Monday, November 05, 2007

Resources For The Upcoming Christmas Season

The historicity of the infancy narratives will be widely discussed in the coming weeks. I want to recommend some resources.

Many of the relevant issues were discussed here during the last Christmas season. See the archives from last November and December.

Not much has changed since last year. Bruce Waltke has published a commentary on Micah that gives the best treatment of the Bethlehem prophecy that I've seen (the prophecy, not its fulfillment). R.T. France's 2007 commentary on the gospel of Matthew is good, but the best resource on Matthew's infancy material is still Craig Keener's commentary on that gospel (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1999). The best resource on Luke is Darrell Bock's commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1994). Raymond Brown's The Birth Of The Messiah (New York, New York: Doubleday, 1999), though wrong on many points, covers the issues in a lot of depth and remains one of the best resources available. (I'll have more to say about Brown's work in the coming days.) A good concise treatment is Ben Witherington's article in the Dictionary Of Jesus And The Gospels, Joel B. Green, et al., ed. (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1992), pp. 60-74.

There's a lot of relevant, and often underestimated, material in the church fathers. I discussed some of it in my posts last year. I'll mention a few representative examples here:

Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, 77-79
Justin Martyr, First Apology, 34
Julius Africanus, Eusebius' Church History, 1:7
Origen, Against Celsus, 1:51
Origen, Against Celsus, 1:58-61

Notice, in these passages, that both the early Christians and their enemies interpreted the infancy narratives in a highly historical manner. Notice, also, that these early Christian sources viewed the material in Matthew and Luke as harmonious, and that there was concern for and citation of extra-Biblical corroboration. Note what sources are cited (relatives of Jesus, for example), and note what the early opponents of Christianity did and didn't argue and on what grounds.

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