Chapter 3

Chapter Three: The Context of the Christmas Stories 55-78

In my real church-nerd-ness, I get really excited when we talk about the context of biblical stories.  When I heard Crossan speak a few months ago it was like a series of little epiphanies set off by a fantastic storyteller.  We treat history as dry, but in the hands of a gifted storyteller, this contextual information can make the stories come alive in really helpful ways.

Full disclosure, I get pretty grumpy about how much the church has taken the Nativity stories out of their context and imbued them with meaning that does not match the original authorial intent.  I think Borg and Crossan provide us with a good taste of the history that underlies these stories.

I really appreciated the clarification on page 65 of “eschatological,” the term Christianity uses for the Kingdom of God.  So often we talk about the Kingdom as something that is coming after some great battle, or we call it  “The End of the World”.  But here, the authors point to it as being about transfiguration rather than destruction.  I like the image of “the Great Divine Cleanup of the World” rather than some epic mystical battle.  It gives us a way to participate everyday, in offering love rather than violence.

While I do really like and value the context stuff, I did find this chapter a bit heavy, and was glad to get through it.

Questions for Reflection:

  • Does Borg and Crossan’s tectonic plates illustration help your understanding of the situation these stories arose out of?


  • How does this information about the context of the nativity stories change how you hear the stories?


  • What in this heavy chapter had the greatest effect on your faith?

2 thoughts on “Chapter 3

  1. One of the challenges I have with this book (and I am at least half-way through) is that, while the preface talked about focusing on what the stories mean and what they are trying to tell us rather than whether they are factually accurate, so far the authors seem much more interested in locating historic, political and religious context than in exploring meaning. I also found this chapter, and the several that follow, somewhat heavy slogging without a real glimpse yet into what the stories might mean in a magical, truth-defying kind of way – which is what makes them most meaningful for me.

    I do appreciate the Divine Clean-Up of the World eschatological interpretation, and I think it has helpful insights for those who are still dreaming of some final judgment day of Armageddon, but that is not something many of us are actually thinking about. I am really looking forward to getting to the point in this book where the focus is on meaning and less on fact.

    My own faith is much more centred in a non-linear or non-rational way of experiencing the world so this book has so far not really resonated with me in a really significant way – but I will continue to plug away in anticipation of a miracle!


  2. As a history major, I pay lots of attention to context. Having lots of that in this book helps my understanding enormously. If the early Christians dealt with a clash of values, so do we today (low tax/free enterprise vs social supports, international cooperation vs rampant nativism).
    I have always considered Jesus a sneaky revolutionary (in the nicest possible way). Kingdom of God, Son of God; “leave your fish and follow me”… Easily digested superficially. Darn hard to swallow if taken seriously(?)


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