Sunday, November 29, 2020

Capernaum And Christmas

Last year, I wrote an article about how Jesus seems to have structured much of his public ministry around his identity as the light of Isaiah 9:2. His move to Capernaum was part of that process (Matthew 4:12-16), and that move has significant implications for the origins of the infancy narratives, their historicity, the authorship of the gospels, and other important issues. I want to discuss some of those implications in this post.

As I mentioned in my article last year, Matthew apparently worked, and likely lived, in Capernaum or nearby. The same is true of John and some of the other apostles. That put them in a position to have known more about Jesus and to have been in more contact with him accordingly. And that makes men like Matthew and John more plausible candidates for writing biographies of Jesus, which heightens the credibility of the traditional authorship attributions of the gospels. Furthermore, the significant attention given to Capernaum in the gospels of Matthew and John, as discussed in my article linked above, makes more sense under the traditional authorship attributions.

Similar observations can be made about the early Christian accounts of Jesus' childhood in particular. If Matthew and John had so much access to Jesus (and, by implication, his relatives, neighbors, etc.), then they had access to more information about his childhood. (See here concerning the material on Jesus' childhood in the writings of John, which is often underestimated.) It would be natural for people living in or near Capernaum to want to know why Jesus moved there. It's the kind of subject that would easily have come up in conversations. If he had the motive for moving there described in Matthew 4:12-16, as the evidence suggests, then issues related to his ancestry, birth, childhood, and Messiahship (all mentioned in Isaiah 9) would have come to mind and probably would have been discussed. Just as Isaiah 9 is associated with Christmas issues in our day, it was in ancient Israel as well (e.g., John 7:40-8:12). Jesus' move to Capernaum would have been of interest to individuals like Matthew and John, and the reasoning behind the move would have brought up thoughts and discussions related to Jesus' childhood.

People often ask and theorize about the origins of the infancy narratives and other early material on the childhood of Jesus. Bethlehem and Nazareth are important in that context, but Capernaum probably had a large role as well, a role that's been highly neglected.

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