Do Historians Deny the Miraculous?

In some of my university classes on Christian origins we discuss Jesus and the gospels. A number of my students are nonplussed to find that historians do not automatically add Jesus’s miracles to the historical data bank of all the things that Jesus likely did. “All the gospels,” they correctly claim, “present Jesus as a …

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Elements from the Christmas Nativity Display: What Gospel Does That Come From?

At this time of year throughout Christendom churches and homes (no longer, it appears, governmental institutions, at least in the U.S.) recreate for display the scene of Jesus’s birth. Actually, they depict not the birth itself but a moment in time afterward. How long afterward? That is a question that cannot be satisfactorily answered. The …

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‘Tis the Season (for Miraculous Birth Stories)!

Most people are familiar with the basic elements of the stories of Jesus’s miraculous conception and birth as recounted in the New Testament gospels of Matthew and Luke. Though there are numerous differences between the two stories (a fact not often recognized or acknowledged – see my posts Are the Nativity Stories of Jesus Based …

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Did Baby Jesus Go to Egypt?

As many readers know, there are two stories of Jesus’s birth and childhood in the New Testament. They are told in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke but the stories are quite different. Beyond the core themes shared by both authors (Mary becomes pregnant but not by Joseph; Jesus is born in Bethlehem) the stories …

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The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

In Bethlehem, somewhat off the path beaten by most tourists, lies the Church of the Nativity, so called for the tradition that it was here in the manger-cave below that Jesus was born. The tradition is quite old and led the emperor Constantine to erect a basilica here in the early 4th century. Crusaders rebuilt and …

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Was Jesus Born on December 25?

The Christmas season often leads to many questions about the historicity of events surrounding the birth of Jesus. In this post, I would like to survey the historical evidence for the celebration of Christmas and the establishment of its date which did not necessarily happen at the same time. It may be surprising to learn …

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Was Jesus Born on January 6?

Some ancient Christians thought so. In fact, other dates were considered as well. A heretical Christian group (known as the Alogi) located in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) apparently dated Jesus’s birth on (what would for us be) either June 20 or May 21 (depending on the reading) in the year 9 CE. An unrelated group …

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Did Jews Reject Christ Because His Followers Claimed He Was Divine?

It is a common misunderstanding that Jews rejected Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah because his followers declared that he had been made divine. Quick reflection ought to dispel such a notion. All of Jesus’s early followers were Jews and all of them believed that he was divine. So how could monotheistic Jews make the …

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The Passion of…Barabbas?

The springtime buds of Easter usually include a temporary bloom of articles and blog posts about the events of Passion Week. Television programs and movies recreate the story in dramatic fashion. And, despite the overwhelming number of retellings and analyses, I would like to add one of my own, from a somewhat different point of …

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Was Christ Crucified for the Sins of the World?

Most Christians will answer this question with a resounding “Yes, of course.” Wasn’t that the entire reason for Christ’s suffering and death? Didn’t Christ die as a sacrifice to atone for sins that would have otherwise resulted in the death of the sinner? In some sense, the earliest Christ-believers, that is, mostly Jews and some …

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