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Birth narratives

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  • Ian Hutchesson
    Here s a brief table of information that is an adjunct to the work on Nazareth to analyse the use of the birth narratives as support for any intrinsic value of
    Message 1 of 42 , Nov 28, 1998
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      Here's a brief table of information that is an adjunct to the work on
      Nazareth to analyse the use of the birth narratives as support for any
      intrinsic value of the place name Nazareth.

      Matthew Luke

      1:18-21 1:26-56
      Mary's pregnancy Angel visits Mary
      Angel visits Joseph in Nazareth

      1:25-2:12 2:1-20
      (Family in Bethlehem) Family goes to Bethlehem
      due to Cyrenius's census
      Jesus born in house Jesus born in manger
      (see 2:11) (no other place available)
      Magi visit Herod Angel visits shepherds
      & go to Bethlehem who go to Bethlehem

      2:13-23 2:21-39
      Egyptian interlude Circumcision, purification
      Massacre of the innocents
      From Egypt to Nazareth Return to Nazareth after having
      performed all the duties

      Beside the basic starting information Joseph/Mary/Jesus's birth in
      Bethlehem/living in Nazareth, there is no other point of intersection
      between these accounts. In fact there are a few contradictory data: 1) the
      family's place of origin, and 2) in what sort of place Jesus was born.

      A number of OT/HB birth accounts should be taken into account as antecedents
      when reading the gospel stories, the preamble to the birth of Isaac, of
      Samson and of Samuel. A divine announcement is part of the motif. God tells
      Abraham that Sarah "shall bear you a son and you shall name him Isaac". An
      angel tells Samson's mother that he will be a Nazirite to God from birth".

      Both accounts have to deal with the datum that Mary is pregnant without
      Joseph's intervention, hence miraculous (could a saviour be born of mortal
      man?), that the birth would take place at Bethlehem as per the Micah
      prophecy (linking Jesus with David), and that they would live in Nazareth as
      dictated by the nazarEnos/nazOraios terminology.

      We have a lot of starting material for the writing of a birth narrative. One
      naturally doesn't need a first hand eye-witness account or intimate
      knowledge of Jesus to write one, for it is already half written and the
      differences between the two accounts amount to the choices made the
      individual writers.

      Given the literary and legendary nature of these two accounts, I can see no
      way to use either of them with any serious hope of historical value. There
      may be historical reference points such as the indication in GLuke of a
      census, but that in no way can get us any closer to a historical birth
      account. The Lucan necessity was to get the family to Bethlehem, working on
      the assumption that the family lived in Nazareth, hence the artifice of the
      census. GMatt didn't have that worry as the account starts in a house in
      Bethlehem. (Thinking about the census, there must have been chaos throughout
      the country with so many people relocating.)

      One interesting event in the structure of the narrative is the adoration
      after the birth, though the model may have been recognition rather than
      adoration. When a king is born one has to be sure that there is no funny
      business and that it is the real heir. Then again, I don't know of any
      precedents for this part of the narrative.

      I'd be interested in any other thoughts on the birth narratives that list
      members may have.

    • Chris Cutler
      Sorry to have to say so, Chris, but you ve unacceptably confused truth ... Thank s for picking me up on that ... I don t have a problem with that ... Surely
      Message 42 of 42 , Dec 7, 1998
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        Sorry to have to say so, Chris, but you've unacceptably confused 'truth'
        > with 'belief'. The notion of something being "true for person x" is nothing
        > more than another way of saying that x believes something to be true.
        Thank's for picking me up on that
        > Everyone has fundamental beliefs, of course, but it's misleading to call
        > these beliefs 'fundamental truths'. When your distinction is reworded as
        > one between "fundamental belief" and "universal belief", it makes much more
        > sense.
        I don't have a problem with that

        > BTW, the bit about the "believer's hat" was my way of trying to capture the
        > same idea that Mahlon and Bob have spoken of as "bracketing-off" one's
        > beliefs about the divinity of a person when one is "doing history" related
        > to that person. I have my doubts as to whether or how far this is possible,
        > but I'm willing to take their word for it that it is possible, since
        > they're the ones who find themselves in that situation.
        Surely the important thing for the believer 'doing history' is to declare their interest - that way the reader knows how many grains of salt to take to make the results more palletable (sp?).
        Best wishes

        See the original message at http://www.egroups.com/list/crosstalk/?start=3936
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