Where was Jesus born? Let’s plunge into the Deeper waters and find out.
In this section, John Campbell is going to deal with the idea that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Last time, we pointed out that Campbell nowhere argues with scholarship that tries to look at questions of how the New Testament authors used the Old Testament. There’s no looking at how it was done in the Dead Sea Scrolls or Philo or Josephus or anyone else.
He says modern scholars say this refers to the clan of Bethlehem and not the town of Bethlehem. Unfortunately, he doesn’t name any of these scholars. He then goes on to say that the reference is to a clan and not to a town. This is a highly unusual reading historically and Glenn Miller has some great material from the sources showing that that you can read here.
He also states that Matthew and Luke hopelessly contradict one another in their birth narratives and cannot be harmonized. Unfortunately, nowhere does he attempt to show how this is the case nor does he interact with those who have tried to harmonize it. Finally, either way, we still have at that case then two independent sources claiming that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
He also says that Jewish ancestry runs through the father and Joseph was not the father. First off, it isn’t so cut and dry as that. Unfortunately, Campbell offers no interaction with any sources for his claim of that sort. There are even some sources that openly dispute that claim.
The Code of Jewish Law clearly states that a child of a Jewish mother is Jewish, regardless of the father’s lineage (or whatever else may show up in a DNA test), while the child of a non-Jewish mother is not Jewish.1 Matrilineal descent has been a fundamental principle of Torah since the Jewish people came into existence.
Hypothetically, it could be that these sources are wrong, but the problem is Campbell doesn’t give any for his position and if you have some sources that are Jewish saying that Jewish Law clearly states the contrary, who am I to believe? If I can’t trust Campbell on this basic point in just a quick web search, why should i trust him on any? What kind of research has he really done?
So let’s put in a bonus section. Right after this, he looks at Hosea 11:1 that says “Out of Egypt, I called my Son.” Campbell wants to remind us that the passage is about Ephraim coming out of Egypt and it is not messianic at all. Well, so much for Matthew. Right?
Matthew knows that it is not a Messianic prophecy, but he is saying this to show Jesus fulfilled the type of Israel here. Israel went down to Egypt and came out. Jesus did the same. Israel passes through the waters. Jesus is baptized by John. Israel goes to the mountain and receives the Law. Jesus climbs the mountain and ends up giving the Law. Don’t expect Campbell to interact with any of this. While I had hoping his book would be more substantial when I started since at least he accepts Jesus existed, the more I have gone through it, the more it is incredibly weak.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)