Once more (final time) on Gospel Nativity Harmonization. Meanwhile, back in Bethlehem today . . . .

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by Neil Godfrey

What a slew of Christmas themed posts have bedecked Vridar this year. I feel a bit bad and wonder if I should apologize. It’s not my usual form. But no, there’s one more, another follow up to the two posts we’ve had here on the question of harmonizing Matthew’s birth narrative with its magi and flight into Egypt with Luke’s shepherds and babe in a manger scenario.

This one is another collation of web discussions or debates on the question: Can the Christmas Stories be Reconciled?

Meanwhile, I seem to have read very little about the current activities among the present day inhabitants of Bethlehem and its refugee camp. Christmas seems to be that wonderful time when we turn our backs on everyday reality and lose ourselves in hopes for happy memories of another time. Meanwhile, back in Bethlehem . . . .

A Palestinian dressed as Santa Claus stands in front of Israeli troops during a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, December 23, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RC17AECC9740



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3 thoughts on “Once more (final time) on Gospel Nativity Harmonization. Meanwhile, back in Bethlehem today . . . .”

  1. Reading the article you mentioned, “Can the Christmas Stories be Reconcilled?”, I noted this line in that article:

    ” but that the major obstacle is Luke 2:39 and its assumption that Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth as soon as they completed the prescribed temple rites.”

    Does Luke 2:39 really assume that Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth “as soon as” they completed the prescribed temple rites?

    The Greek is a little less certain. A reasonable, very-literal translation would be “…and as they finish (accomplish) all the things according to the Law of the Lord, they return into the Galilee, into their city of Nazareth”.

    This phrase uses that odd, “present tense” wording (which is also common in Spanish), yet it’s talking about things that clearly happened in the past. There is no conveyance of any “immediacy” about their return to Nazareth, like would be expressed in saying “the next day, after doing all the stuff required by the Law…”, or “the moment they had finished doing all that stuff…”

    One could (for the sake of example, only) translate this same passage as “…and, *since* they finished all that was required… they returned…” The implication could be that they returned *that day*, or, six months later… But, the *point* is that *having finished what was required*, they then – at *some* point – returned to Nazareth. (NOTE: according to LSJ, the Greek word “hOs” is given the primary meanings of “thus, as, so that, since”).

    So – ALL I’m saying is this: One is free to understand this passage to imply “*as soon as* they finished… they returned” (as does the author of the article), or, one can understand this passage to simply imply that “having finished” or “since they finished”… “then at some later point, they returned”.

    If anything, I’m just saying the Greek really doesn’t tell the reader a thing about the “timeframe”. For all we know, the family’s return to Nazareth could have been that same day, the next day, or two years later…

    Disclaimer: this post is just for educational use. Your mileage may vary.

  2. The above pingback is slightly disappointing. It leads to these words:

    Update III: Neil Godfrey criticizes scholars here for being more concerned about the details of narratives set in Bethlehem 2000 years ago than for the contemporary political situation.

    I see no option to leave a comment on Michael’s blog post so can only respond here.

    There was nothing in my comment that singled out “scholars”. In fact my own earlier related posts were sharing the academic interests of some of those “sholars”. My comment was an attempt to target the general Christmassy focus on such questions as the details of the myth etc vis a vis the glaring absence, by comparison, with contemporary realities on the ground in the place that is the focus of those myths. By conceptualizing these realities as “political situation” those real-life realities are again swept to the backs of our consciousnesses.

    It was the scholar James Crossley who wrote about such an imbalance of focus among biblical scholars on their biblioblogs.

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