Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Monday, April 30, 2007

When Worlds Collide...Is it all or nothing?

An interesting thing happened at the Sabbath School class I attend. Our regular teachers were not there so the teacher of another class led both classes. I don’t know who was from her class or who the visitors to our class were. One younger man made a comment about not taking the days of the Genesis creation account as literal. Now it was not me bringing this up, but I did point out that they were called days even before there was any way to define a day, e.g. no sun so that it is reasonable to question what day meant.

A little later after the teacher had given her view that we should be interpreting the Bible through what we know of Jesus Christ another man, I don’t recall him ever at our class before but I have seen him around the church a lot so I know he is a regular member, said in effect if you don’t believe in the literal days of creation in the Genesis story you can’t believe in the literal life, death and resurrection of Christ. I think if we had had our regular class teachers we would have examined that statement but we didn’t and most of the people there were not regular members of our class so I have no idea where they stood on interpreting the Bible. So I like everyone else let his statement stand.

What bothers me most about this is the way that such antagonism exists between people in the Adventist church. Here was someone who because he can’t conceive of any other way of interpreting the Genesis story has determined that if you don’t view the story the way he does, you can’t believe in Jesus Christ. Yes this is a common statement that I have heard fundamentalists use but it has never made sense. It is rather like saying that if you don’t see Satan as the serpent then you can’t see Jesus as the Savior. Yet it was not until near the end of the first century that Satan was compared to the serpent of old. Israel did not see the serpent as Satan, the New Testament church through at least most of it’s time did not have to see Satan as the serpent yet they were very capable of seeing Jesus Christ as the Savior. Just because someone equates something to something else does not make the equation valid.

Somehow the Traditional Seventh- day Adventist (TSDA) equates the Genesis account that was even by their estimation was written 1500 years after any of the events recorded. Written to a people coming out of slavery in a very primitive world and introducing a concept of One God instead of many gods. Requiring that it must be viewed as historically accurate as the New Testament all of which was written within 100 years of the events recorded and most of the accounts taken from witnesses. Though we don’t know who wrote most of the gospels we do know that the gospel now called Luke attributes it sources to witnesses and even the more liberal scholars will acknowledge that John’s disciples probably wrote the book of John.

There is this tremendous difference in the material that records the life of Christ and that that records the Creation of the world to which there was no witnesses. So why is it so important for the Traditionalist to demand that one particular view of the Creation must be accepted or you cannot accept the historicity of Jesus Christ?

The answer I think is found in the culture within the Adventist church, probably a similar culture is found in other fundamentalist churches but here I deal with Adventism. That culture has been to declare our beliefs to be true whether they can be shown to be true or not, whether they can be shown to be derived from the Bible or not. Because the culture inside the church makes these claims and indoctrinates them through the Lesson Study Guides and the Sermons people begin to make assumptions that call anything else a deception. In fact on the same day as the above incident the Pastor began his sermon by telling the congregation that all the other views of eschatology are deceptions. Armageddon is a deception, a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem is a deception and of course the rapture is a deception. In general unless it is from the SDA churches expectations of end times everything else is a deception. I am sure that there are people in other churches who will say that the Adventist view of eschatology is also a deception but how can one make predictions about what is to come and call other predictions about what is to come a deception. None of the groups has any evidence that the other is wrong or they are right or what is going to happen one way or the other. So to say that it is a deception is actually a deception. All these different groups are trying to interpret the Bible verses to make sense of the different Bible passages. Personally I don’t think we have any ability to predict either the end time events here on earth or what is to happen after the second coming. We have a common history of being wrong when making predictions even with all the information the Bible gives. And the modern prophets have been equally wrong.

The point here is that there is a culture that defines the church as completely right and others, outside the denomination or the denominations norms as completely wrong. This translates into a restricted view when discussion groups meet. It translates into an all or nothing view, either you agree with my traditional views or you can’t be a Christian. I can only imagine how the young man felt after the traditional Adventist asserted that the younger man could not believe in a literal Jesus Christ. Will he ever come back to our church? In some ways I think many traditional Adventists would rather he did not come back, they don’t want people in the church who according to the TSDA’s view are compromising with Satan to destroy the Adventist church. Yet I and no doubt other Progressive SDA’s welcome other Christian views into the Adventist church. We don’t have all the truth and we most definitely have wrong interpretations, why then pretend we have a corner on the truth? As a church shouldn’t we actually be trying to grow in understanding? Can we really grow if we merely assume our traditional views are all there is? We must change the culture within our Adventist churches, faith and reason must exist together if we expect to fulfill the great commission.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Higher Criticism is not the work of Satan

In this weeks Lesson Study Guide on the reliability of the Bible we are treated to some of the least intelligent thinking that the SDA church could provide. In fact it is so amazingly unintelligent I looked up what I could on the author of the Lesson Study Guide. Now I do realize the whole guide went through the sometimes ham fisted editing by Clifford Goldstein but after you read one of these quotes you will also, like me ask, what is the author’s education. So I looked it up.

Jonathan Kuntaraf has been it appears educated:

BA in Ministerial, Indonesia Union College MA in Religion, Far East SDA Theological Seminary (now AIIAS) MDiv, Far East SDA Theological Seminary DMin, Andrews University

He begins with some unsubstantial statements such as these from April 21:

Mark Twain once said that rumors of his death had been greatly exaggerated. One could make the same claim about the Bible. More than once people have declared that the Book one day would be deemed dead, a relic from a bygone era.

Like what? The works of Plato or Homer’s Odyssey it is not living that it could die, it is writing, its real value is placed upon it by those who are living and thinking and draw meaning from its writing. The older manuscripts are indeed relics from a bygone era, what we read are translations of those ancient manuscripts.

The Bible continues to come under attack. Interestingly enough, the critics come and go, but the Bible remains. Critical ideas about the Bible, once deemed cutting edge and revolutionary, have been long forgotten, but the Bible remains. Men deemed great scholars, whose work questioned the authenticity of the writings of Moses or Isaiah, are barely known anymore, while Moses and Isaiah are still being read all over the world.

I would love to know who the author is talking about but since it seems the critics whoever they are, are too unknown, the author to does not bother to explain. We know so little about the ancient world that the author’s statement is remarkable for its certainty of history yet offering nothing to support his statement. It also assumes that if tradition says Moses or Isaiah wrote something that that tradition is true. Those traditions have there use in identifying books but those traditions do not indicate actual authorship of the books. In most of the cases of Biblical books we don’t know who wrote the books.

So the Lesson study guide does not start off well, it then goes rapidly downhill with this amazing statement from April 22:

From the start, Satan always has hated the Bible. After all, it reveals the whole plan of salvation, from start to finish. In it everyone can find the path to eternal life. No wonder Satan hates it.

From the start? Wouldn’t the start, even by conservative traditions, be at least 1,500 years before the first recorded words of Moses, the first scriptures. Then of course it was not till about 300 A.D. that there was actually a canon of scripture containing what we call the Bible. I always wonder how it is that people are so certain about what Satan likes or hates. I would go so far as to say that the path to eternal life was not even laid until the New Testament. Certainly the Old Testament has very little information about eternal life. So to give the author (or the editor) some credit maybe they are meaning the start of the Common Era give or take a couple hundred years and assuming they have a close relation with Satan that he can tell them how he hates the Bible. Off hand I would say that Satan uses the Bible just as much as he uses anything else. As the saying goes “you can pervert anything”. Some would even say that the greatest hindrance to Christianity is the teachings of Christians themselves.

Many have been his attempts over the centuries to destroy it. When, finally, because of massive circulation, the destruction of the Bible became impossible, Satan tried a new tact: If he couldn't destroy the Scriptures themselves, then he could do the next best thing: destroy their credibility. Hence, the arrival of what's known as higher criticism, which has been very successful in destroying faith in the Bible as the Word of God. For many scholars, the Bible is just another ancient text, a Jewish version of, for instance, the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Full of historical interest, for sure, but not divinely inspired.

This is the big quote that made me look up his education. Let’s skip his idea that Satan has been trying for centuries to destroy the Bible, because it is doubtful at best. But the new tact mentioned is something that you would think any intelligent person would want to use to understand the Bible not something that is meant to destroy it. There are two forms of Biblical Criticism these are termed Lower Criticism and Higher Criticism.

Lower Criticism is defined as:

Textual criticism or lower criticism is a branch of philology or bibliography that is concerned with the identification and removal of errors from texts and manuscripts. The textual critic seeks to determine the original text of a document or a collection of documents, which the critic believes to come as close as possible to a lost original (called the archetype), or some other version of a text as it existed — or was intended to exist — in the past.[1]

"1. [...]that process which it sought to determine the original text of a document or a collection of documents, and to exhibit, freed from all the errors, corruptions, and variations which may have been accumulated in the course of its transcription by successive copyings." Vincent. A History of the Textual Criticism of the New Testament

Higher Criticism is defined as:

Higher criticism, also known as historical criticism, is a branch of literary analysis that attempts to investigate the origins of a text, especially the text of the Bible. Higher criticism, in particular, focuses on the sources of a document and tries to determine the authorship, date and place of composition of the text. This term is used in contrast with lower criticism, known as textual criticism, which is the endeavour to establish the original version of a text.

The Wikipedia article also contains an insightful bit of information that shows how those who reject higher criticism still practice higher criticism.

The questions of higher criticism are widely recognized by Orthodox Jews and many traditional Christians as legitimate questions, yet they often find the answers given by the higher critics unsatisfactory or even heretical. In particular, religious conservatives object to the rationalistic and naturalistic presuppositions of a large number of practitioners of higher criticism that lead to conclusions that conservative religionists find unacceptable. Nonetheless, conservative Bible scholars practice their own form of higher criticism within their supernaturalist and confessional frameworks. In contrast, other biblical scholars believe that the evidence uncovered by higher criticism undermines such confessional frameworks. In addition, religiously liberal Christians and religiously liberal Jews typically maintain that belief in God has nothing to do with the authorship of the Pentateuch.

So you can see just what the author’s bias produces by saying that questions about the authorship, date and place of composition are Satan’s method of destroying faith in the Bible. If you don’t ask the questions, your understanding has to be based upon the traditions someone feeds you. Those traditions become your faith, to question traditions then is to question faith.

Consider with the Biblical Research Institute says:

Historical Criticism

E. Edward Zinke
September, 1981

Historical criticism is the attempt to verify the historicity of and understand the meaning of an event that is reported to have taken place in the past. The basis for this evaluation is the tools of historical science.
The historical-critical method assumes the autonomy of the human scientist from the Bible as the word of God. It assumes that one must start with the secular world as a norm for determining meaning and for deciding what has happened in the past. This method does not accept at face value the Bible as the Word of God. It would be unscientific and unhistorical to do so. Rather its claim to be the word of God and its statements claiming to report history (and finally its statements about theology) must be verified and accepted as one would accept a statement from the documents of any other ancient national people. Such a conception implies that the Bible has come about in the same manner as has any other piece of literature…

Notice the sentence I highlighted. Now remember a week ago I delved into the meaning of the Word of God. Nowhere does the Bible make the claim that it is the word of God, individual writings in some sections of some books that today make up the Bible will say that something is the word of God or the word of the Lord but the Bible as a whole makes no such claim. It is a claim people made for the Bible after it was collected into the form we call the Bible. The Bible is in general a series of stories and these stories may or may not make up a historically accurate representation. If we can’t use higher criticism on the Bible because we claim it is the word of God, then how can we use higher criticism on the Koran or the Book of Mormon? Or should we simply accept every claim for every piece of written material? It is not really reasonable to just ignore reasoned analysis simply because it goes against something we have chosen to take on faith, often a faith that is based merely on a tradition.

A interesting example is found in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24 where events recorded do not line up as well as one would expect of a literal historical documents.

(2 Sam 24:1 NIV) Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah."

(1 Chr 21:1 NIV) Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.

(2 Sam 24:8 NIV) After they had gone through the entire land, they came back to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.(2 Sam 24:9 NIV) Joab reported the number of the fighting men to the king: In Israel there were eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword, and in Judah five hundred thousand.

(1 Chr 21:5 NIV) Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.(1 Chr 21:6 NIV) But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king's command was repulsive to him.

(2 Sam 24:13 NIV) So Gad went to David and said to him, "Shall there come upon you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me."

(1 Chr 21:11 NIV) So Gad went to David and said to him, "This is what the LORD says: 'Take your choice: (1 Chr 21:12 NIV) three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the LORD--days of plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel.' Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me."

Here I have to note that the King James of 2 Samuel 24:13 being based more upon the Masoretic Text (MT) says 7 years of famine this is also the reading of the Septuagint. As I recall hearing on the Amazing Facts lesson studies just how much more accurate the Masoretic Text is then any other family of manuscripts I thought that might be significant. It shows that through Lower Criticism there is found numerous differences in the Biblical texts. Most of these differences are merely footnotes in modern Bibles because the translators go with the manuscript texts which tend to present a more unified view of things when they are mentioned in other books of the Bible.

(2 Sam 24:24 NIV) But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them

(1 Chr 21:24 NIV) But King David replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing." (1 Chr 21:25 NIV) So David paid Araunah six hundred shekels of gold for the site.

While in general the stories are really very similar they do have at least large variations in the numbers involved. Possibly even theological implications between the different first verses also. Unless one understands through higher critical methods how the ancient Israelites viewed Satan and God this would be a history that has very contradictory elements. As it is we know that at that time the people thought both good and evil came from God so Satan meaning the adversary could just as easily come from God as anything else. If we assume with the Biblical Research Institute’s article above that this is history, factual and completely accurate we lose credibility in the Bible before we even apply higher criticism to the text. As a record of history it is impressive, but like every history written it has elements of personal bias, even the concept of inspiration does not remove the fact that people can distort information or insert their own ideas into the stories. Even something that is inaccurate can be used to correct, rebuke or train someone in righteousness. A good example especially for Seventh-day Adventists is the parable in Luke 16 of the rich man and Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham. Nothing in the story has to be accurate or historical for the message to be clear. Even if someone rises from the dead if people don’t listen to God they will never listen.

That is what this quarter’s lessons are really about, how we listen to God. How do we interpret the Bible, what parts are for us today and what can we learn about God from all these stories? It may not be the best thing to take from the story in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles above that because of David’s sin God killed 70,000 people by plague with his destroying angel. But if we can’t apply critical analysis we are left with a view of God that few will really be comfortable with or attracted to.

My last post which showed the statistics for Atheism in the nations of the world is important for this topic because it shows just how much different the world is today then just 50 years ago. Today we have to have a much more reasoned position to understand the messages of the Bible. Our church began by calling out other Christians from their churches and we as a denomination have stayed in that mode. Today however we have to explain the Bible and what it means to people who are far more skeptical of the Christian faith then ever before. This Lesson Study topic is very important, our Lesson Study Guide however is not taking the topic seriously though.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Surprising Percentage of Atheists/Agnostics

Today on Bill O’Reilly’s radio show he was talking during the second hour about atheism, tonight he will be interviewing Richard Dawkins on his television show. He listed some interesting numbers on the rates of atheism/agnosticism in the nations of the World. I am not sure what statistics he used but here is a list that is pretty similar though some of the different polling has lead to a few instances where the range is probably too wide to be really accurate but still indicative of a pretty high percentage. Here is the chart that appears in Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns -- THIS CHAPTER IS FORTH-COMING IN THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO ATHEISM, EDITED BY MICHAEL MARTIN, CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2005

Below is a list of the top fifty countries containing the largest percentage of people who identify as atheist, agnostic, or non-believer in God.


Total Pop.(2004)

% Atheist/actual # Agnostic/Nonbeliever in God

(minimum - maximum)



























Czech Republic















South Korea




































































































New Zealand




















North Korea


15% ( ? )















8-14% ( ? )






































United States




















Dominican Rep.







7% ( ? )







(?): certainty/validity on these figures is relatively low

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Matthew, Prophecy and Context

As the subject of Prophecy and the Bible in general is the subject of this quarter’s Lesson Study Guide here are some thoughts based upon some of the things that were touched upon in my Sabbath school class.

For some time I have had a distaste for the book of Matthew. The biggest problem I have with Matthew is the author’s way of taking material out of context from the Old Testament and applying them to the life of Christ. Now we don’t know who the author of Matthew was for certain. It is set forth by tradition to be the disciple Matthew; it may or may not be. We do see that in the book of Matthew at least in the first several chapters, an intentional literary device is employed. The book tries to create a recapitulation the events of ancient Israel in the life of Jesus Christ. The writer of Matthew therefore attempts to create or recount similarities between the life of Christ and Israel or Moses. Jesus is endangered in infancy like Moses by an evil king, Jesus goes down to Egypt like Moses and/or Israel and subsequently out of Egypt. Israel passes through a baptism of water by their crossing of the Red Sea and Jordan River. Both spend time wandering about the wilderness at God’s command. There are other ways the book of Matthew continues this comparison but they may not be as easily seen as the above. For instance some say that the Sermon on the Mount is similar to the Law delivered on Mt. Sinai etc.

As the Expositor’s Bible Commentary writes in reference to Matt 2:15:

1. Many have noticed that Jesus is often presented in the NT as the antitype of Israel or, better, the typological recapitulation of Israel. Jesus' temptation after forty days of fasting recapitulated the forty years' trial of Israel (see on 4:1-11). Else where, if Israel is the vine that does not bring forth the expected fruit, Jesus, by contrast, is the True Vine (Isa 5; John 15). The reason Pharaoh must let the people of Israel go is that Israel is the Lord's son (Exod 4:22-23), a theme picked up by Jeremiah (31:9) as well as Hosea (cf. also Ps 2:6, 12). The "son" theme in Matthew (cf. esp. T. de Kruijf, Der Sohn des lebendigen Gottes: Ein Beitrag zur Christologie des Matthausevangeliums [Rome: BIP, 1962], pp. 56-58, 109), already present since Jesus is messianic "son of David" and, by the virginal conception, Son of God, becomes extraordinarily prominent in Matthew (see on 3:17): "This is my Son, whom I love."

A related concept is that Matthew used a technique often used by Jewish Commentators called Pesher:

The term pesher means, "to explain." In fact, however, pesher is an application of OT scripture with little to no concern for the context of the passage applied. Pesher may refer either to commentaries on the OT found amongst the Dead Sea scrolls or to the interpretive technique typical of these commentaries. Pesher interpreters assume that OT authors were speaking to the contemporary audience. This form of interpretation is tied to a word, text or OT allusion, which is then related to a present person, place or thing. The interpretations are generally aloof from the source context and appear to lack any coherent methodology. According to Lundberg, "This kind of commentary (pesher) is not an attempt to explain what the Bible meant when it was originally written, but rather what it means in the day and age of the commentator, particularly for his own community." Matthew's Use of the Old Testament: A Preliminary Analysis
by Lee Campbell

There also seems to be a recurring theme if we look a little deeper at the verses that the author of Matthew uses. In the following verses the section used in Matthew are highlighted in bold.

To Christians the most important of these Old Testament verses is that found in Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.(NIV)

Thanks to the book of Matthew’s use of this verse it is often only considered to be a prophecy of Christ. Even though there is no place other then Matthew that calls Jesus Immanuel. However it is not to the name Immanuel that Matthew wants to draw attention, it is to the idea of what the name means, “God with us”. In fact it was the idea of “God with us” that Isaiah had presented to the Israelites hundreds of years before. In our ardor to insist upon Immanuel as a Messianic Prophecy we often ignore the repetition Isaiah uses of the terms with the meaning of “God with us”. Besides the reference in Isaiah 7:14 he precedes to us it two more times:

Isaiah 8:8

And sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, O Immanuel!"

Isaiah 8:10

Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us. (NIV)

God is with us is Isaiah’s words of comfort to a people about to suffer a major defeat by their enemies. And even when the enemies appear to be winning God notes that even the purposes of the enemy will not stand because God is with his people. So like the sign to Ahaz, the child born is a reminder that “God is with us”, though bad may come, God will not abandon his people, He does not leave them alone. In the echoes of Immanuel we see that though the people may have failed in their covenant with God, God has not nor will He fail. For we see an inherent promise of hope in Isaiah.

In the book of Matthew the author has taken this hope, this certainty of God with us and applied it to the person of Jesus Christ. Not because Jesus was to literally be named Immanuel and not even because of a virgin birth but because Jesus Christ was now seen as truly “God with us”. Remember the author is writing after all the events in Christ’s life had happened. He is going back in time to state his case as to why this Jesus is the Messiah. In some ways the book of Matthew is very much like the book of John. When they both begin to tell about the person of Jesus they both tell us that it is God with us, Matthew by means of Immanuel and John by means of the Logos, the Word become flesh.

Many people become sidetracked by the part of Isaiah 14:7 about a virgin conceiving a child however in the Hebrew it just means a young woman. It works out well for the book of Matthew’s purposes but again it is a foreshadowing of events to come rather then a clear straight forward prophecy of the messiah. There seems to be no indication that the child born was from a literal virgin as we use the term today. Interestingly Isaiah in the first part of Chapter 8 also has a son who is used to foreshadow what will happen to Judah’s enemies when they are defeated. The first child with the name Immanuel brings confirmation to Ahaz of the disaster to come but the name and its echoes also confirm that God has not left the people.

After the proclamation of the good news that God is with us Matthew moves on to the recapitulation of the Messiah with Israel, it is also possible that it is to Moses the deliverer of Israel that Matthew is comparing Christ.

"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. (Hosea 11:1-4 NIV)

Herod’s death decree against baby boys reminds us of the death decree Egypt inflicted upon the children of Israel in slavery (Exodus 1:16). "When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live." (NIV)

Like the miraculous deliverance of Moses, Jesus is delivered from Herod’s evil also. Matthew then quotes Jeremiah 31:15-17 to show the sorrow of the people under Herod’s decree. 13 Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. 14 I will satisfy the priests with abundance, and my people will be filled with my bounty," declares the LORD. 15 This is what the LORD says: "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more." 16 This is what the LORD says: "Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded," declares the LORD. "They will return from the land of the enemy. 17 So there is hope for your future," declares the LORD. "Your children will return to their own land. (NIV)

The verses in Jeremiah are referring to the exile of Israel and once again while the people must suffer the exile, God has promised relief, they are not abandoned, they can say, “God is with us”. While the verse in Jeremiah has nothing to do with Egypt or Herod’s decree Matthew has changed its setting to reflect the story he is telling. While the story being told may have a much deeper meaning then it appears. All the verses he has used reflect in their original context the healing and deliverance God offers. Matthew is a book that presents us with this Messiah, the anointed one who delivers his people from sin and its consequences.

The book of Matthew then moves a step farther then we today can comprehend. …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.”. (Matthew 2:23 NIV)

Since there is no Old Testament reference like this it may be that the author was using an expression of scorn used against the Messiah. Such as that expressed by Nathanael,

"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip. (John 1:46 NIV) Conceptually there may be some places which could offer the author the incentive to make the statement. Certainly the ancient history of Israel is filled with Israel’s scorn of the things of God.

But Matthew’s failure to reference something in the Old Testament while stating it was something said through the prophets is perhaps the key to unfolding Matthew’s intent in the second chapter of Matthew. The history might not be accurate, but the concepts are what the author found most important. The Messiah has come, God with us, the deliverer miraculously inserting Himself into mankind’s world. The precious gold of God presented to a world that would kill its very savior. So in the book of Matthew the author tells us of the myrrh given to child, an aromatic resin used for the preparation of a corpse for burial. The gift of incense, the sweet fragrance that for centuries was used in the worship of God, even the gifts of the Magi have deeper meanings.

Matthew 2 is not the simplistic story I was indoctrinated to believe. It is a piece of in depth literature with more substance then history. But then isn’t that the way of so much of the Bible. Literature, poetry, Chiastic Structure, and analogy all and more find themselves used within the Bible. Human creativity and God given inspiration can create amazing things. Yet we can in our excitement of discovery often trample all over what was written in our haste to explain what our tradition has taught us.