The details on the accounts of Jesus’ nativity have long been under scrutiny. When we examine these accounts, considering specific items, we find a more straightforward narrative. We can also eschew questions of the integrity of the nativity when we remove false reports produced by second-hand stories passed on through the generations.
We can answer objections to the integrity of the new testament. Atheism has been part of the Western intellectual tradition for a long time, particularly since the enlightenment era. Terrorist violence inspired by religion in September 2001 seems to have been a catalyst for the dramatic rise in atheism since religious zealotry is thought to cause terrorism.
Atheists and skeptics express surprise that the world is not perfect, but the Bible is realistic about the deeply flawed nature of human existence. Human misery is often a consequence of selfish behavior. The narrative of the Bible is written from the viewpoint that humans are willfully self-centered. Our world is fallen and nothing close to God’s ideal set in the Garden of Eden. The Bible tells of this fallen world, yet atheists continue to use human greed and evil as evidence that God doesn’t exist. The belief that unjust suffering in this world is proof of God’s absence is ironic, considering humanity has put itself in the position of expositing evil, thus not facing the Lord and sowing the result.
Historicity of The Nativity of Jesus
Few historians deny the historical existence of Jesus. The principal arguments against the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus are contradictory and erroneous. The main thing they teach is that Jesus’s birth was by supernatural intervention, the virginal conception. Paul taught the “incarnation” of the Son of God from his preexistent deity to his human life, culminating in his degradation in crucifixion. John’s entire Gospel is focused on the eternal and divine Word who “became flesh” (1:1–2; 14). John’s description of a believer’s rebirth is “not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but God.”
The points against the nativity of Jesus are the differences in the Gospel accounts of his birth narrative. That they differ so much is presented as evidence of inaccuracy, but we expect different witnessing accounts when recalling events. No two witnesses should ever have an identical story, which would be evidence of their collusion. But the writings of Paul, Peter, the letter to the Hebrews, John, and Paul are consistent with the primary emphasis of those narratives, the virginal conception of the Son of God.
Differences in Gospel accounts are seen mainly in the style of writing and provided genealogies. The core facts of Jesus’ birth show agreement on many critical points in Matthew and Luke:
Jesus was born in Bethlehem: Matt. 2:1, Luke 2:2-4
During the rule of Herod (4 BC): Matt. 2:1, Luke 1:5
Mother: Mary (betrothed to Joseph): Matt. 1:18, Luke 1:26,2:5
Legal father: Joseph (named the child): Matt. 1:18, Luke 1:26
But not the biological father: Matt. 1:16, 20, 22, Luke 1:24, 3:23
Jesus was raised in Nazareth in Galilee: Matt. 2:22-23, Luke 2:39
From Davidic Line: Matt. 1:1, Luke 1:32
Matthew already has Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem, whereas Luke describes their journey from Nazareth. Perhaps Matthew did not know about the trip or chose, for the sake of brevity, not to report it. Reciprocally, Matthew does not refer to the census registration, which, according to Luke 2:1–6, was the reason for the journey to Bethlehem. Luke’s pinpointing of the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to the time of “the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria” presents us with several problems.
Some have attempted to resolve this impasse by locating Quirinius’s governorship in Syria during Herod’s lifetime. There is no evidence that Quirinius was the legate of Syria before AD 6. Others have attempted to explain the problem grammatically by understanding the word “first” to mean “earlier” or “former.
How to address fictional-sounding narrative items? The “Magi” were Mesopotamian students of astrology and astronomy. They said that they “saw his star when it rose” (Matt 2:2), suggesting they followed the direction of the heavenly lights. Incidentally, the biblical record does not say there were three magi. One of the great prophecies of the Old Testament concerned a star.
Atheists reject Jesus’ miracles on principle, but the historical evidence is compelling. The apostle Peter refers in speeches to the miracles of Jesus. The sayings of Jesus about miracles imply their historicity. “Tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk.”
A wide range of miracle types is thus attested independently on the nativity of Jesus. Both the Jews and the Greco-Romans were superstitious and preoccupied with rare phenomena to assist them in making important decisions. The rabbi, Honi the Circle-Drawer, was said to have successfully prayed for rain, not merely for a downpour or a drizzle but “a rain of grace” John the disciple drew Jesus’ attention to a man who was casting out demons. Once we study the Gospels’ authentic accounts, we can understand the facts in a better context. The historicity of the birth of Christ is well documented, and we can easily explain differences in the stories as styles of writings combined with the natural phenomenon of eyewitnesses remembering details differently.
See also: Christian History