carolina to North Carolina) was around 40 miles or so. The return journey, from Egypt to Nazareth would have been about 106 miles. All of this fascinates me. The more layers you remove from the story, the more interesting it becomes. We start getting back to what really happened.
Judea, where Bethlehem was, and Nazareth were in two different civil locations. Nazareth was in Galilee. They were, politically, not the same. Apparently Mary lived in Nazareth, which is where she and Joseph were married. She was also very pregnant by that time, maybe into her second trimester. Joseph was from Bethlehem. A civil order would have been the perfect reason to get Mary out of Galilee and into a location where she wasn’t known and where their wedding date wasn’t known. Jesus was two years old before they left Bethlehem. The irony is that while Jesus might have been in danger from Herod, Mary could have been in just as lethal danger had she returned home. Local biddies would have begun counting the months, and she could have been stoned to death as an adulteress. But – if they resided in Egypt for a couple years, and returned when Jesus was four or five, some of the biddies would be dead. By this time she had other children, according to legend.
This doesn’t exactly make the Holy Family refugees. What it does is state that they had something to lose, were not impoverished, and the journey to Egypt would be more about exile. It also implies that they were fairly well known, enough to reside in an entirely different ‘state’.
The journey to Egypt would have been on a major highway. The general consensus was that the average person traveled on foot, doing about 20 miles a day. The Holy Family would have had a donkey, probably for supplies and a child safety seat. The parents walked and the kid traveled on the donkey. It was safer. They would not have used a horse. It would have attracted too much attention, rather like Clarkson, Hammond, and May traveling through some outback desert village in Africa. Not traveling with a donkey would also have attracted too much attention.
There was a very good reason for Joseph to get up in the middle of the night. They needed to pack. They also needed an early start. The road to Egypt was dangerous due to wild animals. It needed to be traveled during the day. Bethlehem was about 5 miles from Jerusalem. In other words, it would take several hours for them to get to Jerusalem, then on to the main interstate. They needed an early start, to get to the main highway, and some mileage before dark. Herod was still searching for Jesus. They would have a few hours’ lead. This is not a story about refugees, but people on the lam from corrupt authorities. Once they were officially out of Judea, the Holy Family would have been able to cash in on the requirement for Hebrews to offer hospitality to one another.
This brings up another fascinating aspect of the story. Hospitality was required within the Hebrew world. There may have been a reason Mary and Joseph were confined to a stable instead of within a house. If Mary was in labor and specific preparations had not been made, just the process of giving birth would have called into question the ‘purity’ of the location where they were staying. If she were to give birth in a non residential area, then she would not violate the purity rules and not force the household to undergo some truly annoying rituals. It is entirely possible she opted for the stable, herself. She would then, after giving birth, have undergone a serious purity ritual and confinement. By this time, Joseph would have located a place for them to stay, with women of her status in the same situation.
We’re talking post-Hellenic Judea. All Joseph needed to do was denounce his wife, take everything she owned, and apparently she was far from a pauper, then have her put to death. He could have married a young chippie with a decent dowry. Like other men of his era, he could have denounced her, kept her money, and kept moving on up, socially. That’s how they did it. It is also why Jesus railed on and on about divorce, rescuing Mary Magdalene from the mob. By this time, thanks to the influence of Hellenic Greece, women in Judea had been reduced to little more than nameless, mindless property with two uses: dowry and sons.
Today’s version of what a refugee is did not exist during the time of Christ. When the Romans conquered a country they captured certain segments of the population for slaves. A segment was allowed to remain ‘free’. Judea was a completely different political entity. Over the centuries the Hebrews had been conquered, repeatedly. They Hebrew people did not become refugees – there was no place for them to go. They were captives, slaves, and a few remained free. They were taken to different countries, enslaved. The history of the Old Testament is about captured Hebrews fighting to go home again.
Refugees did not exist. In order for people to be refugees, there is the implication that a safe place exists for them. This was not the way of the world. Once a land was conquered, there was no safe place. There was no United Nations, no friendly liberal NGO doling out manna. This was a world of survival of the fittest. If the Holy Family had even appeared to be like today’s refugee, they were dead in the water. In so many ways, today’s version of refugee is a post-World War II creation. Any minister or religious leader who has had more than a semester of ancient history to try to and pass it off as historical accuracy is almost criminal. It is mendacity at its best.
People need help. There is no doubt about it. People in this country need help. As the article about Michael and Debi Pearl shows, children in this country are in danger, every day. They have corrupted the Bible, the teachings of Christ, in order to advance their own creepy and evil agenda. It is a corruption of the narrative. It is a canard, a lie, and harms others. The mendacity being spread, via the liberal narrative of the Holy Family being refugees is a corruption. It is a prevarication, intellectually dishonest. It changes the narrative and the story. When you change the story, you obfuscate the story. When you do that, you come up with watered down Christianity. It hurts more people than it helps. Christianity with a liberal agenda is just as bad as Christianity with a conservative agenda. It is no longer about Christ and Salvation but the agenda.
There is nothing worse than using politics to shame a person’s belief system. As a Christian, I am enraged to have my values and what I believe shamed because I am not buying into the current ultra liberal, socialist, globalist narrative about open borders and refugee assistance. Maybe, if I were ignorant and did not know who was behind the agenda, and the money behind it, I might be more tolerant. Because I do know, I have no tolerance at all.