Why It Didn’t Happen that Way. The Stories of Jesus’ Birth

In the previous post I began to discuss (as a review for many readers of the blog) the historical problems with the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke.  The point of the discussion is that the stories cannot be accepted as historically accurate.  This is a huge issue mainly for fundamentalist Christians and conservative evangelicals – and those they have managed to persuade that if a story does not describe what actually happened, then it is worthless and should simply ...

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Another “True” Story that Didn’t Happen? Jesus’ Birth in Luke

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 ...

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Jesus’ Virgin Birth in Mark (Reader’s Mailbag February 26, 2016)

It is time for the weekly Readers’ Mailbag.  This week I will be dealing with only one question, one that I find particularly intriguing.  If you have any questions you would like me to answer, either in a comment or in the mailbag, let me know.  I can’t answer every question I get, either because I don’t know the answers (often enough!) or because I can’t get to them all.  But I take them all seriously and will do my ...

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Jesus, Matthew, and the Law

In my previous post I discussed the differences – what strike me, at least, as the differences – between the Gospel of Matthew and Paul’s letter to the Galatians and with respect to whether the followers of Jesus are to follow the law or not.   Matthew’s Gospel indicates that the law will not cease to be in force until the heavens and earth pass away, and that Jesus’ followers need to follow the law to the limit, to follow it ...

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Is Paul at Odds with Matthew?

In yesterday’s post I indicated that I really very much wish that we could have some of the writings produced by Paul’s opponents in Galatia.   They believed that in order to be a follower of Jesus, a person had to accept and follow the Law of Moses as laid out in the Jewish Scriptures.   Men were to be circumcised to join the people of God; men and women were, evidently, to adopt a Jewish lifestyle.  Presumably that meant keeping kosher, ...

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Did Matthew Copy Luke or Luke Matthew?

In this thread, which is supposed to be on the lost writings of early Christianity that I would most like to have discovered, I can’t seem to get away from Q,   Several readers have asked a pointed question about Q.  If you recall, Q is the hypothetical document that contained principally sayings of Jesus, that was evidently used by Matthew and Luke (but not by Mark) in constructing their Gospels.  The logic is that if Matthew and Luke both used ...

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Evidence that the Synoptics Are Copying (one another? other sources?)

In yesterday’s post, when talking about the one-time existence of Q, I indicated that scholars have long recognized that there must be some kind of literary relationship among Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Synoptic Gospels, since they have so many similarities: they tell many of the same stories, often in the same sequence, and sometimes – lots of times – in the very same words.  That is to say, someone must be copying someone else, or they are all using ...

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The Lost Q Source

I can now return to my thread dealing with a question asked by a reader:  if I could choose, which of the lost books from Christian antiquity would I want to be discovered?  My first and immediate answer was:  the lost letters of Paul.   My second answer is what I will deal with here.  I would love – we would all love – to have a discovery of Q.

Many readers of the blog will know all about Q.  Many will ...

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A Source for the Birth Narratives in Matthew and Luke?

QUESTION:

What’s your take on the independence or interdependence of Mt 1-2 and Lk 1-2. Do you think Luke’s infancy narratives are based on Matthew’s? Or vice versa? Or on some other unknown earlier common source? Or neither and they’re both independent?  It sounds like you’re advocating independence. But if they are separate and independent, then we have to account for common elements in the two. Some commonalities are easier to explain (e.g., location in Bethlehem [Micah 5.2]; mother’s ...

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Bethlehem and Nazareth in Matthew

In my last post I showed why it is virtually certain that Jesus’ home town was Nazareth.   All of our sources agree that he was from there, and it is very hard to imagine why a Christian story teller would have made that up.    But now the question is whether that was also his place of birth.

The only two accounts we have of Jesus’ birth, Matthew and Luke, independently claim that even though he was raised in Nazareth, he was ...

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