In the interest of paying attention to what those on the ‘other side’ think about the narratives of Jesus’ birth as found in Matthew and Luke, I note the following from Jonathan Pearce. Some of the objections are trivial. Others merit more careful consideration.
The only general point that needs to be made here is that no-one is required to be able to answer all possible objections before an event can be considered historical.
Anyway, here’s what Jonathan Pearce writes:
‘In order for the Christian who believes that both accounts are factually true to uphold that faithful decree, the following steps must take place.…
‘The first and most indisputable fact about the birth of Jesus is that it occurred out of wedlock. The one option for which there is no evidence is that Jesus was the lawful son of Joseph and Mary. The only choice open to us is between a virgin birth and an illegitimate birth.’ (J. A. T. Robinson, Twelve More New Testament Studies (SCM, 1984), 3–4.)
Luke announces the heavenly origin of Mary’s firstborn in unmistakable terms. …
Some have claimed that the Bethlehem Star is nothing more than a myth invented by the early Christians. But the latest scholarship suggests that Matthew’s Gospel is a biography that strives for historical accuracy.
In words immortalised in the Authorised Version, the angels who appeared to the shepherds at the time of the birth of Jesus praised God, and said:
Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, Good will toward men.
It’s a lovely thought, and captures so much of what we all long for. What’s not to like about ‘peace on earth’ and ‘good will toward men’? It’s ‘the true meaning of Christmas’, isn’t it? If only we could do ‘peace’ and ‘good will’ all year round, the world would be a much better place.…
It is generally supposed that Joseph, like Mary, came from Nazareth. At the time of the census, he travelled, with his wife-to-be, to Bethlehem, his ancestral home. After Jesus’ birth he took his little family to Egypt, in order to escape the threat of Herod. And then, after that threat subsided, they returned to their hometown of Nazareth.
Stephen Carlson argues that Bethlehem was Joseph’s actual family home, and not just his ancestral home. Two reasons: (a) the is no record of a census requiring a man to return to his ancestral home; (b) Lk 2:39 (‘…to a town of their own’) implies that Joseph and Mary made Nazareth their home after the birth. …
The Virgin Birth (more precisely, the virginal conception) is attested in a number of ways in Matthew and Luke:-
The sharp contrast between the long series of verses that use “begot” and the statement that Joseph was “the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born” (Mt. 1:16) clearly implies that a man was not involved in the procreation of Jesus.
Mt. 1:18 states, “Before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit.”
Bible commentator William Hendriksen, while expressing some sympathy for artistic representations of biblical scenes, rightly asks if some images of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20) give the correct impression.
Take, as an example, ‘Good Tidings’ by the artist William Plockhurst.
‘The sheep are huddled together in some kind of pen. Right near them are a few shepherds. Leaning against one of these sturdy men is the faithful shepherd’s dog.…
Ian Paul has commented on the thoughts of David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, about the distinctive needs of occasional church attenders (i.e. those who might attend an annual carol service, but not much else).
In addition to some sensible, if unremarkable, suggestions (stick to traditional words of carols, mention other events coming up in your calendar, and so on) David Walker offers the following advice:-
Ian Paul rightly asks, Why? Why is it really not a good idea to preach a sermon at a carol service? …