By Dennis Diehl
Thanks for letting me ask my questions Pastor. I know I'm just a kid but these are just a few things I have noticed in the Bible about the Birth Narratives of Jesus in Matthew and Luke...you know, the Christmas story.
Question. Pastor...What difference does it make for Matthew and Luke to show us Jesus family connections from Mary and Joseph back to King David and Adam, when God was his real Father? Aren't genealogies meaningless since Joseph was a stop father, and all coming before him would be step ancestors to Jesus. So Jesus can't be connected back to King David as the line breaks between Jesus and Joseph. Right?
Question. Pastor... If the Holy Spirit, which I think you said was a person in the Trinity, begot Mary, isn't the Holy Spirit really Jesus literal father?” Would this not then make God Jesus uncle of sorts, or Jesus his own Father, since they are three in one, coequal and co...oh you understand. This is a mystery isn't it?
Question. Father... Why do I have to call you Father, when Jesus said to call no man “Father” except his?
Question. Pastor... Matthew 1: 17 says that Jacob was Joseph's father, but Luke 3:23 says that Heli was Joseph's father. Was Joseph's father Jacob Heli Rubinstein or something?
Question. Pastor...Why does it always seem that women in the Bible who give birth to important men, like Elizabeth being John the Baptist's mom, are always barren and really old. (Luke 1:7). But then, women who give birth to gods are never barren but always pure virgin, and really young like her relative Mary.
Question. Pastor... Why in Luke 1:18-20 does the Angel make the old husband of Elizabeth unable to speak for not believing that he would have a son? Seems like a normal thing not to believe at his age. And yet, in Luke 1: 34 Mary tells the Angel she can't believe that she will have Jesus the King because she doesn't even have a husband. At least Zechariah had an old wife. Yet, the angel doesn't make her mute for not believing him. Do you think the Angel had a quota on how many people a day he could make blind and mute?
Question. Pastor... In the same story, in verse 41, old Elizabeth praises Mary for being the mother of her Lord. How did she find out that Mary was going to give birth to a god? Is that the kind of story you think the family passed on to her prior to Mary coming for a visit? And pastor, do you think it is strange that an old woman who is just now in life having her first son would instinctively praise a young virgin for being pregnant? Just a thought.
Question. Pastor... In that same account in Luke 1:46, “and Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden,'” sound more like something that Elizabeth would say since she was doing all the talking up to that point? And don't you think it amazing that this bursting into song of Mary is so much the same as the story of Hannah, an old barren woman in I Samuel 1, who gave birth to Samuel? And isn't it interesting that a razor was not to come on Samuel just like Elizabeth's baby John? And how about that part where Hanna can't speak either, just like Elizabeth's husband Zechariah? Oh and how about when Elizabeth said in verse 18, “Let your maidservant find favor in your eyes.” Wow, sounds a lot like what Mary just said about herself in Luke. Could it be that Luke is using the Hannah story to tell the Mary and Elizabeth story. And could it be that it was really Elizabeth, the old barren woman, still speaking in Luke and not Mary at all about her joy like the old barren Hannah, but someone attributed what Elizabeth was more like to say to Mary? Know what I'm sayin?
Questions. Pastor... See in Luke 1:56 where it says that “and Mary stayed with her about three months,” and then Elizabeth had John in vs. 57? Since the whole chapter is really about Elizabeth and Zechariah, doesn't it sound like that when it says “Mary stayed with HER” that the “her” is the one who just got done speaking what Mary is said to have said? You know, Elizabeth really and not Mary...really? Editors did stuff like that right?
Question. Pastor... Why do you think that no other Gospel or really anyone in the New Testament ever mentions this story again? Do you think it is here to be sure that everyone understood John was second to Jesus no matter what anyone else might think?
Question. Ok, these birth stories are great, but I have a lot of questions about them. Are you up for this? Great!
Question. Pastor... Since Matthew and Luke read just as well without the birth stories of Jesus, do you think they might have been added much later to the books? I mean really we don't go to the hospital to see a famous person born and the exciting special birth stories aren't usually written until after the baby grows up and becomes famous right? Like Yassir Arafat always saying he was born in Jerusalem, because that's the great place to be born, but in fact he was born in Cairo. Or like politicians who are born somewhere else, but need to be from a certain place to run for office. Just a thought.
Question. Pastor... Why doesn't Mark know anything about Jesus birth stories?
Question. Pastor... Why , in the Gospel of John , in chapters 7 and 8 is there this big argument of how Jesus is a born of fornication (8:41) and Jesus tells a story about a woman taken in adultery and forgiven (8:1) which lies right between a big argument over knowing that Jesus is from Galilee and not Bethlehem as the scripture says? (7:41) and Jesus exploding and telling them they are all sons of the devil. Wow, seems not everyone knew anything about what Matthew and Luke had to say about Jesus birth!
Question. Pastor... Why does Matthew say that Isaiah 7:14 predicts the Virgin birth of Jesus when the story of Isaiah has absolutely nothing to do with a virgin giving birth to a son that was really God? “Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 'Behold a virgin shall be with child and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.'” ( Matthew 1:22-23). Isn't Isaiah talking about a baby born as a sign to Ahab, king of Israel, that some northern invasion back then would not be the end of them? And what's with that same story in Isaiah saying, that the boy baby would eat butter and honey and BEFORE he knew to refuse the evil and choose the good, the bad guy would be beaten? (Isaiah 7:15-16) Does this mean that Jesus did evil too before he was prophesied to do good? What parts of this are prophecy and what parts are just history that has nothing to do with Jesus? And no one ever called him Emmanuel. They called him Jesus. I can see where the Israelites might call him “God with us,” meaning “God was with us in the defeat of our enemy,” but I can't see it meant the baby of Isaiah was God in the flesh. Any comments?
Question. Pastor... In Matthew 1:1-4 it says that the Wisemen came asking about where Jesus was because they had seen his star in the East. First of all, if they came from Persia, which is East of Jerusalem, how do you see a literal star in the East and then follow it West where it turns south and stops over a house in Bethlehem? I mean if they saw his star in the East, why go West, why not East? Maybe it's just me.
Question. Pastor... In the same place it says Herod seems not to know anything about this Jesus or his star. Could he not see it and if he could, could he not follow it himself? Then it says Herod got together all the helpers on such topics and I wonder, could they not see it either?
Question. Pastor... In reading the story of this star, it also says that it reappeared to the Wise men to continue to show them the way. Was this a star that only they could see and could stop and go until the Wise men were reading to keep moving?
Question. Pastor...How does a moving star, stop over a specific house?
Question. Pastor...While we are at it, how come Matthew tells us Jesus was born in a house that Mary and Joseph seemed to already own in Bethlehem (Matthew 1:11). I thought they lived in Nazareth and came had to have Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem? You know, no room at the Inn and all. Well, at least that is what Luke 2 says where he doesn't mention the home in Bethlehem, just as Matthew doesn't mention the worldwide tax that brings Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem to begin with from their home in Nazareth. So which is it...home in Bethlehem as Matthew says, or in Nazareth as Luke says and moving from manger to home won't cut it.
Question. Pastor...Matthew 1:12-16 says that an Angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt from Herod who was going to kill all the babies under two years old to get at Jesus. Wow, lots of questions here! Does this mean that in order for Jesus to die for us, the babies in Bethlehem had to die for Jesus?
Question. Pastor...Do you think Mary, being a typical mother left town in a hurry telling her friends, “I know something you don't know. I wish you and your babies a good Sabbath?” I don't think mothers really think that way.
Question. Pastor...Matthew 1:17-18 fulfills Rachel weeping for her children in Rama, but from what I can tell, again Matthew is making this up. That story in Jeremiah 31:15 has nothing to do with the women weeping for their dead babies. I believe the Jeremiah story took place during the trek into captivity as they passed through Rama, not Bethlehem. Kinda stretching the point isn't it?
Question. Pastor...After Herod dies, the family comes back from Egypt and Matthew says this fulfills Hosea 11:1. But I looked at that, and “Out of Egypt I have called my son,” is talking about the exodus story, not Jesus. Is it just me again misunderstanding? How comes Matthew gets to make things mean in the Old Testament what they never meant?
Question. Pastor...In Matthew 1:19-22 an Angel gives the all clear to go back home, to Bethlehem and the house, I assume. But then Joseph finds an even more evil bastard lives there so has another dream to head to Nazareth where it was evidently safer. Did the Angel screw up and send them into harms way and God had to give Joseph a dream to save them from the Angel not knowing what was going on in Judea? Don't they have briefings for Angels for stuff like this?
Question. Pastor...In Matthew 1:23 we see that Matthew says since they went to Nazareth, there is some place that says this fulfills “He shall be called a Nazarene.” But no one seems to know where the Bible says that. I know it means “branch” such as in Isaiah 11:1, but again, those are not stories or prophecies about Jesus. So isn't Matthew reaching again? Did Matthew think a Nazarite, was the same as a Nazarene maybe? You know, no razor, no haircuts, no wine. Kinda like Hippie Baptists. But then Jesus wasn't that way either. Oh well. Any thoughts?
Question. Pastor...How come only Matthew mentions Wisemen, wandering stars, killing the babies and fleeing to Egypt when Luke, in his account, mentions none of this. In fact, Luke just says that after eight days Jesus was calmly, well i don't know about calmly, circumcised and then Mary did the 40 days of purification after the birth while meeting Simeon and Anna who blessed Jesus in the Temple, and then calmly walked back home to Nazareth. No run for your life from Herod story here, and right where you 'd expect it. Did Luke never hear about Matthew's “thus it was fulfilleds,” and simply have the family go back home to Nazareth? Can't both be true, right?
Question. Pastor...As long as I am at it, can you tell me why the Apostle Paul only knows that Jesus was born of a woman in Galatians 4:4. Nothing special really. Did Paul not know that Jesus, Mary and Joseph had all these wonderful birth adventures? Maybe he didn't care.
Question. Pastor...I guess what I am asking here is how come history knows of no tax and certainly no tax where all had to leave home and move around the empire to be taxed in that way for Luke to get Mary and Joseph down to Bethlehem? I won't even ask if you knew Cyrenius, depending on how you spell it, was not Governor of Syria until ten years later than the events of Herod in Matthew. Seems like Luke may have not gotten the history right here.
Question. Pastor...Do you think it was responsible and necessary for Joseph, who I suppose had the property in Bethlehem, hey the house!, to take a very pregnant Mary on a hundred mile donkey ride through the wilderness of Judea? Was that necessary. And if he had a house there, why did they not live there to begin with. Well actually Matthew said they did, but in Luke it says no. I'm confused.
Question. Pastor...Why would all the Angels and Heavenly hosts go out and sing this “glory to God in the highest and peace on earth, goodwill to men,” to a few shepherds in the field. How about a bigger audience, like Jerusalem or at least the whole town of Bethlehem?
Question. Pastor...How come Luke says Mary kept all these wonderful things and pondered them in her heart, and yet in Mark, she and Jesus brothers come down to Jerusalem to take Jesus home as an adult because they thought he was insane? (Mark 3:21). Did Mary forget all the things that the Angels had said and all the miracles of Matthew and Luke at Jesus birth? And why was this one lone account in Mark edited out of Matthew and Luke. Was it embarrassing? It seems Mary knew Jesus was special at least to age 12 (Luke 2:51) when he wandered and was found debating in the temple. Hey, and what's with that? It even says his parents “sought him sorrowing,” so they were pretty afraid for him. Did Jesus not think to honor his parents with telling them he was at the temple and not to worry? Or did he just think they'd say “no you can't go,” and he'd have to not obey them and break another commandment? END PART TWO
Questions Your Pastor Will Hate -- Part 1
Dennis Diehl is a former pastor of 26 years, who outgrew the Literalism of Fundamentalism. He writes about Pastoral and Church abuse and is available to speak on such topics or be helpful to any church suffering under abusive religion or pastors.
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Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)