What have we done with the Christmas story?
Christians love to hear and tell the traditional Christmas story. The birth of Jesus includes Mary and Joseph seeking shelter on a winter night, no room in the inn, a baby born in a stable, and angels visiting lowly shepherds nearby.
But our modern telling of the account in Luke 2:1-20 embraces critical flaws, according to Kenneth E. Bailey, who spent 40 years teaching the New Testament in the Middle East and who authored Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels.
According to Bailey, a careful reading of the text, along with an understanding of Jewish culture, illuminate five biblical truths that challenge our Westernized version of the Christmas story:
Jesus Before Bethlehem
High Street Press offers a unique resource for personal or group study titled Jesus Before Bethlehem: What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the LORD.
Written by Rob Phillips of the Missouri Baptist Convention, the 338-page book explores dozens of Old Testament appearances by a figure often identified as “the angel of the LORD.” This figure not only speaks for God; he speaks as God. He appears as a man, a voice from heaven, a flame within a thorn bush, and a divine presence in a pillar of cloud and fire – all of which come to us as Christophanies, or appearances of Jesus before Bethlehem.
The book addresses the question: What was Jesus doing prior to his conception in Mary’s womb? While we see the Father and the Holy Spirit actively engaged in human affairs across the pages of the Old Testament, the other member of the Trinity (Jesus) is foreshadowed in messianic prophecies but otherwise absent from the earth. Or is he?
Jesus Before Bethlehem is designed to show how the eternal Son of God has always taken a personal interest in those he created to be his imagers on earth.
Did Jesus descend into hell? (part 2)
This is the second in a two-part series on the whereabouts of Jesus between His death and resurrection.
In the previous column we addressed different views about where Jesus went between His death and resurrection.
Now, we briefly examine five New Testament passages that in some way touch on the subject. Keep in mind the most biblically faithful view: Jesus neither went to hell (Gehenna) nor to Hades (the temporary abode of the dead) but to heaven after His death.
Acts 2:27 – “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. “(KJV)
In this portion of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, he quotes from Ps. 16:10, a psalm of David and a Messianic psalm that Peter applies to Jesus.
The word translated “hell” in the King James rendering of Acts 2:27 is the Greek term Hades, which is similar to the Hebrew word Sheol. In both cases, it is a flexible term that most often refers to the temporary abode of the dead but can mean “grave.”
The New International Version (NIV) translates this, “Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” This is preferable because the context emphasizes that Christ rose bodily from the dead as opposed to David, whose body is still there.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) renders this passage, “because you will not leave my soul in Hades, or allow your Holy One to see decay.” This translation acknowledges that David’s soul went to Hades without assigning Jesus’ soul to the same place.
Did Jesus descend into hell?
This is the first in a two-part series on the whereabouts of Jesus between His death and resurrection.
One of the more puzzling questions about the redemptive work of Christ is where His soul went between death and resurrection.
The Gospel writers confirm that Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb after His death, and remained there until His resurrection.
But what about the immaterial part of Jesus – namely His soul and / or spirit?
One view is stated in the Apostles’ Creed: “He [Jesus] descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead.”
The meaning of this phrase is much debated. The traditional interpretation is that Christ went to the abode of the dead to preach the gospel to Old Testament saints in order to set them free for the full experience of heaven.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church embraces this view, as do many Protestants.
However, theologian Wayne Grudem points out that the troublesome phrase, “He descended into Hell,” is a “late intruder into the Apostles’ Creed that never belonged there in the first place and that, on historical and Scriptural grounds, deserves to be removed.”
Afterlife: Now on Audible
The Missouri Baptist Convention’s publishing imprint, High Street Press, has just released an audio version of its popular printed resource, What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife.
Published in 2017 in print and ebook editions, Afterlife is now available through Audible, the premiere audio-book platform, which may be accessed at Audible.com.
The book explores key words and phrases used in Scripture to describe life beyond the grave, with an emphasis on how to know one’s eternal destiny.
In 13 short lessons, the book addresses what the Bible says about death, judgment, heaven, hell, and more. Each chapter concludes with probing questions, making this an ideal resource for personal or group study.
What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife features lessons on:
- Ten biblical truths about the afterlife
- Hades and the afterlife
- Gehenna and the afterlife
- Your future resurrection
- Everyone’s day of reckoning
- Is heaven our final home?
- Should you believe in ghosts?
- Where are you spending eternity?
- And other topics related to the afterlife
The book continues to be available in print and e-book formats at Amazon.com and other retailers.