Sunday, February 6, 2011 Login

Britons & The Nativity

While millions of Christians in the United States will be celebrating the birth of Jesus, non-believers perhaps can take some comfort knowing that our friends on the other side of the pond are growing increasingly skeptical of the nativity story:

Most ‘do not believe in nativity’: The majority of Britons do not believe the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus, a survey has suggested.

Of 1,000 people questioned, 70% doubted the account, according to the British Market Research Bureau. Almost a quarter of people who described themselves as Christians shared their scepticism. St Helen’s Church in Bishopsgate, London, which commissioned the survey, has produced a film of “sound evidence” supporting the Bible’s account. More than a fifth of Christians who answered said they did not believe Jesus was both God and Man – another central tenet of Christianity. Young people were particularly sceptical.

BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Piggott said the findings suggested a fading influence for the Church’s teaching in a secular age.


“They also reinforce evidence that believers are increasingly willing to pick and choose which elements of the Bible’s story they accept,” he added. Simon Gathercole, a new testament scholar at Cambridge University, said people were sceptical because they were not aware the origins of Christianity were anchored in real history.

“Jesus was born while Augustus was emperor of Rome just before Herod died… we’re talking about events that are anchored in real history not in ancient Greek myths.”

He also said some people think of Christmas as being religiously significant for purely nostalgic reasons. ”There’s something in us that misses that connection with God that we sometimes feel our historical forebears had,” he said.

Actually, we really should be talking about nativity stories, not the nativity story – because the Bible gives two inconsistent versions. One by Matthew, the other by Luke. Yet the esteemed Cambridge professor is under the impression that this is all anchored in real history and that Jesus was definitely born just before Herod died in 4 BC (yes, that is four years ‘Before Christ’). Well, that seems to be the case if you consult Matthew. If you consult Luke, however, you find that Jesus was born during a census ordered “while Quirinius was governor of Syria” (Luke 2Open Link in New Window). Quirinius did order a census while governor of Syria, but that did not occur until 6-7 AD, or some 10 years after Herod died!

Britons should not believe in the biblical stories of the birth of Jesus, and neither should you.

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