Debunking the Nativity: Boney M

Debunking the Nativity: Boney M December 18, 2016
TheNativity
My book. Dig it.

I have recently been running a series debunking the historical claims within the Bible (specifically the Gospels of Matthew and Luke) to show them as wanting, running alongside my book The Nativity: A Critical Examination.

Well, since I’m such a Christmas curmudgeon and general miserable bastard, I am going to pick a twee Christmas classic, and expose its naive theology.

Yeah, that’s right Boney M, I’M COMING FOR YOU!!!

Let’s look at their classic Mary’s Boy Child for theological problems. Here goes…

Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ, was born on Christmas Day

Okay, Bones, let’s sort this one out. If you mean a simple tautology like “Christ was born on Christ’s birthday” then well one, give yourself a pat on the back. But if you mean “Christ was born on 25th December” then I’m sorry, you’ve got this one wrong. Christians co-opted a pre-existing winter festivity date and replaced it with their own Christian celebration. It is somewhat unlikely (though not impossible) that the shepherds would have been tending their flocks in the middle of December, even in Israel. There is some scriptural evidence to suggest Jesus was probably born in September.

If we look at Easter, this spring pagan festival was also co-opted by the Christians and overlaid with notions of rebirth and resurrection (of Jesus). It is even named after the pagan goddess Eostre.

And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day

Wow, that’s a big claim, Mssrs M. Because of the birth of Jesus, man will live for evermore. Given the prospect of the heat death of the universe, this is unlikely. Or, indeed, impossible. So we must look at this symbolically. This could mean the general resurrection, or in heaven as a result of being saved. Either way, this depends on the coherence of the atonement of Jesus. But the atonement is notoriously problematic. Why would omniGod need to repay a debt of sin that he himself was ultimately responsible for. With foreknowledge and complete design capabilities, this was a debt of his own making. And how do all sins, past, present and future, get written off in such a way? For some more on atonement, see my posts here and here and here.

Long time ago in Bethlehem, so the Holy Bible said
Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ, was born on Christmas Day

I will grant that the birth was in Bethlehem according to the Bible, but this says nothing about whether it really happened like that. The account can only be found in two thoroughly contradictory Gospels. And the idea that it happened in Bethlehem is itself based on a faulty reading of an Old Testament passage. As I have written previously:

The issue with the Micah quote is that it is a mistranslation to claim that the Messiah must be born in Bethlehem since the context and the grammar actually mean that one should conclude, as D.F. Strauss in The Life of Jesus (1860, p. 159) does, as follows:

…the entire context show the meaning to be, not that the expected governor who was to come forth out of Bethlehem would actually be born in that city, but only that he would be a descendent of David, whose family sprang from Bethlehem.

So Matthew and Luke, in using this as a prophetic basis for establishing Davidic heritage, mistranslate the prophecy and feel that they need to get Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem so that Jesus could be born in the place so apparently prophesied. If Jesus had been born in Nazareth, he still would have fulfilled the prophecies utilised by the Gospel writers.

Hark, now hear the angels sing, a king was born today

Says who? A 70s disco group?

And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day
Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ, was born on Christmas Day

Repetition does not truth make. It does not truth make.

While shepherds watch their flocks by night
They see a bright new shining star
They hear a choir sing a song, the music seemed to come from afar

As mentioned, the shepherds were unlikely out watching their flocks at the end of December. It is more likely that Luke was using them as a vehicle to show that the Messiah appeals to the poor, huddled masses in the same way that Matthew shows him appealing to important wise men and gentiles.

Hark, now hear the angels sing, a king was born today
And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day

Boring!

Mmmmmmmmmm mmmm mmmmmmmmm mmmmmm

I take it you’ve got your laughing gear round some of my Mum’s mince pies. Yum. I’m with you there, brother.

For a moment the world was aglow, all the bells rang out
There were tears of joy and laughter, people shouted
Let everyone know, there is hope for all to find peace

Was it really? I mean, really?  People shouted with joy and laughter? It appeared that no one mentioned Jesus again for 30 years, and even then his own family rejected his own Messianic qualities, and they were around when he was born! There is something fishy going on here. The shepherds and Magi were never heard from again, and they were in a perfect position to evangelise. At the time of the birth, we know nothing of the reaction of the locals. Some time later, they were probably pretty pissed off as their young infants were slaughtered by Herod on account of this Jesus chap. Thanks!

C’mon, Bones, this is just sheer nonsense!

And then they found a little nook in a stable all forlorn
And in a manger cold and dark, Mary’s little boy was born

Actually, there is little evidence to support the notion he was born in a stable. Some early Christians (such as Justin Martyr) believe he may have been born in a cave. There is even an Armenian version of Matthew that includes a cave. The idea of the place being an inn is now recognised as a mistranslation of sorts. The Independent reports on the claims of theologian Rev Ian Paul:

He writes: “In the first place, it would be unthinkable that Joseph, returning to his place of ancestral origins, would not have been received by family members, even if they were not close relatives.”

Taking into account the fact that most people’s homes at the time would have had one room for family, and either a second room for guests and animals, or a space on the roof, it seems, he says, much more likely that there would have been no space in the guestroom.

“The family guest room is already full, probably with other relatives who arrived earlier,” he argues. “So Joseph and Mary must stay with the family itself, in the main room of the house, and there Mary gives birth.”

The manger aspect of the story is easily explained too. “The most natural place to lay the baby” would have been “in the straw-filled depressions at the lower end of the house where the animals are fed”, says Rev Paul.

So what does this mean for our religious understanding of the story? Some scholars, including Rev Paul, believe that the story as we have it today promotes the idea that Christ is somehow ostracised from society, rejected by his people and forced into a lowly cattleshed. Instead, he says, we should be seeing the newborn Jesus as arriving in a busy, loving and welcoming family home – and not distanced from humanity.

#JustSayin

Hark, now hear the angels sing, a king was born today
And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day
Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ, was born on Christmas Day

Oh a moment still worth was a glow, all the bells rang out
There were tears of joy and laughter, people shouted
Let everyone know, there is hope for all to find peace

Yawn.

Oh my Lord
You sent your son to save us
Oh my Lord

Can you explain the Holy Trinity? It is wholly incoherent. What do you mean by “son” here that makes anything like sense? It’s like you’re just banging out soundbites for a cheesy Christmas song and a buck or two…

Your very self you gave us
Oh my Lord
That sin may not enslave us
And love may reign once more

Has it worked? Does love reign? How’s Aleppo these days? Are we no longer enslaved by sin? Or is this just some promissory note always ever-so-slightly out of reach?

Oh my Lord
When in the crib they found him
Oh my Lord
A golden halo crowned him
Oh my Lord
They gathered all around him
To see him and adore

Did he really have a halo? Don’t just look at paintings. They weren’t there, don’t you know. By “they”, I presume you mean the Magi and the shepherds. No one else was mentioned. And these appear to be mutually exclusive claims, or at least were oddly not mentioned by the other Gospel recounting these events. I think you should stick to sweet Carribean disco harmonies about cool daddies.

Oh my Lord (so praise the Lord)
They had become to doubt you
Oh my Lord (he is the truth forever)
What did they know about you

Apparently, more than you.

Oh my Lord (so praise the Lord)
But they were lost without you
They needed you so bad (his light is shining on us)

I’m alright, thanks.

Oh my Lord (so praise the Lord)
With the child’s adoration
Oh my lord (he is a personation)
There came great jubilation
Oh my Lord (so praise the Lord)
And full of admiration
They realized  what they had (until the sun falls from the sky)

The sun will never fall from the sky. it will expand, in time, and consume our planet. Jubilate that, muddyfunsters.

Oh my Lord (oh praise the Lord)
You sent your son to save us
Oh my Lord (this day will live forever)
Your very self you gave us
Oh my Lord (so praise the Lord)
That sin may not enslave us
And love may reign once more

Er, no.

I will be debating Boney M on the concept of the Holy Trinity at the University of Rasputin on 30th February this coming year.


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