'The Nativity examined' talk by author and philosopher Jonathan Pearce

ChichesterHumanistsJonathanPearceNativity15thDecember2014debate

Jonathan Pearce is a teacher by day and philosopher by night. He has published many books, including The Nativity: A Critical Examination. His entertaining talk was accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation outlining 19 problems with the biblical accounts of the nativity.

He began by querying why only two of the four gospels have an account of the nativity. These, Luke and Matthew, are of unknown origin.

Jonathan considered the virgin birth next. This is one of many common motifs of similar pre-Christian myths. John implies a normal birth and it has been suggested that contemporary Christians did not believe in a virgin birth. The word used for 'virgin' may have simply meant 'young woman'.

The two genealogies of Luke and Matthew differ in how Jesus links back to David, disagreeing on the father of Joseph. The two gospels also differ in where the family lived: Nazareth or Bethlehem. They had to end up in Bethlehem, so Luke says the family travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem for a census. Jonathan outlined several good reasons why the census account is spurious. The most amusing is the claim that Jospeh had to return to Bethlehem because that was David's home town 41 generations earlier! Also, a heavily pregnant Mary would have had to travel 80 miles on a donkey, which would be life threatening. In any case, women weren't required for a census.

Luke has poor shepherds paying homage whilst Matthew describes rich wise men (magi) following a weird star that no one else saw. This could have been a comet of 66CE, coinciding with a historically recorded trip of magi.

After the birth, the family are supposed to have fled Herod's slaughter of the first born. This is not recorded by any historian and appears to be a retelling of the story of Moses and Pharoah by Matthew.

The nativity story is simply not credible yet it is crucial to present-day Christianity.

An enthusiastic audience asked Jonathan many questions following his talk: how similar is the story of Jesus compared to pre-Christian stories, e.g. Horus; the missing gospels describing Jesus' childhood, excluded from the Bible at the Nicene Council.

We look forward to Jonathan returning to give his talk on Free Will.

 

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0 #1 Jonathan Pearce 2015-01-12 11:23
Thanks for the invite - I enjoyed myself!
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