Tuesday, 23 December 2008
Last night I listened to Ian Hislop's radio documentary We Three Kings, about the magi in the Christmas story, and earlier in the week I read Philip Booth's blog post which raises the question of whether there were two 'Jesus children'.
At this time of year it's always fascinating to look at the Christmas story in a historical light (and particularly this year, when thinking about this kind of thing helps me take my mind off other worries). Christianity has a distinct theological advantage over religions where the holy book is said to have been dictated directly by God - the gospel writers may be sainted, but they were human and fallible. Which means there is plenty to think about and discuss!
In Philip's blog, he refers to a Dead Sea Scroll fragment giving a prophesy of two Messiahs, "a priestly Messiah and a kingly Messiah, both coming out of the House of David to rule side by side."
Now, this has the potential to clear up long-famous discrepancies in the Christmas story, such as Quirinius' census taking place after the death of Herod the Great. But on the other hand it seems unlikely (to me) that there could have been two Messiahs around in the same era without someone noticing later on in the story.
It would surely be too big a thing to cover up. More likely that the original prophesy was fulfilled in Jesus being both kingly and priestly? At which point we can excuse the gospel writers (being human and fallible) for having different perspectives on which parts of the story are most salient, or for simply making mistakes.