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RE: [XTalk] Re: The Star of Bethlehem

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  • 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 1 of 17 , Dec 26, 2001
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      I thought it was Roger W. Sinnott writing in the astronomical journal, 'Sky
      and Telescope,' Dec 1968, 384-386 who was the first to draw attention to the
      unusual conjunction of Jupiter and Venus on June 17, 2 BCE that is the real
      star of Bethlehem.

      Richard H. Anderson
      Wallingford PA
      http://www.geocities.com/gospelofluke
    • Jack Kilmon
      ... From: To: Sent: Tuesday, December 25, 2001 10:31 PM Subject: Re: Re: [XTalk] Re: The Star of Bethlehem ...
      Message 2 of 17 , Dec 26, 2001
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        ----- Original Message -----
        From: <DaGoi@...>
        To: <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Tuesday, December 25, 2001 10:31 PM
        Subject: Re: Re: [XTalk] Re: The Star of Bethlehem


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

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

        Jack
      • David C. Hindley
        ... occurs every 805 years, not every 20 years. This conjunction appeared in the southern sky over Jerusalem in the constellation of Pisces. Pisces was
        Message 3 of 17 , Dec 26, 2001
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          Jack Kilmon comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Respectfully,

          Dave Hindley
          Cleveland, Ohio, USA
        • DaGoi@aol.com
          In a message dated 12/26/2001 12:05:37 PM, Mahlon Smith wrote:
          Message 4 of 17 , Dec 27, 2001
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            In a message dated 12/26/2001 12:05:37 PM, Mahlon Smith wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Not too keen on Christmas cards?

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

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

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

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

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

            Shalom & Happy Holidays!

            Mahlon
            >>

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

            conrad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              Happy Epiphany,
              conrad

              deacon Wm D. Foley
              1st Congregational Church (Independent), Woburn
            • Jack Kilmon
              ... From: To: Sent: Thursday, December 27, 2001 5:21 AM Subject: Re: Re: Re: [XTalk] Re: The Star of Bethlehem ...
              Message 6 of 17 , Dec 27, 2001
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                ----- Original Message -----
                From: <DaGoi@...>
                To: <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Thursday, December 27, 2001 5:21 AM
                Subject: Re: Re: Re: [XTalk] Re: The Star of Bethlehem


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                Jack
              • DaGoi@aol.com
                In a message dated 12/27/2001 4:36:09 PM, Jack Kilmon wrote:
                Message 7 of 17 , Dec 28, 2001
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                  In a message dated 12/27/2001 4:36:09 PM, Jack Kilmon wrote:

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

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

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

                  conrad
                  deacon wm d foley, 1st congregational church, Woburn
                • Mahlon H. Smith
                  ... Widely agreed? Among whom? Certainly not Q specialists. I know of no Q scholar who postulates an early tradition about Jesus birth that both Luke and
                  Message 8 of 17 , Dec 29, 2001
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                    Pardon a few comments on Mark Cameron's "general comments." He wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                    Shalom (and Happy Epiphany ;-)!

                    Mahlon

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

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

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

                    Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
                    http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/
                  • Bob Schacht
                    ... Mahlon, Rather than respond item by item to your strenuous attempt to refute any common tradition to both Matthew and Luke, I here provide Raymond Brown s
                    Message 9 of 17 , Jan 1, 2002
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                      At 12:09 PM 12/29/01 -0500, Mahlon H. Smith wrote:
                      >Pardon a few comments on Mark Cameron's "general comments." He wrote:
                      >
                      > > ... It is widely agreed by those who accept the Q hypothesis
                      > > that there was an early tradition about Jesus' birth that both Luke
                      > > and Matt knew in different forms and independently expanded upon.
                      > > e.g. birth in Bethlehem to a virgin named Mary, who was betrothed to
                      > > Joseph, during the reign of Herod the Great. <SNIP>
                      >
                      >Widely agreed? Among whom? ...
                      >The common elements in the Matthean & Lukan birth narratives have the
                      >character of random tidbits of information that are better accounted for
                      >on grounds other than a common "tradition about Jesus' birth."...

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

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

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

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

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


                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • bjtraff
                      ... no Q ... both Luke ... The ... character ... grounds ... Hello Malhon I would agree that no scholar I am familiar with links the Birth Narrative (BN) with
                      Message 10 of 17 , Jan 2, 2002
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                        --- In crosstalk2@y..., "Mahlon H. Smith" <mahlonh.smith@w...> wrote:

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

                        Hello Malhon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                        Peace,

                        Brian Trafford
                        Calgary, AB, Canada
                      • Bob Schacht
                        ... Brian, Thanks for your extensive comments to Mahlon and your additions to the references in the list below. Please excuse the late reply, but I have been
                        Message 11 of 17 , Jan 10, 2002
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                          At 10:10 PM 1/2/2002 +0000, bjtraff wrote:
                          >...Bob has already shown that Matt and Luke share several more details
                          >in their BN's than Jesus' parents, Bethlehem, and the virgin
                          >conception, so I will not elaborate on that point here. ...
                          >I agree fully that the evidence is insufficient to theorize that Matt
                          >or Luke knew of the other's BN traditions in composing their works.
                          >The divergences far out weigh the similarities. But to then
                          >postulate that the evangelists wrote their entire works de novo,
                          >especially as regards the detail of the virgin conception is, in my
                          >judgement, incredible. Both men knew certain details from their
                          >earlier sources, and based on the evidence (even as we set aside the
                          >question of historicity of any of them), we can say with a reasonable
                          >degree of probability the following existed in the earlier sources of
                          >both Matthew and Luke's Birth Narratives:

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

                          Midrash?

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

                          Midrash on Romans 1:3-4?

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

                          Midrash on Romans 1:3-4?

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

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

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

                          Midrash based on the literal meaning of the name

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

                          Midrash

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

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

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

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

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

                          Midrash on Mark


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

                          Thanks for adding these!

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

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

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

                          Thanks for your added information.

                          Bob






                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • bjtraff
                          ... Hi Bob I am unsure of the sense in which you are using the term midrash in your post. Brown, citing A. Wright s _Literary Genre_ tells us that midrash
                          Message 12 of 17 , Jan 10, 2002
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                            --- In crosstalk2@y..., Bob Schacht <r_schacht@y...> wrote:
                            > Please excuse the late reply, but I have been mulling over the idea
                            > that both birth narratives arose as a midrash on Romans 1:3-4 and
                            > Mark 6:3.
                            > Mark 10:47

                            Hi Bob

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            I am unclear how you see this as midrash.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            Brian Trafford
                            Calgary, AB, Canada
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