Friday, 5 December 2014

Estranged Notions: Do the “Infancy Narratives” of Matthew and Luke Contradict Each Other?

Oh dear, looks like today is “frantically try and paper over the awkward bits in the Bible” day:

Do the “Infancy Narratives” of Matthew and Luke Contradict Each Other?

This one is so bad it could have come from AIG; Staples' tries to reconcile the question of where Joseph and Mary lived (Luke says Nazareth, with a visit to Bethlehem for the census; Matthew implies they lived at Bethlehem until forced to flee) by arguing that Matthew doesn't actually say that the house where the Magi visited Jesus was in Bethlehem rather than Nazareth. He chooses to ignore:

  • that had Jesus already been living in Nazareth at that time, there would have been no cause to flee to Egypt
  • that on returning from Egypt, Joseph and Mary's first reported intent was to return to Judea, not Galilee, and they have to be warned off that idea
  • when Nazareth is finally mentioned, the context is “he made his home in a town called Nazareth”, using the Greek word κατῴκησεν, ‘settle in’, ‘colonize’

All in all it's absolutely clear that the author of GMatthew did not believe that Jesus and his family had been anywhere but Bethlehem before their flight. (It's also absolutely clear that he cares nothing about facts, since every single step in this story is explicitly stated to “fulfill what had been spoken” in various scraps of Jewish scripture.)

To claim as Staples does that the author of Matthew simply chose not to mention Nazareth earlier is to do violence to the text as written; a classic example of reading into a text something which is not there, with no justification.

Also, of course, this one point barely scratches the surface of the contradictions between Matthew and Luke, the contradictions between both and actual history, and the contradictions between Matthew and Luke's infancy stories and Mark's portrayal of Jesus' family.