Christmas is virtually upon us.  I’ve decided to return to a few posts I’ve given in years past, lost in the archives here or there, of particular relevance to the season.  This one continues a bit on the theme of the relation of our (only!) two birth narratives in the New Testament, reflecting on the significance of Jesus being born precisely to a *virgin* in Matthew and Luke.  As it turns out, they see the significance differently.


Occasionaly I have raised the question of why anyone should think that you have to believe in the Virgin Birth in order to be a Christian.  The reality is, of course, that many Christians do not believe in it, but recognize that it is a story meant to convey an important theological point – a point that could be true whether or not the story happened – that Jesus was uniquely special in this world, not like us other humans, but in some sense the unique Son of God.   Just as the moral of a fairy tale is valid (or not) independent of whether the tale happened, so too with stories like this in the Gospels, whether you choose to call them myths (in a non-derogatory sense), legends, tales, or simply “stories intending to convey a theological truth.”

It is interesting, and not often noted, that Matthew and Luke – the two Gospels (in fact, the two NT books altogether) that recount the story of the Virgin Birth – do so for different reasons and draw different conclusions from it.   The stories of Jesus’ birth in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 are very different from each other, and appear to contain down right discrepancies.   I don’t actually teach this to my students.  I instead give them an exercise.  If you haven’t ever done this, you should try it.  I have them list everything that happens, event by event, first in Matthew 1-2 and then in Luke 1-2;  and then I have them compare their lists.  What is similar?  What is different?  And are any of the differences actual discrepancies that cannot be reconciled?

The differences are striking, and in fact – as I’ve pointed out on the blog before – some things cannot be reconciled …

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