United Brethren has retired.

No Matthew Knows My History

Just to underline (and finish) the thread on Mormon/Early Christian historicity, here's an article by Geza Vermes - doyen of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Historical Jesus - on Matthew's Nativity story. To sum:
"The doctrine of the miraculous conception and birth of a God-man was based on a remarkable mistranslation into Greek - wilful or otherwise - of Isaiah's original, quite specific Hebrew words ["Immanuel" and "young woman/virgin"]. As for the episode of the massacre of the innocents and escape to Egypt, its similarity to the rabbinic story of the birth of Moses is so striking that it hardly can be attributed to coincidence. In both we find dreams, a murderous king advised by interpreters of sacred writings, and the frustration by divine intervention of wicked plans. Nor is it conceivable that Josephus and the rabbis, spokesmen of Jewish tradition, copied their birth legend of Moses from Matthew.

"We are led inescapably to this conclusion: that the awesomely influential Nativity story in the first book of the New Testament is a speculative, rather than a historical text. Far from being a report of a literal happening, it is an amalgam of flawed Greek-Christian scriptural references, and of "birth tales" current in Judaism in the first century AD. The story with which we are all so familiar is not fact, but folklore."

So, let's compare this to the Joseph Smith story. The Nativity as we celebrate it is based on an account written years after the fact (probably 80-90 compared with 18 for the History of the Church First Vision), has conflicted versions (Mark and John don't even bother with it, Matthew and Luke have wildly different accounts; ring any bells?), and uses a mixture of myths (Jewish and Pagan; Masonic, the Golden Pot?).

Both accounts are implausible, both are easily criticised by scholars. Christian anti-Mormons (both within and without) should realise that the same "rationality" that dismisses Joseph can do the same to Jesus. They are treading a dangerous path if faith in Christ is their goal.

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Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 20, 2004 10:53 AM) 

You’ve hit the nail right on the head here, and the problems with the New Testament go much deeper than you’ve indicated. And while bringing them up won’t re-convert Mormons who are drifting away, it does turn the table on anti-Mormon fundamentalists. And it’s nice to see them on their heels and having to defend their own faith now and again. 

Posted by David King Landrith


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 20, 2004 10:55 AM) 

Well, I think Mormons need to defend the NT too, but personally I am not disturbed by "sacred embellishment" in either story. 

Posted by Ronan


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (December 20, 2004 2:18 PM) 

But paul saw a light, or was it that he heard a voice... ARRRGH, YOU ARE TEARING ME APAAAAAART!!! 

Posted by Jake


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