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[XTalk] Re: The Star of Bethlehem (The BN)

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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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