Notes by FPU faculty Roberts/Camp
Two of the four NT gospels (Matthew & Luke) contain narratives about Jesus' birth.
Matthew 1:18 - 2:12
Mary and Joseph engaged
Angel appears to Joseph and explains
Fulfillment of prophecy: virgin, Emmanuel
Joseph marries Mary
Jesus born in
Magi come from east asking, “Where is child born king of Jews? We come to pay homage.”
Herod freaks, asks about Messiah, told to be born in
(quotes Mic. 5:2) Bethlehem
Herod asks magi when star appeared to them, says go find him so I can pay homage
Magi follow star to where child was, are overjoyed
Magi enter house and see child with Mary
Magi kneel, pay homage, give gifts
Magi warned in dream about Herod. They return home by another way
(No real story of the birth, no shepherds and angels, no stable or manger, no # of magi)
Who is Matthew declaring Jesus to be? Emphasis? Type of people involved?
Shepherds in field watching flocks
Angel appears, glory shines, shepherds terrified
Angel speaks: no fear, good news, savior Messiah Lord born. sign--wrapped in cloth, manger
Multitude of heavenly host praising God: glory to God, on earth peace
Shepherds: let’s go to
and see this
thing Lord has revealed to us Bethlehem
Shepherds go with haste, find Mary, Joseph, baby in manger.
Shepherds make known what was told them about child; “all” (?) who hear it are amazed
Mary treasures the words of the shepherds, ponders them
Shepherds return, glorifying God for all they heard and seen
(No magi, no animals, so stable named, no date)
Who is Luke declaring Jesus to be? Emphasis? Type of people involved?
What do we make of two very different presentations of Jesus’ birth? Two main concerns/issues:
1. Nature of the gospels
Birth narratives give us two different perspectives on Jesus’ birth, varying considerably in emphasis and even in the people and events they describe. This is true throughout the four Gospels--no two are identical. The Gospels give us four different perspectives on Jesus’ life, four portraits of person and work of Jesus. Some use the example of four witnesses to accident or four men and elephant (leg=tree, trunk=snake, tail=rope, side=wall). The Gospel writers give us different perspectives on the person of Jesus; no one person can know everything there is to know about another person, especially about Jesus it seems.
2. Distinctives in birth narratives/genealogies
The differences are also due to another factor, that of the purpose of the Gospel writers. For example, the birth narrative in Matthew includes the magi, Joseph’s experience of dreams and visions, and Jesus’ kingly, messianic credentials are emphasized. In contrast, the birth narrative in Luke includes shepherds, Mary’s experience of dreams and visions, and Jesus as savior and bringer of peace. The different perspective of each is tied to different emphasis of each. Matthew concerned to show Jesus as fulfillment of OT Scripture prophecy (structure of 5 quotes), expectations of Messiah. Focus is on Joseph receiving dreams and his reaction to the divine intervention in Mary’s life (1. 18f, 2.13, 2.19f). Joseph as devout Jewish man who is led by dreams to do God’s will. Matt is concerned with showing Jesus’ credentials as Messiah in the line of David. He does this through giving Jesus’ genealogy. (Overhead of Matthew’s genealogy first, note emphasis on David, character of ancient genealogies, 3 groups of 14 as way of structuring Israelite history, interesting inclusion of 5 women [controversial, unexpected people God uses], change in grammar with Mary and Joseph.
Luke The genealogy is actually another place where we see very clearly the different emphases of the Gospel writers. Note “the son, so it was thought.” Note the numbers are different 77 vs. Matt’s 42, just a running list, reverse order not Abram to Jesus but Jesus to Adam, still through David is important, but back to Adam first man and calls him son of God. Jesus as universal savior. Comes at different place in gospel—after baptism (this is my son) and before temptation (if you are the son). Luke seems to emphasize Jesus as savior, and the prominence of lowly, regular people. Luke’s gospel focuses on liberation for the poor and oppressed and Jesus as the light to the Gentiles (vs. Jewish messiah). Luke is part of Luke/Acts, which shows mission to the Gentiles. The prominence of lowly people like shepherds and women is part of this Universalizing. Luke focuses on Mary’s dreams and visions and her response--not Joseph as righteous Jewish man but women as figures of faith in Luke—Mary (vs. Joseph), Elizabeth (vs. Zechariah), Anna (vs. Simeon).