I have been trying to illustrate the point that critical scholars who remain Christian have long made, that there can be stories in the Bible that are not historically accurate but that are trying to convey larger theological truths.  My first illustration had to do with the death of Jesus; in this post and the next, I will deal with the birth of Jesus.   This is a topic I’ve dealt with several times over the years on the blog; but it’s worth covering it again!   I’ve drawn this discussion, again, from my book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.


“True” Stories that Didn’t Happen (at least as narrated): Jesus’ Birth in Luke

We may take an example from the familiar stories at the beginning of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  These are the only Gospels that narrate the events of Jesus’ birth (in both Mark and John, Jesus makes his first appearance as an adult).  What is striking – and what most readers have never noticed – is that the two accounts are quite different from one another.  Most of the events mentioned in Matthew are absent from Luke, and vice-versa.  In itself, this doesn’t necessarily create historical problems, of course: two persons could write completely accurate accounts of WWII and never mention the same events.  The problem is that some of the differences between Matthew and Luke are very difficult to reconcile with one another.  At least, as we’ll see, this is one of the problems.

Let’s begin with the account in Matthew, which …

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