Due to 2000 years of Christian tradition we have a view of the Nativity which in some ways is quite removed from the Gospel texts themselves. We take all the versions of the Gospel narratives, season with imagination and serve with a large portion of tradition! In these short series of posts I want to highlight the features of the birth of Christ from each of the Gospels showing how the writers offered their own distinctive approach.
It is no secret that these nativity accounts offer serious biblical historians problems. Issues of the census, killing of children, flights into Egypt, dates, who lived where and when (Nazareth, Bethlehem?) all flag up issues. Comparing Nativity narratives between Matthew and Luke highlight a variety of differences; in many places both can’t be right! However, these posts are not concerned with these (rather important!) issues. Rather I will present the distinctive presentation each of the Gospels makes of the Birth of Christ and reflect on the light that throws on the person of Jesus and his mission.
It is important to note the Birth of Jesus only features in two of the four Gospels – Matthew and Luke. Mark begins his Gospel in the heart of the action with John the Baptist ‘crying in the desert’ whereas John offers an extended prologue on the mystery of the Incarnation which at least implies the specialness of Jesus’ origins. Only Matthew and Luke offer extended accounts of Jesus’ birth and often with not as much detail as we think!