Help Me Understand

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Help Me Understand

Postby Joseph Patrick » Thu Jan 04, 2018 11:13 am

From Joseph Patrick...aka Gerry Milligan
Please help me understand the discrepancy (or it seems to me) between Matthew 2, the flight to Egypt; and Luke 2 where Jesus was circumcised on the 8th day and presented at the Synagog at 40 days after his birth and yearly thereafter.
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Dave Roberts » Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:23 pm

I'm not certain that I can tell you all you want to know. Luke concentrates on the Nativity while Matthew covers all that obliquely saying simply, "When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, there came wisemen from the East." Matthew is concerned much more with the royal lineage and the recognitions of that than is Luke who is more concerned with a universal Savior. By the time the wisemen arrive, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are living in a house, and perhaps as much as two years have elapsed. As far as presentations of Jesus at the Temple before age 12, we have no records, nor do we have any records of presentations at the synagogue in Nazareth. I am not certain that this would help, but it is evident that both gospel writers are using different sources from which to tell their stories and shaping those for their over-riding theological purposes.
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Jon Estes » Thu Jan 04, 2018 11:19 pm

Quick shift -

Gerry - EB says hello. He and Helen were in the last two Fridays to spend Christmas with their new granddaughter.

They are doing great and send greetings.
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Joseph Patrick » Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:59 am

From Joseph Patrick...aka Gerry Milligan
Dave, thanks for the effort to help me understand. It is me who needs more study of this.
Jon, thanks for the "shout out." We do still miss the UAE
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Tim Bonney » Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:14 pm

Joseph Patrick wrote:From Joseph Patrick...aka Gerry Milligan
Please help me understand the discrepancy (or it seems to me) between Matthew 2, the flight to Egypt; and Luke 2 where Jesus was circumcised on the 8th day and presented at the Synagog at 40 days after his birth and yearly thereafter.


There are several ways Christians look at this. For some the idea is that Matthew and Luke are describing different parts of the birth narrative events and leaving out the ones that do not fit the message they are trying tor get across. In this view each of the events is assumed to be historical though, to harmonize the two accounts, it will often be acknowledged that details of timing/calendar me be not fully accurate as Matthew and Luke were more interested in how they told the story than chronology.

Other Christians do not necessarily believe that all of the birth narrative material in Matthew and Luke actually happened. For example, some scholars doubt the historicity of the flight to Egypt and the killing of all the babies in Bethlehem since there is little historical record of such a massacre. How much of it is thought to be history and how much of it is thought to be “story” depends on who you talk to.

Most moderate to conservative Christians will lean more towards it being historical events with some possible modification of chronology. Many Christians honestly have never even thought about it, and just accept the two accounts at face value.

More liberal Christians are all over the board on what they think about the birth narratives including questioning the virgin birth, as it was pretty common in early history for heroes or other gods to be attributed with a miraculous birth story.

It is interesting to me that neither Mark nor John were interested in a birth narrative, particularly if Mark really is the earliest gospel. It makes me wonder what caused the later authors to feel the need to discuss Jesus’ birth? If we didn’t have the birth narratives, it wouldn’t make the rest for the gospel story less compelling.

Personally, Luke’s narratives are my favorite because of the canticles/songs.
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Haruo » Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:51 pm

Being raised on JEDP and JEHDP and whatnot, i.e. "higher criticism", and taught by my Baptist-minister father from an early age that the Bible was a library or anthology, not a book, I've never particularly expected the accounts to mesh very well. Seems to me you lose much of the meaning and the beauty if you insist on the historicity and the factuality. Even the crucifixion accounts differ in enough details to make thorough reconciliation more trouble than it's worth, and the same goes for the Easter and following narratives.
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Rvaughn » Sat Jan 06, 2018 10:14 am

Gerry, this is one of those things where our presuppositions guide us to certain outcomes. Those who view the accounts as non-historical moral stories see no need to harmonize these accounts and therefore may view them as contradictory; and those who harmonize the accounts see them as accurate historical truths about the birth and early life of Jesus. Then, I guess, those in the middle struggle with the understandings of those on either end. There is room for struggle and difficulty in understanding. I would say, though, that if we applied the strict test of some skeptics to our own stories that we tell more than once, we would all be found liars (that is, we often leave things out from one time to another).

I would see the accounts harmonizing roughly this way. Jesus is born in Bethlehem, and circumcised the 8th day, at a synagogue in Bethlehem. After 40 days Mary and Joseph go to the Temple in Jerusalem for her purification according to the Law. The family returns to Bethlehem, not Nazareth, where they were when the wise men visited (by then they were staying in a house). Then the flight to Egypt and return to Nazareth. I would put the visit of the wise men after the 41st day, but probably within the first year of the life of Jesus. Herod's choice to kill all the boys in the region of Bethlehem who were two years of age and under was probably "overkill" to make sure he got the child.
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Sandy » Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:32 pm

I don't think "harmonizing" the chronology is necessary. Neither author was an eyewitness to events in Jesus' early life, so the are secondary sources on that information. They wrote their gospels separately, but most likely used a single source for the narratives involving Jesus. What they included had a lot to do with who their audience was, and how they developed their thesis when it came to Jesus. In addition to the single written source, probably Mark, Luke also had Paul to interpret and influence his writing.

The specific massacre of baby boys under Herod doesn't appear in another historical account, but that's not unusual when it comes to events in the New Testament, because there are very few historical sources from that particular period of time, and none that cover details of events like that. Such occurrences were common among the enslaved people of the Roman Empire, even among the ruling class. Writing with a thesis that included details of historical events wasn't really part of the style of literature of the time, and the thesis of the gospel writers was much more focused on the life and character of Jesus, his ministry, his preaching and teaching, and their belief in his fulfillment of the prophetic Messiah.
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:32 pm

I agree that harmonizing isn't necessary, though some scholars thought so enough to write "harmonies of the gospels."

Matthew seemed to be concerned with both Jesus as the Messiah and also making the sure virgin birth was understood. Luke seems to spend more time discussing the purpose of the Messiah in setting the world right in solidarity with the people of God and, also upholding the virgin birth.

I've never had a problem with the virgin birth. I have just always said that I never thought that proving (or not proving) the virgin birth was essential to Christ's divinity.
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Haruo » Tue Jan 09, 2018 1:16 am

Whole nations were said to have been brought into Christ by Tatian. Fwiw
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Rvaughn » Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:58 am

Leland, thanks for mentioning this about Tatian. Not very familiar with the man, and had not heard that. His Diatessaron is possibly the first "harmonization" of the four gospels. It and A. T. Robertson's harmony of the gospels might make interesting research and comparison for Gerry.
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Sandy » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:43 am

Oh, how well I remember A.T. Robertson's Harmony of the Gospels. I had a copy of it for theology classes in college, along with a blue covered Old Testament History by Hester, and the accompanying maroon covered New Testament history. When I went to seminary, eight years later, I still had it, and didn't have to buy a new one. I think I still have it somewhere, full of notes.
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Dave Roberts » Wed Jan 10, 2018 8:27 am

The Synoptics are pretty easy to harmonize or at least see parallels since all three follow Mark's outline and Matthew and Luke add their own sources plus a common source. The Fourth Gospel is much harder since it does not parallel the other three and indeed offers a much more Judean emphasis than Galileean effort. Also, the presentation of Jesus' sayings is much different, though I think very valid. My suspicion is that the source is not John, the disciple, but a hint given in the text that the "beloved disciple" is not John but Lazarus, the one described with the term we would translate as "beloved"--"He whom thou lovest i dead." Of course, the Fourth Gospel also has an internal authorship statement of "the he, the we, and the I." In John 21;24-25 we have, "This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them (the he), and we know that his testimony is true (the we). But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose (the I) that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." (NRSV). Here we have testimony to the witness, the community, and the final compiler who were part of the recording of the gospel--not the way perhaps we were taught in Sunday School, but the clear witness of the scripture.
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Tim Bonney » Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:28 pm

Interesting idea of it being Lazarus. I'll have to give that more thought.
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Dave Roberts » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:37 pm

Tim Bonney wrote:Interesting idea of it being Lazarus. I'll have to give that more thought.

Not original with me. It received some attention from Dr. William Hull in Broadman Bible Commentary as well as from C. H. Dodd.
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby David Flick » Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:10 pm

Sandy wrote:Oh, how well I remember A.T. Robertson's Harmony of the Gospels. I had a copy of it for theology classes in college, along with a blue covered Old Testament History by Hester, and the accompanying maroon covered New Testament history. When I went to seminary, eight years later, I still had it, and didn't have to buy a new one. I think I still have it somewhere, full of notes.

    Same here! I remember (and still have) my original copy of A.T. Robertson's Harmony of the Gospels. I was something of a Johnny-come-lately to enter the ministry. My plan out of high school was to follow the Flick family tradition of farming. Virtually all of the Flicks in Hammon, OK were farmers. In 1959, I enrolled in Oklahoma Panhandle State University. After two years and with 70 credit hours under my belt, working for a degree in Animal Science, I felt led to enter the ministry. In 1964, I transferred to Oklahoma Baptist University. The religion course in which I was enrolled was "The Life of Christ." There was only one text, A.T. Robertson's Harmony of the Gospels. For some reason, not sure why, I've always had that book in a prominent place in my personal library. Here are photos of the book and my notation in the flyleaf.
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Re: Help Me Understand

Postby Sandy » Wed Jan 10, 2018 5:39 pm

David Flick wrote:
Sandy wrote:Oh, how well I remember A.T. Robertson's Harmony of the Gospels. I had a copy of it for theology classes in college, along with a blue covered Old Testament History by Hester, and the accompanying maroon covered New Testament history. When I went to seminary, eight years later, I still had it, and didn't have to buy a new one. I think I still have it somewhere, full of notes.

    Same here! I remember (and still have) my original copy of A.T. Robertson's Harmony of the Gospels. I was something of a Johnny-come-lately to enter the ministry. My plan out of high school was to follow the Flick family tradition of farming. Virtually all of the Flicks in Hammon, OK were farmers. In 1959, I enrolled in Oklahoma Panhandle State University. After two years and with 70 credit hours under my belt, working for a degree in Animal Science, I felt led to enter the ministry. In 1964, I transferred to Oklahoma Baptist University. The religion course in which I was enrolled was "The Life of Christ." There was only one text, A.T. Robertson's Harmony of the Gospels. For some reason, not sure why, I've always had that book in a prominent place in my personal library. Here are photos of the book and my notation in the flyleaf.


That's it! Mine is on a bookshelf upstairs in the bedroom that doubles as my library and home office. I think it came with a paper cover on it, but that deteriorated with use years ago.

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