Gladstone's Library

The Gospel Infancy Narratives

by Richard Martin

Report of a conference at Gladstone's Library on 7 October 2010
led by Dr Gareth Lloyd Jones

from Signs of the Times, No. 40 - Jan 2011

Most of the 25 people attending this one-day conference were already familiar with Dr Gareth Lloyd Jones' theme - which was that the infancy narratives were bad history but good theology. But he gave us plenty of new things to think about, and spiced it in his usual way with humorous quips which produced many bursts of laughter.

Did you know that -

1. Herod the Great died in B.C.4 and on his death his son Archelaus inherited part of his kingdom, Judaea and Samaria, but was deposed by Rome in A.D.6. Then Quirinius, a Roman, became governor. So Herod the Great was obviously not alive when there was a census taken under Quirinius. It was because of this census that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. So Herod could not have been alive when Jesus was born. So the Wise Men, who consulted with Herod, could not have seen Jesus!

2. The story of Balaam is interestingly mirrored in the story of the Wise Men. They all came from the East; Balaam prophesied a star, the magi saw a star; they were all Gentiles.

3. Mary, according to Luke, was told in no uncertain terms, that her son would be special indeed. He would be conceived without the agency of a man, he would be called the Son of the Most High, of his kingdom there would be no end... Yet when he was full-grown and in the middle of his mission his family thinks he is out of his mind and even demon-possessed because he made such amazing claims. A curious confluence of facts, to say the least.

Having said all that and a lot more, the stories we know are wonderful stories and contain, in their own way, the wonderful truth of the Incarnation, which the church continues to glory in and proclaim.

Richard Martin is a retired physics teacher. He organizes the meetings of the North West regional group of Modern Church.