1 CORINTHI­ANS

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of these ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Not many peo­ple know that I used to be a Sun­day school teacher. I loved my Sun­days: morn­ing ser­vice, then af­ter­noon Sun­day school and fi­nally the evening ser­vice with the whole fam­ily. And then I started to ques­tion, not sim­ply ac­cept, and I lost it. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I rea­soned like a child. When I be­came a man, I gave up child­ish ways.” There were too many im­prob­a­bil­i­ties that re­quired the sus­pen­sion of rea­son and logic.

One of the im­prob­a­bil­i­ties that set it all off was the story of the Na­tiv­ity. Soon al­most ev­ery store will be­gin to ring with won­der­ful, heart-warm­ing Christ­mas Car­ols; mistle­toe and even snow will ap­pear in the trop­i­cal heat, and joy and love for each other will unite hu­man­ity the world over – well, not quite. The Christ­mas story, a great tale, in­cludes the holy fam­ily, the mid­night hour, a barn, farm an­i­mals, an­gels, shep­herds, wise men and the lit­tle town of Beth­le­hem, sim­ple and sweet, yet each of the Gospels ap­proaches the story in very dif­fer­ent ways.

The ex­perts of Bos­ton Col­lege be­lieve that the Gospel of Mark was the first to be writ­ten around the year 70, and prob­a­bly rep­re­sents the preach­ing of the Apos­tle Peter. Sup­pos­ing Mark had been a youth at the time Je­sus lived, he would have been over 80 when he wrote Peter's mem­oirs. In a time of no CNN, no writ­ten records of daily events, mass il­lit­er­acy, and al­most in­ex­is­tent com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween vil­lages, this would have been a mag­nif­i­cent feat of mem­ory and a tough one to swal­low. Nar­ra­tives writ­ten more than half a cen­tury af­ter the fact tend to be un­re­li­able.

This schol­arly Bos­ton con­sen­sus holds that the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke were com­posed, in­de­pen­dently of one another, some­time in the 80s or 90s. Amaz­ingly, Mark's Gospel records noth­ing of the birth of Je­sus. His story starts with John the Bap­tist in the wilder­ness. The first time we see Je­sus in this Gospel is when John bap­tizes him. Mark wrote his gospel to the Ro­mans of his day and em­pha­sized the hid­den ser­vice of Je­sus as Lord.

Matthew be­gins his ac­count with an elab­o­rate ge­neal­ogy that es­tab­lishes Je­sus as an an­ces­tor of King David and Abra­ham. Matthew is writ­ing to the Jews and presents Je­sus as a King, bet­ter than David and a teacher greater than Moses. Matthew tells us about the wise men that came to wor­ship, bring­ing gifts fit for a king; the mur­der­ous acts of King Herod; the jour­ney of the fam­ily to and from Egypt il­lus­trat­ing how Je­sus' life mir­rors that of the peo­ple of Is­rael; and of the an­gels who in dreams di­rect Joseph. Matthew takes care to show how the birth of Je­sus ful­fils Old Tes­ta­ment prophe­cies; he presents Je­sus as the ruler of Is­rael, and as God's Son. Je­sus ful­fils the prophe­cies and hopes of the He­brew Scrip­tures, as King of the Jews who has been given all au­thor­ity in Heaven and Earth.

Matthew and Luke dis­agree. Matthew states, “When as his mother Mary was es­poused to Joseph, be­fore they came to­gether, she was found with child” sup­pos­edly by the Holy Ghost. Joseph was vexed to find his fiancée preg­nant, but was in­clined to hush it all up; the an­gel con­vinced him oth­er­wise, and he ab­stained from sex dur­ing the preg­nancy; “knew her not till she had brought forth her first­born son."

Luke, who wrote his Gospel pri­mar­ily for a Gen­tile au­di­ence and fo­cuses on marginal­ized and ne­glected groups in First Cen­tury Mediter­ranean so­ci­eties, seems to think they were al­ready mar­ried: Joseph went from Galilee to Nazareth to “be taxed with Mary his es­poused wife, be­ing great with child." Luke's na­tiv­ity tale is the long­est. His an­gel con­fronts Mary, not Joseph. The an­gels ap­pear to shep­herds, not to the rich, priv­i­leged and pow­er­ful wise men as in Matthew's ac­count.

In the Gospel of John, pos­si­bly the last of the Gospels to be pro­duced around 100, the birth started in Heaven: Je­sus, the Word was in the be­gin­ning and was God. All that is cre­ated was cre­ated through Him. John then de­scribes the birth of Je­sus with pow­er­ful lan­guage, “and the Word be­came flesh and dwelt amongst us”. John writes to Greek­s­peak­ing Gen­tiles across the Ro­man Em­pire. He leaves out any men­tion of Mary, Joseph and all the other char­ac­ters that Matthew and Luke men­tion in their birth nar­ra­tives. And of course, Mark didn't even bother with it.

I bet just about all of you, Dear Read­ers, thought that the Na­tiv­ity story was car­ried by all the gospels. Surely a vir­gin birth would have made the head­lines even way back then! It seems some­times you sim­ply have to leave logic and rea­son be­hind and rely on blind faith.

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