Happy Boxing Day . . . the day in which we either box up our returns and hurl them back at Macy’s or take a poke at our aged relatives who really, really should not have said that thing that can never be unsaid. By popular demand, we are reprinting last year’s Boxing Day post — the one in which we examine what our sources really tell us about the Little Baby Jesus. You’re welcome.
Read along in your Bibles:
The oldest Gospel, Mark, says — well, nothing. It starts with Jesus baptized as an adult, age unknown. John starts much earlier — way, way back “in the beginning” (of time), when God/Jesus created the universe. Unfortunately, down here on Earth, John skips the LBJ part. Acts and the Letters say nothing.
That leaves us with 3,800 words in Matthew and Luke as our ONLY sources. So-called “Infancy Gospels,” like Thomas and James, popped up in the second century, but they were written more than 100 years after Jesus’ death and are obviously fictional.
Matthew traces a family tree from Abraham through David to Joseph, who is Jesus’ father — but wait a second. He’s not, is he? We find out in a moment thatGod is Jesus’ father. Joseph is not related to him at all. Why do we care if some random guy is descended from King David?
Luke also has a genealogy, which goes back in time from Joseph through David and Abraham to Adam, aka “the son of God.” (3:23-37) Most of the names in these two genealogies are different; in fact, almost all of them are.
But whatever. Matthew has the Holy Spirit get busy with Mary … Joseph marries her … she gives birth … she bonks Joseph. Look it up: Matthew says Joseph “did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son.” (1:25) See that screaming “UNTIL”? The world’s oldest recorded case of blue-balls.
The dreamy duo live in Bethlehem, hometown of David. King Herod has a dream and sends “the Maji” (unknown number) to follow a star and they come to “the house.” No manger. No swaddling clothes. Maji exit, running.
Joseph moves to Egypt, imitating Moses. He waits (duration unknown). Herod dies, family moves to what Rock Star Theologian Bart Ehrman calls “an insignificant little one-horse town” called Nazareth. The end.
Okay. A little skimpy, Matt, but at least we have these running Maji and some (implied) Joe-on-Mary action. But where’s the Little Baby Jesus? Doesn’t make a peep.
We turn to Luke. He’s the screenwriting disciple, the Mel Gibson of gospelers, the USC grad who crafts the Jesus we all think we know today. If you cut out Mark, Matthew and John, most of us wouldn’t miss a begat. But take Luke out, you got some serious ‘splaining to do.
After some stuff about a cousin of Mary’s, Luke finally gets to her and old blue-balls in verse 27. The angel Gabriel visits the couple in … Nazareth? But in Matthew, they’re living in Bethlehem.
Okay. Joe goes to Bethlehem because — well, we’re told the Roman Emperor decreed a “census.” Matthew has no census; no ancient source mentions a census. But Luke does give us a manger, some “cloths.” But no running Maji. And weirdly, no marriage: Mary was “pledged to be married” to Joseph, but that’s it. Jesus was a human bastard. (2:5-7)
Then Luke has a whole scene in Jerusalem for Jesus’ bris and some prophets and so on, not a whisper of which is in Matthew. No Egypt. No Herod. No star over Bethlehem. Hmmm.
Where are we? Jesus parents were Mary and Joseph. They were Jewish. They may have come from Nazareth. That’s it. Merry (day after) Christmas!