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Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: Looking again at one of the greatest of all stories’

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Published: Thursday, Dec. 19 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

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Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

With the exception of the Annunciation, the Nativity accounts of Matthew and Luke differ totally from each other. There is no obvious dependence on nor reaction to the other which suggests they reflect separate and independent traditions in the early Church.

Christmas celebrations of today synthesize Matthew and Luke into a harmonized picture. The most obvious example that we’re all familiar with is the Nativity scene with shepherds (Luke) and wise men from the East (Matthew) huddled together around the manger in adoration and worship of the newborn king.

grj
Bountiful, ut

What an interesting article. I find it quite amazing how so many of the concepts we hold true and dear and howbso much of the phrasing in the Christmas carols we sing are off-kilter from how things really were or how they really happened. But I suppose the bottom-line truth remains the same, so no harm done, right?

Bob A. Bohey
Marlborough, MA

If one is going to point out the differences in the accounts of Matthew and Luke, it should also be noted that many people in the world believe that "one of the greatest of all stories" is just that, a story, fabricated, it never really happened.

nonceleb
Salt Lake City, UT

Not mentioned in the article is the angel at the scene in Luke. How could Matthew overlook this visitation? Based on events and leaders mentioned, the birth is 10 years apart in the two books (4 BCE and 6 CE). Tax censuses were for Roman citizens only and there was no requirement to return to one's ancestral home. The first universal tax census was in 74 CE under Vespasian. In Matthew, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt and waited until Herod died before returning home. In Luke they went to Jerusalem then back to Nazareth. These are just a few of the conflicts and problems with the accounts in Matthew and Luke.

Russell Spencer
Boise, ID

The only "conflict" between Matthew and Luke's accounts is Luke's apparent reference to Joseph and Mary taking Jesus back to Nazareth *immediately* upon finishing at the Temple, and Matthew's leaving Jesus in Bethlehem for up to two years before fleeing to Egypt, remaining there for an indefinite period of time, and then returning to Nazareth. But to create a conflict there requires an *interpretation* of Luke which the text does not demand. All Luke requires is that *after* they finished the Temple rites, they returned to Nazareth. That's true in Matthew--their return to Nazareth is certainly "after."

Russell Spencer
Boise, ID

Examining the other "conflicts" closely, Luke appears wrong about the census, at least as far as we can tell historically today. He's right that (it appears) Quirinius was the first to perform a tax census, and "nonceleb" is right that (it appears) that census took place in 6 A.D. and there was no requirement to return to ancestral homelands; however, the census Quirinius performed, per Josephus, was certainly "to take account of [the Jews'] substance."

Jesus was likely born during a Jubilee year, which included returning to homelands and being counted. Luke, not a Jew and perhaps unfamiliar with Jewish tradition, may have assumed, due to their similarities, that it was a census.

All sacred texts deserve close readings.

Russell Spencer
Boise, ID

Finally, something to remember when harmonizing the accounts found in Luke and Matthew--Luke and Matthew are different people, writing to different audiences, with different perspectives and emphases. Matthew wrote to the Jews, proclaiming Christ as King of the Jews, the son of David, and their Messiah. Luke wrote to a fellow Gentile convert(s?), "Theophilus," proclaiming Christ as the Savior of the world and Son of God. Matthew doesn't negate the divinity of Christ and Luke the kingship, but the emphasis differs between the authors. That doesn't mean they "conflict."

Also, Luke appears to have additional insights into Mary, the mother of Jesus, which apparently were not commonly available to the Church at the time (see Luke 1:1-3 and 2:19). For more than 1,000 years there have been those who suspected, and I personally believe, that in Luke's interviews with the "eyewitnesses" described in 1:2, he had the opportunity to speak with members of the immediate family of Jesus, if not Mary herself. Having her insights and recollections would certainly change the perspective of the story.

sharrona
layton, UT

RE: The term “logos (“word”).

In Greek philosophy, the logos remains an impersonal force, a lifeless and abstract philosophical concept that is a necessary postulate for the cause of order and purpose in the universe.

In Hebrew thought, the Word(Logos) refers to God.. He indeed has the power of unity, coherence, and purpose, but the distinctive point is that the biblical Logos is a He, not an it.

John explains for his audience. “In the beginning was the Word(logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.(John 1:1)

@Bob A. Bohey, Behold, a virgin=(parthenos) shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name *Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.! (Mt 1;23). Fuffills,
(Is 7:14 LXX) Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin=(parthenos) shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name *Emmanuel).

(Emmanouēl , G1694), the title applied to the Messiah, born of the virgin. Jesus was the God Man or (Theantropos).

For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body(Col 2:9 NLT).

eastcoastcoug
Danbury, CT

For me, the above "conflicts" cited make the story more believable and interesting. An event witnessed by several people will have several widely differing versions and points of view. As was pointed out, Matthew's purpose was to testify of Jesus' birth as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Luke synthesized the accounts of many eyewitnesses and apparently knew Mary quite well or those who did - it is tradition that Mary lived and died in Ephesus, which was more in the sphere of the Gentiles and therefore possibly Luke. Luke and Acts (same author) both focused on the accounts of women and the influence of the Holy Ghost (mentioned in almost every episode of those 2 books).

I am grateful we have more than one account of Jesus' birth and life, and to hear the various perspectives that each bring. I've traveled widely in the Middle East and what strikes me is that we know but a small fraction of what actually went on in those times in that region, so to pretend that we can see "conflict" in the records is a huge supposition on our part. Like Luke, I have a witness of the Spirit, and believe the many "eyewitnesses"

1.96 Standard Deviations
OREM, UT

There is another account, though brief, about the birth of Jesus -- 1 Nephi 11 in the Book of Mormon. It confirms the miraculous birth through the virgin Mary and that Jesus really was the Son of God!

Dennis
Harwich, MA

The important word in all of this is "story". It's all just a story.

procuradorfiscal
Tooele, UT

Re: "All sacred texts deserve close readings."

Agreed. With particular attention paid to the actual words, leaving aside modern contextual assumptions and other writings of contemporaries. Those are certainly at least as likely to be wrong as the scriptural writings.

All honest scholars admit that nothing in history or scripture requires adoption of the minoritarian, unsupported views of academic and/or religious anti-faith propagandists.

Back Talk
Federal Way, WA

Interesting discussion.

For all the talk of "conflicts" in the scriptural record, with the exeption of Dennis, there haavent been people claim that this means that the Bible is wrong or that Christ isnt who he said he was. Nor has there been an attach on the author of the scripture with claims he was not an inspired Apostle. Instead the message of Christs birth and his invitation to Come Unto Him was celebrated.

May this attitude continue for everyone. Perhaps even for those critics of LDS history and scripture.


It would be nice if LDS critics of similar "conflicts" could take the same approach.

Brahmabull
sandy, ut

Back Talk

Should we not entertain that it is at least a possibility that it is just a story that was passed down through the years? I mean it has to at least be possible. Unlike the Joseph Smith angels story - which is most likely to be just a story.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

"And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene." (Matthew 2:23)
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Prior to this passage in Matthew’s account, Galilee doesn’t factor into the story of Joseph and Mary at all. It leaves open the possibility that they may have been Judean rather than Galilean. After the death of Herod, when Joseph learns that Herod’s son Archelaus now rules in Judea, Joseph decides to turn aside into parts of Galilee out of fear that it’s still not safe to take his wife and child back home to Judea.

As we know from our familiarity with the story of Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem to be taxed, Luke clearly has Galilee as the starting place for the story of Joseph and Mary. I see no hint of that in Matthew’s account.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
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Verses 17 and 18 may seem anti-climactic following 15 and 16 but they’re worth taking note of for citing an oral tradition of shepherds, possibly well-known enough in Luke’s time to be preserved in Luke’s Gospel. Of course, it won’t pass any modern standards historical proof test as to what is testified of as having been witnessed. But it has significant historical worth as a clue to how this story came down to us.

antodav
TAMPA, FL

I would love to meet Daniel Peterson and pick his brain some day. His knowledge of classical and ancient language and the way he is able to dissect the scriptures and clear through the muddled, poor translations of uninspired men to find the true, original, divine meaning of words is fascinating to me. :)

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