Ac­counts of Luke, Matthew don’t con­tra­dict each other

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - OPINION -

Mr. Oren Piper, Dec. 12, 2018, ac­cuses most Chris­tians of be­ing woe­fully un­in­formed about the bi­b­li­cal facts con­cern­ing the birth of Je­sus. Piper’s as­sess­ment may be cor­rect. But, Piper goes fur­ther. He rushes head­long onto hal­lowed ground where even an­gels fear to tread and boldly as­serts that the Bi­ble gives two dis­tinctly con­tra­dic­tory ac­counts in Matthew and Luke re­gard­ing the birth of Christ. What a dar­ing, au­thor­i­ta­tive dec­la­ra­tion! One would think that such a grandiose claim of con­tra­dic­tion would be sup­ported by ad­e­quate ev­i­dence.

Not the case. Piper sim­ply re­counts in a sopho­moric man­ner the events that Matthew records and the events that Luke pro­vides con­cern­ing the birth of Christ.

Ev­i­dently, when Piper reads the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, glar­ing con­tra­dic­tions jump off the page and lodge in his mind. Could the ac­cus­ing Mr. Piper pos­si­bly be in the “woe­fully un­in­formed” camp him­self? I’m afraid so.

All too of­ten, peo­ple see the an­cient Mideast­ern bi­b­li­cal texts in a flat lit­er­al­is­tic man­ner, see­ing the texts only through their Amer­i­can mono-cul­tural lens. The folks

process the texts from within the prison of their tiny cul­tural bub­ble. There is lit­tle or no ef­fort made to know how the orig­i­nal hear­ers would have un­der­stood the texts. This shoddy ap­proach to the Scrip­tures re­sults in all kinds of mis­un­der­stand­ings, in­clud­ing Piper-style con­tra­dic­tions.

With some un­der­stand­ing of the first cen­tury bi­b­li­cal world, some knowl­edge of the rhetor­i­cal styles of Matthew and Luke, and a grasp of ba­sic lin­guis­tic con­cepts, one can con­struct a beau­ti­ful co­he­sive, co­her­ent, birth nar­ra­tive. Matthew and Luke don’t con­tra­dict, but won­der­fully com­ple­ment each other.

I hope Piper and oth­ers of his ilk will re­con­sider the birth nar­ra­tives and find rea­son to re­joice in the birth of the Glo­ri­ous One.

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