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However, there is no record, apart from Matthew's Gospel, that his most brutal act, the Massacre of the Innocents, really occurred.
"The notion persists that he was a ‘Jewish King', persecuting ‘Jesus' -- even Jews themselves have come to believe it so powerful is the literature and, just as Christians, so thin their real historical knowledge," Robert Eisenman, Professor of Middle East Religions, Archaeology, and Islamic Law and Director of the Institute for the Study of Judaeo-Christian Origins at California State University Long Beach, told Discovery News.
Indeed, Herod wasn't a "Jewish" King as is commonly thought. He came from an Idumaean (Edomite) family on his father's side and his mother was an Arab woman from Petra.
"Being ‘King of the Jews' did not mean being ‘a Jewish King.' It was a Roman Title and Herod himself was a poly-religionist, building different shrines for different religious groups he wish to endear himself to all over the Roman Mediterranean. The Jews paid dearly for his ambitions, as they are still paying for his reputation today," Eisenman said.