Thursday, December 6, 2012

NT Pod 63: Conflicting Christmas Stories

NT Pod 63 discusses Conflicting Christmas Stories, focusing on the differences between Matthew's and Luke's Birth Narratives (Matt. 1-2 and Luke 1-2).  It is 14 minutes long.

NT Pod 63: Conflicting Christmas Stories (mp3)
NT Pod 63: Conflicting Christmas Stories (mp3) (Alternative location)

Key texts: Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2

Feel free to leave your feedback below or on Twitter or on our Facebook page.

The clip at the beginning of the episode is from Harold Darke's setting of "In the Bleak Midwinter" sung by Trinity College, Cambridge.

Thanks to Ram2000, Me and You, for the opening theme, released under a Creative Commons agreement.


  1. Thank you for this podcast, Mark.

    It got me thinking about how much of Luke's version was the result of certain sources which might have been produced after Mark and Matthew (or simply collected by Luke, whenever they originated). That is, in addition to his own authorial skill, how much of it was influenced by the availability of perhaps mantic traditions (e.g. esp the angelic visions, as in Acts) or liturgical traditions (e.g. the Magnificat) or the kind of 'folk' traditions that you see developing in the infancy gospel (in the case of young J-boy teaching his elders in the Temple!). And then again, Luke as author would presumably have a proclivity for certain sources rather than others.

    I was wondering about Herod's disappearance in Luke too. Perhaps the fictional account of the death of the innocents and flight to Egypt caused Luke to mistrust Matthew? And I see that while Matthew, unlike Mark, has the later "Herod" wish Jesus's death, Luke has a "Herod" who still wishes to see Jesus (apparently with positive intent) and only later turns against him. Of course, then Luke relies on another highly dubious tale - a census in which people have to travel to the town of their ancestors. Yet the standard of Lukes 'careful investigations' are not our own.

    While I don't expect definitive answers on these issues, it seems to me that there is a complex process of 'rewritten bible' going on here: rejection of some sources, possible polemics, acceptance of other sources, and authorial contributions that challenges the more wooden aspects of the 'two-source' hypothesis.

    And Merry Christmas to you, Mark!

  2. Instructive and beautifully presented. Thanks much!

  3. I enjoyed the podcast, but I must disagree with you. It's too creative an explanation for very simple issue. Mark has no nativity story. Did Mark feel the nativity story was not worth telling? Did he feel it was not true? Or was Mark completely unfamiliar with the story? There was no television in those days, so for entertainment, people would sit around and tell stories. Sooner or later some child is going to say "tell us a story about Jesus as a boy!" Since they didn't know anything about Jesus' childhood, they made up stories. Most were dumped as total fiction, but people liked this story and it got legs. It spread to other communes, taking different forms as it went on different routes. Matthew and Luke were working from the common Q for most of their writings, but for the Nativity story, they had to write that part by themselves, writing the story as it came to them, with all the differences. Mark was writing earlier and either did not know the story, or knew it was not gospel (pardon the pun) and deliberately did not include it. Anyway, this is how oral tradition works.