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The birth of Christ:

A conservative Christian view

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This essay analyzes Jesus' birth stories in the Bible from a conservative Christian perspective.  Most Christian Fundamentalists and other Evangelicals believe that the Bible is inerrant (free of errors), and inspired by God.

This analysis differs from that of liberal Christians, who start with the belief that the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) were written by fallible authors, reflecting a gradual development in theological belief in the early Christian movement.

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Analyzing the birth stories of Matthew and Luke from a conservative Christian perspective assumes that:
bulletThere are no contradictions between the two gospels, and
bulletThere are no conflicts between either gospel and the historical record, unless the latter is in error.
bulletThe belief is that the two birth stories can be harmonized, and the apparent discrepancies resolved.

Luke provides the more complete description of the events surrounding Christ's birth. Matthew adds some additional details. Conservative Christians believe that Jesus' birth happened exactly as described in the Bible. Liberals have pointed out some apparent discrepancies. However, logical reasons can be found to explain them.
bulletThe Virgin Birth: This is mentioned in both Matthew and Luke. So, it must have happened. The virgin birth is not referred to in either Paul or the Gospels of Mark and John. This would appear to be simply an unexpected oversight by those two authors. Alternatively, they simply might have considered it unimportant. One would have expected all three to mention the unusual factors surrounding Jesus' conception. The reason why none of them referred to it is unknown.
bulletJesus' Genealogy: Matthew records only 42 generations from Adam to Jesus. One cannot interpret this literally, because it would result in each generation covering almost a full century. The only logical explanation is that only major ancestors were included in the list; most were not mentioned. So, when Matthew writes "A [was] the father of B," he did not mean that B was literally the son of A. B might have been A's son, grandson, great grandson, great-great grandson, etc. The term "father" has to be interpreted loosely.
bulletThe Nathan/Solomon conflict: Matthew says that Jesus was descended from Solomon; Luke says that Jesus was descended from David's other son, Nathan. Both Matthew and Luke could be true, if we realize that Matthew traced Christ's descent to Joseph, and interpret Luke's genealogy as tracing it to Mary.
bulletThe Herod/Quirinius (Cyrenius) conflict: Matthew mentions that Jesus was born under the rule of Herod. Luke mentions that the birth happened when Quirinius was governor of Syria and Judea. But Herod died in 4 BCE, whereas Quirinius was appointed governor in 6 CE - a decade later. Perhaps this was Quirinius' second term; he might have been also appointed a decade earlier as governor. There is no evidence of this in the historical record. However, he must have had two terms in order for the Gospels to be correct.
bulletThe Male-only Census: Liberals have pointed out that it unreasonable to expect Mary to accompany her fiancé to Bethlehem for the census, because only males were registered. Also, she was at the end of her pregnancy. Some personal reason, not recorded in the gospels, may have forced her to take the dangerous and difficult journey together with Joseph.
bulletThe Christmas Star: People have speculated that the star might have been a super-nova, a comet or an unusual conjunction of planets. But Matthew 2:9 relates how the "star" stopped over the house where Jesus was living. The motions of stars, comets and planets do not stop; the revolution of the earth on its axis would make all three objects appear to rise in the east and set in the west. Thus, the "star" must have been some supernatural phenomenon - perhaps a ball of burning gas. Matthew may have referred to it as a star because that is the only word that he had available to use.
bulletThe Isaiah 7:14 Problem. The Hebrew text uses the word "almah" which refers to a young woman. But Matthew and Luke refer to Mary being a virgin. This is not a conflict, since an "almah" could also be a virgin.

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