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Re: [XTalk] Re: The Star of Bethlehem

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  • FMMCCOY
    There is an article by Marcus Chown titled, Early Christians hid the origins of the Bethlehem star , at this web site:
    Message 1 of 17 , Dec 22, 2001
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      There is an article by Marcus Chown titled, "Early Christians hid the
      origins of the Bethlehem star", at this web site:

      http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99991713

      This article regards a claim, by a former Rutgers University astronomer
      named Michael Molnaris, that "the 'star' was in fact a double eclipse of
      Jupiter in a rare astrological conjunction that occurred in Aries on 20
      March, 6 BC, and again on 17 April, 6 BC."

      Merry Christmas,

      Frank McCoy
      1809 N. English Apt. 17
      Maplewood, MN USA 55109
    • Russ Conte
      ... originator of the idea that the star of, Bethlehem was not a spectacular, astronomical event such as a supernova, or a comet but an obscure
      Message 2 of 17 , Dec 25, 2001
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        Quick question: Part of the article in question states:

        >Michael Molnar, formerly of Rutgers, University in New Jersey, is the,
        originator of the idea that the star of, Bethlehem was not a
        spectacular, astronomical event such as a supernova, or a comet but an
        obscure astrological,one.

        I thought the first publication of this type of theory for the star came
        from Johannes Kepler, so I'm not sure how this scholar claims to be the
        originator of the idea. Clearly he might have a specific new application
        of the idea that the star was an event that happened naturally but was
        interpreted by those at the time in a special way, but the general idea
        has been around for centuries, ask any basic physics student.

        He is claiming that Jupiter was eclipsed twice in a very short time
        period. How the heck did that happen? And has he done the astronomy to
        see if the eclipse was visible in Jerusalem? Maybe it could only be seen
        in what we now call North America, rendering the theory useless to those
        in Rome. It seems to me this new theory can benefit from some basic
        science. Or is this just Kepler's theory in new clothes?

        Anyone know?

        Russ Conte
      • DaGoi@aol.com
        In a message dated 12/25/2001 8:38:55 PM, Russ Conte wrote:
        Message 3 of 17 , Dec 25, 2001
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          In a message dated 12/25/2001 8:38:55 PM, Russ Conte wrote:

          <<He is claiming that Jupiter was eclipsed twice in a very short time
          period. How the heck did that happen? And has he done the astronomy to
          see if the eclipse was visible in Jerusalem? Maybe it could only be seen
          in what we now call North America, rendering the theory useless to those
          in Rome. It seems to me this new theory can benefit from some basic
          science.>>

          hehe. Kepler's theory involved a conjunction (near approach from our point
          of view) of Jupiter and Saturn (the same periodic 20 yr conjunction that used
          to be blamed for the dead presidents until Reagen) which was joined in that
          period by i think venus and maybe mercury (I really cant remember the details
          of why it was a grander sight that time than any other 20 yrs, but there was
          something.) When the earth goes by a planets orbit from a straight line from
          the sun, the planet, in relation to the background stars, seems to go
          backwards for a few weeks, and then forward again after the earth, sun,
          planet line is completed. Any astronomy or star book will show how this
          happens in diagrams, and it's called retrograde motion. Because of the
          enormous distances involved relative to puny earth, this can be seen equally
          well at any point (of longitude, but this is really insignificant) on the
          face of the earth, so the Romans would see the same thing as the chinese.

          What seems to be described in Matthew though necessitates either a 'mythical'
          approach, or something burning in parking orbit; that is, an object which is
          orbitting the earth at the same speed as the earth is turning, so that it
          stays 'motionless' in the sky, like todays weather satillites.
          This of course would not have to be brighter in comparrison to the
          other stars, as it would be noticable to like Iranian zarathustrian priest
          star gazers who would notice that this star does not move in the sky like all
          of the others. The whole night sky moves 1/24th of a sphere from east to
          west in an hour, and this one thing would not have. It would be overlooked
          by anyone who did not know the simplest thing about the stars, such as a
          culture who did not allow astrology and had little interest in astronomy
          other than the glory of it all
        • Mahlon H. Smith
          ... Keplar thought the star was a supernova like the one he saw through his primitive telescope. Mike Molnar is a cautious (now retired) 20th c. scholar who
          Message 4 of 17 , Dec 26, 2001
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            Russ Conte wrote:

            > Quick question: Part of the article in question states:
            >
            > >Michael Molnar, formerly of Rutgers, University in New Jersey, is the,
            > originator of the idea that the star of, Bethlehem was not a
            > spectacular, astronomical event such as a supernova, or a comet but an
            > obscure astrological,one.
            >
            > I thought the first publication of this type of theory for the star came
            > from Johannes Kepler, so I'm not sure how this scholar claims to be the
            > originator of the idea. Clearly he might have a specific new application
            > of the idea that the star was an event that happened naturally but was
            > interpreted by those at the time in a special way, but the general idea
            > has been around for centuries, ask any basic physics student.
            >

            Keplar thought the star was a supernova like the one he saw through his
            primitive telescope. Mike Molnar is a cautious (now retired) 20th c. scholar
            who does careful research & indeed has a new theory that fits the textual
            evidence of Matt better than earlier astronomical interpretations of the
            magi's "star." As my one-time colleague at Rutgers he sought my critical
            input (on exegitical issues) several times as he was working on his thesis
            & he presented me with an autographed copy of his book soon after it was
            published.

            What makes his theory different from other astronomical explanations is that
            he takes Matt seriously in reporting that apparently the magi alone saw the
            star & that they saw it "in the Orient." He concludes from this that the
            "star" was a rare celestial phenomenon that would have been noticed only by
            trained professional astrologers (rather than any star-gazer) & that it
            would have appeared to them on the eastern horizon (the source of all
            celestial risings & births) rather than in the West (which astrologically
            signified decline & impending death).

            The question then is what would have led Mesopotamian or Iranian astrologers
            to associate a celestial event in their East with the rise a ruler in Judea
            (which lay to their West). Molnar discovered that ANE astrologers associated
            the constellation Ares with Judah & reasoned that the event must have been a
            planetary conjunction in Ares involving the "star" of the "king" of the
            heavens (Zeus/Jupiter) some time before Herod's death. He was not convinced
            that there actually was such an event but rather concluded from his close
            reading of Matt that this is what it must have been. Then he put his
            computer full of astronomical data to work & discovered that a
            conjunction/eclipse of Jupiter occurred while "in the house" of Ares on the
            eastern horizon on April 17 in 6 BCE, which made sense of Matt's claim that
            Herod subsequently had all infants up to age 2 slaughtered when the magi did
            not return.

            IMHO the significance of Molnar's research is that it gives a historically &
            scientifically plausible explanation of Matt's report of a visit of magi to
            Jerusalem at the end of Herod's reign. He remains ever a scientist & does
            not make historical assumptions or claims that such a visit actually
            occurred or religious claims that this astronomical/astrological info proves
            the veracity/historicity of the Matthean narrative. Rather he simply
            concludes that *if* there is any substance to Matt's report then the
            astrological conjunction in Ares on April 17, 6 BCE best fits the data in
            that report. In other words, he brings both exegetical & scientific
            precision to all the speculation about the Bethlehem star.

            One major advantage of Molnar's theory over all previous astronomical
            explanations is that it avoids the historically/geographically implausible
            Christmas card image of camel mounted magi following a brilliant star
            westward across the vast arid wastes of Kedar & Arabia that separate
            Mesopotamia from Jerusalem. The conjunction in Ares would have told
            astrologers the event would take place in Judea, so they were free to take
            any less hazardous normal route up the Euphrates valley thru Syria &
            Palestine to get to Judea's capital. Another is that it would explain why
            the magi went to directly to Jerusalem rather than Bethlehem (where they
            should have gone if they knew the Hebrew scriptures or were really tracking
            a westward-leading star).

            The major deficiency in Molnar's theory, which he readily admitted to me, is
            that it fails to explain Matt 2:9's claim that after the magi left Herod the
            star led them directly to the house in Bethlehem where Jesus was. But this
            is a real problem only for biblical literalists & religious fundamentalists,
            which Mike Molnar decidedly is not. His sole purpose in writing his book was
            to bring scientific clarity to centuries of astronomical speculation about
            the star of Bethlehem.

            Shalom & Happy Holidays!

            Mahlon

            BTW anyone who watched the History Channel's presentation of the documentary
            "In Search of Christmas" on Xmas nite would have seen a well presented
            version of Molnar's thesis including capsule appearances of Mike himself. If
            you missed it, look for the repeat next year. It's actually pretty good with
            input from a host of scholars (including Crossan, Horsley & many lesser
            luminaries) with varied views on all aspects of the Xmas narratives. There's
            the usual amount of unverifiable scholarly speculation. But among those
            interviewed Molnar is in the same league of critical scholars as Crossan &
            the JS's Marvin Meyer.



            Mahlon H. Smith
            Department of Religion
            Rutgers University
            New Brunswick NJ 08901

            http://religion.rutgers.edu/profiles/mh_smith.html

            Synoptic Gospels Primer
            http://religion.rutgers.edu/nt/primer/

            Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
            http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/
          • Bob Dietel
            Mark Kidger has shown that most of the occultations of Jupiter in question would have been marginally visible in Jerusalem or Babylon. An astronomer working
            Message 5 of 17 , Dec 26, 2001
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              Mark Kidger has shown that most of the occultations of Jupiter in
              question would have been marginally visible in Jerusalem or Babylon. An
              astronomer working at Istituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, Kidger's most
              accessible book on the topic is The Star of Bethlehem, published in
              1999 by Princeton Univerisity Press.

              Russ Conte wrote:

              >Quick question: Part of the article in question states:
              >
              >>Michael Molnar, formerly of Rutgers, University in New Jersey, is the,
              >>
              >originator of the idea that the star of, Bethlehem was not a
              >spectacular, astronomical event such as a supernova, or a comet but an
              >obscure astrological,one.
              >
              >I thought the first publication of this type of theory for the star came
              >from Johannes Kepler, so I'm not sure how this scholar claims to be the
              >originator of the idea. Clearly he might have a specific new application
              >of the idea that the star was an event that happened naturally but was
              >interpreted by those at the time in a special way, but the general idea
              >has been around for centuries, ask any basic physics student.
              >
              >He is claiming that Jupiter was eclipsed twice in a very short time
              >period. How the heck did that happen? And has he done the astronomy to
              >see if the eclipse was visible in Jerusalem? Maybe it could only be seen
              >in what we now call North America, rendering the theory useless to those
              >in Rome. It seems to me this new theory can benefit from some basic
              >science. Or is this just Kepler's theory in new clothes?
              >
              >Anyone know?
              >
              >Russ Conte
              >
              >
              >
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              --
              --Bob+
              --dietelb@...
              --cell: 425.876.4628
              --North Cascades Episcopal Missions
              --St Aidan/Camano
              --Transfiguration/Darrington
              --St Martin & St Francis/Rockport




              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Richard Anderson
              I thought it was Roger W. Sinnott writing in the astronomical journal, Sky and Telescope, Dec 1968, 384-386 who was the first to draw attention to the
              Message 6 of 17 , Dec 26, 2001
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                I thought it was Roger W. Sinnott writing in the astronomical journal, 'Sky
                and Telescope,' Dec 1968, 384-386 who was the first to draw attention to the
                unusual conjunction of Jupiter and Venus on June 17, 2 BCE that is the real
                star of Bethlehem.

                Richard H. Anderson
                Wallingford PA
                http://www.geocities.com/gospelofluke
              • Jack Kilmon
                ... From: To: Sent: Tuesday, December 25, 2001 10:31 PM Subject: Re: Re: [XTalk] Re: The Star of Bethlehem ...
                Message 7 of 17 , Dec 26, 2001
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                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: <DaGoi@...>
                  To: <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
                  Sent: Tuesday, December 25, 2001 10:31 PM
                  Subject: Re: Re: [XTalk] Re: The Star of Bethlehem


                  >
                  > In a message dated 12/25/2001 8:38:55 PM, Russ Conte wrote:
                  >
                  > <<He is claiming that Jupiter was eclipsed twice in a very short time
                  > period. How the heck did that happen? And has he done the astronomy to
                  > see if the eclipse was visible in Jerusalem? Maybe it could only be seen
                  > in what we now call North America, rendering the theory useless to those
                  > in Rome. It seems to me this new theory can benefit from some basic
                  > science.>>
                  >
                  > hehe. Kepler's theory involved a conjunction (near approach from our
                  point
                  > of view) of Jupiter and Saturn (the same periodic 20 yr conjunction that
                  used
                  > to be blamed for the dead presidents until Reagen) which was joined in
                  that
                  > period by i think venus and maybe mercury (I really cant remember the
                  details
                  > of why it was a grander sight that time than any other 20 yrs, but there
                  was
                  > something.)

                  The triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7/6 BCE occurs every 805
                  years,
                  not every 20 years. This conjunction appeared in the southern sky over
                  Jerusalem in the constellation of Pisces. Pisces was "Dagim" to the time
                  and
                  was known as "The House of Israel." Tzedek (Jupiter) was the Royal Star
                  of the House of David. Shabtay (Saturn) was the Protecting Star of Israel..
                  the "Messiah's Star." Dagim was also the point in the heavens where the sun
                  completed its course and began anew. The conjunction would have been
                  visible for a few hours EN TH ANATOLH (at dawn) and, coincidentally,
                  if one was travellinbg south from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, just ahead on
                  May 29, October 3. and December 4. October 3, by the way, would be
                  just days before the time Roman Censuses ...uh..censi? <g>were taken. It is
                  understandable to me, given these symbologies why this celestial event
                  would *later* be associated with the birth of Jesus and incorporated into
                  the infancy narrative, particularly by the Matthean scribe who would scour
                  the Tanakh for "proofs" of Jesus' messiahship..in this case Number 24:17
                  and midrash them into his gospel.

                  Jack
                • David C. Hindley
                  ... occurs every 805 years, not every 20 years. This conjunction appeared in the southern sky over Jerusalem in the constellation of Pisces. Pisces was
                  Message 8 of 17 , Dec 26, 2001
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                    Jack Kilmon comments:

                    >>The triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7/6 BCE
                    occurs every 805 years, not every 20 years. This
                    conjunction appeared in the southern sky over Jerusalem in
                    the constellation of Pisces. Pisces was "Dagim" to the time
                    and was known as "The House of Israel." Tzedek (Jupiter)
                    was the Royal Star of the House of David. Shabtay (Saturn)
                    was the Protecting Star of Israel .. the "Messiah's Star."
                    Dagim was also the point in the heavens where the sun
                    completed its course and began anew. The conjunction would
                    have been visible for a few hours EN TH ANATOLH (at dawn)
                    and, coincidentally, if one was travellinbg south from
                    Jerusalem to Bethlehem, just ahead on May 29, October 3. and
                    December 4. October 3, by the way, would be just days
                    before the time Roman Censuses ... uh .. censi? <g> were
                    taken. It is understandable to me, given these symbologies
                    why this celestial event would *later* be associated with
                    the birth of Jesus and incorporated into the infancy
                    narrative, particularly by the Matthean scribe who would
                    scour the Tanakh for "proofs" of Jesus' messiahship .. in
                    this case Number 24:17 and midrash them into his gospel.<<

                    For those who might want to asses Molnar's theory from his
                    own lips, try:
                    http://www.eclipse.net/~molnar/

                    A few rather detailed (although not exhaustive) online
                    articles about the astronomical events that may account for
                    the "star" are:

                    THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM: AN ASTRONOMICAL AND HISTORICAL
                    PERSPECTIVE, By Susan S. Carroll:
                    http://sciastro.net/portia/articles/thestar.htm and

                    The Star of Bethlehem, An Astronomical Perspective, by Nick
                    Strobel:
                    http://www.astronomynotes.com/history/bethlehem.star.html

                    Common Errors in "Star of Bethlehem" Planetarium Shows, by
                    John Mosley, Program Supervisor, Griffith Observatory:
                    http://www.griffithobs.org/IPSChristmasErrors.html

                    Personally I prefer Halley's comet in fall of 12 BCE. A
                    couple years ago, after inputting orbital data for Halley's
                    that I got from a library book, I managed to get a
                    planetarium program to display the comet as appearing
                    directly overhead as seen from Babylon to Jerusalem. Of
                    course, that just proves that I was right ... <g>

                    Respectfully,

                    Dave Hindley
                    Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                  • DaGoi@aol.com
                    In a message dated 12/26/2001 12:05:37 PM, Mahlon Smith wrote:
                    Message 9 of 17 , Dec 27, 2001
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                      In a message dated 12/26/2001 12:05:37 PM, Mahlon Smith wrote:

                      <<Keplar thought the star was a supernova like the one he saw through his
                      primitive telescope.>>

                      (an aside: Kepler, I thought, was just too soon to have used a telescope,
                      but maybe my memory of the study i once did on Kepler is a bit fuzzy)

                      << Mike Molnar is a cautious (now retired) 20th c. scholar
                      who does careful research & indeed has a new theory that fits the textual
                      evidence of Matt better than earlier astronomical interpretations >>
                      (underlining my own for emphasis to be used later. sorry Mr Smith) <<of the
                      magi's "star." ........
                      What makes his theory different from other astronomical explanations is
                      that
                      he takes Matt seriously in reporting that apparently the magi alone saw the
                      star & that they saw it "in the Orient." He concludes from this that the
                      "star" was a rare celestial phenomenon that would have been noticed only by
                      trained professional astrologers (rather than any star-gazer) & that it
                      would have appeared to them on the eastern horizon (the source of all
                      celestial risings & births) rather than in the West (which astrologically
                      signified decline & impending death).
                      The question then is what would have led Mesopotamian or Iranian
                      astrologers
                      to associate a celestial event in their East with the rise a ruler in Judea
                      (which lay to their West). >>

                      you mean probably in the east at some specific time of night not mentioned in
                      the text; I doubt he goes by my parking orbit hypothesis (which is the only
                      theory that fits the actual textual account). All stars, planets, and moons
                      not in close earth orbit rise in the east at some specific time, and set in
                      the west some hours later.

                      <<Molnar discovered that ANE astrologers associated
                      the constellation Ares with Judah & reasoned that the event must have been a
                      planetary conjunction in Ares involving the "star" of the "king" of the
                      heavens (Zeus/Jupiter) some time before Herod's death. >>

                      I would be fascinated by his sources on persian astrology, I am sure, if I
                      could come to understand them.

                      <<He was not convinced that there actually was such an event but rather
                      concluded from his close reading of Matt that this is what it must have
                      been.>>

                      I'm not so sure I follow what you mean here.

                      << Then he put his
                      computer full of astronomical data to work & discovered that a
                      conjunction/eclipse of Jupiter occurred while "in the house" of Ares on the
                      eastern horizon on April 17 in 6 BCE, >>

                      again, on the eastern horizon at some untextual but probably
                      Persian-astrologically significant rising time

                      <<which made sense of Matt's claim that
                      Herod subsequently had all infants up to age 2 slaughtered when the magi did
                      not return.

                      .....<he> gives a historically &
                      scientifically plausible explanation of Matt's report of a visit of magi to
                      Jerusalem at the end of Herod's reign. He ... does not make historical
                      assumptions or claims that such a visit actually occurred or religious claims
                      that this astronomical/astrological info proves the veracity/historicity of
                      the Matthean narrative.>>

                      Of course, but it is with some interest that we find such characters in the
                      story at all. The mere common assertion that these magi symbolize the
                      gentiles proper does not fully explain it. Matthew, or his source in Jesus'
                      family, may be trying to tie the birth of Christ in with common
                      interpretations of prophesies in the Zarathustrian scriptures, but it is an
                      uncommonly jewish and uncommonly early christian thing to do.

                      << Rather he simply concludes that *if* there is any substance to Matt's
                      report then the astrological conjunction in Ares on April 17, 6 BCE best fits
                      the data in that report. In other words, he brings both exegetical &
                      scientific precision to all the speculation about the Bethlehem star.

                      ..... Molnar's theory ..... avoids the historically/geographically implausible
                      Christmas card image of camel mounted magi following a brilliant star
                      westward across the vast arid wastes of Kedar & Arabia that separate
                      Mesopotamia from Jerusalem. >>

                      Not too keen on Christmas cards?

                      << The conjunction in Ares would have told
                      astrologers the event would take place in Judea, so they were free to take
                      any less hazardous normal route up the Euphrates valley thru Syria &
                      Palestine to get to Judea's capital. Another is that it would explain why
                      the magi went to directly to Jerusalem rather than Bethlehem (where they
                      should have gone if they knew the Hebrew scriptures or were really tracking
                      a westward-leading star).>>

                      Here we have a difference of very few miles between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
                      If we assume the veracity of the report, the 'star's position would need
                      very close measurements to discern between them, especially if it had
                      flickered off for some short time. The astrological interpretation though, I
                      agree, would suffice to bring them to Jerusalem where they would pick up the
                      info about Bethlehem.

                      <<The major deficiency in Molnar's theory, which he readily admitted to me, is
                      that it fails to explain Matt 2:9's claim that after the magi left Herod the
                      star led them directly to the house in Bethlehem where Jesus was. But this
                      is a real problem only for biblical literalists & religious fundamentalists,
                      which Mike Molnar decidedly is not.>>

                      I cannot see why you include this reference to literalists and
                      fundamentalists. Molnar has, as an intellectual study, gone to the trouble
                      to find an explaination that preserves the text better than the other
                      theories, has he not? (see the underlining that i marred your text with,
                      above.)

                      << His sole purpose in writing his book was
                      to bring scientific clarity to centuries of astronomical speculation about
                      the star of Bethlehem.

                      Shalom & Happy Holidays!

                      Mahlon
                      >>

                      Merry feast of Light. Where can I get this book? Does he footnote his
                      sources of Persian astrology? Thank you. This is a subject that has always
                      interested me.

                      conrad

                      deacon Wm D Foley
                      1st congregational church (independent), Woburn
                    • DaGoi@aol.com
                      In a message dated 12/26/2001 5:16:36 PM, Jack Kilmon wrote:
                      Message 10 of 17 , Dec 27, 2001
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                        In a message dated 12/26/2001 5:16:36 PM, Jack Kilmon wrote:

                        <<
                        The triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7/6 BCE occurs every 805
                        years,
                        not every 20 years.>>

                        These two planets conjunct every 20 yrs. Every time we go by their orbits
                        they go into retrograde motion. Perhaps you mean that they make a triple
                        eclipse only every 805 yrs?

                        << This conjunction appeared in the southern sky over
                        Jerusalem in the constellation of Pisces.>>

                        On an daily east-west line over Jerusalem maybe? was it that close to being
                        directly above Jerusalem in this instance?

                        << Pisces was "Dagim" to the time and was known as "The House of Israel."
                        Tzedek (Jupiter) was the Royal Star of the House of David. Shabtay (Saturn)
                        was the Protecting Star of Israel.. the "Messiah's Star.">>

                        Was Persian astrology as detailed in regards to Jewish religion as to have
                        signified a star for the messiah, or was this for the soshyant? Would they
                        do that? I mean, wouldn't they have picked the brighter planets such as
                        Jupiter to symbolize their own interests? You obviously have much more
                        knowledge of this than i do; could you recommend any books about this to me?

                        << Dagim was also the point in the heavens where the sun completed its course
                        and began anew. >>

                        Pisces (Dagim then) is the 12th and last constellation and Aries (mentioned
                        by Mr. Smith in another posting) is the 1st, according to modern astrology
                        (and presumably now to Persian astrology also). So this conjunction
                        presumably took place close to the cusp (that is, close to the area in the
                        sky that is between the two constellations)? Can anyone give me the exact
                        boundaries of that conjunction?

                        << The conjunction would have been visible for a few hours EN TH ANATOLH (at
                        dawn) and, coincidentally, if one was travelling south from Jerusalem to
                        Bethlehem, just ahead on May 29, October 3. and December 4. October 3, by
                        the way, would be just days before the time Roman Censuses ...uh..censi?
                        <g>were taken. >>

                        <g> I thought Anatolia was in the west <g>
                        I cannot imagine any circumstance where Pisces would be directly ahead on any
                        such line at dawn on days in three different months. Let's see, in May 29th
                        Taurus rises at dawn, so Aries I think would be waiting just beyond the
                        horizon; on October 3 Libra rises at dawn, so probably Capricorn would be
                        directly ahead to the south and Pisces Aries would be setting in the west; on
                        December 4th Sagitarius would be rising, and Aquarius would be in the south,
                        with Pisces beside it. That settles it then; <g> he was born on Christmas!!!
                        (yikes, how'd you do that?)
                        I was not aware that we knew the actual date of the census. Please excuse
                        me, but I might be a bit out of the loop on this. <g>

                        << It is understandable to me, given these symbologies why this celestial
                        event would *later* be associated with the birth of Jesus and incorporated
                        into
                        the infancy narrative, particularly by the Matthean scribe who would scour
                        the Tanakh for "proofs" of Jesus' messiahship..in this case Number 24:17
                        and midrash them into his gospel.
                        Jack>>

                        I prefer to imagine 'blame' or remembrance on the family traditions, as I
                        have a couple of geneological sub'urban' legends myself. To ascribe this to
                        the creative juices of a mere devotee adds a whole other dimension to the
                        presumed construct; after all, here we have not only a star, but heavy
                        mystics coming into the story for a mere walk-on (merely to cause trouble for
                        Bethlehem). If a devotee made it up, I would expect more to be made of these
                        characters in the rest of the text.

                        Happy Epiphany,
                        conrad

                        deacon Wm D. Foley
                        1st Congregational Church (Independent), Woburn
                      • Jack Kilmon
                        ... From: To: Sent: Thursday, December 27, 2001 5:21 AM Subject: Re: Re: Re: [XTalk] Re: The Star of Bethlehem ...
                        Message 11 of 17 , Dec 27, 2001
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                          ----- Original Message -----
                          From: <DaGoi@...>
                          To: <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
                          Sent: Thursday, December 27, 2001 5:21 AM
                          Subject: Re: Re: Re: [XTalk] Re: The Star of Bethlehem


                          >
                          > In a message dated 12/26/2001 5:16:36 PM, Jack Kilmon wrote:
                          >
                          > <<
                          > The triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7/6 BCE occurs every 805
                          > years,
                          > not every 20 years.>>
                          >
                          > These two planets conjunct every 20 yrs. Every time we go by their orbits
                          > they go into retrograde motion. Perhaps you mean that they make a triple
                          > eclipse only every 805 yrs?

                          I mean that they converge in Pisces 3 times a year every 805 years. I don't
                          know
                          if "eclipse" is the best term.

                          >
                          > << This conjunction appeared in the southern sky over
                          > Jerusalem in the constellation of Pisces.>>
                          >
                          > On an daily east-west line over Jerusalem maybe? was it that close to
                          being
                          > directly above Jerusalem in this instance?

                          Pisces (Dagim) was visible in the southern sky. The whole "star in the
                          east"
                          thingy bobber comes from Matthew 2:9 "....KAI IDOU hO ASTHR hON EIDON
                          *EN TH ANATOLH* PROHGEN AUTOUS EWS. Does this mean that
                          the Magi saw the star (in the southern sky) when they (the Magi) were in the
                          east
                          or did they see the star in the eastern sky? (in which case they went the
                          wrong way).
                          Although EN TH ANATOLH means literally, "In the East" it is an idiom for
                          "at dawn" since dawn breaks "in the east."

                          My EZCosmos program charts the night sky just before dawn on October 3,
                          7 BCE with Jupiter and Saturn conjoined in Pisces in the southern sky
                          observed
                          from Jerusalem. I myself, with my own two eyeballs, have seen pisces
                          looming
                          ahead of me while driving south on the Hebron road from Jerusalem to
                          Bethlehem.

                          >
                          > << Pisces was "Dagim" to the time and was known as "The House of Israel."
                          > Tzedek (Jupiter) was the Royal Star of the House of David. Shabtay
                          (Saturn)
                          > was the Protecting Star of Israel.. the "Messiah's Star.">>
                          >
                          > Was Persian astrology as detailed in regards to Jewish religion as to have
                          > signified a star for the messiah, or was this for the soshyant? Would
                          they
                          > do that? I mean, wouldn't they have picked the brighter planets such as
                          > Jupiter to symbolize their own interests? You obviously have much more
                          > knowledge of this than i do; could you recommend any books about this to
                          me?

                          Why do we assume that the Magi (if historical) were from Persia? In the
                          late 1800's,
                          archaeological work at Abu-Habbah on the Euphrates River north of Babylon
                          (Iraq)
                          uncovered the ancient city of Sippar and the ancient scribal school of
                          astrology
                          associated with the Temple of Shamash and the Ziggurat. Among the thousands
                          of
                          clay tablets fround in the recovered archive was an account, discovered by
                          P. Schnabel
                          and published in 1923 (Babylon.-Helleni. Literatur), of the triple great
                          conjunction in Pisces
                          of 7 BCE. Babylon was a Jewish center that, in some respects, was as
                          significant as
                          that in Jerusalem and its astrologers may have been descended themselves
                          from
                          Jews of the captivity.

                          >
                          > << Dagim was also the point in the heavens where the sun completed its
                          course
                          > and began anew. >>
                          >
                          > Pisces (Dagim then) is the 12th and last constellation and Aries
                          (mentioned
                          > by Mr. Smith in another posting) is the 1st, according to modern astrology
                          > (and presumably now to Persian astrology also). So this conjunction
                          > presumably took place close to the cusp (that is, close to the area in the
                          > sky that is between the two constellations)? Can anyone give me the exact
                          > boundaries of that conjunction?

                          On May 29, 7 BCE visable around 5 am Jupiter and Saturn was converged
                          in the 21st degree in Pisces with a difference of only 0 degrees long, 0.98
                          degrees lat. On October 3, the conjunction was in the 18th degree of
                          Pisces and on December 4, the 16th degree. If you wish, I will privately
                          send you a pdf file by T. Jacobsen, U. of Washington of all the neat
                          celestial
                          diagrams, ecliptic planes, etc.

                          >
                          > << The conjunction would have been visible for a few hours EN TH ANATOLH
                          (at
                          > dawn) and, coincidentally, if one was travelling south from Jerusalem to
                          > Bethlehem, just ahead on May 29, October 3. and December 4. October 3, by
                          > the way, would be just days before the time Roman Censuses ...uh..censi?
                          > <g>were taken. >>
                          >
                          > <g> I thought Anatolia was in the west <g>
                          > I cannot imagine any circumstance where Pisces would be directly ahead on
                          any
                          > such line at dawn on days in three different months. Let's see, in May
                          29th
                          > Taurus rises at dawn, so Aries I think would be waiting just beyond the
                          > horizon; on October 3 Libra rises at dawn, so probably Capricorn would be
                          > directly ahead to the south and Pisces Aries would be setting in the west;
                          on
                          > December 4th Sagitarius would be rising, and Aquarius would be in the
                          south,
                          > with Pisces beside it. That settles it then; <g> he was born on
                          Christmas!!!
                          > (yikes, how'd you do that?)
                          > I was not aware that we knew the actual date of the census. Please excuse
                          > me, but I might be a bit out of the loop on this. <g>

                          This is another story. Roman censuses took place, in the Augustan period,
                          in October and there are numerous papyrological accounts but no census
                          is recorded...or no records survived..of a census in Judea in 7 BCE

                          Scholars have debated about the historicity of this first census since there
                          is no
                          record of it in the Roman archives. Their chief argument is that Augustus
                          would
                          not have imposed a census for the purpose of taxation in the kingdom of a
                          client
                          king like Herod. Herod had his own tax collectors and paid tribute to Rome
                          from the proceeds. They further pose that the census in 6 CE was imposed
                          because Herod's nutty son Archelaus had been deposed and Judea was
                          placed under direct Roman rule. These are good arguments.

                          We are forced to go back to Luke and ask why he would record an event
                          that never took place. Luke was well educated with diversified talents. He
                          seems
                          careful in his historicity and, although very young at the time, may very
                          well have
                          met Jesus. He knew and interviewed those who were closest to Jesus. Some
                          scholars think that the story of the first census and the birth in Bethlehem
                          is
                          theologoumenon. This is a term scholars use for that which expresses an
                          event
                          or notion in language what may not be factual but supports, enhances, or is
                          related to a matter of faith. In other words, a "white lie." I don't buy it
                          in this
                          case. There is no advantage to matters of faith in the invention of a census
                          of 6 BCE.

                          Some scholars argue that the early census was invented to support a
                          mythological birth in Bethlehem in support of Messianic prophecy. As for
                          the early census,
                          I am inclined to believe Luke and Tertullian (even though Tertullian isn't
                          one of my favorite
                          characters). I can think of a number of reasons based on the history of the
                          time. Lack of
                          records is not evidence for or against an historical event. Records are lost
                          and destroyed,
                          particularly those that are two millennia old. Rome burned in 64 CE and
                          there have been
                          numerous conflagrations and sackings of the city over the centuries. Could
                          Augustus had
                          deviated from convention and imposed a census in Syria/Palestine in 6 B.C.E?
                          Of course
                          he could. He was the Emperor. Herod the Great was ill and, by all accounts
                          of the time,
                          nuttier than a fruitcake. He who had once been an able and effective
                          administrator and
                          builder, was now paranoid and vicious. He had murdered most of his family,
                          including his
                          sons and the wife he loved most. The joke in the Roman court by Caesar
                          himself was
                          that one was safer being Herod's pig than Herod's son. Josephus records in
                          Antiquities
                          of the Jews, XVI, ix 3 that Augustus was furious with Herod in 8 BCE and
                          threatened
                          to treat him no longer as a friend (Client), but as a subject (subject to
                          taxes).

                          I believe that the prudent and prudish Augustus, scandalized by
                          Herod's
                          outrageous reputation and increasing madness, began the movement toward
                          making Judea a prefecture in 8 BCE and part of that preparation was a
                          registration.
                          Caesar could have delayed actual imposition of direct rule in deference to
                          Herod's
                          ill health and the hope that his successor would not be as loony toony. When
                          Herod died and Archelaus turned out to be crazier than his father, Augustus
                          threw in the towel (or Toga) and made Palestine a prefecture. He sent
                          Quirinius
                          as Legatus (a second time) and Coponius as the first prefect. The census of
                          6 CE
                          therefore becomes the first census under direct Roman rule and fell in
                          schedule
                          with the Roman census on a 14 year rotation. The census of Jesus' birth,
                          perhaps
                          only a registration, became lost in the archives. In this scenario, it would
                          make
                          sense to send Quirinius back as Legatus since he presided under the previous
                          registration. Quirinius was no minor functionary. He was a Roman senator of
                          the Equestrian order and had been consul since 12 BCE. He had won an
                          insignia of triumph for the Homanadensian war and had accompanied Caesar
                          to Armenia in 3 CE. He died in 21 CE.(3) Service in Palestine was not
                          considered
                          "prime duty" by Roman functionaries but the governorship of Syria was one of
                          the most important positions in the Empire. The post was always given to the
                          most respected and capable of Imperial functionaries chosen from the elite
                          of
                          Roman aristocracy. The Syrian Legatus was the commander-in chief of the
                          entire Roman East and responsible for the Parthian border. I believe this
                          Roman soldier, senator and administrator, who had already served Caesar
                          well, returned to Syria as a personal favor for his emperor/friend.

                          My bottom line is that there was a registration in October of 7 BCE but
                          not a follow-up taxation but that all of these events..the star...the
                          magi...the
                          census..were later "woven into" the infancy narratives

                          >
                          > << It is understandable to me, given these symbologies why this celestial
                          > event would *later* be associated with the birth of Jesus and incorporated
                          > into
                          > the infancy narrative, particularly by the Matthean scribe who would scour
                          > the Tanakh for "proofs" of Jesus' messiahship..in this case Number 24:17
                          > and midrash them into his gospel.
                          > Jack>>
                          >
                          > I prefer to imagine 'blame' or remembrance on the family traditions, as I
                          > have a couple of geneological sub'urban' legends myself. To ascribe this
                          to
                          > the creative juices of a mere devotee adds a whole other dimension to the
                          > presumed construct; after all, here we have not only a star, but heavy
                          > mystics coming into the story for a mere walk-on (merely to cause trouble
                          for
                          > Bethlehem). If a devotee made it up, I would expect more to be made of
                          these
                          > characters in the rest of the text.

                          The Matthean hagiographer was more than just a mere devotee. He was the
                          architect of the Jesus tradition for his community and went to great lengths
                          to
                          midrash the Jesus story to the Tanakh. The parallels to the Moses story are
                          quite obvious and Jeremiah 31:15 for the "slaughter of the Innocents" which
                          is almost certainly non-historical. Certainly it would be typical of Herod
                          but
                          the absence of this account in both Luke and Josephus weigh heavily
                          against it. That Augustus WAS pissed off at Herod at this time would also
                          have put the wiley and shrewd Herod on good behavior. I also do not
                          think that the Triple Conjunction that occurred at the time of Jesus birth
                          brough these magi directly to Jesus bed..er..cradle...er..mangerside but
                          were later interpolated into the Jesus tradition by a hagiographer who was
                          just bursting with creative juices....our Syrian scribe, Matthew.

                          Jack
                        • DaGoi@aol.com
                          In a message dated 12/27/2001 4:36:09 PM, Jack Kilmon wrote:
                          Message 12 of 17 , Dec 28, 2001
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                            In a message dated 12/27/2001 4:36:09 PM, Jack Kilmon wrote:

                            <<The Matthean hagiographer was more than just a mere devotee. He was the
                            architect of the Jesus tradition for his community and went to great lengths
                            to midrash the Jesus story to the Tanakh. The parallels to the Moses story
                            are
                            quite obvious and Jeremiah 31:15 for the "slaughter of the Innocents" which
                            is almost certainly non-historical. Certainly it would be typical of Herod
                            but the absence of this account in both Luke and Josephus weigh heavily
                            against it. That Augustus WAS pissed off at Herod at this time would also
                            have put the wiley and shrewd Herod on good behavior. I also do not
                            think that the Triple Conjunction that occurred at the time of Jesus birth
                            brough these magi directly to Jesus bed..er..cradle...er..mangerside but
                            were later interpolated into the Jesus tradition by a hagiographer who was
                            just bursting with creative juices....our Syrian scribe, Matthew.
                            >>

                            As for Herod in his madness being on good behavior at this time, I am
                            not too sure I would agree with that. As for Josephus not including the
                            material, I would think he would not if he knew of the christian story
                            because he seems to avoid mention of the hebrew messianic cult that was so
                            bothering the Roman empire at the time . I mean, if you meant to write a
                            religious history of the twentieth century, how much room would you devote to
                            the Jehovah's Witnesses whom your audience would probably have met and been
                            bothered by? He includes nothing, though his caeser friend at the time his
                            book is published knows of them enought to be the first general persecutor.
                            That Luke does not mention it then is the only credible but strongest
                            evidence against it, but he seems to have got his geneological information
                            from a different wing of the family, anyway.

                            I've read some of the Jesus/Moses parellel materials of course, but
                            perhaps the idea has been carried too far. I do not recall any wise men at
                            Moses' mangerside, nor any star. If this scribe is creative enough and far a
                            way enough from the original event (ala to have such a gullible audience) to
                            invent a believable slaughter of the innocents, wouldn't it just be easier to
                            invent baby Jesus floating down some Bethlehemite stream and raised in
                            Herod's household or something (some obscure relative who flees to egypt
                            perhaps, where he kills a roman and flees to the relative obscurity of
                            Sephorian Galilee), if he wanted to make obvious references between Jesus and
                            Moses? The creative impulse here ascribed to Matthew is no less fantastic
                            than this magi from the east and a slaughter of the innocents thing, and fits
                            better with the story of Moses without bringing in such obscure references.
                            That the texts are referenced is of course true, but if we posit that
                            the references are the sources of the story, instead of vice versa, we must
                            posit some purpose for the use of the specific references and not others.
                            Can we imagine that these texts are his favorite verses and he just
                            doesn't know what to do with them? or can we imagine that he had these
                            obscure texts from various parts of torah and prophets all set out like ducks
                            in a row from which he planned to construct a story?
                            I think a simpler explaination would be that he got the story from the
                            family legends (that wanted to link him to the magi soshyant) and the scribe
                            came up with the proof texts later.

                            conrad
                            deacon wm d foley, 1st congregational church, Woburn
                          • Mahlon H. Smith
                            ... Widely agreed? Among whom? Certainly not Q specialists. I know of no Q scholar who postulates an early tradition about Jesus birth that both Luke and
                            Message 13 of 17 , Dec 29, 2001
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                              Pardon a few comments on Mark Cameron's "general comments." He wrote:

                              > I have a general comment on all of the various Star of Bethlehem
                              > hypotheses. It is widely agreed by those who accept the Q hypothesis
                              > that there was an early tradition about Jesus' birth that both Luke
                              > and Matt knew in different forms and independently expanded upon.
                              > e.g. birth in Bethlehem to a virgin named Mary, who was betrothed to
                              > Joseph, during the reign of Herod the Great. <SNIP>

                              Widely agreed? Among whom? Certainly not Q specialists. I know of no Q
                              scholar who postulates "an early tradition about Jesus' birth that both Luke
                              and Matt knew in different forms and independently expanded upon." The
                              common elements in the Matthean & Lukan birth narratives have the character
                              of random tidbits of information that are better accounted for on grounds
                              other than a common "tradition about Jesus' birth."

                              1. Details such as the names of Mary & Joseph are simple basic biographical
                              info that anyone who knew of the Galilean Jew named Yeshu bar Yosef could
                              have gleaned from oral tradition that had nothing to do with his birth. The
                              fact that Matt 2 & Luke 2 present conflicting traditions explaining Jesus
                              ties to Nazareth make it unlikely that they were working from a common
                              tradition about his origins.

                              2. Mark's thesis of the messianic secret provided plenty of theological
                              motivation for Matt & Luke to compose birth narratives *de novo* since the
                              Markan story of Jesus' private vision after his baptism is not very
                              convincing evidence that Jesus was in fact "Son of God" or motivated by the
                              HS -- both important claims of Xn christological apologetics long before the
                              composition of any gospel narrative (witness Paul). As a hedge against
                              christological skeptics not likely to be convinced by the Markan origins
                              scenario, Matt & Luke demonstrably developed quite independent background
                              plots to illustrate that Jesus was *literally* Son of God & filled with the
                              HS from his very conception. Neither would need to have access to a common
                              birth tradition to develop these trajectories. All each would need is a
                              higher christology than Mark's adoptionism & the inventive mindset of an
                              apologist.

                              3. The only other common details in the Matthean & Lukan birth narratives
                              (Bethlehem & the virgin motif) are easily accounted for as apologetical
                              inferences from the Hebrew Bible *in Greek translation.* Matt himself is
                              evidence that Micah 5:2 & Isa 7:14 were proof texts that could be cited by
                              any Hellenistic Xn who argued that Jesus was the Messiah predicted in
                              biblical prophecy. While that was not Luke's main agenda, one can assume
                              that as an educated Hellenist who claims to have followed closely the
                              preaching of those who were "ministers of the word" he would have been well
                              aware of such texts & taken them for granted in composing his birth story
                              from scratch.

                              4. The oft-made claim that Luke traces Jesus' birth to Herod's reign as does
                              Matt is simply an unfounded inference, since Herod is never mentioned in
                              Luke 2. The only reference to Herod the Great in Luke's birth narratives is
                              in Lk 1:5 where it is presented as the general time frame when *Zechariah*
                              lived. Herod is never again mentioned in Luke's stories of the angelic
                              annunciation of Elizabeth's conception or JB's birth, much less Mary's
                              conception or the birth of Jesus. Since Matt does not have the story of JB's
                              birth & Luke reports none of the actions of Herod that Matt describes, it is
                              fallacious to argue that there is a common tradition of a Herodian time
                              frame behind the Matthean & Lukan infancy narratives. Luke 2:1-2 provides a
                              very explicit detailed time frame for Jesus' birth & that is demonstrably
                              post-Herodian. For all we can tell from Luke's narrative he may even have
                              thought that Jesus' conception precipitated Herod's death, since he plays up
                              the theme of the demise of kings in Mary's Magnificat (Lk 1:52 - "He has
                              brought down the powerful from their thrones").

                              Thus, there is no textual evidence of a common birth tradition behind Matt &
                              Luke. Those who assume there was have to be prepared to explain every
                              divergence in the synoptic birth accounts as a deliberate idiosyncratic
                              "correction" of earlier tradition by either author (or both). The "star" &
                              "magi" remain exclusively Matthean motifs. Speculation about a basis for
                              either detail in earlier tradition also has to be prepared to explain why
                              such a dramatic celestial portent would have been totally ignored (or
                              deliberately suppressed) by all other 1st c. Xn writers in an age that
                              regarded such phenomena as divine proof of the historic importance of a
                              person or event.

                              Shalom (and Happy Epiphany ;-)!

                              Mahlon

                              Mahlon H. Smith
                              Department of Religion
                              Rutgers University
                              New Brunswick NJ 08901

                              http://religion.rutgers.edu/profiles/mh_smith.html

                              Synoptic Gospels Primer
                              http://religion.rutgers.edu/nt/primer/

                              Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
                              http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/
                            • Bob Schacht
                              ... Mahlon, Rather than respond item by item to your strenuous attempt to refute any common tradition to both Matthew and Luke, I here provide Raymond Brown s
                              Message 14 of 17 , Jan 1, 2002
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                                At 12:09 PM 12/29/01 -0500, Mahlon H. Smith wrote:
                                >Pardon a few comments on Mark Cameron's "general comments." He wrote:
                                >
                                > > ... It is widely agreed by those who accept the Q hypothesis
                                > > that there was an early tradition about Jesus' birth that both Luke
                                > > and Matt knew in different forms and independently expanded upon.
                                > > e.g. birth in Bethlehem to a virgin named Mary, who was betrothed to
                                > > Joseph, during the reign of Herod the Great. <SNIP>
                                >
                                >Widely agreed? Among whom? ...
                                >The common elements in the Matthean & Lukan birth narratives have the
                                >character of random tidbits of information that are better accounted for
                                >on grounds other than a common "tradition about Jesus' birth."...

                                Mahlon,
                                Rather than respond item by item to your strenuous attempt to refute any
                                common tradition to both Matthew and Luke, I here provide Raymond Brown's
                                list of 11 points shared by the two infancy narratives (Birth of the
                                Messiah, 1977, p. 34f.):

                                1. The parents to be are Mary and Joseph who are legally engaged or
                                married, but have not yet come to live together or have sexual relations
                                (Matt 1:18; Luke 1:27,34)
                                2. Joseph is of Davidic descent (Matt 1:16,20; Luke 1:27,32; 2:4 [cf.
                                Romans 1:3-4]
                                3. There is an angelic announcement of the forthcoming birth of the child
                                (Matt 1:20-23; 1:30-35)
                                4. The conception of the child by Mary is not through intercourse with her
                                husband (Matt 1:20,23,25; Luke 1:34)
                                5. The conception is through the Holy Spirit ( Matt 1:18,20; Luke 1:35)
                                6. There is a directive from the angel that the child is to be named Jesus
                                (Matt 1:21; Luke 1:31)
                                7. An angel states that Jesus is to be Savior (Matt 1:21; Luke 2:11)
                                8. The birth of the child takes place after the parents have come to live
                                together (Matt 1:24-25; Luke 2:5-6)
                                9. The birth takes place at Bethlehem (Matt 2:1; Luke 2:4-6)
                                10. The birth is chronologically related to the reign (days) of Herod the
                                Great (Matt 2:1; Luke 1:5)
                                11. The child is reared at Nazareth (Matt 2:23; Luke 2:39)

                                Brown also points out that the parallels are (except for the last)
                                concentrated in Matthew 1:18 - 2:1-- i.e., in 9 verses. That is, 10
                                parallels are identified in 9 consecutive verses.

                                I think it is rather unlikely that Matthew and Luke independently invented
                                all of these parallels.

                                Bob
                                Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
                                Northern Arizona University
                                Flagstaff, AZ


                                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                              • bjtraff
                                ... no Q ... both Luke ... The ... character ... grounds ... Hello Malhon I would agree that no scholar I am familiar with links the Birth Narrative (BN) with
                                Message 15 of 17 , Jan 2, 2002
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                                  --- In crosstalk2@y..., "Mahlon H. Smith" <mahlonh.smith@w...> wrote:

                                  > Widely agreed? Among whom? Certainly not Q specialists. I know of
                                  no Q
                                  > scholar who postulates "an early tradition about Jesus' birth that
                                  both Luke
                                  > and Matt knew in different forms and independently expanded upon."
                                  The
                                  > common elements in the Matthean & Lukan birth narratives have the
                                  character
                                  > of random tidbits of information that are better accounted for on
                                  grounds
                                  > other than a common "tradition about Jesus' birth."

                                  Hello Malhon

                                  I would agree that no scholar I am familiar with links the Birth
                                  Narrative (BN) with "Q", but in many ways, this simply highlights the
                                  arbitrary nature of how Q is generally (but necessarily) defined. In
                                  any event, I agree that it is extremely unlikely that Matt and Luke
                                  created their stories of Jesus' birth using the same sources, and
                                  they certainly did not use one another. Yet, I am not fully
                                  convinced by what you have said below, so, if I may:

                                  > 1. Details such as the names of Mary & Joseph are simple basic
                                  biographical
                                  > info that anyone who knew of the Galilean Jew named Yeshu bar Yosef
                                  could
                                  > have gleaned from oral tradition that had nothing to do with his
                                  birth. The
                                  > fact that Matt 2 & Luke 2 present conflicting traditions explaining
                                  Jesus
                                  > ties to Nazareth make it unlikely that they were working from a
                                  common
                                  > tradition about his origins.

                                  This is one of the powerful arguments against Matt and Luke using a
                                  similar source, and as the name Mary is known to Mark, and Joseph to
                                  John, then we can be reasonably safe in assuming that early
                                  traditions did give us this bit of biographical information.

                                  > 2. Mark's thesis of the messianic secret provided plenty of
                                  theological
                                  > motivation for Matt & Luke to compose birth narratives *de novo*
                                  since the
                                  > Markan story of Jesus' private vision after his baptism is not very
                                  > convincing evidence that Jesus was in fact "Son of God" or
                                  motivated by the
                                  > HS -- both important claims of Xn christological apologetics long
                                  before the
                                  > composition of any gospel narrative (witness Paul).

                                  While you may be correct that Mark does not, in the eyes of Matt and
                                  Luke, do a credible enough job of establishing Jesus as the Son of
                                  God, there can be little doubt from reading Mark's narrative, that
                                  the author did believe this to be true. And at the same time, we
                                  must keep in mind that Mark's thesis did not rest solely upon the
                                  messianic secret motif. He was most concerned with Jesus as the
                                  Messiah/Christ, and as the Son of Man, so one need not place too much
                                  emphasis on this particular shortcoming in Mark's Gospel. Mark does
                                  not really speculate on the "when" of Jesus gaining his Messiahship.
                                  His focus is that Jesus is the Messiah, period. Further, given Paul's
                                  letters, as you have pointed out, Jesus' identity as the Son of God
                                  was already well established by the time Mark put quill to papyrus,
                                  so it should not come as a great surprise that he was less concerned
                                  with establishing this fact to his readers in any case.

                                  > As a hedge against
                                  > christological skeptics not likely to be convinced by the Markan
                                  origins
                                  > scenario, Matt & Luke demonstrably developed quite independent
                                  background
                                  > plots to illustrate that Jesus was *literally* Son of God & filled
                                  with the
                                  > HS from his very conception. Neither would need to have access to a
                                  common
                                  > birth tradition to develop these trajectories. All each would need
                                  is a
                                  > higher christology than Mark's adoptionism & the inventive mindset
                                  of an
                                  > apologist.

                                  Unfortunately, we do not really know what the "christological
                                  sceptics" might have been thinking about in the mid to late 1st
                                  Century C.E. On that basis it is difficult, if not impossible to
                                  speculate as to the exact motivations for why Luke and Matt
                                  independently recorded Jesus' birth story as they did. From Paul,
                                  and from Mark, we know that Jesus is accepted the Christ, as the Son
                                  of God, and the Son of Man. In all likelihood, the creedal formula
                                  found in Philippians 2:5-11 was sufficiently well known by the early
                                  Church to have established Jesus as Son of God, at least from the
                                  time that he was "born in the likeness of men". Luke and Matthew
                                  appear to be fleshing out the details found in this creed, and doing
                                  so from a sources that could easily have existed from before Paul.

                                  > 3. The only other common details in the Matthean & Lukan birth
                                  narratives
                                  > (Bethlehem & the virgin motif) are easily accounted for as
                                  apologetical
                                  > inferences from the Hebrew Bible *in Greek translation.* Matt
                                  himself is
                                  > evidence that Micah 5:2 & Isa 7:14 were proof texts that could be
                                  cited by
                                  > any Hellenistic Xn who argued that Jesus was the Messiah predicted
                                  in
                                  > biblical prophecy. While that was not Luke's main agenda, one can
                                  assume
                                  > that as an educated Hellenist who claims to have followed closely
                                  the
                                  > preaching of those who were "ministers of the word" he would have
                                  been well
                                  > aware of such texts & taken them for granted in composing his birth
                                  story
                                  > from scratch.

                                  Bob has already shown that Matt and Luke share several more details
                                  in their BN's than Jesus' parents, Bethlehem, and the virgin
                                  conception, so I will not elaborate on that point here. But your
                                  belief that Luke may have known and used Isaiah 7:14 as a silent
                                  proof text for explaining the virgin conception is quite astonishing
                                  in my view. If Luke did have such an understanding of this text
                                  (from the LXX), and did not get it from Matt (as seems likely), even
                                  to the point that Luke could simply "take it for granted", then later
                                  Jewish apologetics from the 4th Century on is clearly misleading.
                                  Their argument has always been that Isaiah 7:14 can never be read as
                                  meaning a virgin conceptions, especially one in the (for Isaiah) far
                                  distant future. Yet, using your reasoning here, we would have two
                                  separate 1st Century exegetes drawing the same conclusion, that it
                                  did mean such a thing, and that their understanding was so common
                                  that one of them could simply assume it. Later Jewish denials of
                                  this fact would be nothing more than a polemical attack on an
                                  interpretation of Isaiah that was at least reasonably common in the
                                  1st Century.

                                  Personally, I think it is extremely unlikely that Luke knew of Isaiah
                                  7:14 as a specific Messianic prophecy. He certainly would not have
                                  built his story "de novo" on such a flimsy reed without justifying
                                  it. More likely is that he was aware of the virgin conception story
                                  from an earlier source, and that this source was not the one used by
                                  Matthew.

                                  > 4. The oft-made claim that Luke traces Jesus' birth to Herod's
                                  reign as does
                                  > Matt is simply an unfounded inference, since Herod is never
                                  mentioned in
                                  > Luke 2. The only reference to Herod the Great in Luke's birth
                                  narratives is
                                  > in Lk 1:5 where it is presented as the general time frame when
                                  *Zechariah*
                                  > lived. Herod is never again mentioned in Luke's stories of the
                                  angelic
                                  > annunciation of Elizabeth's conception or JB's birth, much less
                                  Mary's
                                  > conception or the birth of Jesus. Since Matt does not have the
                                  story of JB's
                                  > birth & Luke reports none of the actions of Herod that Matt
                                  describes, it is
                                  > fallacious to argue that there is a common tradition of a Herodian
                                  time
                                  > frame behind the Matthean & Lukan infancy narratives. Luke 2:1-2
                                  provides a
                                  > very explicit detailed time frame for Jesus' birth & that is
                                  demonstrably
                                  > post-Herodian. For all we can tell from Luke's narrative he may
                                  even have
                                  > thought that Jesus' conception precipitated Herod's death, since he
                                  plays up
                                  > the theme of the demise of kings in Mary's Magnificat (Lk 1:52 -
                                  "He has
                                  > brought down the powerful from their thrones").

                                  Since Matthew (writing independently of Luke and Luke's sources)
                                  clearly places Jesus' birth at the time of Herod the Great, and Luke
                                  tells us in Luke 3:1, 23 that Jesus was about 30 years old when he
                                  began his ministry (ca. 27-29CE) it is most reasonable to link the
                                  Lucan reference to Herod in Luke 1 to the timeframe of Jesus' birth
                                  given to us in Luke 2.

                                  I think it is naïve to assume the dates given in Luke 1:1-2 over the
                                  other clearer temporal markers given to us in Luke 1 and 3, and the
                                  simpler solution is to ascribe either an error to Luke's reference to
                                  the census of 6CE, or motivations outside of simply dating the birth
                                  of Jesus. In my own view, I see the census as a device used by Luke
                                  to place Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, a piece of data he had
                                  independent of the census.

                                  Looking at the text, as well as Luke's overall motives in writing his
                                  gospel we can see that Luke wanted to establish the following:

                                  1) Jesus was born in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph
                                  2) Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit while still a virgin
                                  3) Jesus was named, circumcised and consecrated to God in Jerusalem,
                                  and according to the Law of Moses
                                  4) He was recognized as the Messiah in Jerusalem by a righteous,
                                  devout and Spirit filled man, Simeon, as well as by an especially
                                  holy and wise woman (prphetess?), Anna, even as a new born infant
                                  5) Only after all of this was completed did Jesus and his family
                                  return to Nazareth

                                  The historicity of any of the above events is beside the point here.
                                  Luke's objective was to establish each of the above "truths" in his
                                  BN, and the means by which he brings it about both logically and
                                  geographically is through the census.

                                  > Thus, there is no textual evidence of a common birth tradition
                                  behind Matt &
                                  > Luke. Those who assume there was have to be prepared to explain
                                  every
                                  > divergence in the synoptic birth accounts as a deliberate
                                  idiosyncratic
                                  > "correction" of earlier tradition by either author (or both).
                                  The "star" &
                                  > "magi" remain exclusively Matthean motifs. Speculation about a
                                  basis for
                                  > either detail in earlier tradition also has to be prepared to
                                  explain why
                                  > such a dramatic celestial portent would have been totally ignored
                                  (or
                                  > deliberately suppressed) by all other 1st c. Xn writers in an age
                                  that
                                  > regarded such phenomena as divine proof of the historic importance
                                  of a
                                  > person or event.

                                  I agree fully that the evidence is insufficient to theorize that Matt
                                  or Luke knew of the other's BN traditions in composing their works.
                                  The divergences far out weigh the similarities. But to then
                                  postulate that the evangelists wrote their entire works de novo,
                                  especially as regards the detail of the virgin conception is, in my
                                  judgement, incredible. Both men knew certain details from their
                                  earlier sources, and based on the evidence (even as we set aside the
                                  question of historicity of any of them), we can say with a reasonable
                                  degree of probability the following existed in the earlier sources of
                                  both Matthew and Luke's Birth Narratives:

                                  1. The parents are Mary and Joseph [cf: Mark 6:3, John 1:45, 6:42]
                                  who are legally engaged or married, but have not yet come to live
                                  together or have sexual relations (Matt 1:18; Luke 1:27,34 )
                                  2. Jesus is of Davidic descent (Matt 1:16,20; Luke 1:27,32; 2:4
                                  [cf. Mark 10:47, Romans 1:3-4]
                                  3. There is an angelic announcement of the forthcoming birth of the
                                  child (Matt 1:20-23; Luke 1:30-35)
                                  4. The conception of the child by Mary is not through intercourse
                                  with her husband (Matt 1:20,23,25; Luke 1:34)
                                  5. The conception is through the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:18,20; Luke 1:35)
                                  6. There is a directive from the angel that the child is to be named
                                  Jesus (Matt 1:21; Luke 1:31)
                                  7. An angel states that Jesus is to be Savior (Matt 1:21; Luke 2:11)
                                  8. The birth of the child takes place after the parents have come to
                                  live together (Matt 1:24-25; Luke 2:5-6)
                                  9. The birth takes place at Bethlehem (Matt 2:1; Luke 2:4-6)
                                  10. The birth is chronologically related to the reign (days) of Herod
                                  the Great (Matt 2:1; Luke 1:5, also Luke 3:1, 23)
                                  11. The child is reared at Nazareth (Matt 2:23; Luke 2:39, also
                                  Mark 1:24, 10:47, John 1:45)

                                  As a note, I offer the references to Mark and John only when they
                                  give us a clear indication of sources that are independent of (and
                                  probably earlier than) Matthew or Luke. I am not saying that John
                                  predates the Synoptics, though he may.

                                  Peace,

                                  Brian Trafford
                                  Calgary, AB, Canada
                                • Bob Schacht
                                  ... Brian, Thanks for your extensive comments to Mahlon and your additions to the references in the list below. Please excuse the late reply, but I have been
                                  Message 16 of 17 , Jan 10, 2002
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                                    At 10:10 PM 1/2/2002 +0000, bjtraff wrote:
                                    >...Bob has already shown that Matt and Luke share several more details
                                    >in their BN's than Jesus' parents, Bethlehem, and the virgin
                                    >conception, so I will not elaborate on that point here. ...
                                    >I agree fully that the evidence is insufficient to theorize that Matt
                                    >or Luke knew of the other's BN traditions in composing their works.
                                    >The divergences far out weigh the similarities. But to then
                                    >postulate that the evangelists wrote their entire works de novo,
                                    >especially as regards the detail of the virgin conception is, in my
                                    >judgement, incredible. Both men knew certain details from their
                                    >earlier sources, and based on the evidence (even as we set aside the
                                    >question of historicity of any of them), we can say with a reasonable
                                    >degree of probability the following existed in the earlier sources of
                                    >both Matthew and Luke's Birth Narratives:

                                    Brian,
                                    Thanks for your extensive comments to Mahlon and your additions to the
                                    references in the list below.
                                    Please excuse the late reply, but I have been mulling over the idea that
                                    both birth narratives arose as a midrash on Romans 1:3-4 and Mark 6:3.
                                    Romans 1:
                                    >3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to
                                    >the flesh
                                    >4 and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness
                                    >by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

                                    Mark 6:
                                    >Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses
                                    >and Judas and Simon,
                                    >and are not his sisters here with us?"

                                    Mark 10:
                                    >47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out
                                    >and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"



                                    You then wrote:
                                    >1. The parents are Mary and Joseph [cf: Mark 6:3, John 1:45, 6:42]
                                    >who are legally engaged or married, but have not yet come to live
                                    >together or have sexual relations (Matt 1:18; Luke 1:27,34 )

                                    This is interesting, because although Mary appears as you note in Mark 6:3,
                                    Joseph as father does not appear anywhere in Mark or in Paul's letters.
                                    Thus, under the standard theory of the independence of Matthew and Luke,
                                    and the lateness of John, we must explain why both Matthew and Luke
                                    identified Jesus' father as Joseph. The rest of this item could be
                                    explained as midrash on the sources cited above.

                                    >2. Jesus is of Davidic descent (Matt 1:16,20; Luke 1:27,32; 2:4
                                    >[cf. Mark 10:47, Romans 1:3-4]

                                    Since the genealogies are so different, this could be Midrash on Romans
                                    1:3-4 & Mark 10:47

                                    >3. There is an angelic announcement of the forthcoming birth of the
                                    >child (Matt 1:20-23; Luke 1:30-35)

                                    Midrash?

                                    >4. The conception of the child by Mary is not through intercourse
                                    >with her husband (Matt 1:20,23,25; Luke 1:34)

                                    Midrash on Romans 1:3-4?

                                    >5. The conception is through the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:18,20; Luke 1:35)

                                    Midrash on Romans 1:3-4?

                                    >6. There is a directive from the angel that the child is to be named
                                    >Jesus (Matt 1:21; Luke 1:31)

                                    Midrash on Romans 1:3-4 based on rationalizing the origin of his name

                                    >7. An angel states that Jesus is to be Savior (Matt 1:21; Luke 2:11)

                                    Midrash based on the literal meaning of the name

                                    >8. The birth of the child takes place after the parents have come to
                                    >live together (Matt 1:24-25; Luke 2:5-6)

                                    Midrash

                                    >9. The birth takes place at Bethlehem (Matt 2:1; Luke 2:4-6)

                                    This is the other piece (in addition to Joseph) that is hard to explain on
                                    the basis of independent midrash

                                    >10. The birth is chronologically related to the reign (days) of Herod
                                    >the Great (Matt 2:1; Luke 1:5, also Luke 3:1, 23)

                                    This could be based on the writer's own back-extrapolation of Jesus'
                                    presumed age.

                                    >11. The child is reared at Nazareth (Matt 2:23; Luke 2:39, also
                                    >Mark 1:24, 10:47, John 1:45)

                                    Midrash on Mark


                                    >As a note, I offer the references to Mark and John only when they
                                    >give us a clear indication of sources that are independent of (and
                                    >probably earlier than) Matthew or Luke.

                                    Thanks for adding these!

                                    This review indicates that the primary data not easily explainable by
                                    midrash on Romans and Mark are the name of Jesus' father, and the place of
                                    birth (Bethlehem). Mahlon wrote of

                                    >simple basic biographical info that anyone who knew of the Galilean Jew
                                    >named Yeshu bar Yosef
                                    >could have gleaned from oral tradition that had nothing to do with his birth.

                                    So Mahlon concedes the possibility of an oral tradition about Jesus that
                                    was known to Matthew and Luke. This oral tradition could easily account for
                                    both of these data-- and for how much more? Perhaps much of what I
                                    attributed to "midrash" above was already incorporated into this oral
                                    tradition, and accounts for the other similarities enumerated by Brown.

                                    Thanks for your added information.

                                    Bob






                                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                  • bjtraff
                                    ... Hi Bob I am unsure of the sense in which you are using the term midrash in your post. Brown, citing A. Wright s _Literary Genre_ tells us that midrash
                                    Message 17 of 17 , Jan 10, 2002
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                                      --- In crosstalk2@y..., Bob Schacht <r_schacht@y...> wrote:
                                      > Please excuse the late reply, but I have been mulling over the idea
                                      > that both birth narratives arose as a midrash on Romans 1:3-4 and
                                      > Mark 6:3.
                                      > Mark 10:47

                                      Hi Bob

                                      I am unsure of the sense in which you are using the term "midrash" in
                                      your post. Brown, citing A. Wright's _Literary Genre_ tells us that
                                      midrash is "a work (literally literature that explains literature)
                                      that attempts to make a text of Scripture understandable, useful, and
                                      relevant for a later generation." (_Birth of the Messiah_, pg. 559).
                                      Using this definition, as none of the Gospels, nor Paul's epistles
                                      were, in the 1st Century, Scripture, the Infancy Narratives are not
                                      technically midrash. But instead of explaining OT Scripture, the
                                      evangelists *are* trying to explain Jesus Christ by similar methods.
                                      Thus, they draw on the style of midrash, typically rabbinic homily
                                      based on a specific cited OT text. On this basis I would agree that
                                      Matthew in particular, with his multiple OT citations in his BN can
                                      be said to be making use of this technique. I am less certain that
                                      Luke is, though he is clearly building on earlier Christian
                                      traditions, including those found in Paul. More on this below.

                                      > You then wrote:
                                      > >1. The parents are Mary and Joseph [cf: Mark 6:3, John 1:45, 6:42]
                                      > >who are legally engaged or married, but have not yet come to live
                                      > >together or have sexual relations (Matt 1:18; Luke 1:27,34 )
                                      >
                                      > This is interesting, because although Mary appears as you note in
                                      > Mark 6:3, Joseph as father does not appear anywhere in Mark or in
                                      > Paul's letters.

                                      Obviously Joseph does not play any significant role outside of the
                                      BN's, but as we do find him in Matt, Luke and John (all writing
                                      independent of one another on this point, even if we accept Johannine
                                      awareness of Mark), so we can be reasonably confident in Jesus'
                                      earthly father being Joseph. I agree with Brown and J.P. Meier that
                                      the reason we do not encounter him, even in Matthew and Luke, after
                                      the Infancy Narratives is that he is probably dead by this point.

                                      > Thus, under the standard theory of the independence of Matthew and
                                      > Luke, and the lateness of John, we must explain why both Matthew
                                      > and Luke identified Jesus' father as Joseph. The rest of this item
                                      > could be explained as midrash on the sources cited above.

                                      Given independence of the Infancy Narratives, and of GJohn (at least
                                      concerning the BN), we can say that we have a three fold multiple
                                      attestation to the name of Jesus' father. This gives us a high level
                                      of confidence in its historicity. For the reasons I have offered
                                      above I would not call the other points midrash, though they do
                                      emmulate the style, so if we broaden our definition somewhat, it
                                      would be an accurate description of what the evangelists were doing
                                      here.

                                      > >2. Jesus is of Davidic descent (Matt 1:16,20; Luke 1:27,32; 2:4
                                      > >[cf. Mark 10:47, Romans 1:3-4]
                                      >
                                      > Since the genealogies are so different, this could be Midrash on
                                      > Romans 1:3-4 & Mark 10:47

                                      I would agree that the key piece of information shared by Matt and
                                      Luke is that Jesus was descended of David. Since Hebrews 7:14 also
                                      tells us that he was from the tribe of Judah, this can be used as
                                      additional (albeit weaker) evidence for Davidic descent, since any
                                      Jew thinking of a Messiah coming from the tribe of Judah is likely to
                                      be connecting this with belief in a Davidic Messiah as well.
                                      Hebrews 8:8 reinforces our acceptance of this evidence, as the author
                                      goes out of his way to cite the covenant with the tribe of Judah
                                      (traditionaly viewed as the Davidic covenant).

                                      > >3. There is an angelic announcement of the forthcoming birth of the
                                      > >child (Matt 1:20-23; Luke 1:30-35)
                                      >
                                      > Midrash?

                                      Keeping in mind my more limited definition of midrash, I would be
                                      inclined to agree with you here Bob. At the same time, in the case of
                                      Luke, he may simply be using a formula citation of the angels found
                                      in other OT annunciation announcements, however, and this would not
                                      be midrash, even under a broader definition.

                                      > >4. The conception of the child by Mary is not through intercourse
                                      > >with her husband (Matt 1:20,23,25; Luke 1:34)
                                      >
                                      > Midrash on Romans 1:3-4?

                                      And
                                      > >5. The conception is through the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:18,20; Luke
                                      > 1:35)
                                      >
                                      > Midrash on Romans 1:3-4?

                                      It strikes me as doubtful that Paul was even hinting at a virginal
                                      conception or birth anywhere in his letters. I am not saying that
                                      this is your claim either Bob, but do want to be clear on this
                                      point. Nothing in Romans 1:3-4 requires or even expects such a
                                      unique event. On the other hand, if we are looking for a hint of the
                                      idea of Jesus being born by the power of the Holy Spirit, we might
                                      look at Romans 8:3 and Philippians 2:7 where Paul tells us that Jesus
                                      came in the "likeness" of human beings, and in the case of the latter
                                      verse, suggests strongly that Jesus willed/participated in his own
                                      birth ("made himself" and "taking the very nature of").

                                      > >6. There is a directive from the angel that the child is to be
                                      > named Jesus (Matt 1:21; Luke 1:31)

                                      > Midrash on Romans 1:3-4 based on rationalizing the origin of his
                                      > name

                                      I think the name Jesus/Joshua is common enough in 1st Century
                                      Palestine that we need not place too much emphasis on it. We can
                                      note that in popular usage at this time, it was thought to mean "God
                                      saves", though there were no specific expectations that the Messiah
                                      *had* to be named Jesus.

                                      > >7. An angel states that Jesus is to be Savior (Matt 1:21; Luke
                                      > 2:11)
                                      >
                                      > Midrash based on the literal meaning of the name

                                      I think Messianic expectations were such, at this point, that many
                                      Jews expected the him to be their "savior", though not in the sense
                                      that Christians came to believe with Jesus (IOW, Jews looked for a
                                      political/military leader modelled on David, not a God-man). We need
                                      not postulate midrash here.

                                      > >8. The birth of the child takes place after the parents have come
                                      > to live together (Matt 1:24-25; Luke 2:5-6)
                                      >
                                      > Midrash

                                      I am unclear how you see this as midrash.

                                      > >9. The birth takes place at Bethlehem (Matt 2:1; Luke 2:4-6)
                                      >
                                      > This is the other piece (in addition to Joseph) that is hard to
                                      > explain on the basis of independent midrash

                                      I think Mahlon is correct that Matthew and Luke were almost certainly
                                      both thinking of Micah 5:2 here. The link of a Davidic Messiah and
                                      Bethlehem was strong enough by this point that it was probably
                                      assumed (much as we see in John 7:42).

                                      > >10. The birth is chronologically related to the reign (days) of
                                      > Herod the Great (Matt 2:1; Luke 1:5, also Luke 3:1, 23)
                                      >
                                      > This could be based on the writer's own back-extrapolation of
                                      > Jesus' presumed age.

                                      Perhaps, though Matthew himself does not show any interest in
                                      chronology anywhere else in his Gospel. Luke may have extrapolated
                                      back "about 30 years" from his dating found in Luke 3:1 (and this is
                                      even more probable if he wrote the Infancy Narrative last, after
                                      finishing the rest of Luke/Acts). For Matthew I suspect that the
                                      link with Herod the Great came from his earlier source, though one
                                      cannot rule out the possibility that he "wanted" Herod to be the king
                                      to make the Slaughter of the Innocents believable to his readers.
                                      Herod's evil reputation also makes him a good candidate when trying
                                      to link a wicked king to the memory of Pharoah, king at the time of
                                      the birth of Moses.

                                      > >11. The child is reared at Nazareth (Matt 2:23; Luke 2:39, also
                                      > >Mark 1:24, 10:47, John 1:45)
                                      >
                                      > Midrash on Mark

                                      I do not see how this can be midrash, though in John's Gospel it is
                                      possible that John was using Jesus' native Nazareth ironically, to
                                      debunk the expectation that "nothing good" ever comes from
                                      Nazareth/Galilee.

                                      If I may offer one final piece of data about the birth of Jesus that
                                      appears to be early, though mentioned only in Luke's Gospel and Paul.
                                      In Galations 4:4 Paul tells us that Jesus was "born under the law",
                                      meaning presumably Jewish law. Thus the Mosaic Laws would have been
                                      observed, and we can expect that the early traditions Paul is
                                      thinking about include:

                                      (a) Jesus was circumcized, probably on the eigth day after his birth
                                      (Gen. 17:11-12, Lev. 12:3)
                                      (b) Mary (but not Joseph) would have undergone the ritual cleansing
                                      and necessary sacrifices after the birth of her son (Lev. 12:2-4, 6-8)
                                      (c) Jesus' birth was considered legitimate by Paul, and that he was
                                      not "memzar", a bastard (Deut. 23:2)

                                      Luke is the only evangelist to specifically mention that (a) and (b)
                                      were observed, and given his belief in the virgin conception and
                                      birth we can assume he accepted Jesus as legitimate as well. Matthew
                                      does not mention that Jesus was circumcized, nor that Mary underwent
                                      the necessary ritual cleansing and sacrifice. In my view, given
                                      Matthew's probable Jewishness, as well as that of his principle
                                      audience, he merely assumed his readers knew of it (after all, in
                                      Matthew's world, EVERY male born to a Jewish mother was circumcized,
                                      and his mother cleansed herself). For Luke, his audience would
                                      supposedly be less familiar with these specific Mosaic Laws, so it is
                                      in his interest to mention it, and connect Jesus to his Jewish roots
                                      and traditions (much admired as it was among the educated in the
                                      Roman world at this time).

                                      I am currently exploring links between Luke and Paul, and this was
                                      one that stood out for me. Only he and Paul note these specific
                                      facts of Jesus' birth, and while Paul mentions it only in passing
                                      (presumably because it was not controversial information in the
                                      least, and could have even be seen as embarrassing to Paul given his
                                      ongoing fights with the circumcision party so often encountered in
                                      his epistles). Luke, on the other hand, takes this piece of
                                      information offered first by Paul, and draws our attention to it with
                                      a detailed pericope unique to his Gospel, clearly intent on showing
                                      how it links Jesus to the Law.

                                      Thank you again for your thoughts Bob. I too have found this
                                      discussion to be very interesting.

                                      Brian Trafford
                                      Calgary, AB, Canada
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