Christmas is upon us already, and I have decided to do a tis-the-season all-day webinar on Sunday, December 5: “Did the Christmas Story Really Happen?” The webinar will not be connected with the blog per se, except to the extent that I’ll be doing it and that some of you might be interested in coming.
It will be a full and unusually intriguing day, four lectures each with Q&A: two in the morning, a break for lunch, then two more. The talks will each be around 50 minutes with 20-25 minutes Q&A (each). Whoa!
The topics will focus on different aspects of the birth of Jesus in popular imagination, the biblical tradition, legendary materials, and … and what we can say historically.
There are lots of intriguing issues here:
- Why is Jesus’ birth – the “virgin birth,” in “Bethlehem,” to “Joseph and Mary” etc. – mentioned in only two of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament? In particular, why is it not mentioned in two of our Gospels, Mark and John, or in the writings of Paul?
- Where did the idea of a virgin birth come from? Was it a common motif in ancient Greek and Roman mythology, for example?
- How do we explain the differences between the two accounts we have, the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke? Are they simply telling different stories, Matthew some and Luke others? Are there any truly significant differences between them? Flat-out contradictions?
- Matthew repeatedly says that the events of Jesus’ birth fulfilled Scripture, and he quotes the Old Testament to prove it. Is he taking these quotations out of context, or is there some solid logic behind his claims?
- Luke’s account narrates events in a highly historical framework, mentioning figures otherwise documented in history (Caesar Augustus, Quirinius the governor of Syria for example) and historical events (a census under Augustus for “all the world”). Can we reconcile what Luke says about these things with what we know from non-biblical sources?
- Miracles, of course, defy historical explanation. But even so, are there features of the two accounts that are difficult to explain even on the assumption that miracles happen? How, for example, does the “star of Bethlehem” in Matthew stop moving over Jerusalem, resume moving, and then stop over a house?
- Why are some of the familiar aspects of the Christmas story not found in the New Testament at all? For example, the Gospel accounts don’t say anything about Mary riding on a donkey, or about Joseph being an old man (have you noticed that he’s always portrayed that way in paintings?), or about the wisemen and shepherds showing up the same night. Where does all that come from?
- What other intriguing legends about Jesus’ birth don’t come from the Bible but from later legendary accounts? Some of these later versions were highly influential on Christian thinking through the centuries, and they are fascinating to read. One of them claims to be written by Jesus’ brother! What kinds of information do they give us, and can any of it be seen as reliable?
- Is there any way to know anything historically about Jesus’ birth, his parents, and his early life? What really happened?
These are going to be some interesting discussions and with four lectures we will be able to dive deep. Plus you will be able to ask questions. Interested?
Cost and How to Register:
The last event like this I did was for the Smithsonian, an all-day affair (like this one) with four lectures (like this one) on a different topic. For that event last spring, the fee for (remote) attendance was $90. This event, “Did the Christmas Story Really Happen,” will be only $49.95.
BUT you can save another $10 by registering early, by November 28: so $39.95
AND you can save $5 if you are a blog member: so: $34.95.
I hope you can come. It should be a terrific day!
$5 discount code for Blog Members Only: BLOG5
$10 discount for early registration: good till Nov. 28