Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 17, 2007
Why do only 2 Gospels tell of Jesus' birth?
By SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
Matthew stresses the urgency for conversion perhaps because he was speaking to wealthier people in cities.
Also, as witnesses tell their stories, certain events may stand out for some while other events or aspects do for others.
Their choices were probably directed mainly by the needs of their audience. Although they wrote to keep the story of Jesus alive for all times and all peoples, they likely focused first and foremost on the immediate as we all do.
Matthew stresses the urgency for conversion perhaps because he was speaking to wealthier people in cities. Luke seems to be addressing poorer people and so his focus is on the simple. A good example of this would be Jesus' visitors: the shepherds in Luke and the Magi bringing rich gifts in Matthew.
The evangelists' personalities may have had something to do with the choice of stories for their Gospels. It is thought Luke was a physician and so he chose to tell parables such as the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son which stress God's mercy.
Matthew tends to stress God's judgment: the Last Judgment and the Ten Virgins. However, it must be noted that they do tell a lot of the same stories throughout their Gospels.
In his infancy narratives, Luke focused on the joyful events with parallel stories of the announcement, conception and birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. At Jesus' circumcision and presentation in the Temple, Luke presented the last significant figures of the Old Testament, filled with the Holy Spirit, who sang of the hopes of Israel being fulfilled in Jesus.
Matthew brought out the more sombre aspects. He told the story of an angel in a dream talking to a worried Joseph wondering what to do with Mary. He gave an account of Herod's negative reaction to the news of Jesus' birth and the subsequent massacre of the infants, as well as the flight into Egypt.
It is significant that several crucial items were mentioned by both as they likely did not know each other's work.
Announcements to both Mary and Joseph came from an angel. Mary conceived when engaged but not married to Joseph. Mary was a virgin with a child by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus' name was given by the angel. He was born in Bethlehem after Mary and Joseph came together. The birth occurred during the reign of Herod the Great. Jesus was reared in Nazareth. Both spoke of the Davidic descent and Jesus as fulfillment of the Scriptures and as saviour.
We must remember that underlying Scripture is the inspiration of God who used human instruments with their strengths and weaknesses to convey the message of our redemption.
Therefore, the two versions with their similarities and differences enrich our understanding of Jesus as he entered our world, lived and died for us. They deepen our faith as we read, reflect and celebrate during this Christmas season and throughout our lives.
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