Someone left a comment on an old blog post I shared on Facebook, saying they thought that the massacre of the innocents was created to depict Jesus as having been predicted by Jeremiah. Here’s what I wrote in response:
I doubt that Matthew thought that Jeremiah 31:15 was a prediction about Jesus, or was trying to claim that. The meaning of the text in its context is unambiguously clear, as is that of other texts Matthew quotes or alludes to. The point seems to be rather a typological one, that Jesus is the new Moses, who will bring to an end the experience of exile and the restoration of Rachel’s children, who then were carried off to a foreign land, and now live under a tyrant who would happily slaughter them to safeguard his own power.
That’s not to challenge the likelihood that it is an invention by the author of the Gospel of Matthew (as we have no evidence for it from elsewhere). My point is to address why the author invented the story, and how he understood prophecy and fulfillment.