When Your Everyday Catholic Doesn’t Get It

When Your Everyday Catholic Doesn’t Get It July 31, 2017

See Noevo is no doubt a committed Catholic, but what he said recently really illustrated much of the problem in debating laymen. I don’t mean this to be a personal attack on him and to use “laymen” pejoratively, but my point is important.

My piece in question was about the ten-year gap between the death of Herod and the census, both of which are supposedly concurrent if we are to believe the infancy narratives. The Gospel of Matthew mentions the whole King Herod story, chasing Jesus’ family out of Judea to another country, so that they can fulfil an Old Testament prophecy and have the Messiah coming “out of Egypt”, after Herod (using midrash) re-enacts the killing of the firstborn by the Pharaoh in slaughtering the innocents.

Luke, on the other hand, doesn’t mention Herod once, but instead has the family peacefully returning, straight away, to Nazareth, via the Temple in Jerusalem. This alone is a huge contradiction. The language is clear. I set out the reasons for such differences in my book The Nativity: A Critical Examination.TheNativity

I bring up See Noevo’s comment because it is indicative of the sorts of things believers say when they are just blindly defending their belief without having done the requisite reading around why such beliefs may be problematic.

Here is his comment:

Why would Matthew, Mark, and Luke, writing to the audience of the first century A.D., talk so much about Herod as a significant player in their narratives if by Herod they meant Herod (the Great) whom everyone knew died in 4 B.C.?

Maybe because they meant, and everyone else knew they meant,
Herod (Antipas)?

He states this in trying to harmonise the ten-year gap issue by offering up a reason as to how the two events can be concurrent. He thinks that perhaps we have the wrong Herod, and that it is his son we are referring to, so he could be alive at the same time as the census.

Except, if he actually read the Gospel of Matthew, he would know it said this:

But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

In other words, Matthew tells us himself right there in the infancy narrative that Herod Archelaus was now ruling and not his aforementioned father, Herod the Great. This is when they decide to come back.

In other words, the merest of reading would have told him the answer to his question.

It also seems odd that he uses Herod Antipas. Antipas was brother of Archelaus and was never King of Judea. After his father’s death, he was (unlike his brother who did become the overall ruler, but was replaced for incompetence – hence the census) governor Galilee and Perea for forty-two years. There is simply no way Antipas makes any sense to be used instead of Herod the Great unless you just wanted someone important called Herod to be alive at the time of the census. He would have been live, but would have had nothing to do with Jesus in the way necessitated.

But this isn’t the worst part.

The worst part is that he doesn’t seem to realise that neither the Gospel of Mark or the Gospel of Luke (save in relation to John the Baptist) mention Herod the Great at all. He asks why they would “talk so much” about Herod the Great when they don’t talk about him. At. All.

This is half the problem with the infancy narratives: they only appear in two of the Gospels, and the two they do appear in contradict each other so wildly. It’s hilarious to see the ad hoc rationalisations as to why Luke doesn’t mention the king of the country chasing the family away whilst having murdered babies. And neglects to mention the family living in a foreign country for a few years. And neglects to mention that by coming out of that country, a prophecy is fulfilled to show that Jesus really is the Messiah. That would be pretty important, right?

Instead, Luke has them going back home straight away, only stopping to get the end of the Messiah’s penis removed:

21 And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord

There is no space, in these eight days or so, to go to Egypt for a couple of years because you are being harassed by a megalomaniacal king.

See Noevo shows that being a zealous believer doesn’t require one to deal in any depth with the issues in one’s belief, or even to know the source texts particularly well. This is because belief is more often a psychological rather than a rational, content-driven one. And comments like this, little throwaway ones, often shine a spotlight on much larger issues.

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