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Matthew's Infancy Narrative

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  • Zeba Crook
    Hello List: I m trying to make sense of Matthew s infancy narrative. Can any one help me? I have in my head that 6-4 BCE is the typical range offered for the
    Message 1 of 58 , May 17, 2006
      Hello List:

      I'm trying to make sense of Matthew's infancy narrative. Can any one
      help me? I have in my head that 6-4 BCE is the typical range offered
      for the birth of Jesus, but I'm suddenly confused by this, esp. with
      respect to Matt.

      Matt. says that Herod was alive when Jesus was born, and then that when
      he died (4 BCE) the family was able to leave Egpyt for the Galilee.
      There is no hint about how long they were in Egypt. It seems that the
      scholarly estimation of 6-4 BCE assumes they were in Epypt for very
      little time: a few months at least and 2 years at most. Presumably
      Herod's killing children under 2 is part of the puzzle, but it does not
      say that this happened two years before he died, only that the Magi had
      given Herod a two year range for the birth of the king of the Jews.
      Then you get to Matt 3:1, after the family has settled in Nazareth, and
      we're told that "In those days" John's mission began. In what days?
      The closest antecedent is in the days when they settled in Nazareth. If
      Jesus was born in 6-4 BCE, this means Jesus is still a child (3 at the
      most) when John starts his mission, which strikes me as wildly
      improbable. The other alternative is that Matthew has patched together
      events that occurred far apart together with very vague markers: "In
      those days", "Then Jesus came", "Then Jesus was led" and therefore does
      not give an accurate rendering of the timing of the events.

      The only other piece of relevant data I can think of in terms of the
      birth of Jesus is that Luke 3:23 says he was "about 30" when he began
      his mission. But as specific as this sounds, it still does not tell us
      what year it was when he turned 30. Even the reign of Pilate offers a
      10 year window (26-36 CE).

      Am I forgetting something that allows us to date the birth of Jesus at
      6-4 BCE, and if that's accurate, how are we to understand Matthew's "In
      those days" at 3:1?




      Zeba A. Crook

      Assistant Professor

      Religion and Classics

      2a Paterson Hall

      Carleton University

      1125 Colonel By Drive

      Ottawa, Ontario

      K1S 5B6

      613-520-2600, ext. 2276


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Stephen C. Carlson
      ... Though this Luke seems to have had a very impressive library (Mark, Q, John I, Mary, Thomas, etc.), I am struck that it nonetheless lacked the most
      Message 58 of 58 , May 30, 2006
        At 06:00 PM 5/29/2006 -0400, Gordon Raynal wrote:
        >On May 29, 2006, at 10:58 AM, Ken Olson wrote:
        >> My own take would be that Luke had known Mark, which had
        >> been THE gospel to him, for some time when Matthew came into his
        >> hands.
        > I doubt this because from my perspective one can make far more sense
        >of the construction of the Luke-Acts work directly in relationship to
        >copying from Mark and Q and also in relationship to John (1-20), and
        >probably G. Mary, an edition of G. Thomas, and some of the other
        >fragmentary gospels and by then, decades old preachings and teachings
        >on key texts in TANAK as related to Jesus. Despite such as Mark G.'s
        >position that it's a better case that Luke got a lot of his material
        >from Matthew, as you know I think the whole issue of the use of the
        >Sayings materials makes much more sense in terms of understanding their
        >presence in Q and then the utilization and redaction independently by
        >Matthew and Luke.

        Though this "Luke" seems to have had a very impressive library (Mark,
        Q, John I, Mary, Thomas, etc.), I am struck that it nonetheless lacked
        the most popular gospel of the second century even after it had been
        circulating for 20-30 years.

        The existence of Q in the form that is most commonly accepted is
        based on the relative independence of Matthew and Luke. This premise
        has ramifications on their relative dating, because the further apart
        in time the compositions of Matthew and Luke become, the less
        reasonable it becomes to postulate their mutual ignorance of each

        As in any reduction to absurity, this exercise does not tell us
        which assumption is off. It could be that Q never existed, or
        that Q was smaller (a la Ron Price), or that Luke was written
        earlier, or that Matthew was written later, etc. Nevertheless,
        it is a good idea to step back from the jigsaw puzzle and see if
        the individual pieces actually do fit together to form a coherent

        Stephen Carlson
        Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
        Weblog: http://www.hypotyposeis.org/weblog/
        Author of: The Gospel Hoax, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1932792481
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