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on 6 November 2008
The birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are so familiar, heard every Christmas in church and on the radio, that I wasn't sure there was much more I could learn about them. How wrong I was! Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan's book started brilliantly; within the first chapter I was hooked on what they unfolded. They approach the birth narratives as parables/metaphors, not particularly addressing modern-day ideas of historicity but instead looking at the narratives and their structure in terms of what the gospel writers might have wanted to say. It becomes clear that Matthew and Luke are very different, with Matthew presenting Jesus as the New Moses, reflecting many images and ideas from Jewish writings, and Luke's emphasis on the stories as an overture to his larger themes of women, the marginalised and the Holy Spirit.

The book goes step-by-step through some parts of the nativity stories, explaining the historical context for many of the events, showing the parallels and the differences between the gospels, relating parts to historical or metaphorical events. I found the book began slightly to drag by the end but I was really taken by much of what they said, particularly the links Matthew makes between Jesus, Moses and Caesar. Some more conservative Christians will probably find the liberal tone of the book too much to stomach which is a real shame as there are some real gems in here, but for those with an open mind and an interest in understanding more about the world of the time of Jesus this is an unmissable book.
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on 6 November 2008
The birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are so familiar, heard every Christmas in church and on the radio, that I wasn't sure there was much more I could learn about them. How wrong I was! Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan's book started brilliantly; within the first chapter I was hooked on what they unfolded. They approach the birth narratives as parables/metaphors, not particularly addressing modern-day ideas of historicity but instead looking at the narratives and their structure in terms of what the gospel writers might have wanted to say. It becomes clear that Matthew and Luke are very different, with Matthew presenting Jesus as the New Moses, reflecting many images and ideas from Jewish writings, and Luke's emphasis on the stories as an overture to his larger themes of women, the marginalised and the Holy Spirit.

The book goes step-by-step through some parts of the nativity stories, explaining the historical context for many of the events, showing the parallels and the differences between the gospels, relating parts to historical or metaphorical events. I found the book began slightly to drag by the end but I was really taken by much of what they said, particularly the links Matthew makes between Jesus, Moses and Caesar. Some more conservative Christians will probably find the liberal tone of the book too much to stomach which is a real shame as there are some real gems in here, but for those with an open mind and an interest in understanding more about the world of the time of Jesus this is an unmissable book.
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on 4 January 2014
Borg and Crossan reflect on the Christmas story as presented in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in this scholarly yet clearly written book. It is an excellent accompaniment to Christmas celebrations and an antidote to both the blatant consumerism and the cloying sentimentality which all too often cloud our appreciation of the story of the birth of Jesus.
They stress, at the beginning of the book, that the birth stories in these two Gospels are like overtures which introduce themes which are developed in the later chapters of the Gospels. The authors set the story of Jesus in the context of Hebrew and classical history and literature and show that Jesus brings peace to the world through nonviolence and justice, unlike the Roman empire which sought to bring peace through victory and violence.
This book will be welcomed by those Christians who have a radical approach to their faith and who see their work to be through following the example of Jesus' commitment to nonviolence. It is an encouraging and inspiring book for all those who wish to challenge the lies told by empires in the 21st century
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on 20 March 2010
This is a good book, that offers contextual evidence for the notion that the birth narratives are clearly symbolic and parabolic. I think you'd be hard pressed to be able to seriously defend the factual authenticity of the birth narratives without undergoing some serious mental gymnastics, and swapping overwhelming plausibility for underwhelming and highly dbious possibility.

There are interesting passages on symbology and themes running through Matthew and Luke. The only thing I ever wonder is how Crossan and Borg can get away with calling themselves Christians. Is it so they can still hold tenure and get publishing deals. It seems to me that they are at best very tenuously 'Christian'. Not that I'm coomplaining!

Moreover, I like books like this because they are short enough to read quickly.
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on 1 February 2010
This is an eminently readable account of the birth of Jesus Christ, set in its historical context. Borg and Crossan are well known for their interpretation and explanation of biblical history that really brings home the truth of what happened 2000 years ago. If anyone is interested in clear and straighforward account of Christ's birth and why it was seen to be so important historically and in the Jewish cuture of the time, then this is THE book to read.
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on 19 June 2009
An attempt by two distinguished American scholars to get at the heart of what the birth stories mean without getting embroiled in their historical accuracy or the biblical and theological arguments arising within them, beginning with the gospel stories which they see as overtures, parables or stories with meanings rather than history, setting the tone and themes for what is to come.
The context is then explored `within Christianity, within Judaism, within the Roman empire', and against the background of the immediate past and explore with no shortage of detailed information on the ancient world's view of virgin birth and divine conception.
Light (as opposed to darkness) is regarded as an archetypal symbol whose imagery pervades the Old and New Testaments and probably explains why the birth of Jesus taking place on a winter evening in the middle of a dark night. This is not so much historic time as parabolic time, metaphorical time, sacred time and symbolic time.
Predictions (`that it may be fulfilled . . .' ) are not predictions of something to happen in the distant future and certainly not predictions of Jesus. Matthew, for example, is not trying to prove that Jesus was the Messiah nor was he trying to impress or convince `outsiders' but to reflect the convictions of `insiders'.
The value of these stories lies in what mean for us today rather than what meant in origin. We are to understand and relate them to our situation, with an emphasis on joy but joy with conflict, and see advent as a time of anticipation, expectation and repentant preparation but a repentance that has more to do with change than with confessing our sins.
Commended especially to preachers and leaders of worship. It could transform our Christmas services, create new life in the midst of traditional ritual and present the gospel in a way which has meaning for everybody.
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on 26 February 2009
I had known for many years that some of the titles used by early Christians to refer to Jesus upset the Romans ( to put it mildly!)This book explains exactly why the use of those titles was so upsetting, and so dangerous to these early followers of "The Way ".
This book is a fascinating mixture of politics and theology , and offers real insight into the background of the beginning of the Christian church.
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on 1 December 2013
Two of the world's leading New Testament scholars bring both their scholarship and their personal faith into this brilliant e plantation of what the authors of the Christmas Stories were up to when they wrote down their accounts of the birth of Jesus. In clear and accessible language,this book brings alive both the joy and the challenge of Christmas for the reflective reader. It is a book that everyone who calls themselves a "Christian" should read.
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on 9 January 2012
I have read this book several times and I have also sent copies of to friends; I can therefore say that I believe it be a book which demands a wider readership. The book deals with how we should approach the Gospels, particularly the Nativity Narratives, and how we may think about the many 'miraculous' happenings described therein. It is not seeking to debunk the Christian faith but help ordinary Christians cope with questions which seem difficult in a society far removed from that of 2,000 years ago.
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on 18 November 2015
This study of the Infancy Narratives makes complete sense and needs to be understood by Christians of all denominations. It is entirely positive and would satisfy any skeptics who bothered to take the time to explore why Matthew and Luke constructed these parables and overtures to the Gospel and the Cross and Resurrection. Jesus was probably born in Nazareth and never went to Egypt, however the parabolic stories in Matthew and Luke are rich in meaning and celebrating the Nativity story we have all known since childhood is absolutely fine.
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