The Real Christmas Story…

Religion

Link: Jesus in Clear View.

in Dr. Kenneth E. Bailey’s terms, too bad that the traditional Christmas story is filled with so many myths and misinterpretations.

Bailey is a research professor of Middle Eastern New Testament studies at Tantur Ecurnenical Institute in Jerusalem. A resident of Cyprus, he grew up in the Middle East and has spent his life studying the Bible and other religious texts in their original Hebrew, Greek Aramaic and SyIiac.

I encountered Ken Bailey’s insights only recently, when I viewed a provocative series of his videotapes, “A Clear View of Jesus’ Birth.”

As a Presbyterian elder and the husband of a Presbyterian minister, I found his message especially meaningful at a time when much of the population hasn’t seen the inside of a church for years, and the rest often don’t seem to think they are reading the same Bible as the Christian next door.

His message, stripped to its essentials, is this: The stories in the Bible are true. Our interpretations often aren’t. And the Christmas story that we know and love, Ken Bailey says, is not exactly the one told in the Bible.

Many people would swear that the Bible tells the story of a cruelly indifferent innkeeper turning Joseph and Mary away “because there was no place for them in the inn.” Certainly many a Christmas pageant tonight will have a thespian innkeeper, imperiously banishing the holy family to the lowly stable.

In fact, however, only one of the four Gospels-Luke-even tells this story, and it doesn’t say a word about an innkeeper. And while Luke does say there was “no room for them in the inn,” Bailey has unusual interpretation of that phrase.

Dr. Bailey is a friend of my sister and someone whom I have a great deal of respect for. His books on the Lucan parables have totally changed my understandings of what Jesus was trying to teach.

I’ve never seen his work on the nativity story in print, but the link above takes you to a pretty good synopsis of his audio lecture on the subject.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...