Thanks for your message. As is my normal practice when I receive a private message on a creation (including Christianity) / evolution / design topic, I respond to my blog CED, after removing the sender's personal identifying information.
----- Original Message -----
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Sunday, August 27, 2006 11:16 PM
Subject: Concerning the "Harmony" web page....
>I read the points you made and something caught my eye.
For the benefit of my blog's readers, as per your subject line, you are referring to my web page, "A Harmony of the Nativity Accounts in the Gospels of Matthew & Luke."
>You said that Mathew 2:8 says that Jesus is referrenced to as being a child and not a baby so therefore the magi visted Him and Herod when He was not a newborn baby but rather a child who was probably older than 1 but younger than 2.
That's what it says, "child" not "baby":
Mt 2:7-8 "7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, `Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.'"
The word translated "child" is, in the original Greek, paidiou = from paidion, a diminutive of pais "child," hence "small child," "young child" or "infant." There is another Greek word brephos which specifically means "baby," e.g. an unborn foetus (Lk 1:41,44); a newborn baby (Lk 2:12,16). Brephos can be used of a group of children that includes both babies and young children (Lk 18:15). Paidion can be used of a newborn baby (Jn 16:21), just as in English "baby" and "child" are interchangeable for very young children. But the primary meaning of paidion is "small child" and of brephos is "embryo" (hence "baby"):
"pais [child], paidion [small child], paidarion [small child], teknon [child], teknion [small child], brephos [embryo, infant] A. Lexical Data. 1. brephos. This word has such senses as `embryo,' `young,' `infant,' `small child:' 2. pais. This word means `child' (usually `boy' but also `girl'), and with reference to descent `son,' or to social position `servant:' Another use is for a class, e.g., orators or doctors (paides rhetoron, paides Asklepioua). Figuratively an author's works are his `children.' 3. paidion. This word means `small child' with reference to age or descent, and it may also denote `servant' (social position). Figuratively it carries the sense of undeveloped understanding but is also used in affectionate address (cf. Jn. 21:5; 1 Jn. 2:18)." (Kittel, G. & Friedrich, G., eds., "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in one Volume," , Bromiley, G.W. transl., Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, 1988, reprint, pp.759-760. Parentheses original)
Elsewhere Matthew uses the word paidiou or paidion of "children" (Mt 14:21; 15:38; 19:13-14) and "little child" (Mt 18:2,4-5), but he does not use brephos.
>But this theory seems to fall when you look at Luke 2:21 where it tells us that the child was cicumcised when He was only 8 days old. This is the pitfall of using an English translation as the basis of making points that depend on the meaning of a specific word. In the original Greek, there is no word for "child" (as in the KJV) but rather it has auton = "him," as in the NIV:
Lk 2:21 (NIV) "On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived."
>The "child" here was definitley a "baby", so the statement in Mathew 2:8 can't be trusted as meaning he was older than a year old. See above on there being no "child" in the Greek original text of Lk 2:21. And I don't necessarily claim that "in Mathew 2:8" Jesus was "older than a year old," although He may well have been. My point was that "Up to `two years' (Mt 2:16) pass[ed]" between Jesus' birth and the visit of the Magi.
>Actually, Mathew 2:8 says "young child" and Luke 2:21 only says "child", so it seems that one can't deduce that He was not a baby when referred to in Mathew 2:8. Again, see above on there being no "child" in Lk 2:21. And from the fact that Matthew 2:8 calls Jesus a "young child" (KJV) or "child" (NIV), one certainly can "deduce that he was not a baby when referred to in Mathew 2:8."
R.T. France comments on Mt 2:1 that "Various indications in this chapter suggest that the visit of the Magi took place some time after the birth of Jesus" including: 1) "he is now a 'child' (vv. 9, 11), not a 'babe' (Lk. 2:12, 16...); 2) " v. 7 suggests that the appearance of the star, and therefore the birth, was some time ago"; and 3) "Herod's murder of all children under two (v. 16) would hardly be necessary if the birth was known to be very recent":
"1. Jesus was born before the death of Herod the Great, which is probably to be dated in 4 BC; the exact date of Jesus' birth is unknown. 1 Various indications in this chapter suggest that the visit of the Magi took place some time after the birth of Jesus: he is now a 'child' (vv. 9, 11), not a 'babe' (Lk. 2:12, 16, though 'child' is used in Lk. 2:27 of Jesus forty days after his birth); v. 7 suggests that the appearance of the star, and therefore the birth, was some time ago; and Herod's murder of all children under two (v. 16) would hardly be necessary if the birth was known to be very recent.". (France, R.T., "Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary," InterVarsity Press: Leicester UK, 1985, p.81)
>One more thing for you to consider along this line:
Mathew chapter 1 ends with the birth of Jesus, the beginning of Mathew 2 goes right along with what happened at the birth of Jesus. We can deduce this because it says it Mathew 2:1 that "Now when Jesus was born" it doesn't say "Sometime after Jesus was born". Again, this is a result of you relying on an English translation (and the 1611 AD King James Version at that) to make a specific point about a word. The NIV has simply "After Jesus was born...":
"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem"
which indeed implies "Sometime after Jesus was born"! In fact the original Greek has, "Now Jesus having been born ..." with no necessary connotation of it being very recent. Along with the other evidence listed by France above, "the beginning of Mathew 2" does not go "right along with what happened at the birth of Jesus."
>Mathew ends chapter one by telling us that Jesus was born and at the start of chapetr two tells us that when the birth happened the magi appeared unto Jerusalem. No - see above.
Let me make one thing clear: the magi probably didn't appear until after Jesus was presented in the temple, for obvious reasons. It seems that Luke 2:39 has a gap of time. Agreed. My interpretation is that "Joseph and Mary then returned to Nazareth (Lk 2:39)" and "Up to `two years' (Mt 2:16) pass" during which time "Joseph and Mary acquire a `house' in Bethlehem (Mt 2:11) and move there ... ."
>Verse 40 tells us that He grew strong in the spirit in Nazareth yet we know things occurred between the performing of the acts of the law in the temple and their settling in Nazareth to raise Jesus . The text of Lk 2:39-40 does not actually say that Jesus "grew strong in the spirit in Nazareth." It simply says that: 1) "Joseph and Mary ... returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth" and 2) Jesus from a "child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom ...":
"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."
But even if it did, this would not preclude what Matthew records (Mt 2:13-15,19-23) that Jesus spent his very early childhood years (e.g. 1-2 years of age, from ~5-4 BC) in Egypt.
>What probably happened is that Luke was speaking generally in verse 39 and did not go into detail about the magi visit and the trip to Egypt because Mathew already covered it pretty well (remember, only a few things are repeated in the four gospels and those topics are MUCH more important than nailing down the exact events as they occurred whe Jesus was born). Agreed. I say at the start that "the nativity accounts in the gospels of Matthew and Luke (Matthew 2 and Luke 2) ... complement each other."
>At any rate, it seems most logical that after the activities at the temple, they went back breifly to Bethelehem to get their gear together for the trip home to Nazareth. Agreed. That's what I said:
"6. After forty days (Lev 12:4), Joseph and Mary take Jesus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to consecrate Him ... (Lk 2:24). ... The prophets Simeon (Lk 2:25-35) and Anna (Lk 2:36-38) prophesied concerning Jesus. Joseph and Mary then returned to Nazareth (Lk 2:39)."
>By now there was probably some room in the home of Joseph's relatives for them to stay indoors with the baby. As they were in Bethlehem for a short while the is when the magi met with Herod. This is where we disagree. My claim is that Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned from Nazareth to Bethlehem and moved into a "house"(Mt 2:11) and there the Magi found them. This explains why Joseph "was afraid to go there", i.e. "Judea" (Mt 2:22-23):
"22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth.
when the issue would not have even arisen of them going to Judea instead of Nazareth, unless they had taken up residence in Bethlehem and had left for Egypt from there. If Joseph, Mary and Jesus travelled on the Via Maris (Way of the Sea) to Nazareth they would not have needed to go into Judea (see also above graphic of Archelaus's Judea).
>This means that Jesus was a baby of only about 50 to 60 days old when they found Him. Disagree. See above.
>You know the rest. Note that it is probable that the star was revealed unto the magi when Jesus was conceived, nearly a full year before they spoke with Herod. If so, which seems the case, Herod, being uneasy aabout this new baby king, ordered all baby boys in Bethlehem killed two years old and under just to be safe (i.e., the wise men told him that they first saw the star "about a year ago" and he ordered two years to make sure) -- and also, alot of cultures during this timecounted the time of deleopment on the womb as the first year and when they were born, they were one year old (some oriental cultures still do this today), but even so this is more than likely not the case, but is worth mentioning. It actually says in Mt 2:7,16 that Herod found out from the Magi "the exact time the star had appeared" and then "gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi" (my emphasis):
"7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. ... 16When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. "
So I take it that the Magi saw the star at Jesus' birth but that was up to "two years" before their visit, which means that Jesus was no longer a baby but a child of up to two years of age.
>Let me know your thoughts after digesting all of that,
See above. However, please don't interpret this as an invitation to discuss this further as it isn't. It is my long-standing policy not to get involved in private discussions on creation (including Christianity) / evolution / design topics.
>Thanks - AN
Thank you for challenging my proposed harmonisation of the nativity accounts of Matthew and Luke. However, it still stands as the only proposal that I am aware of that: 1) fits all the facts, both Biblical and secular; 2) reconciles the two nativity accounts in Matthew 2 and Luke 2 perfectly; and 3) explains how Jesus was able to have a normal childhood, while being the Messiah.
Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol)