New Testament

The Birth of Jesus – Matthean Version

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, ...

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy: The Three Wise Men (named Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar).

I have had numerous conversations with people regarding the only two narratives about the birth of Jesus in the Christian Bible.  I have watched Christian apologists pull out just about every trick conceivable to try to account for the obvious fact that these two independent stories are exclusive.  If the story told in GoMatthew is true, then the story told in GoLuke is false.  If the story told in GoLuke is true, then the story in GoMatthew is false.  Both stories cannot be true.  For this Christmas season, I thought I would provide both stories, one after another, where they can be compared.  I spent a couple of hours writing out the Matthean version in my own words, but then decided that it would be best to let the Gospels simply speak for themselves.  So for your dining and dancing pleasure, I first present the Birth of Jesus according to GoMatthew.  If you are interested, please read it as you would any other piece of literature, following the narrative as it is written.  I’ll be quoting from the New Revised Standard Version, (1995).

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

The Visit of the Wise Men

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.  Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’  When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The Escape to Egypt

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’  Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet,

‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

The Massacre of the Infants

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

The Return from Egypt

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’  Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.  There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled,

‘He will be called a Nazorean.’



2 thoughts on “The Birth of Jesus – Matthean Version

  1. “And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled,

    ” ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’ ”

    Except the archaeological and historical evidence from the 1st Century ce for a TOWN called Nazareth appears to be missing. All they’ve found were some tombs, funerary utensils, an inscription from Tiberias not to rob graves (Christians think that is evidence for The Resurrection) and a detached single family house.

    And I believe there was a sect back then called the Nazoreans, if I’m not mistaken.

    Posted by Ed-M | December 8, 2010, 9:02 pm
    • Thanks for reading along, and for your comments, Ed.
      Interesting piece of trivia.

      The phrase “he will be called a Nazorean” or “Nazarene” appears for the first time in the historical record in the Gospel of Matthew. It is not a prophecy from the Hebrew Bible, or any Jewish messianic prophecy. I think that GoMark would be the first time that the word “Nazareth” is ever mentioned. I would guess that Matthew got “Nazareth” from GoMark and scrounged the Septuagint until he found something that he figured would work. That seems to be the way the author of Matthew used the Septuagint throughout the rest of his Gospel, but that’s just a worthless opinion.

      It’s fun to watch the apologetic wrangling with this particular phrase, from the shoot of Jesse in Isaiah, to the Nazarite vow.

      “Nazarean” was a name used to describe early Jewish followers of Jesus, including perhaps the Ebionites and others. I don’t call them “Christians” because they weren’t Pauline at all, Paul would have been a heretic to them. They might have even been the very people that Paul had so much trouble with, both before and after his conversion, the one’s that he wished would castrate themselves. Oh, lest I forget, the Gospel of the Nazareans, which is lost and referenced only by Church Fathers, doesn’t appear to have included a miraculous birth narrative for Jesus either. It seems that they were closer to the Markan view that he was just a man, like any other, who had been chosen by YHWH at his baptism, for whatever reason.

      A deity having a baby with a woman is so . . . . Greek.

      I’ll be closing with WHY we might have these two different stories about little baby Jesus in Bethlehem, and it’ll be in stores for Christmas.

      Posted by Xcntrik | December 9, 2010, 6:38 pm

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