Frank Viola posted about “Nativity Myths” and “Separating Fact From Fiction in the Nativity Story.” With such promising headings, I clicked through to read the post hopefully, and was disappointed. Although he does a good job of distinguishing between some things that are explicit in the New Testament and others which are later tradition, there is no real acknowledgement of the fact that some things which are in the text might themselves be non-factual.
Also problematic are claims such as that Hebrew prophets “predicted that He would be called out of Egypt by God, His Father (Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:13-18).” It is clear simply from reading Hosea 11:1ff that the passage is not about a future Messiah, but about Israel being called out of Egypt by God in the Exodus. Either Matthew applies the passage to Jesus by way of typology, or he was pulling a fast one, or he had poor reading comprehension skills. But whatever stance one takes on that, one thing that one cannot honestly say is that Hosea was making a prediction about Jesus. The Biblical texts themselves preclude their being understood in that way.
(To Frank's credit, I made these points to him, and he qualified the wording to speak more of “foreshadowing” than “prediction.” And in case you are wondering, yes, it was my exchange with Frank both on his blog and off that inspired me to make the “most interesting blog commenter in the world” meme image yesterday.)
I've discussed the discrepancies between the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke before on more than one occasion, and so won't repeat that discussion here, but will simply link to those earlier discussions (and to the podcast on the topic which Mark Goodacre just posted). What I will add here is this: It seems to me that the more seriously one takes the actual details of the infancy stories in the New Testament, the more comfortable one will be with the idea that myths are not something that can be excluded from Christmas storytelling, because they are woven into the very fabric of our earliest stories about Jesus' birth.
What do others think about this?