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About the birth of Christ.
A conservative Christian view:
This essay analyzes Jesus' birth stories in the Bible from a conservative Christian perspective. Most
Christian Fundamentalists and other Evangelicals believe that the Bible is inerrant (free of errors), and inspired by God.
This analysis differs from that of liberal Christians, who
typically believe that the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) were written by
fallible authors, reflecting a gradual development in theological belief during the early
Analyzing the birth stories of Matthew and Luke from a conservative Christian
perspective assumes that:
||There are no contradictions between the two gospels, and
||There are no conflicts between either gospel and the historical record, unless the
latter is in error.
||The two birth stories can be harmonized, and the apparent
Luke provides the more complete description of the events surrounding Christ's birth.
Matthew adds some additional details. Conservative Christians believe that Jesus' birth
happened exactly as described in the Bible. Liberals have pointed out some apparent
discrepancies. However, logical reasons can be found to explain them.
The Virgin Birth: This is mentioned in both Matthew and Luke. So, believers in Biblical inerrancy conclude that it
must have happened. The virgin birth is not referred to in either Paul or the Gospels of
Mark and John. This might be interpreted as a simple oversight by those two
authors. Alternatively, they simply might have considered it unimportant. One would have
expected all three to mention the unusual factors surrounding Jesus' conception. The
reason why none of them referred to it is unknown.
Scientists have discovered virgin births happening in many species, but not in mammals, like humans. Those believing in the inerrancy of Scripture typically assume that the virgin birth must have been a miracle.
Matthew records only 42 generations from Adam to
Jesus. One cannot interpret this literally, because it would result in each generation
covering almost a full century. The only logical explanation is that only major ancestors
were included in the list; most were not mentioned. So, when Matthew writes "A
[was] the father of B," he did not mean that B was literally the son of A. B
might have been A's son, grandson, great grandson, great-great grandson, etc. The term
"father" has to be interpreted loosely.
In Luke 3:23, the author states that Joseph's father was Heli.
In Matthew 1:16, the author states that his father was Jacob. This can be explained if Joseph was the actual biological son of Jacob. Then, Jacob could have died and his widow could have later married Heli, who became Joseph's legal father. The second marriage would be a leverite marriage.
The Nathan/Solomon conflict: Matthew says that Jesus was descended from
Solomon; Luke says that Jesus was descended from David's other son, Nathan. Both Matthew
and Luke could be true, if we realize that Matthew traced Christ's descent to Joseph, and
interpret Luke's genealogy as tracing it to Mary.
The Herod/Quirinius (Cyrenius) conflict: Matthew mentions that Jesus
was born under the rule of Herod. Luke mentions that the birth happened when Quirinius was
governor of Syria and Judea. But Herod died in 4 BCE, whereas Quirinius was appointed
governor in 6 CE - a decade later. Perhaps this was Quirinius' second term; he might have
been also appointed years earlier as governor. There is no evidence of this in the
historical record. However, he must have had two terms in order for the Gospels to be
The Male-only Census: Liberals have pointed out that it unreasonable to
expect Mary to accompany her fiancÚ to Bethlehem for the census, because only males were
registered. Also, she was at the end of her pregnancy. Some personal reason, not recorded
in the gospels, may have forced her to take the dangerous and difficult journey together
with Joseph. For example, she might have been lacking personal support in Nazareth from family and friends.
The Christmas Star: People have speculated that the star might have
been a super-nova, a comet or an unusual conjunction of planets. But Matthew 2:9
relates how the "star" stopped over the house where Jesus was living. The
motions of stars, comets and planets do not stop; the revolution of the earth on its axis
would make all three objects appear to rise in the east and set in the west. Thus, the
"star" must have been some supernatural phenomenon - perhaps a ball of burning
gas. Matthew may have referred to it as a star because that is the only word that he had
available to use.
The Isaiah 7:14 Problem. The Hebrew text uses the word "almah"
which refers to a young woman. But Matthew and Luke refer to Mary being a virgin.
This is not a conflict, since an "almah" could also be a virgin.