I didn’t write this. It is a guest post from Mrs Lambert, so be nice.

Everyone knows the Christmas story. Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem, the Inn is full so Mary has to give birth in a stable. The story sounds sweet, emphasizing the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth.

But that’s not the message people got from the story two thousand years ago. Here’s the way they would have seen it:

Mary is pregnant, but Joseph, the man she is engaged to, is not the father and everyone knows it. Mary would have been labeled a whore.

Joseph didn’t reject her despite the huge social pressure on him to do so. When Joseph and Mary got to his hometown Bethlehem, no relatives took them in. At that time the rules of hospitality were that if you travel to another town your relatives take you in, and if you have no relatives there then strangers take you in. You would think that at least someone would take pity on a heavily pregnant woman but if she was known as promiscuous- well, no one would want anything to do with her.

So, they had to resort to trying to find room in an inn. Inns at that time were disgusting, flea infested, rat infested places that only merchants and criminals would stay at. No self respecting person would want to stay there. But even there they were rejected. It is possible that the inn was full because of a census but there are no records of a census taking place at that time.

So they got permission to stay in the barn. Let’s look at the situation through Mary’s eyes. Here she is, about to give birth to her first child. She must have been terrified. And hurt. She’d been rejected in her own town, now she’d been rejected in Bethlehem and was giving birth to her child like an animal without even a midwife to help her through this new and excruciatingly painful experience. Yes, it helped that Joseph was there. But still.

OK, the baby Jesus is born. A time for rejoicing right? Well, not necessarily for Mary. By Jewish law Joseph would have to leave her, so Jesus would grow up without him. Her son would grow up forever being called a bastard. He wouldn’t be allowed to play with normal kids- he’d have to play with the children of other outcasts. Also, his marriage prospects would be bleak. He couldn’t marry just anyone- he had to marry someone of questionable parentage or mixed marriage. And he had to grow up knowing that the Torah said that no bastard to even 10 generations would be a part of God’s people. So his children would be cursed this way as well.

But surely she knew he was the Son of God. Well, if she could have seen into the future, I doubt she would have been comforted by it. She would have seen that he would rebel against the rabbis and start a movement that would lead to him being worshiped all over the world by Gentiles and that millions of her own people would be slaughtered directly because of him… hardly something she’d be proud of.

So the real Christmas story is one of humiliation and rejection – something not so sweet and certainly not something you’d want to tell your children. So don’t.

Personally I think Jesus was a gift to the Gentile world. His message of compassion towards the poor and the outcasts has lasted to this day and leads to social cohesion. He was against organized religion and the hypocrisy that it lead to. You read the Sermon on the Mount and his criticisms of leaders are still very relevant today. His rules of living are simple and relevant- love God, love and help others no matter what their religion or social status or beliefs, make peace with your enemies, forgive people when they hurt you, live simply, do not judge others. He was against violence in in no way would have supported all the cruelty that was done in his name. Maybe one day everyone will live by his principles and then Mary, seeing into the future, could have been happy to bear him. May that be soon!
Merry Christmas!

Comments

  1. #1 mgr
    January 2, 2008

    Arie Brand at 91 and Barton at 93 address the argument that Hitler’s Willing Executioners reflect bias by Goldhagen. What I assume both are referring to is that bias based upon irrationality to the point where what is percieved is distorted (extreme bias), rather than bias that is exaggeration based upon improper sampling (common bias or ‘privileged’). Arie provides details to support that assertion that G has extreme bias, which is greatly appreciated since I am not pretending to be a holocaust scholar or even lay person, and am not current on the issues at hand since I cannot claim to have read any of Raul Hilberg’s research.

    My impression of G’s book is that it was an inductive argument, not deductive. Not having G’s book at hand, when I commented or now, I cannot provide specific citations to defend my statement. My impression at the time, after having read the case study Ordinary Men by Browning, is the crux of Goldhagen’s position was the quantitative reinterpretation of the Ordinary Police (with new data from East Germany?), with the conclusion that they were far more representative of overall German society at the time. I note that Arie does not address this element of the study, but it is this element of G.’s argument that needs to be knocked down to implicate G. of extreme bias. Otherwise, a well populated existential for German society would apply.

    Specific to Barton–my point specifically was that to reinterpret an existing historical account upon new data is not bias; to over generalise based upon that data in an attempt to refocus a debate is not bias. This often is what a dissertation does.

    Mike

  2. #2 luminous beauty
    January 2, 2008

    “Funny, I studied Roman history and I’m not aware of such a war. Constantine was the last guy standing after the civil wars of the early 300s.”

    C,mon, Constantine’s sons were at each other’s throats before their dad’s corpse was cold. Both Christians, they each traded off bearing the standards of the Arians and Constantine’s ‘Apostolic’ Church (they were all ‘Apostolic’, even those who may have embraced the recently revealed Gospel of Judas”). Along came Julian, eventually, whose short rule was nothing but internecine warfare. And then there were the Visigoths. You don’t think that jar of lost Gospel literature found at Nag Hammadi wasn’t buried and hidden because of religious oppression by Christians of other Christians, do you?

    “You are assuming, a priori, that religious beliefs have no reality.”

    Not at all. Just that no particular set of religious beliefs is reality. Humans are conditioned from birth and the detritus of history to believe they need to frame reality in some narrative they can find meaningful and explanatory. The explanation is not the whole of reality. It doesn’t mean religion is not real, but bears the same relationship to reality as a finger pointing at the moon does to the naked light of the sun. A God that is wholly defined by some doctrine is a pretty puny God in my book.

    “Because we have empirical evidence that the creation had a start date.”

    Not quite. I’m sure you know that as one approaches a Schwartzchild singularity time slows asymptotically. No one has a clue what kind of temporal physics might hold inside the event horizon. Also, we don’t know if this universe is the only universe nor how a multiverse might or might not be causally connected. We do suspect it has no top nor bottom, no inside nor outside, no center nor periphery, no fixed frame of reference. Finite, but not closed. It’s not easy to wrap one’s mind around.

    I’m not offended, but don’t you think ridiculing me as some kind of New Age hippy and characterizing my thoughts as made up gobbledegook is a bit lacking in Christian charity? I’m not trying to undermine your beliefs, make you reject and abandon them, nor even change them in some cosmetically appealing fashion. I’m just trying to encouraging you to refine them with some modern ‘ecumenical’ perspective. Just please don’t cling to them so tightly as if they would wander off and get lost on their own without supervision. Believe me, they won’t.

    I’m glad we can agree there is only one reality. Still, we can always posit more, if we like. Is that real?

  3. #3 Arie Brand
    January 2, 2008

    Mike at #101 “the crux of Goldhagen’s position was the quantitative reinterpretation of the Ordinary Police (with new data from East Germany?), with the conclusion that they were far more representative of overall German society at the time. I note that Arie does not address this element of the study, but it is this element of G.’s argument that needs to be knocked down to implicate G. of extreme bias.”

    Goldhagen’s saw a pervasive ‘eliminationist anti-semitism’, that he deemed to be uniquely German. as the main explanatory factor for the holocaust. The question about the Police Batallions is then whether they were uniquely motivated by this anti-semitism and if so, how uniquely German this was. In view of G.’s overall thesis these questions have to be looked at first before that other question, how representative they were for the German population as such, has to be dealt with. Because this latter question is, again in view of G.s overall thesis, hardly relevant when it can be doubted whether the unique motivation for the killings was anti-semitism and, to the extent that it was, whether this was uniquely German.

    Against the explanation invoking motivation exclusively or mainly by anti-semitism stand the many cases in which German troops massacred with equal abandon non-Jewish civilians or POWs such as in Oradour (French), Lidice (Czechs), Putten (Dutch), Malmedy (Americans), Ardeatine Caves (Italians) etc.

    Where anti-semitism could have been a motivation (by deducing this, in a not altogether defensible fashion, from the nature of the victims, Jews) the question is whether this was uniquely German. Sizable numbers of Lithuanians, Latvians, Ukranians and Romanians have participated in the killing of Jews.

    That cold blooded killings of civilians or POWs do not have to be inspired by any particular hatreds is also shown by non-German instances. A prominent Second World War example is, of course, the killing, by Soviet troops, of 21,000 Polish officers in Katyn forest.There are, in addition, quite a few post war examples.

    Moreover, Goldhagen ignored what was most conspicuous about the holocaust, the killing of its victims through the gas chambers in a bureaucratic, rationalised, ‘industrial’ way. It has been argued that genocide in this industrial fashion not only served to make it more effective but also less mentally taxing on the prepetrators. If those involved would have been all agog for killing Jews this would hardly have been necessary. And neither would the obsessive secrecy of the regime about this all.

    Finally, G. also used his archival sources in a biased manner when he dealt with pre-war German history. He overplayed the presence of anti-semitism and shut his eyes for counter examples, for instance the emancipation and assimilation of many Jews, the fact that, especially culturally, they had a very prominent position in Wilhelmine Germany and that instances of anti-semitic violence had been more conspicuous in France, Austria and Russia.

    I believe that, in view of this, the charge of bigotry should be sustained.

  4. #4 Arie Brand
    January 2, 2008

    Barton: “you’re quoting the 18th and 19th century Higher Critics”

    Sock Puppet:”When did I quote 18th Century higher critics, Barton? ”

    Yes, indeed. When?

    I believe that Barton is a bit confused. The ‘Higher Critic’ he castigated (for illogic) was quoted by me – and his writing did not date from the 18th or 19th century but from 2001.

    For the rest I think Barton should heed 1 Pet.3 15-16: “always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you but do it with gentleness and reverence.”

    Referring to your opponents as ‘crackpots’ isn’t an instance of that.

  5. #5 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 3, 2008

    luminous writes:

    [["Because we have empirical evidence that the creation had a start date."
    Not quite. I'm sure you know that as one approaches a Schwartzchild singularity time slows asymptotically. No one has a clue what kind of temporal physics might hold inside the event horizon. Also, we don't know if this universe is the only universe nor how a multiverse might or might not be causally connected.
    ]]

    The equations governing the Standard Model of the Big Bang go back to T = 0; they just can’t model it meaningfully past the first 10^-43 second. That doesn’t mean it had no start point. And while other universes are great fun to speculate about, there is zero empirical evidence for any universe but this one.

  6. #6 luminousbeauty
    January 3, 2008

    Barton,

    I’m sure you meant ‘before’ the first 10^-43 sec. The hypothesized T=0 is when the primordial singularity first expanded beyond it’s Schwarzchild radius. A moment that may well have taken longer relative to our earthly frame of reference than the entire history of the universe since. We can’t model the pre-existing singularity at all, because the components of space-time by which we measure the universe in partition are inseparable. It’s a singularity.

  7. #7 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 3, 2008

    luminous writes:

    [[I'm sure you meant 'before' the first 10^-43 sec. The hypothesized T=0 is when the primordial singularity first expanded beyond it's Schwarzchild radius. A moment that may well have taken longer relative to our earthly frame of reference than the entire history of the universe since.]]

    It took about 10^-43 of a second.

    [[ We can't model the pre-existing singularity at all, because the components of space-time by which we measure the universe in partition are inseparable. It's a singularity.]]

    No kidding.

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