The pope’s book on Jesus’ birth cleans up some myths

No angels, no animals
Pope’s book on Jesus challenges Christmas traditions – CNN.com.

It’s Christmas, but not as you know it: a new book released this week by Pope Benedict XVI looks at the early life of Jesus — and debunks several myths about how the Nativity unfolded.

In “Jesus of Nazareth — The Infancy Narratives,” the pope says the Christian calendar is actually based on a blunder by a sixth century monk, who Benedict says was several years off in his calculation of Jesus’ birth date.

Alessandro Speciale, Vatican correspondent for the Religion News Service, told CNN the pope was not so much aiming to debunk myths as trying to show that the Jesus depicted in the Gospels is a real historical figure, who walked on earth and talked to people like anyone else.

The Vatican quotes Anthony Valle, a professor of theology, as saying the pope has been open to scientific inquiry in his own study of Jesus’ life.

“The pope is not against the historical critical method at all, in fact, he uses it, he appreciates it,” Valle said.

Well, one would hope that facts would be used in a historical narrative. But then, he notes the pope uses “both faith and reason” regarding the life of Jesus. This is likely not to be considered a historically accurate book but the Pope’s interpretation for the general public.

This article on LiveScience tells us,

There are no “eyewitness” accounts written about Jesus during his lifetime, so historians have to rely on interpretations of the four main canonical gospel texts, mostly scrawled several decades after his death.

“We do know some things about the historical Jesus — less than some Christians think, but more than some skeptics think. Though a few books have recently argued that Jesus never existed, the evidence that he did is persuasive to the vast majority of scholars, whether Christian or non-Christian,” said Marcus Borg, a retired professor of religion and culture at Oregon State University…

The Bible is a book of stories that certainly included some elements that were not quite accurate. From there, other storytellers and artists have added embellishments to the Jesus story and especially the Christmas theme. The pope appears to be clairifying things we’ve known for a long while – that not all the embellishments are valid but he doesn’t want to be a grinch and take those cute animals away from the Nativity scene. Christmas cards just wouldn’t be as pretty without angels.

UPDATE (30-Nov-2012) Uh oh, the media has misconstrued stuff.

Tip: rjhark00

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  5 comments for “The pope’s book on Jesus’ birth cleans up some myths

  1. November 23, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    The Pope is hardly an objective historian.

    • Anon
      November 25, 2012 at 2:26 AM

      He doesn’t claim to be one. It happens to be my job, however. The title’s use of the term of art “narratives” is a sign that he is a critical thinker in some ways, and well aware that there are multiple, conflicting sides to every story.

  2. November 23, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    Generally, if you are writing an historical volume that you want to be taken seriously, you have footnotes, or at least a list of your sources. The absence of references would be telling.

    • Anon
      November 25, 2012 at 2:27 AM

      I think we’ll find that he is not a historian but a pastor, writing a book for his faithful followers.

  3. Brian
    November 24, 2012 at 6:59 AM

    There’s more about people who just simply lived back then- the average Joe-us- than there is on Jesus. Along with historical record, there’s evidence. If Jesus, a *historical* figure existed- where’s the evidence? Joseph’s carprentry shop- where is it? Why have not anything mentioned in the Bible been found? Even the dead fig tree with a plaque…? Pilate’s records? I am sure others can add to this list…

    Sorry- not buying “jesus is real” just because the Pope says so.

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