Sunday, July 29, 2012

Is the new testament a consistent and accurate source: Part 1 the Birth Narratives

In this post I am going to seriously explore the idea that the Gospels tell a consistent story. This may end up being a series of posts, but for today I will focus on the birth narrative. In the gospels the birth narratives only appear in Matthew and Luke, so the question is are the birth narratives consistent and accurate? Lets find out:

To begin with there is one thing both Matthew and Luke agree on and that is that Jesus is born of a virgin. So, at first glance there doesn't appear to be a problem, but lets look at how they got there. This initial exploration of this point is going to use Matthew as he is the first of the 2 authors having written his book in the early to mid 80s(CE) of the first century(Luke was not until 90s(CE) or later). What do we find here,well it appears that the messiah will come from a virgin using: Isaiah 7:14

King James Version (KJV)

14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Yet, this is not actually the case. Matthew is directly quoting this line in Matthew 1:23, yet if you actually explore the history of this text the earliest Hebrew manuscripts use the word "alma" which means young woman. Matthew on the other hand used the Greek translation that said "parthenos" which means virgin. So, we are off to a bad start, Matthew is using a bad translation of the old testament and this would lead us to believe he is trying to force prophecy to be fulfilled. It doesn't help matters that according to most Jews the prophecy in Isaiah is not about the Messiah any way. Its presumable about 10 or more years later when Luke was written he was familiar with the virgin birth story from Matthew and kept it in his gospel. If you don't believe Matthew would tell stories to attempt to fulfill prophecy, please check out this outside example, in another case of Matthew misreading prophecy, Matthew unlike the other gospels has Jesus enter Jerusalem on a colt and a donkey. (Matthew 21:7)

Speaking of attempting to fulfill prophecies here is another one. We have already established that both gospels thought Jesus was born of a virgin, yet strangely another prophecy of the old testament is that the Messiah will be of the blood of David (Jeremiah 23:5, 2 Samuel 7:12-16, Psalms 132:11) This is fine, but remember that if Mary is a virgin, this bloodline would have to go through her, yet both Matthew (Matthew 1:1-17) and Luke (Luke 3:23-38) go through Joseph with their genealogies to achieve this. This is a clear cut case of 2 prophecies not adding up as either one is true or the other is. Either Jesus is born of a virgin like both Matthew and Luke say and he is not in the bloodline of David since that goes through Joseph, or he is in the bloodline of David through Joseph and is the biological son of Joseph meaning Mary is not a virgin.

Speaking of the Genealogies let me have a look at them:

Luke 3:23-38-------------------Matthew 1:1-17

Heli---------------------------Jacob------------------------no match


Levi---------------------------Eleazar----------------------no match

Melchi-------------------------Eliud------------------------no match

Jannai-------------------------Achim------------------------no match

Joseph-------------------------Zadok------------------------no match

Mattathias---------------------Azor-------------------------no match

Amos---------------------------Eliakim----------------------no match

Nahum------------------------- Abiud------------------------no match

Strange, isn't it, out of the first 10 names starting at Joseph's father, we only have 1 match and I am giving the benefit of the doubt that Matthat and Matthan were the same person. The genealogies are so far off that they contradict 90% of the time here.

Is there more, well let me show you. We are now going to ask when Jesus was born, was it during the reign of Herod the Great as Matthew says, who died in 4 bce and presumably Matthew had Jesus born 2 years before this with the slaughter of the innocence killing 2 year olds or less(Matthew 2:16-18)? This is when most scholars believe that Jesus was born during this time. Yet, Luke clearly says that Jesus was born when Quirinius was governor of Syria(Luke 2:1–7). Yet, as Bart Ehrman points out here:

"If the Gospels are right that Jesus’ birth occurred during Herod’s reign, then Luke cannot also be right that it happened when Quirinius was the governor of Syria. We know from a range of other historical sources, including the Roman historian Tacitus, the Jewish historian Josephus, and several ancient inscriptions, that Quirinius did not become governor of Syria until 6 CE, ten years after the death of Herod." Jesus Interrupted pg 33-34

This is at minimum a 10 year gap, most likely 12 years when you consider Matthew probably had Jesus born in 6 CE or earlier.

Now, what about this slaughter of the innocence and the Census. Let me get the slaughter of the innocence out of the way, firstly it has zero non biblical support that it ever happened. It is presumable that other historians would have noticed this. For instance, Josephus loved to write about the terrible atrocities of Herod the Great, why is it not there? Could it be this never happened? Remember we have established Matthew is not above making things up for his story. What about the census? Well firstly a Roman Census would not require people to return to the land their ancestors lived in a 1000 years ago as Luke has here, since Bethlehem was the land of David(Luke 2:1–7). This just simply was not how Roman Census's or any census for that matter works. It was a plot device to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.

This whole little tidbit becomes more interesting when you consider Matthew starts his gospel off with Mary and Joseph living in Bethlehem(Matthew 2). A place they would presumably live for several years until leaving for Egypt(Matthew 2:13). This is interesting because Luke one other hand has them coming into Bethlehem due to a census and staying at an inn.(Luke 2:7) Where do they go when all is fulfilled in Bethlehem, well its not Egypt as in Matthew, they instead go to Nazareth.(Luke 2:39) In both cases the gospel authors apparently felt the need to have Jesus born in Bethlehem and both used clever plot narratives to get this done. Now, since a historical Jesus would have actually lived in Nazareth, these plot twists needed to get him back there and we have seen how they did that.

At this point I can see Christians getting their apologetic arguments ready to attempt to justify this, yet we have seen contradiction and inconsistency after inconsistency, what are the odds that all of your apologetic arguments are true and that all of this is wrong? Not very high, there comes a point that after you have been exposed to this type of information that you must accept that bible and the gospels are not consistent or accurate, there is just too much to apologize for in the birth narratives alone.


  1. Luke covers Marys Geneology and Matthew covers Joseph. Heli was Marys Father.

    1. no Luke 3:23-38

      King James Version (KJV)

      23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,

      24 Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph,

      Luke 3:23-38

      New International Version (NIV)

      23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,

      the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat,

      23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,

      3 different versions, that is mere apologetic nonsense trying to make people who want this to believe it, you cannot believe that if you have actually read the books.

    2. This wasn't even needed all you needed to do was look up the verses I conveniently cited in my work and see that they do not say what you want them to.

    3. Even a translation of the Codex Siniacticus says son of Joseph, you know the oldest known copy of the bible:

      And Jesus himself was, when he began his ministry, about thirty years old, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, son of Heli,

      24 son of Matthat, son of Levi, son: of Malchi, son of Jannai, son of Joseph,

  2. Maybe a visual be will:,r:3,s:0,i:84

  3. Why are Jesus' genealogies in Matthew and Luke so different?"

    Answer: Jesus' genealogy is given in two places in Scripture: Matthew 1 and Luke 3:23-38. Matthew traces the genealogy from Jesus to Abraham. Luke traces the genealogy from Jesus to Adam. However, there is good reason to believe that Matthew and Luke are in fact tracing entirely different genealogies. For example, Matthew gives Joseph's father as Jacob (Matthew 1:16), while Luke gives Joseph's father as Heli (Luke 3:23). Matthew traces the line through David's son Solomon (Matthew 1:6), while Luke traces the line through David's son Nathan (Luke 3:31). In fact, between David and Jesus, the only names the genealogies have in common are Shealtiel and Zerubbabel (Matthew 1:12; Luke 3:27).

    Some point to these differences as evidence of errors in the Bible. However, the Jews were meticulous record keepers, especially in regard to genealogies. It is inconceivable that Matthew and Luke could build two entirely contradictory genealogies of the same lineage. Again, from David through Jesus, the genealogies are completely different. Even the reference to Shealtiel and Zerubbabel likely refer to different individuals of the same names. Matthew gives Shealtiel's father as Jeconiah while Luke gives Shealtiel's father as Neri. It would be normal for a man named Shealtiel to name his son Zerubbabel in light of the famous individuals of those names (see the books of Ezra and Nehemiah).

    Another explanation is that Matthew is tracing the primary lineage while Luke is taking into account the occurrences of “levirate marriage.” If a man died without having any sons, it was tradition for the man's brother to marry his wife and have a son who would carry on the man's name. While possible, this view is unlikely as every generation from David to Jesus would have had a “levirate marriage” in order to account for the differences in every generation. This is highly unlikely.

    With these concepts in view, most conservative Bible scholars assume Luke is recording Mary’s genealogy and Matthew is recording Joseph’s. Matthew is following the line of Joseph (Jesus’ legal father), through David’s son Solomon, while Luke is following the line of Mary (Jesus’ blood relative), though David’s son Nathan. There was no Greek word for “son-in-law,” and Joseph would have been considered a son of Heli through marrying Heli's daughter Mary. Through either line, Jesus is a descendant of David and therefore eligible to be the Messiah. Tracing a genealogy through the mother’s side is unusual, but so was the virgin birth. Luke’s explanation is that Jesus was the son of Joseph, “so it was thought” (Luke 3:23).


    1. What I really don't get is you are jumping through hoops for just one of the many problems I pointed out, do you realize how ridiculous it looks that you have to jump through so many hoops to make the bible look consistent. This article was a service to people like you to learn to live with and accept the fact that the bible is not inerrant.


  6. Did you take into consideration the curse of Jeconiah? I just dont think youve researched this enough. We are in no postion to argue which historians who kept meticulous birth records.

    1. lol I have forgotten more research then you have done.