Friday, February 15, 2008

Round, Round, Get Around... AKA Huh?

Several weeks ago, when I informed Matt that I had finished the Old Testament, he warned me to keep an open mind in reading the first four books of the New Testament. Let's just say that, as one of my closest friends, he's quite familiar with how critical my mind can be.

I remember a similar conversation I had with him that dates back several years. During that exchange, he argued that it was remarkable how similar are the books of Matthew through John, considering they were written by men who didn't know one another. He thought this was undeniable proof of God's authority. Conversely, at the time, I thought it was a clever ruse. I mean, what would stop me from reading Oliver Twist, writing a similar account of it, and then claiming it appeared in my head as if from a divine authority?

Of course, time has a way of softening one's heart, and such is the case with me. After reading every line of the Old Testament--and believing it all--I effectively adopted Matt's stance on Matthew through John. As Matt and I drove up Pleasant Street that day, he compared these books to witnesses of a car accident. Four different people, with a unique perspective, might offer accounts such as these:

Person A: "I saw the red car swerve into the blue car's lane, and then they collided with the guard rail."

Person B: "The blue car was speeding, but the red one was in the wrong."

Person C: "The reason the red car swerved into oncoming traffic was because the driver tried to avoid hitting a child that wandered into his lane."

Person D: "The guy in the red car was talking on his cell phone and should have pulled over to finish his conversation. The guy in the blue is innocent."

No real conflict in there, and I didn't detect one until I read the following (questionable bits in bold):

Luke 2:39-41
39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. 41Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.

Matthew 2:11-14
On coming to the house, [the Magi] saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. 13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." 14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."

Now, I'm not going to jump to conclusions here, but there are a few things I would like to get out of the way. First, in comparing the opening chapters of Matthew through Luke, it becomes apparent that, contrary to countless Christmas specials, Mary and Joseph were not visited by the shepherds and "wise men" at the same time. This is fine by me. My Study Bible takes this one step further and suggests that the men who brought gifts likely weren't kings, which doesn't break the bank.

I have no trouble accepting the fact that this is the proper sequence: Jesus born; shepherds come; shepherds spread joy throughout Galilee; Magi come to Herod; Magi inform Herod of Jesus's birth; Magi visit Mary and Joseph; Magi not return to Herod, contrary to his request to them; Joseph and family flee to Egypt.

I guess the problem lies in the fact that I don't believe they went to Jerusalem until Herod was dead, and my Study Bible offers no insight into how long that might have taken. In accordance with the Scriptures, it would have certainly been at least two years after Jesus was born, as Herod ordered all regional firstborn males aged two or less to be slain. Therefore, the Scripture seems to suggest that Jesus was in two places at once, as was His family. This part is hard for me to swallow, and instead of pointing an accusatory finger at God, I would simply invite Him to use anyone who might read this to offer up some thoughts. While it's certainly possible that I'm reading too much into this, I'll acknowledge the possibility that something has been mistranslated, but I wouldn't think that God would have written a detail like this in such an ambiguous way. In other words, if the red and blue car were never at the same place at the same time, logic would insist they weren't involved in the same collision.


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