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:
1. Joseph was returning to the village of his origin. Simply entering Bethlehem and telling people, “I am Joseph, son of Heli, son of Matthat, the son of Levi” instantly would have opened most homes to him.
So, how do Christian missionaries teach Muslims about Jesus when Islam denies His deity and death on the cross? And how do new converts from Islam to Christianity worship Jesus without inviting severe persecution?
One answer is Chrislam, the bringing together of Christianity and Islam. Proponents of Chrislam say that because the Qur’an mentions Jesus and affirms certain biblical teachings about Him, Christianity and Islam share at least some common ground.
They further argue that if Christians avoid the offensive term “Son of God” when referring to Jesus, and emphasize His role as prophet rather than divine Savior, Muslims are more open to the gospel. Once they come to faith in Christ, Muslims may continue to worship at a mosque, pray Muslim prayers, and even partake in a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Do you know the difference between Scientology and Christian Science? Buddhism and Baha’ism? Rastafarianism and Ralph Laurenism? (Okay, I made that one up). Here’s a chance to test your knowledge. The correct answers are at the end of the quiz.
1. Which of the following is not a Hindu scripture:
a) Rig Veda
b) Sama Veda
c) Yajur Veda
d) Darth Veda
Rev. 13:5 – A mouth was given to him to speak boasts and blasphemies. He was also given authority to act for 42 months. 6He began to speak blasphemies against God: to blaspheme His name and His dwelling – those who dwell in heaven. (HCSB)
A mouth was given to him
The dragon, who has given the beast his power, authority and throne, also endows him with great rhetorical skills and he uses them to blaspheme God, His name, and His dwelling.
In the Old Testament, the root meaning of the word “blasphemy” is an act of effrontery in which a person insults the honor of God and for which he or she may be put to death by stoning (see Lev. 24:10-23; 1 Kings 21:9ff). In the New Testament, the meaning is extended to include God’s representatives. For example, Jews from the Freedman’s Synagogue accuse Stephen of “speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God” (Acts 6:11).
A surviving waiter, quivering as he looks up from the carnage, asks, “Why?”
Before walking out the door, the panda tosses the waiter a poorly punctuated wildlife manual and replies, “Look it up.”
The waiter searches for the relevant entry and reads aloud: “Panda. Large, black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”
This joke serves as the namesake for Lynne Truss’s best-selling book, “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.”
It also reminds us how easily our language may be mangled – or manipulated – so that two people using the same words can intend totally different meanings.