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Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Narratives in the Bible

Christmas is a wonderful time. It is the a time when we remember and reflect on the fact that God became man being born of a virgin just some ten miles from where I am writing this.

However, every Christmas I have to admit that what is often displayed as "fact" associated with Jesus' birth shows just how mixed up we all can be.

Just today in watching a particular broadcast of a major religious leader, I noted some of these "facts". Here was a display of the baby Jesus with his mother and father in a manger and who were around Him? Yes, of course, the three wise men.

But wait a minute isn't this the Biblical teaching? No, it is not.

The fact is, the story of the wise men visiting Jesus in Bethlehem took place some 15 months after He was born. St. Luke tells us that the shepherds found a baby lying in a manger (Luke 2:16) St. Matthew tells us that the wise men found a little child in a house (Matt. 2:11).

The wise men did not visit the manger and they did not visit a baby that was just born. However, this is what the vast majority of Christians believe.

Talking about this very subject, Fr. John Warburton, of the Shrine of St. Joseph in California talked about this very issue. Fr. Warburton gives the common view held by many and how even he had to change his mind based on the plain teachings of the Holy Scriptures.

"For most of my life, I comfortably presumed that Jesus was born on December 25, right at the juncture between B.C. and A.D The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus was "about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23) in the 'fifteenth year of Tiberius' (Luke 3:1). The sixth century Roman monk Dionysius Exiguus, trusted St. Luke's report. He subtracted 29 from the fifteenth year of Tiberius in order to establish Jesus' birth as the center point of human history. This is the calendar we use today.
     Each year in the Church's Liturgy and in traditions using crib sets at home, I became accustomed to imagining the birth of Jesus in a stable just past midnight on Christmas Eve, the visit of the angels and shepherds later that night, and then, after twelve days the visit of the three kings. Imagine my consternation when I began to study the Gospels more carefully and became aware of some vexing problems and seeming contradictions. For instance, St. Luke writes that the holy Family returned to Nazareth after the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:39). Whereas St. Matthew informs us that the Holy Family fled in haste from Bethlehem to Egypt just after the visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:13-15). St. Luke tells is that the shepherds found a baby lying in a manger (Luke 2:16). St. Matthew tells us that the magi found a child in a house ((Matthew 2:11)." (Guardian of the Redeemer, 2000th Anniversary of the Nativity, Oblates of St. Joseph - Santa Cruz, CA: 2000)

Yes, the Bible is clear. Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the shepherds came to visit him in a manger after He was just born. Then, some 15 months later, the wise men came to see, not a baby, but the child Jesus living in a house in Bethlehem.

For more information on this subject, please see - http://www.hillsdale.edu/news/imprimis/archive/issue.asp?year=1996&month=12

But wait, these are just little innocent mistakes. Minor confusions. Not a big deal.

No. It is a big deal because we are dealing with the facts and we should get them right. I mean don't we want to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God?

The point is, if we (I include here those religious leaders I saw broadcasting their mistaken message today to the whole world) can't even get these simple little things right, what about more complex issues?

What is interesting is the fact that if a person will do a tiny bit of research, they will note that there are two different Greek words referenced in Matthew and Luke which describe two different phases of life for a child, in this case talking about our Lord Jesus.

As the article in the above link shows and if one will examine any more advanced translation or a Bible concordance, one can find that the words describe two phases of life: one for a baby in arms and one for a toddler, who walks and talks. See the article for a more in depth discussion on these issues. This is really a science meets faith article written by a research astronomer which features a book written by my late father, Dr. Ernest L. Martin, on the Star of Bethlehem. - See http://www.amazon.com/The-Star-That-Astonished-World/dp/0945657889/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1396032451&sr=8-1&keywords=The+star+that+astonished+the+world.

This, in fact, relates to the whole argument of who is being discussed in those texts found in the book of Proverbs which many use to advocate for corporal punishment of children, with no definition of what phase of life of that of a "child" is under discussion.

I have a whole chapter in my book "Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy." See - http://www.amazon.com/Thy-Rod-Staff-They-Comfort/dp/0978533909/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1324834969&sr=1-2 - which talks about the importance of this issue.

Because of the misunderstanding related to this issue, we have well intentioned but seriously misinformed individuals advocating the corporal punishment of children starting at 6 months of age or less using the Bible as the authority for the same.

Just as it is important to remember that there is accurate information in the Gospels to help us better understand the circumstances and facts associated with Jesus' birth and how the nuance of language can help us have a more accurate understanding, so it is that we can also have a greater understanding of the texts in Proverbs which describe children and the various phases of life that starts at birth going up to adult hood..

If we do this, I think we are going to have a greater chance to know the truth and the facts and not be confused.

Merry Christmas

Samuel Martin - Jerusalem - 12.25.2011

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post, Samuel. Merry Christmas!