1. Joined
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    19 Dec '09 08:55
    I like to view scripture in a provocative manner. That is, I like to turn it on its head; look at a passage from different angles and from different lenses to see what I come up with. What I get from the passage when I do this may or may not be my "belief" about it, but most any part of the Gospels can be read in different ways and yet evoke a spiritual richness that I find fascinating, even as doing so is not within the orthodox realm of interpretation and thought. It is precisely this short little exercise and journey that I will engage in with you, and if you get something, then great. If not, that is ok; the Bible cannot be all things for all people in each and every word and sentence of the Bible.

    I'd like to start by saying that the birth of Jesus isn't terribly important in the Gospels. If it was, all four of them would have something to say, but Mark and John devote exactly zilch to the events of Jesus' birth. Even with Matthew and Luke, where we find the nativity passages, the passages are brief and do not get the attention that Passion week gets. All four of the gospels concern themselves at great length with Jesus' ministry, Passion week, death, and resurrection, so it can be asserted that it is these events that all four place great importance upon. Not so much the birth stories.

    Luke covers the birth of Jesus from Mary and Elizabeth's point of view, and Mary pops up in other places in the Gospels as well. Matthew, however, treats us to Joseph's perspective and role and what little we know of Joseph very nearly comes entirely from Matthew. An excerpt:


    The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

    Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
    ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
    which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

    The Visit of the Wise Men

    In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
    “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
    for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’

    Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
  2. Joined
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    19 Dec '09 08:58
    Let's assume for now that God is not involved. I know, the conservatives can't and won't do that, so label me a heretic and move on to the next thread. But let's, the rest of us, look again at this passage in purely temporal terms. Take God and any intervention out of it; let's pretend it was added later by the writer. What are we left with?

    What is apparent is that Joseph has a compassion and a tolerance that goes far beyond his faith. Whether Mary was pregnant before they were betrothed or after, Joseph has a lot of legal options available to him that, to be kind and diplomatic, can put Mary in a bad way. He would have nothing to fear or regret, because by law and faith he would have done the right thing. The dream sequence of the passage, however, gives me the suspicion that Mary becomes pregnant after she is betrothed to Joseph. There is no evidence one way or the other, but I fail to see why Joseph would need reassurance from a dream if he was not engaged already to Mary.

    So, again, God is taken out of this - you're betrothed to a young lady that managed to get herself pregnant, and it isn't yours. Now here is where I reject the immaculate conception idea; I think it's demeaning to women, it invites the notion of an interaction between god and mortal much along the lines of Zeus, and if God is all-powerful then God doesn't need to break matrimonial laws and procreate this way. I find the whole sequence entirely distasteful. But, if I take God out of that, then I have a story of a man who's fiancee has fooled around on him and shows a breathtaking compassion for his bride. Sure, he thought about dumping her - who wouldn't? But he doesn't. He sticks with her and with her unborn child, marries her, and still sticks with her. I read this and I find it hardly believable. I also read it and am not surprised that the compassion and good works of this man rub off on Jesus and are revealed at every point of Jesus' ministry. Joseph was not Jesus' father, but the life and ministry of Jesus surely would never have culminated the way it did without the influence of Joseph. Yes, you can be God on earth but if you're raised by an idiot then you will fall victim to your environment. Jesus learns no small amount of his ministry from his stepfather.

    Then, there is the curious event of the three wise men. They follow a star and come upon a baby, and offer it gifts. I read this and it has a hint of truth to it. Let's face it - religious types do nutty things for nutty reasons. Is it really outside the realm of belief to think that three magi from the east followed signs and came upon Jesus, giving him gifts? Doesn't the search for a new Lama happen similarly, with elders/wise men following signs and selecting a new leader based solely on the signs? I read this and think "Perhaps...." and then we come to the gifts themselves. Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. In all my life I was never offered an explanation of why these were important gifts. Gold, yes - but frankincense? Myrrh? I was told that frankincense was used in perfumes and myrrh was dhfjdfiweuyfaaksd. Yeah, made no sense to me. Then I became a luthier.

    Joseph is described as a carpenter. That's not an accurate word for today, especially for North Americans, and I will not presume to speak for other parts of the world, but here a carpenter is a house builder. That's not what Joseph was. Joseph was a woodworker. When you think of Joseph in those terms, then frankincense and myrrh make all the sense in the world. Why? Those are resins used in finishes - in varnish. I have some of both in my shop. What the wise men gave to Mary and Joseph was the means to get out of their poverty; gold for the short term, and some gum resins so that Joseph could put a finish on his work and sell it at a much better price. So much better that Joseph becomes something of a middle class merchant from his trade.

    Even if you take the supernatural out of this story, there are fascinating components, and it is possible to find some plausibility in the story. It is possible to find a spiritual depth if that is what you're looking for, something that you can apply to your life if that is what you're looking for, or maybe just a great made-up story if that is what you're looking for. Your choice.

    Merry Christmas to you if you observe Christmas. If you do not, then best wishes to you this holiday season and may your next year be better for you than the last.
  3. England
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    19 Dec '09 11:35
    one the first piont you make why would joesph need a dream as he was betrothed to mary. Well if you watch day time tv and the DNA test you would understand his concern he was to marry her but purity was very very important [up untill the 1960s. ] to all and bring up another mans child was very dificult in a small town,
    As for a carpenter he was tho maybe your term differs the original term was a worker of wood so tables, chairs, are a carpenters life, carpenters are were used in shipbuilding as well as house constuction
  4. Joined
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    19 Dec '09 12:313 edits
    ======================================
    I'd like to start by saying that the birth of Jesus isn't terribly important in the Gospels. If it was, all four of them would have something to say, but Mark and John devote exactly zilch to the events of Jesus' birth.
    ===========================================


    And I would like to respond by saying that not all of the evangelists emphasized the same things. But the four gospels could be considered as four portraits of this wonderful Person Jesus, from four different angles.

    Matthew wants to highlight that Jesus is the royal descendent of David qualified to be the Messiah for the throne of Israel. So he speaks of geneology and birth.

    Luke wants to highlight that Jesus was the most proper and normal human man. So it is important for Luke to speak of his birth and geneology back to the first man Adam.

    You are right that Mark and John do not write about the birth of Jesus. I think this is according to what Mark and John wanted to highlight.

    Mark wants to portray Jesus as God's slave. He came to serve as a slave for God and man. A slave needs no geneology and his birth is not mentioned for this lowly office.

    John on the other hand would consider any geneology a joke. This Christ is God from eternity past. Since He is eternally preexistent it is sufficient for him to inform us that the Word who was with God and was God "became flesh" .

    We could consider these four gospels as four snapshots of the same multifaceted and profound Person from four different angles. Together they make up a panaramic view
  5. Joined
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    20 Dec '09 18:401 edit
    btw, if anyone is interested in pic links on what frankincense and myrrh look like, then PM me and I'll post a link here.
  6. Joined
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    20 Dec '09 19:571 edit
    Originally posted by Badwater
    Let's assume for now that God is not involved. I know, the conservatives can't and won't do that, so label me a heretic and move on to the next thread. But let's, the rest of us, look again at this passage in purely temporal terms. Take God and any intervention out of it; let's pretend it was added later by the writer. What are we left with?

    What is appa s holiday season and may your next year be better for you than the last.
    So, again, God is taken out of this - you're betrothed to a young lady that managed to get herself pregnant, and it isn't yours. Now here is where I reject the immaculate conception idea; I think it's demeaning to women, it invites the notion of an interaction between god and mortal much along the lines of Zeus, and if God is all-powerful then God doesn't need to break matrimonial laws and procreate this way.

    The Immaculate Conception pertains the conception of Mary, not Jesus. The doctrine states that Mary was conceived free of original sin and concupiscence and was from that moment bestowed with the fullness of supernatural grace. What you are referring to is the Virgin Birth. This doctrine claims that Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit without any human action. Accordingly Christians do not believe that the matrimonial laws were broken; they do not believe that Mary engaged in any procreation -- rather, the Son became enfleshed in her by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  7. Joined
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    20 Dec '09 21:38
    Originally posted by Conrau K


    The Immaculate Conception pertains the conception of Mary, not Jesus. The doctrine states that Mary was conceived free of original sin and concupiscence and was from that moment bestowed with the fullness of supernatural grace. What you are referring to is the Virgin Birth. This doctrine claims that Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit without ...[text shortened]... d in any procreation -- rather, the Son became enfleshed in her by the power of the Holy Spirit.
    Ah, yes; it was late when I was writing that.

    So you can be sure that I reject both the Immaculate Conception and the Virginal Birth. Regardless of the difference in definition, both are trying to achieve the same means, and I find all of it abhorrent.
  8. Joined
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    20 Dec '09 22:14
    Originally posted by Badwater
    Ah, yes; it was late when I was writing that.

    So you can be sure that I reject both the Immaculate Conception and the Virginal Birth. Regardless of the difference in definition, both are trying to achieve the same means, and I find all of it abhorrent.
    I see it as a beautiful testament to God's zeal to live amidst His creation. He is not something totally other, something fundamentally unknowable who disdains His creation and lives separate from it. God chooses to live among us. Furthermore, the story of the incarnation shows God's creativity in the world: in Genesis, the first words are 'Let there be light' (fiat lux, in Latin); in Luke, Mary's response to the angel is 'Let it be done according to thy word (fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.) In Mary's fiat, as in the first, God is engaging in a new act of creation, a re-creation which will reconcile the world back to Him.
  9. Joined
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    20 Dec '09 23:10
    Originally posted by Conrau K
    I see it as a beautiful testament to God's zeal to live amidst His creation. He is not something totally other, something fundamentally unknowable who disdains His creation and lives separate from it. God chooses to live among us. Furthermore, the story of the incarnation shows God's creativity in the world: in Genesis, the first words are 'Let there be lig ...[text shortened]... aging in a new act of creation, a re-creation which will reconcile the world back to Him.
    And of course I see it nothing like that at all for the reasons I described.
  10. Joined
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    23 Dec '09 05:02
    Originally posted by Badwater
    Ah, yes; it was late when I was writing that.

    So you can be sure that I reject both the Immaculate Conception and the Virginal Birth. Regardless of the difference in definition, both are trying to achieve the same means, and I find all of it abhorrent.
    The immaculate conception is a Catholic doctrine and cannot be supported by the Bible.

    But it is obtuse for you to deny that Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant with Jesus. It is most abundantly clear in scripture that she was a virgin.

    Go ahead, argue with God about it.
  11. Joined
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    23 Dec '09 05:031 edit
    Originally posted by josephw
    The immaculate conception is a Catholic doctrine and cannot be supported by the Bible.

    But it is obtuse for you to deny that Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant with Jesus. It is most abundantly clear in scripture that she was a virgin.

    Go ahead, argue with God about it.
    For the purpose of my discussion I tossed that aside. Clearly you didn't get it.

    I also toss it aside for the reasons stated; I find it vulgar nearly to the point of being mysogynistic. Just because the ancients feel that is ok doesn't mean that I do - and I don't. I find it an affront against God, no less.
  12. Joined
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    23 Dec '09 05:11
    Originally posted by Badwater
    For the purpose of my discussion I tossed that aside. Clearly you didn't get it.

    I also toss it aside for the reasons stated; I find it vulgar nearly to the point of being mysogynistic. Just because the ancients feel that is ok doesn't mean that I do - and I don't. I find it an affront against God, no less.
    You're not making sense to me.

    Does not the scriptures teach that the Messiah would be born of a virgin?
  13. Joined
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    23 Dec '09 05:22
    The scriptures teach many things that I discard and disregard. There's a large amount of Ancient Judaic law that I will have none of.
  14. Standard memberkaroly aczel
    the Devil himself
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    23 Dec '09 12:32
    Originally posted by Badwater
    Ah, yes; it was late when I was writing that.

    So you can be sure that I reject both the Immaculate Conception and the Virginal Birth. Regardless of the difference in definition, both are trying to achieve the same means, and I find all of it abhorrent.
    I also reject the notions of virginal birth and emaculate conception.
    Perhaps if Jesus was portrayed as more of a normal person ,who achieved extraordinary things, more people could relate to him.
    After all how can you possibly hope to achieve something that an emaculately concieved child has done.

    The bhudda was a regurlar guy and taught that all regurlar people have the god-seed within them , which has the potential to blossom into bhudda.
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    24 Dec '09 15:56
    Originally posted by Badwater
    Let's assume for now that God is not involved. I know, the conservatives can't and won't do that, so label me a heretic and move on to the next thread. But let's, the rest of us, look again at this passage in purely temporal terms. Take God and any intervention out of it; let's pretend it was added later by the writer. What are we left with?

    What is appa ...[text shortened]... s holiday season and may your next year be better for you than the last.
    Just a misunderstood point that you mentioned here yourself. Notice the scripture says that Jesus was a young child, not a newborn, when they found him and he was in the house of his parents, not a manger. And not that it really matters but no where does it say how many "wise men" there were.
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