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Re: [XTalk] Re: The Star of Bethlehem

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  • 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 1 of 17 , Dec 26, 2001
      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 2 of 17 , Dec 26, 2001
        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 3 of 17 , Dec 26, 2001
          ----- 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 4 of 17 , Dec 26, 2001
            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 5 of 17 , Dec 27, 2001
              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 6 of 17 , Dec 27, 2001
                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 7 of 17 , Dec 27, 2001
                  ----- 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 8 of 17 , Dec 28, 2001
                    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 9 of 17 , Dec 29, 2001
                      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 10 of 17 , Jan 1, 2002
                        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 11 of 17 , Jan 2, 2002
                          --- 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 12 of 17 , Jan 10, 2002
                            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 13 of 17 , Jan 10, 2002
                              --- 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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