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The World behind the Text

The story of nativity of Jesus occurs in synoptic gospels. The birth of Jesus is illustrated in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.  The biblical gospel of Matthew and Luke has covered the description of the events that occurred during the birth of Jesus. The gospel of Mark and John are more focused on the death, resurrection and theological aspects respectively (Bond, 2020).

The Nativity of Jesus is famously known as the Christmas story, the basis of the story are the birth and conception of Jesus Christ. This biblical story has emerged into a yearly tradition all over the world and has become a central celebration for Christians. The story revolves around the lives of Mary and Joseph who were living in Nazareth. The arch-angel (Gabriel) visited Mary one night and explained to her that God want to send his son in this world to protect the mankind and that she would carry the baby (Gadenz, 2018). Mary told Joseph about the baby and they prepared for the journey to Bethlehem where she gave birth to the son of God, Jesus. The miracle happened when an angel visited some shepherds working on the hillside and told them about the birth of Jesus. A bright star covered the city of Bethlehem that night to celebrate the occasion. The bright star hinted other kings that a true king has been born. Out of jealousy and spite, King Herod ordered his soldiers to kill the baby boy so that he can remain the King of Kings. Fortunately, Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt on time (Thomas, 2020).

Gospel of Luke mostly relied on the information from the gospel of Mark. Luke was non-Jewish (Gentile) and a doctor. Luke is the only non-Jewish writer who was mentioned in the Bible. The act 16:11 written by Luke hints at the possibility that he may have lived with Paul and Silas in Philippi.  He wrote his Gospel for Gentile Audience who was second generation Christians.  Luke’s Gospel stresses that the saviour of the mankind is Jesus. He presented Jesus as a deeply compassionate protector of everyone irrespective of their gender, background and nationality. His main focus was to present the divinity of Jesus to the world. Luke presented the divinity of Jesus by explaining the God’s teaching and miracle doings. The Gospel of Matthew was believed to be written by a Jewish tax collector of Galilee named Levi. Matthew was in the close circle of Jesus as his disciple. Matthew’s Gospel was written between 70 to 80AD and his readers were mainly Jewish who were living in proximity of the homeland. Matthew was known to be the most Jewish out of all the disciples. The main goal of the Gospel of Matthew was to make its readers believe that Jesus is the only Messiah of the world (The Bible Journey, 2022). Matthew presented Jesus to his readers us the only Jewish Messiah of the world and he used fulfilment citations to prove the authority of Jesus.

The World of the Text

The story of Nativity of Jesus appears in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The story appears in Luke 2:1-39 and Matthew 1:18-25 through Matthew 2:1-23. Birth of Christ was prophesied and the angel Gabriel visits the Baptist’s parents, John, to inform them about the birth of John who would become a forerunner to Jesus. After six months of this visit, Gabriel visits Mary, cousin of John’s mother, and told her that she would become the mother of Jesus. Then Mary visit Judea to meet her cousin Elisabeth. After that, Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. After the birth of Jesus, Joseph, Jesus’s father, had a vision where he was warned about the assassination of his child, therefore, he took Mary and Jesus and moved to Egypt. From Egypt, he took his family to Nazareth and thus the life of Jesus in Nazareth began. The unique feature of the gospel of Matthew is that it is divided into five sermons or discourses which are followed by the narrative sections with vignettes and episodes. Both the gospel, contain beautiful pictures of infant Jesus, his father, Joseph and mother Mary (Fisher, 2019).

The characters in the story are Mary, Joseph, the Inn keepers, the wise Men, the donkey, the star, the angel, and the kings and many more. Mother Mary and Joseph are the chosen parents of Jesus. The kings were there to take blessings from baby Jesus; however, King Herod was there to order the killing of Jesus and is the reason why Joseph and his family went to Nazareth.  The angel Gabriel’s character was as the messenger who delivered information to Mother Mary and Elisabeth. The setting during the birth of Jesus was ethereal. A big star decorated the city of Bethlehem when the Jesus was born and according to the Matthew’s gospel, the star was there to help Magi (Wise Men) to travel to Jerusalem.

The main idea of the nativity of Jesus was to show the world the miracle of Christ’s conception, his birth, and his sacrifices. The story shows how the son of God was born under a humble surrounding and how, if one is honest and selfless, the good will win over evil all the time. The writers want their audience to learn how the great God was born under ‘less privileged’ environment and that helping and wishing good for other will do nothing but help you in return (Brown, 2018).

Similarities and Differences between the gospel of Luke and Matthew

There are a total of four gospels and the story of nativity is in the two gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Luke and Matthew have shown different accounts of the nativity of Jesus. The only similarity between the gospels is that both the gospels have shown Joseph and Mary living in Nazareth and that Christ was born in Bethlehem. Matthew goes back to Abraham to present the role of Jesus as a Jewish Messiah. Matthew does not record Gabriel talking to Mary as Gospel of Luke does. Gospel of Matthew does not have the details of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, Gospel of Luke has those details. Luke goes back to Adam to trace the ancestry of Jesus. Matthew shows the story of wise men and Luke shows the story of the shepherds. Matthew excluded the events that happened after the birth of Jesus which are present in the Gospel of Luke (Brooke, 2018).

The church interprets the nativity of story as it is written in the gospel of Matthew and Luke. The church believes that Christ was born to a virgin and was sent to the world as the saviour of humankind. Catechism teaches that the birth of Jesus opened a way to redemption for all. Catholic Church believes that Jesus was born to a human family so he could feel the pain, joy and sadness every human feel.  Jesus appeared so he could help others and treated rich, poor, male and female equally (McKinney, 2018).

The nativity of Jesus holds a profound meaning to me. I think the story ensures us that no matter what, a power figure is always looking after us and will protect us from the evils of the world and it teaches us that we should treat everyone equally. The birth of Jesus was nothing less than a miracle and the giant star was a sign of it. The series of event that occurred during the birth of Jesus made me believe that he was truly a Son of God and he will protect his people no matter what.

Figure 1: Georges de La Tour, 1644

(Source:https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2c/L%27adoration_des_bergers_%28La_Tour%29.jpg)

The above painting, adoration of the shepherds, depicts the birth of Jesus. The painter has depicted the visit of shepherds as triumph of realism. There are no angels surrounding the baby Jesus as mentioned in the gospel. The clothes of shepherds look expensive unlike the plain red gown of Mary. I think that the painter wanted to focus on the importance of shepherds in the nativity of Jesus.

 Francesco di Giorgio Martini

Figure 2: Francesco di Giorgio Martini

(Source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436331)

The painting does not follow the gospel of Luke and Matthew. The baby Jesus is not covered in a cloth nor there is a crib. The shepherds, who were one of the main characters of the nativity of Jesus, are not illustrated either. I think, the painting has captured the main idea while leaving out the small yet critical points.

 Ecce Homo

                                                                                           Figure 3: Ecce Homo

                                                        Source: https://www.themythsandhistoryofredhair.co.uk/gingerjesus.html

The aritist Abraham Janssens portrayed Jesus as both reddish beard and hair. The nativity of Jesus does not describe the physical appearance of Jesus; however, the gospels have never mentioned Jesus as a red haired. I think the above painting crosses the idea that Jesus has a particular image. Both as a god and a man, Jesus has multiple images, one can perceive him in any way they want.

Reference

Bond, H.K., 2020. The Nativity. [Online] Available at:

https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/main-articles/nativity-luke-2120 [Accessed 4 March 2022].

Brooke, G.J., 2018. Comparing Matthew and Luke in the Light of Second Temple Jewish Literature. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 41(1), pp.44-57.

Brown, J.K., 2018. The Gospels as Stories: A Narrative Approach to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Baker Academic.

Fisher, A.M., 2019. A Little Camel for Baby Jesus. The Catholic Library World, 90(2), pp.154-55.

Gadenz, P.T., 2018. The Gospel of Luke (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. Baker Academic.

McKinney, S.J., 2018. The roots of the preferential option for the poor in Catholic schools in Luke's Gospel. International Studies in Catholic Education, 10(2), pp.220-32.

The Bible Journey, 2022. Who wrote the Gospels? [Online] Available at: https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney1/1-the-world-of-the-new-testament-journeys-b/who-wrote-the-gospels/ [Accessed 4 March 2022].

Thomas, D., 2020. Gospel of Matthew: A Homiletical Commentary. Wipf and Stock Publishers.

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