One of the things I so despise about Christian apologists like Josh McDowell is how blind they seem to be to their own stupidity or dishonesty. Case in point, the two completely different birth narratives about Jesus in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. I will present them one after the other, but with completely different names to show how utterly different and mutually exclusive they really are. People overlook the otherwise obvious only because they see the names of Jesus, Joseph, and Mary in the stories and because they associate those names with holiness, they assume the writings must be holy and therefore true. But in fact, at least one of the Gospel writers made falsehoods and thus defiled those names. A lie told in the name of Jesus is still a lie and thus dishonors Jesus.
Now the birth of Soloman took place in this way. When his mother Jessica had been betrothed to Daniel, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Daniel, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Daniel, son of David, do not fear to take Jessica as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Soloman, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ”Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). When Daniel woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Jessica home as his wife. But he kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Solomon.
After Solomon was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
” ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’ ”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Jessica, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Daniel in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Daniel in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 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: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Ronald, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Dinah. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Dinah was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Dinah, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Bartholomew. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Dinah asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Dinah answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Ronald also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Dinah, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Dinah and Ronald, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Dinah treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Bartholomew, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.
When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Ronald and Dinah took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Bartholomewto do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Dinah, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
When Ronald and Dinah had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.
By changing the names of both narratives, I hope to show that they are indeed so different that at least one of them must have been made up. Thus any claim that there is no error or contradiction in the Bible, or that the Bible can be used as evidence for the claims of or about Jesus, is totally debunked.
If the two narratives had been published as I posted them here, with the different names for the Messiah and his parents, the result would have been two factions who would have insisted that either Soloman or Bartholomew must be the Messiah and that the other was false, assuming there could only be one true Messiah. No one would have considered that both stories were true or that they could be about the same person. So why accept both stories and the Gospels containing them in the New Testament? Because both stories were equally beautiful and equally plausible (or implausible, depending on your point of view). But beauty and plausibility do not equal truth. It is more likely than not that Jesus was born in Nazereth and never had any connection to Bethlehem. The stories about his birth in Bethlehem would be necessary to establish his claim as the Messiah, since it was indeed well known that the Messiah had to come from Bethlehem. In the other two Gospels, Mark and John, the place of Jesus’ birth was not even mentioned at all.
If such completely different birth narratives as the ones in Matthew and Luke were written about Napoleon or Beethoven, would anyone take them seriously or insist that both must be true? Of course not!