Christ’s Birth Story is a Myth?

Posted: December 8, 2010 by pastorerichann in Apologetics, Bible Studies / Helps
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During this time of the year when many are reflecting on the birth of Jesus Christ coming into our world and all that means for us – there are also those who are outspokenly skeptical regarding the veracity of the life of Christ stories in the Bible. Personally, in accordance with the “1st Amendment,” I do hold that people have the right to speak their convictions about such things. Not only that, it can actually lead to some interesting dialogue. One such dialogue opportunity comes to us this year from the “American Atheists” who have strategically placed a billboard at a turn-pike off-ramp in New Jersey. The billboard features a traditional greeting card style picture of the nativity scene, replete with Mary and Joseph at a stable and three wise men arriving to pay homage to the baby Jesus lying in the manger. The caption of the billboard reads “You KNOW it’s a Myth – This Season, Celebrate REASON!”  There are a couple of items of interest about the billboard. One is the a priori assumption that Christianity is “unreasonable” (as if to say atheism lies very much in the realm of “reason” – see Acts 26:25).  A couple of books I would recommend checking out regarding this are 2007’s There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind by the late former atheist debater Antony Flew; and also the book Reasonable Faith by Christian scholar William Lane Craig. Aside from this I would, of course, recommend reading the Bible itself. Curiously, I noticed right off that the billboard depicts the usual “cartoonish” star (twinkle twinkle) along with the wise men riding camels (which is not referenced in the Bible); it depicts one of them as wearing a crown (nowhere does the narrative say the “magi” were kings); it shows three wise men (the Bible never says there were three, only three gifts – using the plural of “men” there could have been two or twenty); and it also portrays them as arriving to visit the baby lying in an outdoor manger (a manger is a “feeding trough” and when the shepherds arrived to see the Christ-child lying in a manger, it could very well have been in a cave – along with some other possibilities – with no animals being mentioned; As for the magi, the Bible says they arrived at a house, and it was likely when the Christ-child was somewhat older – see Matthew 2:11). There are some other details which could be mentioned, but, although I don’t have an ax to grind against traditional manger scenes or dramas – here’s a friendly memo to atheists: If one wishes to invalidate the Bible in the name of “reason” it seems reasonable enough to me that one would start by actually reading the Bible first. Otherwise, the disparagement may be merely an affront to certain Christmas carols, the Hallmark company – or even our friends at Precious Moments. Furthermore, there are a number of thoughts which come to my mind when attempting to equate Jesus’ birth narratives with “myth.” One pertains to an author named C.S. Lewis. Prior to his conversion to Christ, Lewis was an Oxford scholar – primarily in the area of mythological literature (I had the personal privilege of visiting some of Lewis’ old stomping grounds in Oxford, England two summers ago). Although I’m not in complete agreement with everything Lewis wrote, he sheds some light on this particular subject by explaining that at the time he was considering the truth claims of Christianity he was “too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myths” and that they “had not the mythical taste” (From Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C.S. Lewis – Harcourt books c.1955, p. 236). What Lewis meant is that although the Gospel narratives have certain abstract meanings like other fictitious stories, he asserted that the content was clearly written with the earmarks of historical fact (for an example of this, read the introduction of the Gospel of Luke in 1:1-4 about the “eye-witnesses,” the “orderly account,” and the “certainty” of the things being instructed). Many other scholars whose expertise is in the area of ancient literature have come to the same conclusions (including Sir William Ramsey and F.F. Bruce). As Christians, when we meditate on the birth of Christ it is meaningful to us because we have personal, subjective experience in connection with this one we know as Jesus “the Christ” (messiah). This meaning, however, goes beyond wishful thinking about “myths” or “fairy tales” to the historic fact that God, the creator of the universe, became flesh (incarnate) in time-space history as a human being, along with his very name (Jesus – Greek yesous, Hebrew yeshua) meaning “savior” because he “saves” people “from their sins” (Matthew 1:21; Galatians 4:4-5; John 3:16).       

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