Just recently I read Jonathan M.S. Pearce’s book The Nativity: A Critical Examination. Though not himself a biblical scholar, Pearce acts mainly to report and popularize all the reasons that biblical scholars consider these stories myths. I especially liked how Pearce summarizes the many reasons to consider these stories myths at the end of the book. This is a great idea because I think often apologists buy 10,000 excuses and fail to realize just how wildly improbable their beliefs are because they consider only one problem / objection at a time but never look at the big picture.
On a related note, Physicist Aaron Adair recently gave a talk on the legendary star of Bethlehem. He believes (as I do) that the star at Christ’s birth was originally supposed to be Jesus. He touches on a possible relationship between Revelation and Matthew’s Nativity, which I think is very interesting. In the ancient world it was common for stories about angelic beings in heaven to be written up as if they happened on Earth, as I recently blogged in detail ( “Ancient God Theories” ). In Revelation 12 we find a story about a celestial Jesus born in heaven (to a woman “with the moon under her feet”) and an attempt is made on his life by a heavenly tyrant, Satan (“the prince of the air“). I think Matthew knew some version of his story, and decided to create a veiled allegory in which an earthly Jesus is born and an attempt is made on his life by an earthly tyrant, Herod.
If something like the above happened, it would perfectly predict that the birth stories found in the gospels must be fictions, because there never was a real Jesus (if there had been a historical Jesus it is perfectly possible that he had an ordinary birth that would’ve been reported in the gospels, or an unremarkable birth never mentioned at all). As it turns out, the gospel birth stories are indeed fiction, which we just so happen to be able to prove because of all the historical impossibilities built into the narrative. We can also predict that some Christans would have known about a nativity that took place only in heaven and that the gospels were veiled, mythic representations of it.
The Christian leader Valentinus “believed the flesh [of Christ] and the nativity, but gave a different interpretation to them.” What could ‘gave them a different interpretation’ mean? Hmmm…