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Source: (consider it) Thread: Kerygmania: How historical are the nativity stories?
Anglican_Brat
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
quote:
Originally posted by Gildas:
quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
I totally reject the idea that any of the Gospels (with the possible exception of John) was written after AD70 and probably not after the martyrdom of Paul and Peter. There is no reason to suggest that Luke wrote his Gospel in the early 60s just before he wrote Acts (which ends with Paul still alive btw).
I fail to see how Luke's assertion that he made a careful study of the facts should be disregarded and that he even got the nativity stories first hand from Mary.

I'd agree with you for an earlyish date for the Synoptics and possibly for the first draft of John. Still, assuming Jesus was born in 4BC, sixty odd years is sufficient length of time for an oral tradition to become garbled.

Naturally one's mileage will vary but I would probably make a distinction between everything in the Synoptics subsequent to Jesus' Baptism on the one hand and the infancy narratives and John on the other. Which isn't to say that I reject the latter absolutely and even if, say, the visit of the Magi did turn out to be a Midrash it wouldn't follow from that that the story was without theological value. It's not the case that if the historical reliability of the Bible varies our faith is in vain.

I think it is and our faith would be in vain. We have an incarnate God - it seems odd that the fact of his incarnation is basically myth and not 'real' human events. What's the point of being incarnate flesh if there's no real time basis to the story? Atheists have a field day with this stuff - they accuse us, with some justification, of not believing our own Bible.
The doctrine of the Incarnation has little to do with the historicity of the Nativity Story.

Two different issues completely. John has an incarnation theology, but no Nativity.

Luke and Matthew include a Nativity narrative because for them, Jesus was proclaimed Christ at his birth.

For John, Nativity stories are pointless because Christ is the eternal Word existing from eternity. His origin was NOT in Bethlehem, but in the heart of God.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
For John, Nativity stories are pointless...

Extrapolating a bit here. I don't believe John ever said nativity stories are pointless.

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ken
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In Luke, Jesus is proclaimed as Christ at his conception.

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goperryrevs
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quote:
Originally posted by Gee D:
goperryrevs I think there's some conflict between the first couple of your sentences and the last, which you might like to explain.

Jammy Dodger and I had a discussion upthread some days ago about Bethlehem, how big it was and so forth. It was a city, which means as a minimum it had a gated wall. That wall may have been of stone or wood, but it would still have been there. The fact that Bethlehem was important enough to warrant a wall suggests strongly to me that it had an inn as well. A place of safety where travellers could spend the night.

Moving a bit further along that line of thought, think back to the rather romanticised pictures of Bethlehem as a settlement amongst the hills. Since the earlier discussion, I've thought a bit more about this and come back to Bethlehem as being along the lines of Bree - a walled town with an inn, not large but still offering hospitality to travellers.

Then to go back to the lack of archaeological evidence that there was an inn. I have zero knowledge of the area, but what sort of evidence would there be of an inn as opposed to a house? Any ideas welcome.

Well, when I read up on it, the main argument was that, because Bethlehem is only 5 miles from Jerusalem, any travellers would go straight through and not stop over night. In terms of archaeological evidence, I was thinking inscriptions, not actual buildings, but I too have little knowledge of that area.

Either way, I have no vested interest in there not having been an inn in Bethlehem, and if there was, hurrah - it makes little difference to anything much.

The only reason I find it interesting is that, like many things, we can assume that our 'picture' of the nativity is accurate, when it is actually based on our own cultural assumptions, and nativity plays and so on. Our actual knowledge is more murky. So people are surprised when they discover that we don't know how many wise men there were, or that there probably wasn't a 'stable' (more likely the downstairs of a house, where the animals were kept, or a cave), or that there might not have been an inn either. This kind of thing can apply to trivialities like these, but the same principles can apply to actually important issues too.

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LeRoc

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quote:
goperryrevs: Well, when I read up on it, the main argument was that, because Bethlehem is only 5 miles from Jerusalem, any travellers would go straight through and not stop over night.
Five miles is still well over an hour's walk. When you're not doing it for exercise, I'd say that it's closer to two hours than one. Worse if you're carrying stuff.

I can also imagine that if you were going to Jerusalem and reached Bethlehem by nightfall, you wouldn't want to carry on because of robbers.

[ 17. December 2013, 15:08: Message edited by: LeRoc ]

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by goperryrevs:
(more likely the downstairs of a house, where the animals were kept, or a cave)

Orthodox iconography of the Nativity always shows a cave, and our hymnody speaks of Christ being born "under the earth." Not everybody has forgotten.

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goperryrevs
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Just us Western degenerates then [Biased]

And fair point, LeRoc.

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Mamacita

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quote:
Originally posted by LeRoc:
Five miles is still well over an hour's walk. When you're not doing it for exercise, I'd say that it's closer to two hours than one. Worse if you're carrying stuff.

And nine months pregnant.

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LeRoc

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quote:
Mamacita: And nine months pregnant.
True (but we were talking about whether it made sense to have an inn in Bethlehem, not about the specific case of Joseph and Mary).

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Mudfrog
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I think it's very strange that you're alla rguing about the historicity of the nativity stories based on a mistranslation of the word so that we read 'inn'.

You're all imagining a Christmas card/nativity play scenario that the bible does not contain and then suggesting that the Bible isn't true because of it.

I've known for years that there was no inn - just a space round a courtyard where travellers bedded down.

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goperryrevs
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
You're all imagining a Christmas card/nativity play scenario that the bible does not contain and then suggesting that the Bible isn't true because of it.

Actually, I don't think anyone's doing that. The discussion about inns and the discussion about historicity are two entirely different ones; I've not seen anyone on this thread do what you've just described.

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Dinghy Sailor

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Even in these days of cars and trains, I still find it very odd that people think 5 miles is too short a distance for an inn to be viable. When I go hillwalking, 5 miles at the end of the day is a very long way indeed.

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Net Spinster
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How much archaeology has been done in Bethlehem? Given that it is a currently inhabited city I suspect a systematic study is impossible.

There seems to be an argument that Bethlehem at the time of Jesus's birth was not only short an inn, it was short of everything (though given, I suspect, a lack of a systematic study I wouldn't make much of that).

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goperryrevs
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Hands up, it seems I wasn't as informed on inns and Bethlehem as I thought - despite reading up on it a while ago. The questions raised are legitimate ones. Thanks!

I still think that the truth is we just don't know, and that in the specific instance of Jesus' birth, 'kataluma' is better rendered 'guest room', rather than 'inn', since it leaves that ambiguity open, but yeah, Bethlehem could well have had an inn (or as Mudfrog suggests, at least some communal space for travellers).

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Mudfrog
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Can I put to bed this idea that 5 miles is too far to walk?

Let's assume that Jerusalem is a centre for pilgrimage and that 7 times a year the world and his Jewish wife descend upon it from the 4 corners of Judea, Galilee and all the other places round that area. Do you think they'll all get into Jerusalem? No. I fail to see therefore why Bethlehem could not be considered a dormitory town - a kind of park and ride without the parking [Razz]

"Oh but Dad, 5 miles is so far, we can't possibly walk that far..." [Waterworks]
Well, not with your twentyfirst century legs and the right of being carted around in a metal box - but in those days it was not far.

I know a woman who, when she was a child, walked twice a day to church - a 6 mile round trip both times.

Oh, and let me remind you that Jerusalem to Jericho is 15 miles and Jerusalem to Emmaus is 7 miles.

I think people were happy to travel those distances on foot.

[ 18. December 2013, 12:59: Message edited by: Mudfrog ]

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by Gildas:

I'm totally with you about the truth of God incarnate bit. I merely point out that the human condition involves mythologising stuff. We can't help it. It's what we do.

Agreed.

Surely we have to say (about all the details) 'nobody knows' and they never will.

And it really doesn't matter.

What matters is that God is with us.

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Anglican_Brat
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Faith is not about factuality.

If Our Lord was born in Nazareth, rather than Bethlehem and the writer of the Gospel changed that uncomfortable fact because it would not fit a so-called prophecy in Micah.

It would not change the notion of Incarnation.

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
Faith is not about factuality.

If Our Lord was born in Nazareth, rather than Bethlehem and the writer of the Gospel changed that uncomfortable fact because it would not fit a so-called prophecy in Micah.

It would not change the notion of Incarnation.

No, maybe not - but it would compromise the integrity of the Scriptures.
There is no reason whatever to doubt the fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem - especially if, as I have suggested, Joseph was originally a resident of Bethlehem.

I might also add this detail. The gospel says there was no room in the inn. This suggests there was only one inn that the writer had in mind. This either means that there was only one place in the entire city of Bethlehem that travellers could stay - which seems unlikely even though Bethlehem was not big. What seems likely to me is that Joseph and Mary did not travel aone to Bethlehem a la Christmas card scenario, but possibly travelled with others and certainly met up with many others of Joseph's family who were also in Bethlehem either as visitors or residents and that THE inn was Joseph's family's home, in which there was no room.

You see, not one of the supposed objections or so-called mythological accretions need not be historical fact.

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Anglican_Brat
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We are not saved by the "integrity of the Scriptures."

The Scriptures are stories, they are not factual accounts. Our instinctual dislike of narrative has more do with our attachment to Enlightenment thinking.

Narrative is primarily concerned with meaning, not with factual accuracy.

My question is why spend time trying to defend the story historically? Why not talk about the meaning of the story irrespective of the factual accuracy?

A story need not be factually true to convey meaning. Otherwise, instead of telling stories to our children, we should simply read biology and Physics textbooks to them for bedtime reading.

[ 18. December 2013, 14:24: Message edited by: Anglican_Brat ]

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Mudfrog
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So nothing actually happened, we've just got a fable that tells an eternal 'truth'?

What a load of crap.

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Anglican_Brat
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
So nothing actually happened, we've just got a fable that tells an eternal 'truth'?

What a load of crap.

The Gospels contain multiple layers of material. At the first level are things that are traceable to the Historical Jesus. We can be sure that there was a person in first century Judea, preaching the Kingdom of God, and who ended up crucified.

His followers, inspired and moved to proclaim this man to be the Christ, the Son of God, continued his mission in the Church. In their devotion to Him, they told stories about him. They were not historians, trying to snoop out what really happened. They instead, in their love drew out Hebrew Scripture, plus, considering that Luke was writing for a Gentile audience, from Greco-Roman myth. They were not being deceptive, they were just telling stories about a man they lived in much the same way that Americans talk about George Washington cutting an apple tree.

The meaning of Christmas is about encountering this Jesus Christ which is what the early Church did. It is not about a baby in a box in Bethlehem. It is about encountering this Jesus Christ, incarnate yes, as a historical figure, but also incarnate on our streets as a poor homeless man, or incarnate as a woman lost, brutally abused by her husband or father. It is about Jesus Christ, incarnate in creation, in the very birds and animals that live on this earth.

Thinking about Christmas in that way is more powerful than figuring out if a story "really happened."

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goperryrevs
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
So nothing actually happened

Why does it have to either be "all" or "nothing"?

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LeRoc

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quote:
Mudfrog: Can I put to bed this idea that 5 miles is too far to walk?
I'm not saying it's too far to walk, people in those days walked much further.

But suppose that you're from the First Century. You're a middle-aged travelling salesman from Jericho or even further, and you have to bring some merchandise to Jerusalem. Your health isn't perfect, but you can still walk it. You also have to carry quite a lot of stuff with you.

You had some delay along the road, and you reach Bethlehem by the end of the afternoon. There are 5 more miles to go, but you've already walked all day, the hot wind is blowing from the Negev Desert, and you still have to climb Mount Sion. It will take you at least two more hours to get there.

You're worried. It's already getting dark, robbers might start going by their business soon. You're also afraid that you might not reach Jerusalem before the gates close.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a good bowl of wine in Bethlehem and continue early in the morning?

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mousethief

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quote:
Mudfrog: Can I put to bed this idea that 5 miles is too far to walk?
With a 9-months' pregnant woman? You may not. Absolutely not.

[ 18. December 2013, 15:12: Message edited by: mousethief ]

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Mudfrog: Can I put to bed this idea that 5 miles is too far to walk?
With a 9-months' pregnant woman? You may not. Absolutely not.
Well indeed - Little Donkey anyone?

No, I thought I was referring to the argument against Bethlehem having guest accommodation because it was too far from Jerusalem. I say that it's entirely reasonable to have somewhere for travellers to Jerusalem to stay in Bethlehem.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
I say that it's entirely reasonable to have somewhere for travellers to Jerusalem to stay in Bethlehem.

That's a really dumb argument, I agree. Ten miles isn't too far to drive, but there are plenty of motels in suburbs 10 miles out from Seattle.

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LeRoc

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(I'm having trouble following Mudfrog's argument. If I'm understanding it right, he's saying that 5 miles is not too far to walk but still it makes sense to have guest accomodation 5 miles from Jerusalem. Is that what you're saying?)

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by LeRoc:
(I'm having trouble following Mudfrog's argument. If I'm understanding it right, he's saying that 5 miles is not too far to walk but still it makes sense to have guest accomodation 5 miles from Jerusalem. Is that what you're saying?)

I'm having trouble understanding your objection!

The scenario is this:

Jerusalem is a place of pilgrimage. There is no room for everyone to stay in Jerusalem and so it is entirely reasonable for pilgrims to find accommodation in surrounding villages and towns. They can use these places as places to sleep for the night while they go into Jerusalem for the festivities.

Does that help you?

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LeRoc

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quote:
Mudfrog: The scenario is this:

Jerusalem is a place of pilgrimage. There is no room for everyone to stay in Jerusalem and so it is entirely reasonable for pilgrims to find accommodation in surrounding villages and towns. They can use these places as places to sleep for the night while they go into Jerusalem for the festivities.

Aah, got it now. Did this really happen? I'm not sure. I guess that in this case it would make more sense commercially to open more accomodations in Jerusalem or closer to it.

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HCH
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I may be missing something. There is a reference to the notion of Mary, 9 months pregnant, walking the 5 miles between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Is it clear that she was 9 months pregnant when she and Joseph (and whoever else was in the party) traveled south? Isn't it quite possible that they were in Bethlehem for days, weeks or even months before she gave birth? I believe the phrase given is that "the days were accomplished".

Of course, a woman even 7 months pregnant might walk 5 miles rather slowly. On the other hand, it may be that they were all accustomed to walking, far more than we are, and that they thought nothing of it.

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Mudfrog
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Well she must have been at least 3 months pregnant because she stayed with Elizabeth for three months.

Now it does indeed say that 'while they were there the days were completed - so indeed, there is no necessary implication that her waters broke as they rode into town on the Little Donkey. They may indeed have been there a few weeks. That doesn't explain why she put the child in a manger because there was no room in the guest accommodation.

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Lamb Chopped
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Chances are if they had been there more than a day or two, they could have scared up better accomodation--for the baby at least, somebody's old cradle or something. People aren't THAT mean.

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A.Pilgrim
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I recommend the chapter on the nativity in Kenneth E Bailey’s book: Jesus through Middle Eastern eyes : Cultural studies in the gospels (SPCK, 2008). From it I gleaned the following points: (My interpolations in square brackets.)

i) Joseph was a descendant of King David returning to the City of David. In view of the Middle Eastern social expectation of giving hospitality, even to strangers, it would have been an utterly unthinkable cause of everlasting shame and disgrace to the whole community if a member of the royal family had been required to doss down in an animal shelter. Every home in the town would have been open to him and Mary.

ii) A commercial inn for travellers was a pandocheion, and such a place was the destination of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:34-35, which was run by the pandocheus (innkeeper). This is not the word used in the nativity story.

iii) The typical basic home of the time consisted of a single family room for living and sleeping, with on the downhill side a lower section in which the family’s animals would be sheltered overnight, for security of the animals and because the heat generated by the animals would rise and warm up the sleeping accommodation. Wealthier people would have another room on the other side of the family room from the animals, available for visitors. This was the kataluma or guestroom, and this is the word used in Mark 14:14, Luke 22:11 and in the nativity account at Luke 2:7.
[Why it is that Bible translators continue to translate as ‘inn’ at Luke2:7 is beyond me. Perhaps influenced more by tradition than the text itself? And I wonder if the original influence in favour of ‘inn’ was the Vulgate, which uses diversorium in Luke 2:7. Oh, and here Bailey backs up the points made by other shipmates above.]

iv) The feed for the animals in the lower section was placed in a scooped-out hollow in the floor at the edge of the family room where the animals could get to it. [I guess that the stock of animal feed would be kept in the family room – if it had been kept in the animals’ section they could have scoffed it all at once.] So an impromptu cradle could be formed by filling the feeding-hollow with straw.

v) There is nothing at all in the text to say that the birth took place in the animals’ section of the house – the ‘stable’. It is most likely that as the guestroom was already occupied by other visitors, Joseph and Mary were welcomed into the family living (and sleeping) room itself. At the time of the birth, the men of the house would have been required to leave, and the local midwife and other women would have attended and assisted in the birth. So, far from the inhospitality of being turfed out to an animal shelter, Mary would have been welcomed into the communal and intimate part of the family dwelling.

vi) Much of the traditional understanding of the events of the nativity comes from a 3rd-century work of imaginative fiction, based on the nativity story, called The Protevangelium of James which includes the scenario of the birth of Jesus taking place in a cave, and the idea of a last-minute arrival and immediate emergency birth. The latter point can be contradicted by the first words of 2:6 ‘While they were there, the time came...’ which implies that Mary and Joseph were already established in accommodation in Bethlehem.

The traditional depiction of the nativity as portrayed in countless church and school nativity plays, with the unwelcoming innkeeper grudgingly allowing Mary and Joseph to doss in a stable, owes more to the product of combining misleading translation and the encrustation of fictional elaboration than to the Biblical account itself. But if this encrustation of fable is stripped away, I have no problem at all in viewing the nativity account as entirely historical.

quote:
Originally posted by Gildas:
... I believe in the Virgin Birth and Mary and Joseph fetching up in Bethlehem but I don't think that Luke and Matthew writing sixty to eighty odd years after the event trumps any critical objections that can be levelled in 2013, per se.

Twenty to thirty years, more like.

quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
quote:
Originally posted by A.Pilgrim:
I take the nativity stories as historical, especially in the light of Luke's preface to his gospel.

There are sufficient historical parallels to Luke's preface that one could make a convincing case that this was the kind of stock introduction one used when one was about to modify a series of existing stories.
Is there any evidence that Luke modified the stories? I agree that there is literary and linguistic evidence in the text that Luke inserted words and phrases to explain and clarify Hebraic phraseology for a non-Jewish readership. For example, Luke 2:4 ‘...because he was of the house and lineage of David’ is tautologous, since ‘house of’ and ‘lineage of’ mean the same thing. The Hebraic original is most likely ‘... because he was of the house of David’ into which Luke has added the editorial kai patrias for those who would not understand that ‘house of ...’ meant ‘family of ’ in a Hebraic context. But that hardly counts as modification.

Angus

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Jammy Dodger

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Great post A. Pilgrim.

Thanks for putting such an eloquent case for the historical accuracy of the accounts, once you have stripped away the accrued traditional fables.

Btw - that Kenneth Bailey book is really good. I've found it very helpful in trying to unpick Western assumptions about the text.

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by A.Pilgrim:
I recommend the chapter on the nativity in Kenneth E Bailey’s book: ........

Angus

Thanks Angus, if this had been Facebook I would simply have 'liked' what you have written: good stuff and I agree with every word.

I wish we could go back to the plain account of Scripture and explore what is there rather than look at it through 2000 years of tradition.

[Smile]

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pydseybare
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quote:
Originally posted by HCH:
I may be missing something. There is a reference to the notion of Mary, 9 months pregnant, walking the 5 miles between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Is it clear that she was 9 months pregnant when she and Joseph (and whoever else was in the party) traveled south? Isn't it quite possible that they were in Bethlehem for days, weeks or even months before she gave birth? I believe the phrase given is that "the days were accomplished".

Of course, a woman even 7 months pregnant might walk 5 miles rather slowly. On the other hand, it may be that they were all accustomed to walking, far more than we are, and that they thought nothing of it.

This depends on exactly where in Bethlehem you are and where exactly in Jerusalem you are going to. The closest parts of Bethlehem and Jerusalem today are a lot closer than 5 miles apart, although the nativity church is probably at least 5 miles from the old city of Jerusalem. Which just shows that you can't really critically examine an old story which doesn't give more than general information.

Personally, I have a lot less problem believing someone heavily pregnant walks from Bethlehem to Jerusalem (which is a bit uphill) than that a young family escapes from Jerusalem to Egypt, across a desert and other hazardous obstacles, with a small child.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by A.Pilgrim:

i) Joseph was a descendant of King David returning to the City of David. In view of the Middle Eastern social expectation of giving hospitality, even to strangers, it would have been an utterly unthinkable cause of everlasting shame and disgrace to the whole community if a member of the royal family had been required to doss down in an animal shelter. Every home in the town would have been open to him and Mary.

I think this is overstating things massively. Yes - he is likely to have had many relations in town who - in a communitarian society - would have taken both him and Mary in. I don't think it can be due to him being a descendent of David though - this would have probably applied to a large minority in Bethlehem.

I think Kenneth Bailey is helpful - but his points are often exaggerated along the lines of the exotic east.

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Tortuf
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The posts in this thread have been fascinating. Thank you everyone who contributed.

I join in the camp of those for whom the actual history of the nativity is less important than the theological significance of the nativity. Frankly, I believe Matthew and Luke (whoever they might have actually been) were in the same camp.

There are details in the narratives that push me in that direction. Among others, Mary goes and visits her - conveniently enough - cousin, Elizabeth. Elizabeth just happens to be pregnant with John the Baptist, who leaps and capers about inside Elizabeth's womb when Mary appears with fetal Jesus.

Gosh, how convenient. Mary, a very young woman (early teens) who just became pregnant before actually - erm - having sex with Joseph, is allowed to traipse off to another village about a hundred miles distant and visit her cousin for three months. Joseph was one laid back dude.

Oh, I take that back. I'm sure a newly wed bride had pretty much nothing to do around the house and an extended visit with a convenient cousin was pretty much the norm back then.

Mary and Joseph go way the heck over from Nazereth to Bethlehem to take part in a census that would make sense to a fairly pragmatic set of Romans because . . . I guess because knowing how badly they were going to treat our Lord and Savior later they wanted Him to at least have a good start. Those Romans could always be counted on to be a deus ex machina when you needed one.

Sarcasm aside, the motivations of the authors are obvious. They are addressing their writings to communities of people who might need to be persuaded to worship a figure who got himself crucified instead of overthrowing Roman rule like everyone thought the prophesies said. These same writings were likely occurring not too long after those same trippy Romans made the streets of Jerusalem run red with blood.

Does it matter that the authors might have played a little fast and loose with the "truth?" It depends on what you mean by truth. The Truth to me is that God sent among us a man who was also wholly divine and this man suffered as we suffer. This man, Jesus, shows us all that God loves us and cares about us and that we are saved from our human sins. Everything else is just commentary as far as I am concerned.

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HCH
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This last post brings up an interesting question. Did Mary just happen to decide all of a sudden to go see her much-older cousin Elizabeth, or was this a planned visit? After all, Elizabeth is pregnant and may need help (especially as her husband has lost his voice); we have this healthy girl with nothing to do, so let's send her to go help Elizabeth. She can stay at least until the baby is born.
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Anglican_Brat
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I just thought of something over the weekend in light of yesterday's lectionary reading:

Did Joseph technically "lie" when he took Mary as his wife in that he claimed that her Son was his?

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Lamb Chopped
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I doubt anybody asked him. I mean, girl turns up pregnant, fiance moves marriage forward--would YOU ask? [Big Grin]

So, no need to lie.

Though I rather doubt her pregnancy was terribly well known, if Joseph still thought he had the option of a quiet divorce (as opposed to a stinkin' big scandal). Unless she was really tiny, I expect she wasn't showing much if at all at three-four months along. I always figured she told her Mom she really thought she ought to go give cousin Elizabeth a hand during the last difficult months, Mom figured it would be good practice for Mary's own upcoming married life, and they sent her off with some respectable family traveling that direction (maybe for Passover?).

And Mary, being an honest person, 'fessed up to Joseph when she got back. No point in putting it off any longer. She'd had three months to get used to the idea (and to have morning sickness and no period to hammer the reality of it all home). At which point Joseph simply couldn't wrap his head around it and stayed up half the night agonizing... I rather expect Mary did, too. [Ultra confused]

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by Tortuf:

Sarcasm aside, the motivations of the authors are obvious. They are addressing their writings to communities of people who might need to be persuaded to worship a figure who got himself crucified instead of overthrowing Roman rule like everyone thought the prophesies said. These same writings were likely occurring not too long after those same trippy Romans made the streets of Jerusalem run red with blood.

Does it matter that the authors might have played a little fast and loose with the "truth?" It depends on what you mean by truth. The Truth to me is that God sent among us a man who was also wholly divine and this man suffered as we suffer. This man, Jesus, shows us all that God loves us and cares about us and that we are saved from our human sins. Everything else is just commentary as far as I am concerned.

AFAIAA Matthew's Gospel was written as a 5-part teaching manual for Messianic Jews who already believed in Jesus. They didn't need persuading.

As far as your last paragraph is concerned, in referring to those all-important facts that "God sent among us a man who was also wholly divine and this man suffered as we suffer. This man, Jesus, shows us all that God loves us and cares about us and that we are saved from our human sins," I would simply ask the question: 'How do you know?'

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"The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid."
G.K. Chesterton

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
quote:
Originally posted by Tortuf:

Sarcasm aside, the motivations of the authors are obvious. They are addressing their writings to communities of people who might need to be persuaded to worship a figure who got himself crucified instead of overthrowing Roman rule like everyone thought the prophesies said. These same writings were likely occurring not too long after those same trippy Romans made the streets of Jerusalem run red with blood.

Does it matter that the authors might have played a little fast and loose with the "truth?" It depends on what you mean by truth. The Truth to me is that God sent among us a man who was also wholly divine and this man suffered as we suffer. This man, Jesus, shows us all that God loves us and cares about us and that we are saved from our human sins. Everything else is just commentary as far as I am concerned.

AFAIAA Matthew's Gospel was written as a 5-part teaching manual for Messianic Jews who already believed in Jesus. They didn't need persuading.

As far as your last paragraph is concerned, in referring to those all-important facts that "God sent among us a man who was also wholly divine and this man suffered as we suffer. This man, Jesus, shows us all that God loves us and cares about us and that we are saved from our human sins," I would simply ask the question: 'How do you know?'

We don't. Nor do you. Insisting on the historicity of the gospel accounts just pushes the problem onto them - how do you know they're historical? You don't.

In religion, no-one knows anything. People believe, hypothesise, hope. They do not know. All this talk of knowing is pure hubris.

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Might as well ask the bloody cat.

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Ad Orientem
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What do you mean we cannot know? Has not God revealed the truth of these things to us?
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Tortuf
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
AFAIAA Matthew's Gospel was written as a 5-part teaching manual for Messianic Jews who already believed in Jesus. They didn't need persuading.

As far as your last paragraph is concerned, in referring to those all-important facts that "God sent among us a man who was also wholly divine and this man suffered as we suffer. This man, Jesus, shows us all that God loves us and cares about us and that we are saved from our human sins," I would simply ask the question: 'How do you know?'

Haven't you answered your first question? If Matthew is a teaching manual then it is intended, at least in part, to persuade the untaught.

As to How do I know - I don't "know." I believe.

I didn't "know" that dawn would come this morning and yet it did. I don't "know" that Jesus, shows us all that God loves us and cares about us and that we are saved from our human sins. I believe it.

What point are you trying to make with that question?

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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quote:
Originally posted by Ad Orientem:
What do you mean we cannot know? Has not God revealed the truth of these things to us?

How do you know that he has? You don't. You believe. You do not know.

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Might as well ask the bloody cat.

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Callan
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Originally posted by A.Pilgrim:

quote:
quote:
Originally posted by Gildas:
... I believe in the Virgin Birth and Mary and Joseph fetching up in Bethlehem but I don't think that Luke and Matthew writing sixty to eighty odd years after the event trumps any critical objections that can be levelled in 2013, per se.

Twenty to thirty years, more like.
Can we clarify. Are you seriously claiming that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written twenty to thirty years after the nativity? [Eek!]

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leo
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Surely 50-60 years at a conservative estimate.

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A.Pilgrim
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quote:
Originally posted by Gildas:
Originally posted by A.Pilgrim:

quote:
quote:
Originally posted by Gildas:
... I believe in the Virgin Birth and Mary and Joseph fetching up in Bethlehem but I don't think that Luke and Matthew writing sixty to eighty odd years after the event trumps any critical objections that can be levelled in 2013, per se.

Twenty to thirty years, more like.
Can we clarify. Are you seriously claiming that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written twenty to thirty years after the nativity? [Eek!]
Ah, no ... you are quite right to question. For some unaccountable reason I had a mental glitch and was thinking of the crucifixion and resurrection. My mistake. Add 30 years, so 50 to 60... [Hot and Hormonal]

quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
I just thought of something over the weekend in light of yesterday's lectionary reading:

Did Joseph technically "lie" when he took Mary as his wife in that he claimed that her Son was his?

My understanding is that Joseph adopted Jesus as his son when he named him - this is the significance of Matt 1:25. The question of Jesus's biological parentage remained, as can be seen from the instances when his opponents referred to him as Mary's son which is tantamount to calling him a bastard to his face. (Regret no time to find exact reference for this.)
Angus

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Barefoot Friar

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I don't know how accurate this is, given that I have no scholarly references to check it out. But my understanding is on this wise:

When I was a newly-minted teenager, I went on a school field trip to a university planetarium. The presentation was specifically about the life of Jesus -- the star the wise men saw, the eclipse while Jesus was on the cross, etc. They had pinned down the probable dates for the eclipse. They further speculated that the star or stars that started the wise men saw were Jupiter and Saturn within the constellation Pisces, and that there was another astronomical phenomenon going on at the same time that told them that there was a new king in Israel.

Meanwhile, Joseph needed to go register for the census and pay the tax. Information I've heard said that such censuses gave a year for people to comply. Since travel was difficult, it would have been exceedingly likely that the trip would be combined with another, important trip. There are three holy days that all Jews are required to celebrate in Jerusalem if at all possible: Passover, Pentecost, and Atonement.

The Day of Atonement requires a lot of animals, particularly sheep, to be sacrificed. This falls on or about 21 September. The weather is warm, and the temple flocks would have been near Jerusalem. Shepherds would have had the flocks in an enclosure at night, and would have slept in the doorway to keep predators out and sheep in.

Mary and Joseph almost certainly would not have been alone. Joseph's brothers, parents (if living), adult children (if they existed), and so forth would have all had to register. There would have likely been an entire entourage -- especially since travel was dangerous, particularly on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. People tended to band together for safety.

Anyway, not sure if it's right... but to me it is plausible.

But more than that, it doesn't so much matter in the grand scheme.

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