The Christmas story - Fact or Fiction?
The Dominion Newspaper, 23 December 2000 headlines, Did
this really happen?
"The Christmas story. Fact, fiction or pure faith?...
Is it true? Is it divine revelation or a fairytale evolved
from a mix of history, fable, theology and politics?...
We sought out some leading religious scholars in New Zealand
and put to them commonly asked questions. Is there any historical basis for the
birth of Jesus? Did the star of Bethlehem really exist? Are there such things as
angels? Can Mary's virginity be explained?
Paul Morris, professor of religious studies at Victoria
University, says: "Historical evidence of the birth?... People rarely invent
things, so entirely on the balance of evidence there was a baby called Jesus who
was born, who lived."
The Star of Bethlehem, he suggests, was a way of saying that
this birth was cosmic. In the literature of the time astrological events were
often cited to mark significant human happenings...
Gavin Drew, literacy adviser for the Bible Society in New
Zealand, says he doesn't see this argument as being at odds with the birth of
a son to Mary. "That doesn't seem to be too hard, if you are the God who set
it up in the first place."
He has no doubt that Jesus existed and cites mentions in the
writings of Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, a contemporary of Jesus. "Even
people outside the church are agreed that Jesus lived. So, in that sense, He was
born. He was definitely born."
As for the star in the east, Mr Drew says: "If you accept
he was divine (rather than a wandering hippy-type character, he says) then it is
easy to understand there were pre-ordained portents in the natural world that
signalled to people in other non-biblical traditions that something of
significance was taking place in Israel."
As for angels... "I have no difficulty with this."..." End
Now in order to see the other side of this issue we need
to look at a non-Christian, religious man, speaking from his point of view.
We continue the quote:
"Lloyd Geering , emeritus professor of religious studies at
Victoria University, says the Christmas story is part of the mythology of the
time with no historical basis. Everything known about Jesus was from His adult
life as a teacher.
"When He did become famous, which was not till after He was
dead... then people wanted to known about Him and these stories attempted to
answer the questions. I don't think there is any more credibility to the birth
than there is to the stars or the angels."
Professor Geering says attempts have been made to work out
what the star was so the star could be used to trace the birth of Jesus, "but
as the birth of Jesus was a myth then the star has no historical basis."
James Veitch, associate professor of religious studies at
Victoria University says...
The Matthew birth stories were created out of those in the
Hebrew Bible and not accounts of what actually happened.
He says the wise men spring from the mid-60s AD when a king
from Persia and his entourage journeyed across the Roman empire to surrender
sovereignty to the emperor Nero, bringing gifts symbolic of their country...etc...etc.."
I well remember the words of Professor E.M Blaiklock,
professor of History and Classics at Auckland University,
"If medical men fiddled with their text books the way theologians do with
theirs it wouldn't be safe to go to a doctor."
Many men in their ignorance and arrogance spend much of their
lives in trying to tell God what He really meant to say, but we during the
course of our lectures and writings make this statement regularly.
"God says what He means and means what He says. The Bible is the text book
Some years ago I bought my wife a cappuccino coffee machine
which was quite small and yet large enough to make at least two cups of coffee.
Christmas day arrived and the children excitedly took it into the kitchen and
within a very few minutes there was a smell of burning coffee. I called out, "What
are you doing?" to which they replied they were making a cup of coffee for the
two of us.
I then asked the question, "Have you read the book that
goes with the cappuccino machine?" they replied, "No we haven't."
From that simple story comes a simple lesson, if you want to
succeed at any venture, if there is a textbook handy, read it first and then
enjoy the results.
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