Real Bible Study vs Confusion of ‘Tradition’

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Editor, Wisconsin Christian News:

September 2023

      According to critics, the Bible is full of discrepancies and contradictions. My years of study have demonstrated precisely the opposite. At the heart of most, are faulty assumptions based upon traditional interpretations or misguided attempts to “harmonize” stories from different books. With closer examination of what the Bible texts actually relate, the discrepancies and contradictions vanish. And I’ve gained great respect for just how finely meshed the various narratives are; as puzzle pieces, when correctly placed, a beautiful picture appears; mash them together incorrectly and, well, enter the critics. 

   For example, many are familiar with artistic depictions of the “nativity.” Typically, three kings and the shepherds amid various animals surrounding Joseph and Mary with the infant Jesus swaddled in a manger. However, that scene is not Biblical. Yes, some of it does accord with the account related in Luke 2, especially verses 15 & 16; but the Kings are completely out of place. The story of the “Magi” or wise men, not kings is related in Matthew 2.  A careful reading of that text may demonstrate, just how misguided the attempts to harmonize the two separate visitations are, and how unwarranted are the claims of a contradiction.

   Please, examine this text for yourself, here I will only offer brief excerpts to make my point, emphasizing key words. “Now, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea ... there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.” Key here is discerning that they came to Jerusalem after Jesus had already been born in Bethlehem. In my Green’s Interlinear, the translations are, “having been born” and “had been born” in the companion text; the King James Version, “was” doesn’t make that clear. Their question also implies that HIS birthing was then in the past, or else they would have inquired, “Where will HE be born?”   These verses indicate, He was already born, but just how long ago? Perhaps, they had time to consult king Herod and his advisers and then travel at least ten miles to arrive with the shepherds at Bethlehem. Yet, no place in this narrative does the Bible say they went there. Yes, verse 8 relates that is where Herod, “sent them,” but it also has him telling them, “bring me word again.” Why assume they heeded the first part of his instructions, when verse 12 clearly points out they ignored the latter? Verse 9, lets us learn, that rather than heed Herod’s instructions, they again followed the star to where the “young Child” was. In verse 11 we read that, “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary ...”. Note, there is no mention of Joseph, shepherds or a manger. That Greek word for “house” is also clearly not a stable or some other place for livestock. In verses 13 & 14, we again have the Greek word for “child,” paidion, which is not a new born infant. Joseph’s flight to Egypt with his family, so closely tied to the magi’s visit along with Herod’s order of the slaughter of the Bethlehem children “two years and under,” having realized the magi had not followed his dictates; fairly clearly show this was not the Babe of Luke.

   I am under no delusion that what I have written here, will alter many views of “the nativity.”  Likely it will be seen as “nitpicking” an obscure point. Recall, I  began this letter regarding “Bible critics” claiming “contradiction,” mostly these are individuals deceived by satan.
   But what about you? Will you heed the advice Paul offered Timothy? “Study to show yourself approved to GOD, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly discerning the WORD of TRUTH?” I’ve offered this example, because the story is familiar to many; yet from Genesis through Revelation, similar care must be taken in Bible study. Sadly, too few, even open the cover, much less open their hearts/minds to The WORD of GOD, The Bible.

    -Bill Behringer, Winneconne, Wis.

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