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Switch to Forum Live View Where was Jesus born?
6 years ago  ::  Nov 05, 2007 - 3:03PM #1
Melancthon
Posts: 140
Spinning off from the "What kind of books" thread...

[QUOTE=BillWitt;45050][Jesus] may have been born anywhere in Judea, maybe in Nazareth.  Who knows.[/QUOTE]

I'm inclined to agree with this.  Matthew has the birth in Bethlehem, apparently in fulfillment of prophecy, although I want to call attention to the fact that he puts that prophecy in the mouths of the scribes.  He doesn't use his typical fulfillment formula and present it as evidence of his own.  Still, it is likely that Matthew sees a connection between this prophecy and the location of Jesus' birth.

Mark and John don't take any interest in the location of the birth.  As I said, Luke makes no reference to fulfillment of prophecy, so we have no strong reason to think that he places Jesus' birth there for that reason.  It may be that Luke was familiar with some form of the tradition that Matthew picks up in the Micah passage and all he took out of it was that people thought Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  Luke seems to be making use of this detail to call attention to the connection between Jesus and David.

Luke and Matthew don't show any dependence whatsoever on one another for the birth narratives, and yet they both place the birth in Bethlehem.  Their almost total lack of congruity makes the details upon which they agree somewhat stronger.  Still, I don't suppose this is sufficient evidence to really say with certainty that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 05, 2007 - 3:03PM #2
Melancthon
Posts: 140
Spinning off from the "What kind of books" thread...

[QUOTE=BillWitt;45050][Jesus] may have been born anywhere in Judea, maybe in Nazareth.  Who knows.[/QUOTE]

I'm inclined to agree with this.  Matthew has the birth in Bethlehem, apparently in fulfillment of prophecy, although I want to call attention to the fact that he puts that prophecy in the mouths of the scribes.  He doesn't use his typical fulfillment formula and present it as evidence of his own.  Still, it is likely that Matthew sees a connection between this prophecy and the location of Jesus' birth.

Mark and John don't take any interest in the location of the birth.  As I said, Luke makes no reference to fulfillment of prophecy, so we have no strong reason to think that he places Jesus' birth there for that reason.  It may be that Luke was familiar with some form of the tradition that Matthew picks up in the Micah passage and all he took out of it was that people thought Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  Luke seems to be making use of this detail to call attention to the connection between Jesus and David.

Luke and Matthew don't show any dependence whatsoever on one another for the birth narratives, and yet they both place the birth in Bethlehem.  Their almost total lack of congruity makes the details upon which they agree somewhat stronger.  Still, I don't suppose this is sufficient evidence to really say with certainty that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 05, 2007 - 7:58PM #3
whatson2nd
Posts: 2,936
Matthew 2:2


Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

King James Bible

-----------------


It's all so very confusing, if the magi saw his star in the east, then they would be traveling from west to east. This may be a clue that the author was writing from a place west of Bethlehem, probably Rome, when making this blunder.
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 07, 2007 - 4:01PM #4
BillWitt
Posts: 2,622
[QUOTE=whatson2nd;47145]It's all so very confusing.[/QUOTE]

Put the two birth narratives in Matthew 1-2, and in Luke 1-3, along side each other and read them, and it really gets very confusing.  Then throw the Infancy Gospel of James in the mix, and it really, really gets very confusing.

Oh, by the way, the magi were known to always walk backwards, and to ride on their camels backwards.  They were also farsighted.  When they got further away from an object, the object was more in focus and appeared closer.  This might explain your confusion.
"Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived." - -Isaac Asimov
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 07, 2007 - 4:47PM #5
BillWitt
Posts: 2,622
[QUOTE=Melancthon;46295]I'm inclined to agree with this.[/QUOTE] 

Thanks.  We probably agree fairly closely on many things, but obviously not all.  I'm much more inclined to say things cannot be determined one way or the other.  Until the evidence is provided and examined, I leave it at; "Maybe this took place, or maybe it didn't." 

[QUOTE=Melancthon;46295]As I said, Luke makes no reference to fulfillment of prophecy.[/QUOTE]

No, he didn't, but I don't feel this indicates much.  However, it is fairly likely he was aware of this passage in the Septuagint.  He used the same Greek spelling for names in the OT as were in the Greek Septuagint, and he wrote in Greek.  We can be fairly sure he used the Septuagint instead of the Tanakh, and had the Septuagint available for reference.  The Septuagint had the poorly translated of Micah 5:2, which would be easy to read "as a child being born in the town of Bethlehem," instead of to a clan. It's fairly likely (but cannot be shown) that he placed the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem for this reason.  Unlike Matthew, the author of Luke didn't build his stories around prophecies, and he would have used this information in a different way.

As you suggested, the author may have picked this up from a tradition started by the writings in Matthew, or he (or both of the authors) may have picked it up from the oldboy's religious network.  It seems likely that the story was started by someone outside of the Jerusalem area, who had read the Septuagint, and was not very familiar with the geographical locations of Nazareth and Bethlehem.  Although the authors of Matthew and Luke wrote independently, they may have obtained the Bethlehem birth from the same source (Septuagint, or oldboy's network) and used it in a different way.

It is doubtful if the origins came from the early followers of Jesus in Jerusalem.  In most of the synagogues, they used the Hebrew Tanakh, or the closely related Aramaic Targum.  In both of these, Micah 5:2 (although not a prophecy about the Messsiah) had that the child was to be born to a clan, and not in the town of Bethlehem.  The Jews never made any claim of where the Messiah would be born.   

The two above are probably the most likely reasons for why the author placed the birth in Bethlehem, but there are some other options.  He may have used this to show a stronger connection to David who was born in Bethlehem.  This would strengthen the relationship between where Jesus was born, and the genealogy given in the next section.

Another option, although less likely, is that the author wanted him to be born outside of the Nazareth area.  It was considered a very backwards area, and "how could anything good come out of Nazareth."  Many considered the people from this area to be much the same as the hillbillies mentioned in US history.

We shouldn't forget another option.  The same tooth fairy (Opps - angel) who talked to Joseph and Mary about the virgin birth of Jesus, may have told the author that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem.  I consider this much less likely, but it should be considered as an option. 

[QUOTE=Melancthon;46295]Still, I don't suppose this is sufficient evidence to really say with certainty that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.[/QUOTE]

I agree, it is not even close to providing sufficient evidence.  The evidence isn't there to determine where, how, or exactly when he was born.
"Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived." - -Isaac Asimov
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 07, 2007 - 8:30PM #6
Melancthon
Posts: 140
[QUOTE=BillWitt;52100]We can be fairly sure he used the Septuagint instead of the Tanakh, and had the Septuagint available for reference.  The Septuagint had the poorly translated of Micah 5:2...[/QUOTE]

Interestingly, when Matthew quotes Micah here, it doesn't appear to be the Septuagint he is quoting.  (Not sure how this will come across....)

Matthew 2:6
και συ Βηθλεεμ γη Ιουδα ουδαμως ελαχιστη ει εν τοις ηγεμοσιν Ιουδα εκ σου γαρ εξελευσεται ηγουμενος οστις ποιμανει τον λαον μου τον Ισραηλ

Micah 5:1 (LXX)
και συ Βηθλεεμ οικος του Εφραθα ολιγοστος ει του ειναι εν χιλιασιν Ιουδα εκ σου μοι εξελευσεται του ειναι εις αρχοντα εν τω Ισραηλ και αι εξοδοι αυτου απ αρχης εξ ημερων αιωνος

Among prominent differences, the LXX uses "oligostos" for "few" and "archonta" for the "ruler" who is to come.  Matthew uses "elachiste" for "least" and "hegoumenos" for the "ruler" who is to come.  Further Matthew picks up something of the Hebrew "least of the ... of Judah" where the LXX says something to the effect of "you who are few are to be thousands."

This is actually typical of Matthew's fulfillment formulas.  While most of the quotations Matthew uses, particularly those shared with the other synoptics, are mostly LXX in nature, the fulfillment texts tend to be more free form.  They typically show familiarity with both the Hebrew text and the LXX, but comform to neither.  It seems that Matthew tailors the text to what he wants it to say.  This isn't unusual for first century Jewish exegesis.

The trouble here is, why would Matthew tailor a prophecy to fit an event that he was inventing to fit the prophecy?
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 08, 2007 - 4:10PM #7
BillWitt
Posts: 2,622
[QUOTE=Melancthon;52543]Interestingly, when Matthew quotes Micah here, it doesn't appear to be the Septuagint he is quoting.[/QUOTE]

My comments were about the possible sources the author of Luke might have had for the Bethlehem birth, not the author of Matthew. 

I would not expect the author of Matthew to state the prophecy, or any other prophecy, exactly the way it was written in whatever source he used.  He probably just wanted to indicate it was a prophecy about the Messiah, and was not that concerned about the exact wording.

I don't even think he was even very concerned about whether what he stated was actually a prophecy or not.  He apparent used Isaiah 7:14 as a a prophecy about the Messiah, and it was not.  Certainly the wording in Mat 2:23; "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene." is not the same wording as it appears in either the Tanakh, or the Septuagint.  If fact, this prophecy does not even exist in either of them.

Neither did the prophecy in Mat. 2:14; "by the prophhet, saying Out of Egypt have I called my son" exist in Hebrew Scripture about the Messiah coming out of Egypt.  I suspect this was written to give Jesus a Mosses like quality.

The author of Matthew really went free wheeling when it came to prophecies.  Some were different from what he indicated, and others didn't even exist.   

[QUOTE=Melancthon;52543]While most of the quotations Matthew uses, particularly those shared with the other synoptics, are mostly LXX in nature, the fulfillment texts tend to be more free form.[/QUOTE]

If the author of Matthew had Mark in front of him, this would be expected.  Most of the fulfillment texts are not in Mark.  The parts where he followed Mark are much the same, with just a few changes.  If he had felt Mark had gotten his information from reliable sources, or people who knew eyewitnesses, he would not have wanted to change what he had in front of him.  He would not have felt this restriction when he wrote the fulfillment texts, and probably felt free to express these parts in a different form.  He wasn't even very concerned if the prophecy existed.   

[QUOTE=Melancthon;52543]The trouble here is, why would Matthew tailor a prophecy to fit an event that he was inventing to fit the prophecy?[/QUOTE]

I'm not sure Matthew thought he was inventing the event.  If he read Micah 5:2 in the Septuagint, he probably though it was prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  Many Christians read this passage in their Bible today, and assume the same thing.  This passage is often used to show that Jesus fulfilled prophecy. 

Just last week I was told this by a women (relative) who has attended Bible Study groups almost every week for the last 30 years, and has acted as group leader for years.  I tried to discuss this with her, along with other topics, and she appeared to have no idea of what I was talking about.  She also insisted the disciple Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew, and she does not even attend a more fundamentalist branch of the Church.  What do they learn in Bible Study groups, I've never attended one?
"Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived." - -Isaac Asimov
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 08, 2007 - 7:43PM #8
Melancthon
Posts: 140
[QUOTE=BillWitt;54723]I'm not sure Matthew thought he was inventing the event.  If he read Micah 5:2 in the Septuagint, he probably though it was prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.[/QUOTE]

Are you saying that because he saw a prophecy which he took to refer to the Messiah being born in Bethlehem he believed that Jesus must have been born in Bethlehem?  I suppose that's possible.

As for the Septuagint thing, I don't know if I buy it.  Matthew's form of the quotation shows familiarity with the Hebrew form.

The conclusion I actually came to, after think about this some more, is that in using the phrase "not least among the rulers of Judah", Matthew is probably taking a shot at the rulers of Judah at the time (i.e. the Romans, Herod, the high priest, the Sanhedrin) and saying that Jesus, who Matthew believes is the Messiah, is "not least" among these other "rulers of Judah."  It's possible that Matthew places the birth in Bethlehem just so he can use this passage.


[QUOTE=BillWitt;54723]She also insisted the disciple Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew, and she does not even attend a more fundamentalist branch of the Church.  What do they learn in Bible Study groups, I've never attended one?[/QUOTE]

There's actually a disturbing lack of transfer of knowledge from seminary educated clergy to their parishoners.  I think the clergy are afraid to question the beliefs of the laity and the laity just don't know any better.  Or maybe the clergy don't believe what they are taught in seminary. 

I once heard a pastor at an ELCA church (a generally liberal and scholarly group) claim during a sermon that there had been no rain before the Genesis flood and that prior to that time the earth was watered by mist coming up from the land.  I had never even heard such nonsense from young earth creationists before that.

But then there's a whole other group of Christians (like the kind you find on the radio or TV) who think it is a sign of faithfulness to reject any and all interpretations of the Bible based in historical-critical methods.
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 09, 2007 - 1:19PM #9
BillWitt
Posts: 2,622
[QUOTE=Melancthon;55271]It's possible that Matthew places the birth in Bethlehem just so he can use this passage.[/QUOTE]

Possibly, but he could have done the same thing if had said Jesus was born to the clan of Bethlehem Ephratah.  It appears the author felt free to use prophecies in whatever way he wanted, and even make them up (Mat.2:15, 17, 23), if it would make the story about Jesus sound more like that he had fulfilled prophecy.  I feel you're trying to read the mind of the author too much, to try to determine his intent.  All we can really determine is that he wanted to use prophecies in his story.  It seems clear he wasn't too concerned about where he got them, or how he used them.  Keep it simple.  Once this is determined, the details are not very important.   

[QUOTE=Melancthon;55271]There's actually a disturbing lack of transfer of knowledge from seminary educated clergy to their parishoners.[/QUOTE]

Yes, very disturbing.  It appears to be an almost total lack of transfer.  The average Christian knows almost nothing about the different translation the Bible went through, almost nothing about the Jewish beliefs of Jesus, almost nothing about the development of the early Church, and most haven't even read the Bible carefully.  All they seem to know are the Faith statements provided to them by the Church.  Most branches of the Church make little effort (or none) to educate their followers about their religion.  As one Minister told me, "It is not my job to educated them about their religion, it is my job to support their Faith." 

Although I have never attended Bible Study groups, I have had conversation with a number who have, and have acted as team leaders and were Elders in their Church (in moderate to more liberal branches).  It appears the only things which are discussed are selected passages, and how they relate to their Faith.  After years, they still assume the names on the Gospels represent the actual authors, and they are not aware of any of the contradictions, false statements, and highly questionable stories which exist in the Bible. 

It appears, most parts of the Church does not introduce any information which might cause their followers to question anything about their Faith beliefs, and does not discuss information in an open and honest manner.  It appears the long time honored practice of the "sin of silence" is still alive and well, and even a few little white lies are still expectable.

The laity is also partially responsible for this lack of education.  They will seldom ask questions which will lead to answers which might conflict with their Faith beliefs, and what has been presented by their Church.  Few make any effort to learn anything about the history of their religion, and very few have read and examined the Bible carefully.  Most just accept what they are told by their Church and what they heard while they growing up, and only read a few selected passages in the Bible.  Many Christians feel very uncomfortable discussing their religion on an intellectual level, and have seldom done so.   

[QUOTE=Melancthon;55271]I once heard a pastor at an ELCA church (a generally liberal and scholarly group) claim during a sermon.   Or maybe the clergy don't believe what they are taught in seminary.[/QUOTE]

Oh yes, what a minister might present in a sermon might be far different from his personal beliefs, and what he learned in his seminary education.  What they believe on an intellectual level, and what they believe on an emotional belief level, are probably very different.  Also, they do want to keep their jobs, and providing information not in line with Church traditional can be very disturbing to their parishioners.   

[QUOTE=Melancthon;55271]But then there's a whole other group of Christians (like the kind you find on the radio or TV) who think it is a sign of faithfulness to reject any and all interpretations of the Bible based in historical-critical methods.[/QUOTE]

They don't need to use a historical-critical method, they just need to use a little common sense.  A contradiction is a contradiction, a false statement is a false statement, a ridiculous story is a ridiculous story.  It doesn't take a rocket science to see these, and understand why they are.

Yes, it does seem to be a sign of faithfulmess to reject all evidence and common sense.  The more evidence presented, and the more ridiculous their claims, the more faithful they can claim to be.
"Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived." - -Isaac Asimov
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 09, 2007 - 7:38PM #10
Melancthon
Posts: 140
[QUOTE=BillWitt;56747]They don't need to use a historical-critical method, they just need to use a little common sense.  A contradiction is a contradiction, a false statement is a false statement, a ridiculous story is a ridiculous story.  It doesn't take a rocket science to see these, and understand why they are.[/QUOTE]

Frankly, I find this attitude to be as simplistic as unhelpful as the unquestioning acceptable of everything.  Both share the same basic fundamentalist attitude with its fetish for consistency and factuality.  If you study the Bible in any depth, you'll quickly come to the conclusion that these things just aren't the point.  The contradictions that opponents of the Bible get so worked up about are generally insignificant, and more often than not the ridiculous story is meant to be a ridiculous story (Jonah and Job, for instance).

But instead of getting past that, we spend our time arguing over contradictions and factuality, as if the Bible were am academic text book.
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