|As imagined by Pietro Lorenzetti|
|As imagined by Giotto|
|As imagined by Carl Heinrich Bloch|
The slaughter of these innocents also parallels the first part of Exodus, where Pharaoh is concerned about the number of Hebrews in Egypt and orders the slaughter of the infant males. In fact, the Holy Family's dodge into Egypt and then return when the coast is clear has a certain similarity to the Hebrew sojourn in Egypt and return to Israel.
Skeptics have doubted Matthew's story for a few reasons. First, none of the other Gospels recount it. Second, it seems out of character with the historical Herod. Third, it's similarity to the Moses story feels derivative. And finally, it seems like a pretext for satisfying various prophecies about the Messiah coming out of Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Egypt.
To me (today anyway) the feast is not about specific infants killed during the reign of Herod. Their story can stand in for the children targeted in any genocide. The reason both of those stories worked is that they were plausible. Whether or not they actually happened, things liked that happened so frequently that the stories fit. And it is those victims -- of every faith, from every continent -- that we must remember today and every day.