Bible Review 1:1, Spring 1985

Different Ways of Looking at the Birth of Jesus

Narrative strategies in New Testament infancy narratives

By Kenneth R. R. Gros Louis

Biblical scholarship has long recognized the significant differences between the details of the birth of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew and Luke—the only two gospels to contain an account of his birth, Rarely, however, have biblical scholars gone beyond the basic observation that the accounts of the birth differ, as indeed do the gospels as a whole. The recent focus in biblical studies on literary criticism of biblical narratives has opened up many new ways of considering the rich literature of the New as well as the Old Testament. The insights gained by applying literary criticism to the texts have considerably expanded our understanding of the strategies of biblical narratives, and, indeed, have significantly influenced the teaching of the Bible as literature in secondary schools, colleges, and universities throughout the United States.

Literary criticism strikingly reveals the extraordinarily different approaches taken by the gospels of Matthew and Luke to a description of what is, after all, the same event, (We may be reminded of how witnesses often describe the same event—for example, an automobile accident or an argument—in a variety of ways.)

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