Infancy Narratives. That’s what the stories of Jesus’ birth and childhood came to be known as. These stories are opposed to our thought pattern of scientific precision. Unfortunately, the Gospel writers present a profound theological truth: Jesus Christ, son of God and the Risen Lord. How Jesus’ birth happened and what Jesus did as a child is less significant to what happened by the coming of the Messiah.
Infancy Narratives, not paparazzi type reporting
The infancy narrative, found in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke, has a clear purpose: to share who Jesus is, what’s his mission in this world. It is contradictory to the current news reporting style of how exactly it happened. Matthew and Luke used an allegorical style. The Gospel writers did not mislead the readers. They were rather explaining a mystery in simple language to common people.
Matthew and Luke used Midrash – a literary form that originated during the Babylonian exile. The Jews appreciated the scripture greatly while in exile in 16 century BC. The reason was oblivious – there was no priest, no temple, no sacrifice. They only had the scriptures. People began to rely solely on scripture. People started to search the scripture to discover what God wants amid the present crises. A whole new tradition of re-telling the Bible came into existence. Old texts were re-written to make them applicable to the present time – past stories started to gain new significance – exile came to be seen as an exodus from Egypt.
Infancy Narrative becomes a Reflection of the Old Testament
Matthew and Luke engage in Christian mediation to share how the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus. It did not affect the early Christians – who were waiting for Christ. Even Mark and John used the Midrashic form. You can notice that nobody witnessed the events – like baptism in Jordon, the temptation of Jesus, transfiguration. But these events reveal something significant happening in the life of Jesus. The authors are building the stories of Jesus’ childhood based on the Old Testament, rather than relying on eyewitness accounts.
Are Infancy Narratives Fabricated Stories?
Are you still reading? Most people quit or jump to conclusions. Are the infancy narrative fabricated stories? There are historical details like Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Bethlehem, and census. But the historical detail serves a theological purpose to show Jesus is the messiah and the Risen Lord. I would avoid getting gripped with the allegorical details. I would follow the purpose of the authors: instruction.
What’s the meaning behind the family tree of Jesus?
Oh, I heard it as boring. The long list of names – some I still find difficult to pronounce. Matthew crafts the ancestry of Jesus, linking to Abraham. Matthew starts the text by stating: The genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, Son of Abraham. It not a dry list of irrelevant names. I assume one day I will learn the meaning of each of these names.
The fourteen generations motif
Matthew states that there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, another fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and another fourteen from the exile to the birth of Jesus. Don’t assume that this is exact, like a family tree. Matthew made it up. But why Matthew gives us three sets of fourteen?
Firstly, Matthew, using a symbolic language that assigns meaning based on the sum total of a person’s name, communicates that Jesus is the Second David, a king God promised to send to usher new kingdom.
Another way to look at fourteen is seven as a sacred number – a number of completion or fulfillment among the Jews. With three sets of fourteen, Matthew is presenting six rounds of seven generations each before the coming of Christ. Jesus ushers the seventh generation – seven times seven – a perfect generation.
Jesus does not have biological offspring; he inaugurates end times. The followers of Jesus belong to one family – they are one body of Christ. A new order has begun, marriage is of less consequence and the old sinful order is over – a new life began in Christ – a new generation.
Infancy Narratives: A literary form not supposed to be taken literally
Each infancy narrative has a deeper theological meaning. Even the catechumens learned about the infancy narratives only after grasping the salvation history. The details involved in the childhood stories of Jesus are spiritual – as no eyewitness account existed. The stories are more descriptive and allegorical in style to a Jewish audience. Most people today, unfamiliar with the ancient Jewish scriptures, find it challenging to comprehend the nuances of the Old Testament. Therefore, it is important to understand the imageries of allegory.
I am an optimist; when your understanding of scripture is correct – inspiration leads you into exponential exploration to witness Jesus. There are lots of questions, you don’t want to entertain – maybe learning the Bible will bring you closer to God.
There are wonderful infancy narrative books I suggest you can read or just do a google search. Beware, there is more stuff about the childhood stories of Jesus not recorded in the Bible. It does capture the imagination to learn about the silent childhood of Jesus. You will discover the difference – the Biblical stories has a purpose, which the fictional stories lack, to lead you into a faith experience of Jesus Christ Son of God, and Risen Lord. Amen
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