Last week, I explained why the Pope saying the date of Jesus’ birth is not news. Now, Bart Ehrman reads the book and says it “provides an intelligent, very pious, and not very critical pastoral and soothing interpretation of the accounts of Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke.” The details are pretty much what I expected:
Of course he would do that. What else would he do? He’s not going to focus on the discrepancies between the accounts, the historical implausibilities, the violations of all sense (not just virgin births, of course, as that’s a doctrinal certainty; but also stars stopping over houses and the like). For Pope Benedict (or theologian Ratzinger) these stories are *Scripture* and are not only theologically at the heart of the Christian gospel but are also rooted in real, actual history. They really happened. As described. In detail. Completely and fully. He maintains in the book that critical scholars are too critical and ought to realize that these things really took place as the Gospel writers said. If you’d been there, you would have been able to capture it all on your camcorder.
The Pope, to be fair, has read critical scholarship (some, at least; he’s not a biblical scholar by any stretch of the imagination), does know what it says, and does point out that critical scholars observe discrepancies in the accounts and historical improbabilities. But he deals with these either by denying that they actually exist, by saying that there are surely explanations for them even though (he admits this) no one has figured out what those explanations are, and by asserting that views of critical scholars are untenable without saying why (he’s the Pope! Why should he have to have an argument or cite evidence?) (On that note, I should point out that there are no blurbs on the back cover – who could possibly pass approbation on the work of the Pope!)