The Archbishop of Canterbury weighed in on the nativity story recently, and FoxNews deemed this newsworthy, even though much of what he said is not particularly notable at all. Here’s the scoop:

Archbishop of Canterbury Dismisses Nativity Scene as Nothing but ‘Legend’

Though I find the title of the article a bit misleading, semi-titillating (which I have to admit is nothing new for FoxNews), it’s an interesting read. Let’s pick it apart just a bit, shall we?

There was scant evidence for the Magi, and none at all that there were three of them, or that they were kings, he said. All the evidence that existed was in Matthew’s Gospel. The Archbishop said: “Matthew’s Gospel doesn’t tell us there were three of them, doesn’t tell us they were kings, doesn’t tell us where they came from. It says they are astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire, that’s all we’re really told.” Anything else was legend. “It works quite well as legend,” the Archbishop said.

Well, the Scripture makes it clear that there were “wise men from the East”, so if the Archbishop means to suggest that they didn’t exist, heresy. There were three gifts, but no mention of how many wise guys there were, and nothing suggests they were “kings”, famous Christmas carol notwithstanding. And so that part of the story is “legend”, and that’s never been particularly controversial, except perhaps for those who don’t bother to go to the actual source to determine what they believe about Christmas. Further,

there was no evidence that there were any oxen or asses in the stable. The chances of any snow falling around the stable in Bethlehem were “very unlikely.” And as for the star rising and then standing still: the Archbishop pointed out that stars just don’t behave like that.

Right-o, Archie, as to the smiling beef there, and snow is not in the scene either. But on this “star thing”, well, Your Eminence or Your Whatever, we got us a little problem: the Bible says that this star behaved in a manner that apparently doesn’t meet your specs. Sorry, Mr. Williams, what we got from you on this is heresy. Let’s move on:

..he advised that new Christians need not fear that they had to leap over the “hurdle” of belief in the Virgin Birth before they could be “signed up.” For good measure, he added, Jesus was probably not born in December at all. “Christmas was when it was because it fitted well with the winter festival.”

OK, well, we got a bit of an issue here, but I’ll cut some slack. We don’t include the Virgin Birth with people as we share the gospel with them (at least most of us don’t). I’m just being honest here…even though we consider it a “biggie”, and it is. So is what Mr. Williams says true? I think so, but with a qualifier: we don’t come to Jesus in a state of unbelief, as in “I would like to follow Jesus, but I don’t buy this malarkey about a Virgin Birth”. No…that’s not the way it works; we don’t get to define Jesus to our own liking. That said, we don’t expect a potential follower of Christ to understand, or even espouse prior to instruction from the Word, every deep doctrine of Scripture. So with a qualifier that isn’t made clear either by the Arch-dude or FoxNews, I can go with it. The part about December? Of course he’s right.

He said the Christmas cards that show the Virgin Mary cradling baby Jesus, with the shepherds on one side and the Three Wise Men on the other, were guilty of “conflation.”

Yep, he’s right on this count as well; by the time the wise guys get there, it’s up to two years later.

So, summing up, the Archbishop misses the point clearly on two points, and on both of those, he’s questioning the historical validity of what the Bible affirms as fact. That’s heretical, sorry. On the rest, what he’s saying isn’t new, except perhaps to folks who get their theology from Christmas cards and kids’ pageants.

5 responses »

  1. You didn’t talk about the best part of the interview where Archie said Jesus and Mary and Joe really did find a room in the Inn and it was a Holiday Inn Express and that was why he knew so much about the prophecies and stuff.

  2. Byron says:

    You make, as usual, a good point, when looked at sideways.

  3. Graham says:

    Unfortunately, plenty of people get their theology from Christmas cards etc. and things get jumbled. It is interesting that most of the fuss about Rowan Williams’ comments have been based on the theologically accurate parts of it.

    Just wait until the next Archbishop of Canterbury suggests that Jesus might not have had blue eyes and long blond hair.

  4. Byron says:

    Isn’t that interesting, the point you make about Rowan Williams accurate comments drawing the most fire. Pretty unreal, but pretty typical, in another sense, I guess.

  5. Jeff says:

    Last Thursday, Rush address this issue on his radio program–in fact did a whole segment about it. It is definitely worth a listen to. I listened to it again this morning while getting ready for work. You may have to be a Rush 24/7 subscriber. You may not be a Rush fan, but on this issue, he definitely got it right.

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