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What Christmas in America Can Teach Us About Israelite Religion

This is a very nice post from Pete Enns, who is consistently insightful and entertaining. You would do well to read it. But I swear, the first thing that sprung to mind when I read it was, “Good Lord, they actually made a He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special??”

Readers today might assume that these injunctions were more or less universally known to your average Joe-Sixpack and Sally-Housecoat Israelite (pretty sure that’s a partially correct Simpsons reference.) So we read the biblical stories about the failure to worship God properly as stories of out and out rebellion—“Geez Louise, Israelites, when in the world are you going to learn to obey God?! How many times do you have to be told?!”

But it may be that your average Jimmy-Lunch pail and Susie-Soccer mom Israelite had no real conception of how God is “supposed” to be worshiped. Or they had an idea, but, like a lot of American’s singing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” or “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” they effortlessly and unknowingly mix together some vague awareness of what it all “really” means and just going with the cultural flow.

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Quirinius’s Census

Ian Paul offers an interesting line of defense of Luke’s general historicity with regard to the census in Luke’s birth narrative. Commenting on the historiographical tendencies of both Luke and Josephus, he suggests an alternative translation of Luke 2:2 that seems to account for the historical and linguistic peculiarities of the text:

Marshall notes that ‘the form of the sentence is in any case odd’ (p 104); why say something was ‘first’ when there is nothing to compare it with? Stephen Carlson has looked even more closely, and also noted that the verb egeneto also seems strange; why suggest the census ‘became’ something, rather than that it simply ‘was’? Carlson suggests that prote, rather than ‘first’ numerically, should be read as ‘of most importance’—much as we might say ‘so-and-so is Arsenal’s Number One player.’ This would then give the translation as:

This registration became most prominent when Quirinius was governing Syria.

or

This [decree to get registered] became the/a most important registration when Quirinius was governing Syria.

In the end, the mystery of the conflict between Luke and Josephus remains unsolved and (as Marshall puts it) ‘can hardly be solved without the discovery of fresh evidence.’ But these arguments at least offer a plausible explanation—and when considering questions of history, proof is rarely possible, but plausibility is an important measure. It certainly offers no grounds to write off Luke’s account, think it unhistorical or a fabrication, or see it as in conflict with Matthew.

Merry Christmas

Christ is born! Glorify him!

In Honor of St. Nicholas’s Day

Here’s a little Greek exercise I did a couple years ago:

Μάμμη ἐπατήθην ὑπ᾽ ἐλάφου.
περὶ προτὰς χείμονος ἔβαινεν.
περὶ Ἁγίου Νικολάου ένδιαζεις;
πάππος γε κἀγὼ πιστεύομεν.

If it isn’t grammatically perfect, well, that may not be straying too far from the source material.

Merry Christmas!

Christ is born! Glorify him!


I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from God’s heaven, a star’s light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God’s Angels in heaven to sing
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

Carmina Nativitatis in Lingua Latina!

Laura Gibbs of Bestiaria Latina has rounded up a month’s worth of Latin Christmas carols (and two Hanukkah songs, too!). I’m not just talking about “real” Latin hymns like “Adeste fideles,” “Gaudete,” “Hodie Christus natus est,” etc. She has also compiled Latin versions to more modern carols and holiday songs such as  “Deck the Halls” (Aquifolia Ornate), “Silent Night” (Silens nox), and even  “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” (Avia Renone Calcabatur).

Merry Christmas!