New Testament Survey: Gospels - Lesson 23

Birth of Jesus

The birth of Christ is an historical event. The virgin birth of Jesus is a fundamental aspect of his nature and ministry. The details of the birth narrative in Luke are consistent with historical events. 

Robert Stein
New Testament Survey: Gospels
Lesson 23
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Birth of Jesus

The Life of Jesus

Part 2

Life of Jesus: The Birth of Jesus

I.  The Virgin Birth

A.  Scripture References

B.  Critical View

C.  Response

II.  The Problem of Quirinius (Cyrenius)

A.  Governor in A.D. 6

B.  Homonadenses Revolt in 6 B.C.

III.  The Problem of the Massacre of the Innocents

A.  No external evidence

B.  Probably about 20 children involved

C.  Consistent with Herod's character

D.  "Better to be a swine than a son."

IV.  Genealogies in Matthew and Luke

A.  Are such genealogies possible?

B.  Differences

C.  Different names

D.  Possible explanations

V.  The Star of Bethlehem

VI.  Theological Significance

VII.  The Five Fundamentals

A.  Inerrancy

B.  Deity of Jesus

C.  Virgin Birth

D.  Substitutionary Atonement

E.  Bodily Resurrection and Second Coming of Christ

  • The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke record some of the same stories and even use the same wording in sections. They also each have material that is unique, and the chronology is different in some places. Both the purpose of each gospel and the role of oral and written tradition play a role in understanding the similarities and differences.

  • The Gospel of Mark is shorter than the other Gospels and some of the grammar and theology is unique. There are also significant portions of Mark that are contained in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

  • Discussion of the extensive similarities between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. It's possible that Mark was already written and they used that as a source. It's aslo likely that they had in common other oral and written sources of what Jesus did and taught. 

  • Some time passed between the ascension of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels because there was no need for a written account while the eyewitnesses were still alive. In that culture, oral tradition was the primary method of preserving history. Form critics also note that it is likely that it is likely that many of the narratives and sayings of Jesus circulated independently.

  • Form criticism is the method of classifying literature by literary pattern to determine its original form and historical context in order to interpret its meaning accurately. The Gospels were not written to be objective biographies. They omit large portions of the life of Jesus, they include accounts of miraculous events and they have a purpose to demonstrate that Jesus is both God and human.

  • Redaction criticism focuses on evaluating how a writer has seemingly shaped and molded a narrative to express his theological goals. Examining how Matthew and Luke used passages from Mark can give you insight into their theology and their purpose for writing their Gospel.  

  • Studying the background and theological emphases of the Gospel of Mark helps us to understand the central message of his Gospel. The central point of the Gospel of Mark is the death of Jesus when he was crucified. This event happened because it was a divine necessity in God's plan to redeem humanity. It's likely that the Gospel of Mark is a written record of the apostle Peter's account. 

  • The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes how Jesus' life, death and resurrection fulfilled prophecies that were made in the Old Testament. Matthew also shows concern for the church and has a strong eschatological emphasis. 

  • Luke emphasizes the great loving concern of God for the oppressed, such as tax collectors, physically impaired, women and Samaritans. He warns of the dangers of riches and emphasizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 

  • John's Gospel focuses on Christology and emphasizes dualism and eschatology.  John has long pericopes, clear statements about the identity of Jesus and a number of stories not found in the synoptic Gospels. 

  • By studying the background and comparing the text of the synoptic gospels, we can be confident of their authenticity. Many of the accounts in the Gospels appear in multiple Gospels and are confirmed by separate witnesses. Details in the narratives and parables are consistent with the culture and common practices of the time in that region.  

  • In order to understand Jesus' teaching, it is important to understand how he uses exaggeration and determine when he is using exaggeration to make a point. An exaggeration is something that is literally impossible and sometimes conflicts with teachings of the Old Testament or other teachings of Jesus. They often use idiomatic language that had a specific meaning to the original hearers. 

  • The Gospels record how Jesus used different literary forms to communicate his teachings. He communicated effectively with everyone including children, common people, religious leaders and foreigners. He used a variety of literary devices to communicate in a way that was effective and memorable. (This class was taught by a teaching assistant of Dr. Stein's but his name was not provided.) 

  • It's important to know how to interpret parables to accurately understand what Jesus was trying to teach. At different times in history, people have used different paradigms to interpret parables. Each parable has one main point. To interpret the parable, seek to understand what Jesus meant, what the evangelist meant and what God wants to teach you today.

  • Dr. Stein uses the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of how to apply the four rules of interpreting parables. He also applies the four rules to interpret the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl, the ten virgins, the unjust steward and the laborers in the vineyard. 

  • Jesus used different literary forms to communicate with people. It's important to know how to interpret these literary forms, including parables, to accurately understand what Jesus was trying to teach. The rule of end stress is one factor in determining the main teaching of a parable. Dr. Stein describes two parts of a parable as the, "picture part" and the "reality part." 

  • The kingdom of God is God's kingdom invading the earthly kingdom. In the Gospels, there are both "realized" passages and "future" passages. There is a tension between the "now" and "not yet" and it is important to emphasize each aspect equally.

  • Jesus' teaching about the fatherhood of God reveals for us a tension between reverence and intimacy. Jesus shows his reverence for God by not using the name of God even when referring to God. When he refers to God as Father, it is an indication of a personal relationship. 

  • Jesus does not provide an organized ethical system, but his ethical teachings are scattered throughout the Gospels. Sometimes they seem to be contradictory, until you look at them more closely. He emphasized the need for a new heart and the importance of loving God and our "neighbor." Jesus upheld the validity of the Law but was opposed to the oral traditions. 

  • Implicit Christology is what Jesus reveals of himself and his understanding of himself by his actions words and deeds. Jesus demonstrates his authority over the three sacred aspects of Israel which are the temple, the Law and the Sabbath. 

  • Explicit Christology deals with what he reveals concerning his understanding of himself by the use of various titles. Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word, Messiah. The titles, Son of God and Son of Man refer both to his human nature and divine nature. 

  • The Chronology of Jesus' life in the Gospels begins with his birth and ends with his resurrection. How you explain the miracles of Jesus depends on your presuppositions. He performed miracles to heal sicknesses and also miracles showing his authority over nature. 

  • The birth of Christ is an historical event. The virgin birth of Jesus is a fundamental aspect of his nature and ministry. The details of the birth narrative in Luke are consistent with historical events. 

  • Except for the accounts of a couple of events in Jesus' childhood, the Gospels are mostly silent about the years before Jesus began his public ministry. Luke records the story of 12 year old Jesus in the temple to show that already, you can see something different about Jesus. Jesus' public ministry began when John the Baptist baptized Jesus publicly in the Jordan River.

  • The three temptations that Satan put to Jesus were significant to him and instructive to us. Jesus had a specific purpose in mind in the way he called his disciples and the fact that he chose 12.

  • After Simon Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ, Jesus begins teaching about his death and focuses his efforts on teaching the twelve. The Transfiguration was a significant event because the pre-existent glory of Jesus broke through and it was also a preview of future glory.

  • The events surrounding Jesus' "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem were the beginning of the week leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection. When Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem, he was rejecting the sacrificial system, reforming temple worship and performing an act of judgment.

  • At the Last Supper, Jesus celebrated with his disciples by eating the Passover meal. He reinterpreted it to show how it pointed to him as being the perfect Lamb of God, the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all people. When we celebrate the Lord's supper, there is a focus of looking back at the significance of what Jesus did and how the Passover pointed toward him and of looking forward to the future. 

  • The night before his crucifixion, Jesus went to Gethsemane with his disciples to pray. Judas betrays Jesus there and Jesus allows himself to be arrested.

  • The trial of Jesus involved a hearing in the Jewish court conducted by the high priest and the Sanhedrin, and a hearing in the Roman court conducted by Pilate. The Jewish leaders brought in false witnesses against Jesus and violated numerous rules from the Mishnah in the way they conducted the trial. 

  • Jesus died by crucifixion. The Romans used it as a deterrent because it was public and a horrible way to die. The account of the crucifixion is brief, likely because the readers knew what was involved and it was painful to retell. Jesus was buried by friends.

  • The historical evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus is compelling. Jesus appeared physically to people, many of whom were still alive when the books in the New Testament were written. Rising from the dead confirmed that Jesus has power over death and gives hope of eternal life to people who put their trust in him. 

  • The Gospels are eyewitness accounts that clearly show that Jesus claimed to be fully human and fully God, and what he did to back up this claim. Some people try to reinterpret the Gospels to make Jesus out to be a moral teacher with good intentions, but not God in the flesh.

This is the first part of an introductory course to the New Testament, covering the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The synopsis Dr. Stein refers to is the Synopsis of the Four Gospels, English Edition, published by the American Bible Society. You can click here to order it from American Bible Society or click here to order it from Amazon

The lecture notes you can download (to the right) are for both NT Survey I and II. In some of the lectures, Dr. Stein does not cover all the points in his outline, but we include the additional outline points for your benefit. 

Thank you to Charles Campbell and Fellowship Bible Church for writing out the lecture notes for both sections of Stein's NT Survey class (to the right). Note that they do not cover every lecture.

Recommended Books

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

This participant’s guide is intended to be used with the BiblicalTraining.org class, New Testament Survey - The Gospels with Dr. Robert Stein. This is the first part of an...

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

I. The Virgin Birth

A. Scripture References

Now we want to talk about the birth of our Lord, Jesus. And in particular, we want to talk about the virgin birth. Now, the virgin birth accounts, if you look in your synopses at page seven, occur in Matthew 1:16 to 25, and in Luke, it occurs in Luke 1:26 to 38, where the angel comes and says to Mary that she will conceive and she says, "Well how can this be? I have no husband." And the angel goes on to say "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and overshadow you and the child to whom you have will be called holy, the Son of God."

And so we have here the announcement of the virgin birth in Matthew and Luke. That's why we believe in it. There have been numerous attempts in one form or another to find additional references that refer to the virgin birth. In [inaudible] 4:4 we read, "When the time hath fully come God sent forth his Son, born of woman, under the law." Some have attempted to see that statement "Born of a woman", "Born of woman" which negates a virgin birth because it doesn't say "Born of a man and a woman", but just "Born of a woman."

And so that Paul is eluding here to a virgin birth. I don't think that explanation really flies because the fact is that you and I can also say we've been born of a woman. And if you look at Galatians 4, what he's trying to do is to show not so much the distinction and uniqueness of Jesus, but the commonality and the likeness that he shares with us. God said to his Son, "Born of a woman, born under the law of reading those that were under the law."

And I think surely if you had never the virgin birth stories you would never think Galatians 4:4 referred to anything other than a human birth. Jesus truly became very man of very man, as the creed says. Some have suggested that John 1:13, turn with me to page one. May also be, be an illusion here to the virgin birth. Verse 13 beginning at line 20, "Thou who received them who believed in his power to become children of God. Who were born out of blood nor the will of the flesh nor the will of God, but of God?"

Now that reference, "We were born not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor the will of man but of God." That doesn't apply to Jesus, but to those who are his followers who are born into his family. That doesn't seem to be a reference of the virgin birth. Then if you turn with me to John 8:41, here in the ministry of Jesus, Jesus said, he says in verse 37 "I know that you are the descendants of Abraham, yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father and you do what you have heard from your Father." They answered it.

"Abraham is our Father" Jesus said to them. "If you were Abraham's children you would do what Abraham did. But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth. Which I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You do what your Father did." They said to him, "We are not born of fornication." Some have said that this is an illusion to Jesus' questionable birth.

In other words, we are not born of illegitimacy. We are not born of fornication. And this was their response to the attempted claim that Jesus was born of a virgin. Well, in the passage, when they say "We are not born of fornication" it looks like they're defending themselves and not accusing Jesus. Because he says "You are not Abraham's children. You do what your Father, not Abraham did." And they said "We're not born of fornication." So it's an attempt to defend them, not to attack Jesus. A claim of a virgin birth.

And the question, of course, was, was there ever a claim of the virgin birth going around, in respect to the ministry... When Jesus was going and teaching, administering that way.

Finally, we turn to page 1:28 when Jesus comes to Nazareth. Some have said this is, "Is this not the carpenter or the Son of Mary and brother of James and Joseph, Judas and Simon and all his sisters here with us?" Notice they're saying "Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Joseph and Mary?" And brother and so forth. James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. The fact that Joseph is not mentioned here indicates that they’re saying in some way or other that Joseph may not be his father.

I think that's a very strange way of interpreting the passage here. I think it just implies Joseph is dead, been dead for some time and when they think of Jesus they think of Mary more than Joseph in that regard. So I think the other attempts here in Galatians, John, and Mark are really not very convincing. We believe in the virgin birth because the bible says so in Matthew and Luke. How much more do you need!? Right?

Does it say that in every book of the bible? No. It's said there and that's sufficient. So the church has believed in the doctrines of the virgin birth. Probably the best way of referring to that is not so much the virgin birth as much as the virginal conception. Because you get into a definition as to a 'birth', being virginal or not. And I [inaudible] I don't want to get in to. But it's certainly a virginal conception and that expression would be one that's quite easily accepted.

Now, we have this account of the virgin birth in the gospels. And now the question is, "Well, if you don't believe in the virgin birth. If you don't believe in the miraculous, what are you doing with a claim like this?" You have to try and explain it in some way. Why in the world did the church ever come to believe in the virgin birth?

B. Critical View

Well, there have been a number of attempts to explain this and one is that as the church expanded more and more into the Greek world, Christians were coming out of a gentile background and in the gentile world there were numerous people who had been born supernaturally in the of the diocese, supposedly. You have numerous Gods and human births in Greek mythology. Some of them are somewhat mysterious.

For instance the birth of Perseus, whose mother Diana was loved by Zeus. She conceived by a reign of gold coming from Zeus upon her and then she gave birth to Perseus. Another one is the birth of Hercules, who was born by the lust of Zeus for another woman. When you read the accounts of these, quote, 'God-human births', the women are never virgins to start with. Hardly ever. And if they are virgins to start with they're not considered virgins afterwards. In other words, it's conceived very physically in this regard.

So in the technical sense, Paganism really has no virgin births. A man by the name of Ellen Sweet writes, "After a careful laborious and occasionally worrisome study of the evidence offered. And the analogies urge, I’m convinced that Heathenism", gentile world, "Knows nothing of virgin births. Supernatural births, it has without number. But never from a virgin in a New Testament sense and never without physical generation. Except in a few isolated instances of magical births" like in the case of Perseus "On the pot of the woman who had not the slightest thing to be called a virgin. In all recorded instances, which I have been able to examine is the mother was a virgin before conception took place. She could not make that claim afterwards."

Now, Paganism, then, really doesn't have any parallel to what we call a virgin birth. Furthermore, Pagan births are always very sexual in nature. Very, very physically oriented. Now, if a person starts looking at the virgin birth accounts in the gospels and sees the holy spirit seducing Mary and having a sexual relationship with her and to this relationship Jesus is born, I would suggest you need serious counseling.

This is a very asexual account. There's nothing physical implied in all this. Ah, furthermore, this is not a gentile story. These stories originated in a Jewish world. In fact, the virgin birth account in Luke is probably the most Jewish part of the whole gospel. This story originated in Judaism. Now, where in Judaism do you have [inaudible] seducing women? And giving birth to superheroes? If you even said that to a Jew you'd probably need to duck, stones are coming. It is so completely inappropriate and out of the ordinary. It's just not a possibility.

So here you have another virgin birth, not a supernatural birth in the Greek sense of the word, but a 'virgin' birth. You have an 'asexual' account, not in the Greek sense with a sexual encounter with Zeus and some beautiful woman. And you have an account that comes out of the Jewish world.

Now, the next question that a person might ask, "Is it possible that what the Jewish world did was to look at Isaiah 7:14 Christian Church and they read this account about a "Young maiden or virgin will conceive and bear a son" and they made up the story of a virgin birth to fulfill a prophecy? A very common thing to say.

The problem with that explanation is that as far as we know, no one in the Jewish world interpreted Isaiah 7:14 as referring to a virgin birth. It was not interpreted that way in the [inaudible] texts, in the other kinds of texts such as the [inaudible] texts. You might say, "Well in a Septuagint it does use the word 'virgin' or 'virgin shall conceive'", yes, but, everybody who interpreted that interpreted it as a woman who's presently a virgin will have, with her husband, the birth of a child. And no one thought that this maiden, this virgin would be, still be a virgin after the conception.

C. Response

So then where would this have come from? I would suggest the best way of explaining how Isaiah 7:14 came to be understood as a virgin birth was that in light of the virgin birth stories, that the early church had when they came to that passage in Isaiah, they saw this as a prophecy concerning what really happened. In other words, Isaiah 7:14 is interpreted in the Jewish church after the virgin birth stories. After the fact, as a reference to a virgin birth.

Not the reverse. And so, ah, one of the problems you have if you don't believe in the virgin birth stories is that, "How did it originate?" And there's not a nice, easy way of saying how this story originated because of such and such and such and such. It certainly didn't originate as a parallel to Paganism, because those are not virgin births. They're very physical. And it doesn't originate in the Jewish world because they do not have a virgin birth understanding of Isaiah 7:14. It's after all this that we start having an understanding of that text as referring to the virgin births.

Now, where did this story come from? It's really very unlikely that Jesus and his preaching ministry taught, "I'm a virgin-born Son." I can't imagine that in the teaching on the hills of Galilei saying something like that. And the fact is it doesn't occur in any of Jesus' teachings. Which is, if he had taught this way he would expect they would have been preserved. It's very unlikely that Mary had a coffee clutch one day with a number of her neighbors and said, "You know, I've been keeping this inside of me all this time. I just can't keep it in any longer. Jesus is not Joseph's son. I was a virgin when he was born."

They don't get that sense. But if you look at Luke, you have a couple of references in which Luke says that Mary kept all these things in her heart and pondered them. And the question now is, "If she kept them in her heart and pondered them, how does Luke get to know about it?" Has this been shared, by Mary herself, to Luke? It's impossible to prove it, but it is a possibility to be sure.

For instance, Luke 2:51, page 11. "After this event of the boy Jesus is in the temple", how do we know that story? We read it. "And then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, went down from Jerusalem to Nazareth." Of course, it's North. We would say 'go up', but Jerusalem's on the mountain so they go down all the time, whichever direction they go. 'And he was obedient to them. His mother kept all these things in her heart." Now that's an editorial comment by Luke. "How does he know that? Where does he get it?" Same place he got it in, on page nine, Luke 2:19. "After the Shepard’s come we read, but Mary kept all of these things pondering them in her heart." Is this the source, then, of the virgin birth story? They come from Mary and from her witness after the events have taken place.

II. The Problem of Quirinius (Cyrenius)

All right, now, along with the virgin birth stories, or the virginal conception stories, there are a number of difficulties that are found in the accounts as well that one of them is the problem of Quirinius, or as the King James spells it, Cyrenius. In Luke two, verse two, we might as well go to page seven, number seven there. In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment when Cyrenius was governor of Syria and all went to be enrolled in his own city and Joseph also went up from Galilee from the city of Nazareth to Judea.

A. Governor in A.D. 6

Okay, now. The problem here is as follows. We are able to obtain a pretty good understanding of the governors of Syria from the time of nine BC to 86. From nine to six BC the name of the governor, the Roman governor was C. Sentiasa Aeternitas. Now the next governor, from six to four, was [phonetics] [Pequentilias Veras]. We're not sure who the governor was in three to two BC but that's not going to really affect us because Jesus is born before four BC when Harry the Great dies.

So that lack is not a major problem. From one BC to 84, Aguayo Caesar, from four to five AD [phonetics] Fallacious Seternimus. And then in six BC, the governor is a man by the name of [Cyrinius]. Now the problem here is it looks like we have pretty good evidence that [Cyrinius] was governor of Syria in 86. Which is much, much too late for there being a census that he had commanded and was in charge of at the time of the birth of Jesus. And so we're off about 12 years! And we go back to say, six BC.

There is no question about this, this is a real difficulty. And I think one of the things that you have to start wrestling with, is when you come across a difficulty like this, what do you come to as a conclusion? Do you say, "It looks like it's contradiction must be wrong." Do you simply say "I don't believe any of these problems exist? I live in a wonderful land of simple faith." I think that they spelled it wrong. Actually this man should've been spelled Cyrinius and the documents are all wrong, or something silly like that.

Or do you say something like, "You know, we don't have all the evidence. We don't have a lot of evidence from the first and second century." It may well be that there would be some evidence, something that would come up that could explain it for us. I don't know. But I think I will hold off the judgment until that time.

B. Homonadenses Revolt in 6 B.C.

Now there have been lots of attempts to try to explain this and let me just share with you a couple of them. The one that I find not most convincing, but least difficult, is the fact that in six BC there was a revolt of the Homodensians, which is in South West Turkey. All right? You think of this oblong and South West Turkey and they were narcissists in places like this. There's this revolt of this Homodensians group in six BC and we do know that a man by the name of Cyrinius was placed in charge of the Roman forces to quell that revolt.

And therefore in six BC, although he was not the governor, one of these two were the governor at the time, he was to a certain extent the man in charge of what was going on in that part of the world. Is this what Luke is doing? Is he trying to be specific it was when Cyrinius was in effect the governor of that land during the time of the Homodensian revolt. Maybe.

Another way of trying to explain this is, if you look at page seven, Luke 2:2, this was the first enrollment when Cyrinius was governor of Syria. Luke seems to distinguish between the first enrollment of Cyrinius and a later enrollment of Cyrinius. And is it possible that we have the second enrollment of Cyrinius in 86, and the first one was, say, 12, 14 years earlier, sometime during the Homodensian era... Era, or something of this nature.

So there are certain suggestions that help us wonder, "Maybe there is some evidence out there, we just do not know how to explain it fully." Although somebody might say "It can only be this or that." But we're a little more open to the possibility that evidence could arise that would explain this to us.

I just called your attention, remember when I explained to you how that I could say at the same time that I spent my sabbatical in 1985 in Germany? And I could say at the same time, I spent my sabbatical in Switzerland. And they're not contradictory. I shared that with you, right?

Now they look like they're contradictory statements. But if you knew enough evidence, I think most people would be able to say, "Yeah. I can see how he could say either of those statements and they're both true." Maybe there are things like that that come up in regard to some of the biblical materials. If we knew more, that would be fine. We'd be able to understand it.

III. The Problem of the Massacre of the Innocents

A. No external evidence

Another problem that I've seen here is the problem of the massacre of the innocents. There is no external evidence, at all, that there was a slaughter of children in Bethlehem two years old or younger. There have been attempts to refer to a passage that might allude to this, let me just, it's the assumption of Moses, chapter six. The assumption of Moses. It talks about a powerful kingdom rising and that putting to death boys old and young. And some have seen this as a reference to Harold the Great's slaughter of the innocents.

No real evidence for it, however, in the story. And say this would have certainly been recorded. Why would it certainly have been recorded? How much historical evidence do we have about Herod's reign? You have to go to, essentially, Josephus and a few other scraps and scriptions and so forth. And the question is, "Would Josephus have [inaudible]?" If it had taken place?

B. Probably about 20 children involved

Well, first of all, let's look for a minute at the fact that if you try to talk about how many children would be involved, probably we're talking about 20 children two years old or younger in the city of Bethlehem. Bethlehem was not a huge city. It was a little town. It's only 20, don't make light of that. It's terrible. Yeah, it is terrible, but in a time of Herod, there's all other things that were going on that he did.

C. Consistent with Herod's character

The fact is, if there's a character in the bible that you could conceive of massacring the innocents, Herod would come up quite easily. His character fits it perfectly. We're not talking about Mother Theresa doing this. We're not talking about Albert Schweitzer doing this. We're not talking about the blessed Ajani Simian doing this. We're talking about Herod doing this! And if we look at Herod's character, this fits him real well. For instance, we know that he was very suspicious of any threat to his rule. He put to death his brother in law, he put to death his mother in law, he put to death his wife's grandfather. He put to death two of his wives, one of whom was his favorite wife.

He put to death three of his sons. One being his favorite son. Now, this is the man that the biblical account says took the lives of some 20 children in Bethlehem. And if you're willing to put to death two of your wives, your favorite one, three of your sons, your favorite son, your mother... Ah, you know. Mother in law, you can understand that. Don't misunderstand me, I had a wonderful mother in law who went to be with the Lord. Real sweet soul. But a brother in law, in addition. Father's grand... Wife's grandfather and so forth. This is the man we're talking about, so it fits very much the character of Herod.

D. "Better to be a swine than a son."

But there's no account to it, simply means that in the world of that day, it probably didn't create that great a stir. There was a pun that circulated in Rome considered Herod, which I... [inaudible] who's, who I Aqueous. [inaudible]. This is a swine. A pig. It was better in Herod's kingdom and safer to be a pig than to be a son."  He was a half-Jew, he didn't eat pig, eat pork. So pigs are pretty safe. We will be your son. This is the man we're talking about.

IV. Genealogies in Matthew and Luke

If it's very much his character, the massacre of the innocents. Probably the biggest problem we have associated with the virgin birth accounts is the genealogies. Let's just look real quickly at page six. Begins on page five somewhere, but mostly on six. When you look at them there are a number of difficulties. One is that the look in genealogy goes back to Adam. Well, let's hold off on that.

A. Are such genealogies possible?

Let's first deal with the question, is it possible in the day of Jesus, to have genealogies like that, that can trace your ancestry over a thousand years down the pipe? Maybe closer to 2,000 years. I have a genealogy of my father's family that goes into the 1600s in Germany. But that's about it, we couldn't get any further than that when we tried to look it up.

Now, in the time of Jesus, Josephus talks about geologies like this and Josephus has a genealogy in which he could trace his descendants back to the time of King David. And he refers to the fact that [inaudible] when he, his daughter, when his son was going to marry a daughter, could trace her genealogy back all the way to the time of David's and even before that. So genealogies and records in the temple were there. It's after AD 70 when the temple destroys all those records are destroyed with them.

B. Differences

So genealogies are possible, no question to that. You could have a genealogist, not like, there was no way in the world that they could trace their lineage this way. That's not true at all. As to differences Matthew traces the genealogies from Abraham to Jesus. Luke goes, Jesus is back to Abraham in reverse order, but needless to say that they go further back. Luke wanting to establish Jesus as the fulfillment of all the world's hopes gentiles as well.

C. Different names

But the biggest problem are the names. The names are quite different. And it doesn't take very long. You have the first after Joseph you have the name Hili, and if you look at Joseph in Matthew, the name before Joseph is Jacob. Right from the start, they're different. And it's a notorious problem. It's been there for centuries, various attempts to explain them.

D. Possible explanations

One explanation is that Matthew traces the royal lineage via Joseph back through Solomon. Where Luke traces the priestly lineage via Joseph back through Nathan. We could realize that you could have a lineage in England of a person's physical lineage and we could have how he has descended from the present came, where he stands in the royal line and maybe it would like quite different. And another one explains that Matthew traces the physical lineage via Joseph through the actual father who was Jacob. Whereas Luke traces it back via Joseph who was the legal father. Fulfilling his brothers Jacob's death responsibility in marriage.

So where do we have any evidence? Well, there is no evidence for this. We, we, we just don't know. It's just a suggestion. Can it be wrong? Sure. Can it be right? Possibly. The legal father would be Joseph and his lineage is through Hili. That's Joseph's legal father. When Joseph was young his father Jacob died and his uncle, who became his legal father, Hili took... Adopted him. And so now you follow the legal kind of genealogy through his adopted father Hili.

Okay, now. Another possibility is that what Matthew does is to trace Jesus' lineage via Joseph and Luke tracing it through Mary. And the key there is in the genealogy let's look at page five. "He who have Jesus', when he began his ministry was about 30 years of age, being the son. They have in brackets. As was suppose end of bracket, of Joseph. Okay?

Now, technically that bracket could be extended to as was supposed of Joseph. And the end of the bracket can come after Joseph. Now, this way, as it presently reads in our [inaudible] Jesus, when he began his ministry was about 30 years of age, being the Son, as was supposed of Joseph. He really wasn't Joseph's son. Joseph on the other hand was the son of Hili, who was the son of Matthew and so forth and so on.

Or you could read it this way, less likely, I have to admit. "Jesus, when he began his ministry was about 30 years of age. Being the Son, bracket, as was supposed of Joseph, end of bracket. But he was really the Son of Mary, who was the father of... Whose father was Hili and therefore he's the Son of Hili and the Son of Matthew. And now you have the lineage not of Joseph, as it was supposed of Joseph's bracket. Eliminate Joseph. But really of Mary. And so you have now the difference being that Joseph's genealogy is what we find in Matthew and Mary's is the one found in Luke.

And there is some support in the sense that, in the conception of Mary in the mythian account, you have Joseph being referred to as the son of David. And what precedes in Matthew, therefore must be Joseph's genealogy because David is the, is the central part of that whole genealogy. And in the very first account Joseph is referred to as the son of David. To show his tie with the genealogy before.

Mary, Luke has a special interest in Mary. And heavily deals with Mary's roll in all of this. So in favor of this kind of an argument is that Luke does seem to focus on Mary. Matthew tends to focus on Joseph. Now hypothetically, this is possible. It’s the less likely way of reading the text, however. I think we have to admit that. It's not at all impossible.

I come to the places that I had no way of explaining this in a very easy, satisfactory manner. I just don't know. I just don't know. Why don't we simply say it looks contradictory? Because I have a faith in the bible, I have doctrine of inspiration but I've also seen times when things that looked like they could not be reconciled, could be reconciled. But I rather leave things in a kind of, 'I'm not sure' mode than to force an explanation upon it that doesn’t seem convincing.

Now you could read a text of Jesus, a book about the life of Jesus and I'll give you one of these as if it's the gospel truth. I don't want to do that for you. I don't want to give you the possibility to be honest with you and just say, "I don't know how to resolve it."

. The Star of Bethlehem

All right now, the star of Bethlehem. As early as 1606 the astronomer Johannes Kepler argued that this star in Bethlehem was a conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Venus. In the spring of seven BC. Notice the time, it fits really nicely. Or that it was the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that fall. The latter occurs every 800 years or so. And certainly, some of this phenomena and the heavens would've been observed, speculated about and commented on in regard to that.

Some have suggested that it was a nova, or supernova where a star explodes, and the star that could hardly be seen before all of a sudden lights up the heavens for a short period of time. We also know that Haley's Comet came around 12 or 11 BC, at that time. And in addition, there are Chinese records that refer to five and four BC as a time when there were comets and novas of the sort that were fairly common. So what is a star of Bethlehem? Again, you can go to some astronomer, astronomy show and there will be dogs saying, "We don't know." We don't know.

However, rather than simply saying it's a myth made up, it's interesting to note that, if you like to look at the heavens there's a lot of things going on in that time. A lot of things coming up.

VI. Theological Significance

All right, now, the theological significance. Anel Brunner argues that the virgin birth stories are really a kind of impertinent attempt by the early church to try to explain the incarnation of Jesus Christ. That it was a bad attempt to try to explain in some kind of mechanical way, how the word became flushed and dwelt among us.

Well, you know there's a sense in which he has a point. The virgin birth does not explain one wit how Jesus, quote, became the Son of God. Has nothing to do with Jesus' sonship. Think just one minute. Did the Son of God preexist before a virgin birth? That has nothing to do with his being the Son of God. He either is or he's not. And before there was a virgin birth, he was the Son of God. So it has nothing to do with his becoming, in some way, the Son of God. He was the Son always and his coming to earth is via this particular way of a virginal conception.

Now, is it possible that Jesus could've been born in a physical manner? And the word became flush this way? I don't know how to answer that. Yeah. If you say "No", my question is, is it possible if God knows something about doing something just like that, that we don't know? And so wait a minute. If he had been born by a normal physical birth, he would've been contaminated by sin. All right? Now, be good Roman Catholic and take it the next step. All right?

Now you need to have an immaculate conception. Which protects you from the Mary side of the birth source. The New Testament doesn't do that. The New Testament is perfectly willing to say, "The angels said the Holy Spirit would come upon her, they would be born, and the child would be the Son of God." That's all. I think it's a very big mistake to try to talk about mechanics.

That, to me, is a looking down upon the sexual relationship, which, the Old Testament doesn't do. The command to replenish the earth comes before the first sin. So you can't always sit and say, "Well, sex is innately evil." Because God said it was good. And before the fall. So I think what we simply have to say, "This was the way God brought it about." My response to Brunner, if he were here, would be to say, "You talk about God being sovereign. How can you tell which way he can or cannot breed about the incarnations?" The only evidence we have is what the bible says, about the birth of Jesus and about the incarnation. And Luke and Matthew, two of the gospels say it was about the virgin birth. Why not simply accept the [inaudible] and allow it to be?

VII. The Five Fundamentals

And I want to finish here with just some comments concerning the writing of the fundamentals. Fundamentalism is named after a work that was produced in 1910, to about 15. In 1895 there was a meeting at Niagara, Niagara Bible Conference, in which Evangelicals got together more and more they were seeing the Christian Colleges that once were faithful to the gospel and seminaries becoming liberal. And they said "We need to respond against this" and the result was a five-volume set of books entitled, "The Fundamentals" in which Evangelicals talked about what are the fundamental beliefs that were held by Evangelical Christians.

A. Inerrancy

B. Deity of Jesus

C. Virgin Birth

D. Substitutionary Atonement

E. Bodily Resurrection and Second Coming of Christ

And the five that were mentioned in the book, and by the way, that was an outstanding work. It was a very scholarly interaction with liberal theology and reputation of it. It was a work of great scholarly prominence. What they concluded with the five fundamentals was the inerrancy of scripture, the deity of Jesus, the virgin birth which we're talking about, the substitutionary atonement, the bodily resurrection and second coming of Jesus.

Now let me just say that, if you ask me, "What are the five most fundamental beliefs that I hold?" These would not be my five. But fundamentalism was not enlisting the five fundamentals, I'll say these are the five most important doctrines, but these are the five that we, as Evangelicals see are most under attack and must defend at this time. Notice for instance that there's nothing about the nature of God here. I think that's pretty important.

Character if righteous and holy God was impenitent and so forth. I think fundamentally in, in a sense of a base of theology that would be certainly one of the fundamentals you'd want to list. But these were a fundamental list of things that were being attacked at the time that Evangelicals had to unite under. They were, so to speak, not so much individually important as they were indicators of whether a theology here was the warp and woof of Evangelical.

For instance, if you ask somebody about the virgin births, if they denied it that sent the signal as to their whole attitude towards the bible and to Christian faith. And the implications of that. If you said you don't believe in the inherency of scripture that indicated that the bible was no longer their main source of theology. And it would be able to help you understand. It was kind of like a [inaudible]. And if you repeated these it indicated you were Evangelical, if you didn't it indicated you were not.

Now, the virgin birth is important here. Not because it's one of the five most basic doctrines we hold as Christians. We believe it because the Bible teaches it. If you don't believe it, it says something about your whole attitude towards the bible and that would imply implications in other areas as well. So I think there's a sense in which we have to keep in mind that the virgin birth is the means and manner in which God brought about the incarnation. But it's the incarnation that's the key doctrine.

At Christmas time, we do not celebrate motherhood. We don't deify human birth. What we are celebrating is that the word became flesh. And dwelt among us. The way God brought that about was through the virginal conception of a young girl named Mary. But it's not the manner as much as what happened. The Son of God took on human form and so we're far more important than the virgin birth, is the incarnation. The virgin birth was the manner, the incarnation was the 'what' that resulted from that.