Since Jesus was probably known to have been crucified in the early 30s of the common era, it was not difficult to make Jesus and Herod into contemporaries, regardless of whether this claim rested on fact or not.
Now, Tom may disagree, and he has every right to be wrong, but this is good criticism. Yes, I don’t think that the Gospels were meant to be taken as a historical narrative, but only as a narrative of history interpreted especially post-Mark. What does that mean?
Anyway, look at it this way. Lucan wasn’t just writing an epic poem, but was doing writing his-story. This is not to be unconfused with history which is essentially the same thing, but one is judged less stringently than the other. The fact is, is that we can pick up historical plausible information even from fictional accounts, and perhaps the more so about the author and the audience. Language is not stable, but temporally located. Language, signs, and symbols are anchored in an exact time and social situation. If we find this anchor, we can then decipher was is being signed and do so properly. As the author of that essay has pointed out, such historians in the past have done so with the infancy narratives. If the infancy narrative was written, say, in 1900, then we might take it as more literal, but as it was written in 80, we must anchor it within the proper time and context. In other words, the semiotic language of /virgin birth/ is not stable. It changed. It changes now with the onset of the idea of parthogenesis. Thus /virgin birth/ helps us, once we identify the proper anchor point, helps us to understand the story better. The historical plausibility of a /virgin birth/ needs not actually to be considered, only the historical plausibility of the sign of the /virgin birth/.
Thus, we can pick part the Gospels, if we so choose, to identify /signs/ versus /unsigned/ language. What example can I give? First, the Son of Man is a /sign/ and thus /Son of Man/. However, Pilate is not. Pilate is a historical character that needs no signage attached to him. Of course, Pilate carries a lot of baggage with him that is transmitted to the Gospel narrative but this is mnemonic rather than metonymy. Now, how does this place the Gospel in history? Well, it still doesn’t, but what it help us to accept that the entire Gospel is not a semiotic praxis but a mixture of /sign/ and unsign. That helps to historically situate the social situation of both the Jesus Tradition and the author’s scribal moment.
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