dating the birth stories?

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Re: dating the birth stories?

Post by MrMacSon »

FWIW, here's Protevangelium of James 17.3-22.1, the beginning of Dialogue with Trypho 78, & most of Matthew 2, side by side for comparison

(perhaps Protoevangelium of James 17.3-22.1 should be in the middle)

(I had done this for another thread but may as well put it here)

Protevangelium 17.3-22.1
Dial. Trypho 78
Matthew 2:1-12 (NRSV)
17.3 And having come halfway, Mary said to him, “Joseph, take me down from the jenny, for the child within me presses me to come forth.” And he took her down from the jenny and said to her, “Where shall I take you and hide your shame? For the place is desert.”

18.1 And he found a cave there and brought her into it, and left her in the care of his sons and went out to seek for a Hebrew midwife in the region of Bethlehem.

18.2 Now I, Joseph, was walking, and yet I did not walk, and I looked up to the air and ... saw it standing still ... And then suddenly everything went on its course.

19.1a And behold, a woman came down from the hill country and said to me, “Man, where are you going?” And I said, “I seek a Hebrew midwife.” And she answered me, “Are you from Israel?” And I said to her, “Yes.” And she said, “And who is she who brings forth in the cave?” And I said, “My betrothed.” And she said to me, “Is she not your wife?” And I said to her, “She is Mary, who was brought up in the temple of the Lord, and I received her by lot as my wife, and she is not my wife, but she has conceived by the Holy Spirit.” And the midwife said to him, “Is this true?” And Joseph said to her, “Come and see.” And she went with him.

19.2 They stopped at the entrance to the cave, and behold, a bright cloud overshadowed the cave. And the midwife said, “My soul is magnified today, for my eyes have seen wonderful things; for salvation is born to Israel.”

And immediately the cloud disappeared from the cave and a great light appeared, so that our eyes could not bear it. A short time afterwards that light withdrew until the baby appeared, and it came and took the breast of its mother Mary ...

3 And the midwife came out of the cave, and Salome met her ...

20.1 ...Salome...tested Mary's 'condition' ... [the Lord spoke] Salome came near and touched him, saying, “I will worship him, for a great king has been born to Israel.” ... she went out of the cave ... an angel of the Lord cried, “Salome, Salome, do not report what marvels you have seen, until the child has come to Jerusalem.”

21.1 And behold, Joseph was ready to go to Judea. And there took place a great tumult in Bethlehem of Judea. For there came wise men saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him” (= Matthew 2.1-2).

21.2 When Herod heard this he was troubled and sent officers to the wise men, and sent for the high priests and questioned them, “How is it written concerning the Messiah? Where is he born?” They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written.” And he let them go. And he questioned the wise men and said to them, “What sign did you see concerning the newborn king?” And the wise men said, “We saw how an indescribably greater star shone among these stars and dimmed them so that the stars no longer shone; and so we knew that a king was born for Israel. And we have come to worship him.” And Herod said, “Go and seek, and when you have found him, tell me, that I also may come to worship him.” 3a And the wise men went out. And behold, the star which they had seen in the east, went before them until they came to the cave. And it stood over the head of the cave
(= Matthew 2.3-10)

21.3b And the wise men saw the young child with Mary his mother, and they took out of their pouch gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 4 And having been warned by the angel that they should not go into Judea, they went to their own country by another route
(= Matthew 2.11-12)

22.1 But when Herod realized that he had been deceived by the wise men he was angry and sent his murderers and commanded them to kill all the babies who were two years old and under (= Matthew 2.16). 2 When Mary heard that the babies were to be killed, she was afraid and took the child and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in an ox manger (= Luke 2.7).


Now this king Herod, at the time when the
Magi came
to him from Arabia, and said
they knew from a star which appeared in the
that a King had been born in your
country, and that they had come to worship
learned from the elders of your people that it was thus written regarding Bethlehem in the prophet:

‘And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
art by no means least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall go forth the leader who shall feed my people’
[Micah 5.2].

Accordingly the Magi from Arabia came to Bethlehem and worshipped the Child, and presented Him with gifts, gold and frankincense, and myrrh; but returned not to Herod, being warned in a revelation after worshipping the Child in Bethlehem.

[essentially Matt 1:18-24 here] Then along with Mary he [Joseph] is ordered to proceed into Egypt, and remain there with the Child until another revelation warn them to return into Judæa.

But when the Child was born in Bethlehem, since Joseph could not find a lodging in that village, he took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, and here the Magi who came from Arabia found Him.

I have repeated to you,” I continued, “what Isaiah foretold about the sign which foreshadowed the cave; but for the sake of those who have come with us to-day, I shall again remind you of the passage.”

Then I repeated the passage from Isaiah which I have already written [Isaiah 33:13-19] adding that, by means of those words, those who presided over the mysteries of Mithras were stirred up by the devil to say that in a place, called among them a cave, they were initiated by him/them. [2244]

“So Herod, when the Magi from Arabia did not return to him, as he had asked them to do, but had departed by another way to their own country, according to the commands laid on them; and when Joseph, with Mary and the Child, had now gone into Egypt, as it was revealed to them to do; as he [Herod] did not know the Child whom the Magi had gone to worship, ordered simply the whole of the children then in Bethlehem to be massacred. And Jeremiah prophesied that this would happen, speaking by the Holy Ghost thus:

‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
lamentation and much wailing,
Rachel weeping for her children;
and she would not be comforted,
because they are not’
[Jer. 31.15]

"Therefore, on account of the voice which would be heard from Ramah, i.e., from Arabia (for there is in Arabia at this very time a place called Rama), wailing would come on the place where Rachel the wife of Jacob called Israel, the holy patriarch, has been buried, i.e., on Bethlehem; while the women weep for their own slaughtered children, and have no consolation by reason of what has happened to them.


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'."
[Micah 5.2, modified(?)]

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 [the Magi] left for their own country by another path.

13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet [Hosea], “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” [Hos. 11:1]

16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled,
because they are no more.”
[Jer. 31:15]

Last edited by MrMacSon on Tue Apr 20, 2021 3:59 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: dating the birth stories?

Post by mlinssen »

Ben C. Smith wrote: Tue Feb 23, 2021 11:44 am
davidmartin wrote: Tue Feb 23, 2021 8:57 amThe Matthew nativity could possibly be explained by embellishing the source too
A whole choir of angels appears there compared to one in the James?
There is no choir of angels in Matthew. You are thinking of Luke. The Infancy Gospel of James, however, lacks the pericope in Luke (about the shepherds) in which the heavenly host appears.

BLB Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds in the same region, lodging in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they feared with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring good news to you of great joy, which will be to all the people. 11 For today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this is the sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, and lying in a manger.”

Proto-J 4. (...) For an angel of the Lord went down to him, saying: Joachim, Joachim, the Lord God hath heard thy prayer Go down hence; for, behold, thy wife Anna shall conceive. And Joachim went down and called his shepherds, saying: Bring me hither ten she-lambs without spot or blemish, and they shall be for the Lord my God; and bring me twelve tender calves, and they shall be for the priests and the elders; and a hundred goats for all the people. And, behold, Joachim came with his flocks (...)
22. And when Herod knew that he had been mocked by the Magi, in a rage he sent murderers, saying to them: Slay the children from two years old and under. And Mary, having heard that the children were being killed, was afraid, and took the infant and swaddled Him, and put Him into an ox-stall. (...)

Fusion is the sexy word.
I have gone through the 72 logia of Thomas and their canonical copies, and I see strong variations like these next to verbatim agreements, and every grey shade in between. The important thing is to to drop the right words, in any given context really. Mark starts with that in his beginning, and his mash-up of the seed and the weed is a perfect example:

BLB Mark 4:26 And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is thus, as a man should cast the seed upon the earth, 27 and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow—he not knows how. 28 Of itself, the earth brings forth fruit—first a plant, then an ear, then full grain in the ear. 29 And when the fruit offers itself, he sends the sickle immediately, for the harvest has come.”

Now the direction of dependency here is clear, and even if it weren't, the fixing of Matthew should make it so: he has the exact same two parables in the exact same order, one following the other just as Mark has this directly precede the mustard seed

BLB Matthew 13:24 He put before them another parable, saying, “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man having sown good seed in his field. 25 And while the men are sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds in the midst of the wheat, and went away. 26 And when the plants sprouted and produced fruit, then the weeds also appeared. 27 And the servants, having approached the master of the house, said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 And he said to them, ‘An enemy did this.’ And the servants said to him, ‘Then do you desire that having gone forth, we should gather them?’ 29 And he said, ‘No, lest gathering the weeds, you would uproot the wheat with them. 30 Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the harvesters, “First gather the weeds, and bind them into bundles in order to burn them; then gather together the wheat into my barn.”’”

57 said IS : the(F) reign-of(F) king of the father she/r liken to a(n) human has/ve he therein a(n) seed good did his enemy come within the(F) night did he throw-sow a(n) Zizanion upon the seed good not the human permit they to pluck the Zizanion said he behold : Lest-perhaps yourselves go : "we-ought-to" pluck the Zizanion yourselves pluck the wheat with he in Indeed of the harvest the(PL) Zizanion will reveal outward they pluck they or/and they burn they

Yeah, I've reverted Weed to Zizanion. I've done the same to sTRos - as long as the meaning is not clear, it goes back to the default, which could even be sRTos for that matter, or something entirely different. See, I've got bigger fish to fry LOL
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Re: dating the birth stories?

Post by Ben C. Smith »

Ken Olson wrote: Tue Feb 23, 2021 11:17 am This is a version of chapters 11-24 of the Protoevangelium of James adapted from Alexander Walker's translation, with my notes in brackets. I originally made this for an assignment for an undergraduate Introduction to the New Testament class I was teaching, in which the bracketed notes were Word comments, so I had to reformat it and there may be some errors.
Thanks, Ken. This looks pretty similar to my own treatment of the issue. I would finetune one line of yours to the following:

Now there went out a decree from the king Augustus that all [Luke 2.1] those in Bethlehem in Judaea [Matthew 2.1] should be enrolled [Luke 2.1].

Luke 2.1, of course, has the entire inhabited earth being polled in the census. Bethlehem in Judea seems to derive from Matthew 2.1, with a view to Bethlehem being the eventual site of the Massacre of the Innocents.

But I like your observation that "shall call his name Jesus" is found twice, suggesting one time from Matthew and the other from Luke, alongside my own observation that this line is, except for the name of Jesus, also a direct copy of Isaiah 7.14.
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Re: dating the birth stories?

Post by rgprice »

Perhaps the simplest solution is that Martyr has read multiple birth narratives and was simply harmonizing them.
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Re: dating the birth stories?

Post by mlinssen »

Ken Olson wrote: Tue Feb 23, 2021 11:17 am So it seems either Matthew and Luke collaborated to divide up what parts of the Protoevangelium each would use or their mutually exclusive decisions are the result of an extremely improbable coincidence. (I think neither of these options is likely and that the author of the Protoevangelium used Matthew and Luke).
If you go by the Thomas material in the canonicals, you'll find that it is always Luke who does the hard work, who has the most verbatim copy. Matthew just comes by, perfects it in his version, and runs away with the prize

I know you would very much like your conclusion to be true, but it simply isn't that simple. Luke and Matthew have very different audiences and therefor they do disagree at times. Where they tell either just general or very important stories, that's where they agree

It is the audience who determines which version of a story gets told. That happens in daily life every single moment of the day. So you think politicians tell you exactly what they know?
Do you think children always ask the same questions to both parents, and tell them the same stories?
Do you think that you tell the same version of stories to your friends that you tell your wife, your family, or your neighbours?

What if Luke and Matthew not only collaborated, but were the same person? And even if they were two different people, why wouldn't they have collaborated?
It is clear that Mark created an awful lot of questions, as well as giving answers that weren't to everyone's liking

Just look at the baptism of Jesus - given that little story, not insignificant I'd say, your conclusion would be that none of the gospel writers used the same source, yes?
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Re: dating the birth stories?

Post by rgprice »

@mlinssen I don't think its quite like that. When talking about the body of Luke and Matthew, it seems that Luke is almost an exact copy of Marcion's Gospel. So, whoever "did the hard work" was likely the writer of Marcion's Gospel. The question with canonical Luke is, did someone revise Marcion's Gospel, and then someone different come along and add the birth narrative and ending on, or was that all one person?

But regardless, we go Mark > Marcion > Luke & Matthew (at least by my reckoning).

So it appears that Matthew worked from Marcion & Mark, while preferring Mark to Marcion and also being inventive on his own to change a few things around and add some of his own material.

Luke, on the other hand, appears to have mostly preserved Marcion, while doing some harmonization to Matthew and also inventing his own stuff.

I'm not sure so much about audience and objectives. Canonical Luke is of course setting things up for Acts. It seems that the writer of Luke/Acts had the goal of making a competing work to Marcion's Gospel/Paul publication. Whereas Marcion put out a Gospel followed by the letters of Paul, Luke was putting out a Gospel followed by the story of Paul, along with all of the other apostles, by which he was better able to subordinate Paul.

It looks to me like the writer of Luke/Acts was trying to really turn out a new story very quickly, which is why he did almost no editing to Marcion's Gospel. He mostly just took Marcion's Gospel and added different beginning and ending to it, then set his sights on Acts.

Matthew, however, focused more on his Gospel, dedicating more time to re-working Marcion. This is why, it appears that Goodacre is wrong about parts of his treatment of Luke. For example Goodacre claims that Luke reworked Matthew by spreading the Sermon on the Mount out across lots of scenes, but it rather seems that Marcion (the writer of his Gospel) invented the material that Matthew collected together to create the Sermon on the Mount. So it was really Matthew doing the editorial work to revise the original, not the other way around. This is why the Synoptic Problem is so difficult. Because sometimes it appears that Matthew is first and sometimes Luke.

The way Klinghardt has it, Luke is the last of the canonical Gospels written, being a copy of Marcion's that is then revised in light of Matthew, Mark, and John. And possibly this was done in two revisions, by two different editors. So its really Marcion > Revision using Mark and John > Revision using Matthew with addition of birth story & special ending. Or something like that.
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Re: dating the birth stories?

Post by davidmartin »

One of the points raised to argue James must draw from Luke/Matthew is the mention of Zechariah
I had a look at this and it seemed to fall apart spectacularly!

The argument is both Luke and Matthew mention Zechariah's murder - well away from the birth narrative where he appears in James
Thus if Luke/Matthew drew from James they both independently decided to place the Zechariah story outside the birth narrative which would be ludicrous

But it all falls flat on closer analysis

Firstly the mentions of Zechariah in Luke and Matthew are mere one sentence references. There's no comparison with the longer James story other than the mere name and briefest possible mention of his murder
If these gospels drew their birth narratives from James there is no reason to think they depended at all on it for their fleeting reference to Zechariah - Zechariah who is a well enough known character that Luke and Matthew could easily draw from other stories about him or 2 Chron 24:17-25
All of this makes the Zechariah 'connection' barely a connection at all there's no meat there
In addition to this the section in Luke and Matthew where Zechariah appears is very similar as if one was copying from the other or uses a common source. This possibility would also negate the conclusion that neither of them could have drawn from James for the birth narrative

I'm not trying to prove that Luke and Matthew drew from James here in this post, only that this specific argument about Zechariah isn't very convincing that is all. I would accept it as a footnote among the other stronger arguments but there's no convincing proof of dependency either way here to base any conclusions on
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Re: dating the birth stories?

Post by Ben C. Smith »

davidmartin wrote: Tue Feb 23, 2021 3:16 pm One of the points raised to argue James must draw from Luke/Matthew is the mention of Zechariah
Where is this point made?
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Re: dating the birth stories?

Post by Ken Olson »

davidmartin wrote: Tue Feb 23, 2021 3:16 pm One of the points raised to argue James must draw from Luke/Matthew is the mention of Zechariah
I had a look at this and it seemed to fall apart spectacularly!

The argument is both Luke and Matthew mention Zechariah's murder - well away from the birth narrative where he appears in James
Thus if Luke/Matthew drew from James they both independently decided to place the Zechariah story outside the birth narrative which would be ludicrous

But it all falls flat on closer analysis

You misconstrue my argument. The argument is that, when we look at the phrases of the Protoevangelium that have parallels in Matthew and Luke, Matthew and Luke make different, mutually exclusive choices about which phrases they include in their infancy narratives. This would imply that either:

1) The author of the Protoevangelium combined material from Matthew and Luke


2) Matthew and Luke collaborated in dividing up the material they would use in writing their infancy narratives, or by unlikely coincidence never chose to use the same phrases.

I then allowed that there are two apparent exceptions; (1) "you shall call his name Jesus," which actually occurs twice in the Protoevangelium, once in a Luke-parallel context, once in a Mattheanparallel context, so it's not really an exception. (2) the Zachariah material, which Luke and Matthew place outside the infancy narratives.

When you argue that "In addition to this the section in Luke and Matthew where Zechariah appears is very similar as if one was copying from the other or uses a common source" you are agreeing with me that it's not an exception to Luke and Matthew's lack of agreement in using the Protoevangelium. (You are in fact, proposing the theory I actually hold).

I never made the argument you attribute to me.



P.S. I think he was talking about me, Ben
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Re: dating the birth stories?

Post by hakeem »

rgprice wrote: Tue Feb 23, 2021 12:56 pm Perhaps the simplest solution is that Martyr has read multiple birth narratives and was simply harmonizing them.
There was no need for Justin to harmonise anything . Justin did reveal his sources for the birth narrative -- "the Memoir of the Apostles".

Justin's Dialogue with Trypho
C..........we find it recorded in the memoirs of His apostles
CI..........recorded in the memoirs of His apostles has been declared in the memoirs of His apostles
CIII.......... For in the memoirs which I say were drawn up by His apostles and those who followed them
CIV..........this is recorded to have happened in the memoirs of His apostles.
CV we have learned from the memoirs
CV...........I have learned also from the memoirs.
CV........... these words are recorded in the memoirs
CVI.......... as is made evident in the memoirs of the apostles
CVI.......... it is written in the memoirs of Him that this so happened
CVI........... as is recorded in the memoirs of His apostles

In contrast, we have no mention of a single source for the birth narrative in the anonymous writing falsely attributed to James where the author pretends to be a witness or contemporary of the fictional Jesus.

I made an error. The author of the IGoJ did name his source for his "history" of his Jesus.

It was God.

The Infancy Gospel of James.
And I James that wrote this history in Jerusalem, a commotion having arisen when Herod died, withdrew myself to the wilderness until the commotion in Jerusalem ceased, glorifying the Lord God, who had given me the gift and the wisdom to write this history.....

The simplest solution is that Justin used the Memoirs of the Apostles and that the IGoJ was unknown by Christian writers up to at least the 4th century.
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