The next segment of the article, page 2, devotes a whole page to people who do not agree with the Rev mentioned in the first page. Perhaps this is because the author believes that the common view is already out there enough that he needs to devote time to correct this view?
First, a little history of the Jesus Seminar (provided by The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict): p 562 under the section What is the Jesus Seminar?:
“The Jesus Seminar is a consortium of New Testament scholars… [they] meet twice a year to make pronouncements about the authenticity of the words and deeds of Christ. The seminar is comprised of liberal Catholics and Protestants, Jews and atheists.”
p 562 under the section Voting on Jesus?:
“The Jesus Seminar votes on the accuracy of Jesus’ sayings by using colored beads… A red bead means words that Jesus probably spoke. Pink indicates words that could probably be attributed to Jesus. Gray represents words that probably, though not certainly, came from later sources. Black indicates words that Jesus almost certainly did not speak… The result of their work is the conclusion that only fifteen sayings (2 percent) can absolutely be regarded as Jesus’ actual words.”
The conclusions reached in the book state that the seminar goes against historical evidences, and that they are negative Biblical critics. Now that you have this framework, let’s continue:
Meacham states that we must not just believe that “the Word became flesh” but we must be able to have some proofs, so he proposes looking at the Biblical narratives– definitely something Christmasy … but Meacham believes that the account are “neither fully fanciful nor fully factual but a layered narrative of early tradition and enduring theology”.
The beginning postulate works this way. The disciples didn’t view Christ from his birth on, but from the Passion. The disciples, believing that Jesus rose from the dead, went on to tell these stories and then work their way back to telling stories of his life, and eventually his birth. The first believers transitioned, he believes, from thinking they were going to be taken into a heavenly kingdom in their lifetime to ones that believed they needed to record His story to tell. The gospels that we have, Meacham explains, are the attempts by the original disciples to control the growing Christian factions on all fronts. To this end, the Gospel writers took traditions from the day and wrote the gospels to convince people that Jesus was God. To cap this conclusion all off, he quotes a Roman Catholic priest who “points out that there is no convincing evidence Jesus himself ever spoke of his birth, and neither Mary nor Joseph (who is not a figure in the years of Jesus’ public life) appears to have been a direct source.”
Now that I’ve summarized the page, let’s consider some of this. While it’s certainly true that most of his disciples were late witnesses to his life– they were there for His last three earthly years– they were certainly witnesses to a majority of His earthly ministry. The fact that a majority of these gospels intersect and have different facts about the same instances seems to go more with something eyewitnesses saw than was just taken from tradition.
As for controlling growing factions, there are accounts in Acts of different peoples trying to pass along their version of what God wanted from his people. There were those that wanted to impose Jewish Law– which Paul and Barnabas went to a meeting opposing. But certainly, how to live the Christian life was dealt with in the epistles, not in the gospels.
Let’s look at this idea of a growing into the Virgin Birth. In TNETDAV, page 302, there’s a discussion of the very issue of time. McDowell states, “Due to the early dating of the Gospel writings, there was insufficient time for the growth of a myth around the birth of Christ.” The Apostle’s Creed mentions the Virgin Birth based on an early form in use in the second century. To give perspective, Revelation is thought to have been written in AD 90.
Jame Orr is quoted in TNETDAV as saying, “Apart from the Ebionites… and a few Gnostic sects, nobody of Christians in early times is known to have existed who did not accept as part of their faith the birth of Jesus from the Virgin Mary.”
TNETDAV goes on: “Justin Martyr in AD 150 gives ample evidence to the concept of Jesus’ miraculous birth. ‘Our Teacher Jesus Christ, who is the first-begotten of God the Father, was not born as a result of sexual relations”.
This leads to the absurd statement by the Roman Catholic priest. We have the account in Mark 6:3 that the Pharisees did not refer to Jesus as the son of Joseph or a known man (even a dead one), but as the son of Mary. There’s statements by scholars that there is a genealogical table stating that Jesus was listed as “the [illegitimate child] of a wedded wife”. If this is there during his ministry and not 40 years after his death, what was being covered up? If they could point to a father, why didn’t they?
Again, what about the possible testimony of many people who would have known the circumstances around the birth. Let’s count them: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, John the Baptist (possibly), shepherds, Wise Men, Joseph and Mary’s other children, etc. When we start to look, we see just how absurd the priest’s statement is. Surely, the apostles had many of these witnesses at hand, and at any time the witnesses could have drawn attention to the errors in the gospels.
Why is it that they believe that the passion has first hand witnesses, but no first hand witnesses were around at Christ’s birth?