Ludemann and Goodacre on the Christmas Stories
Jim West reproduces Gerd Ludemann's thoughts on the infancy narratives here. Ludemann thinks the accounts are "pious fairy tales" and lists "ten unquestionable facts argue against their historical credibility". Mark Goodacre comments on each of the ten points here. Regarding Mark's comment on (2):
"The New Testament authors derived most events of the Christmas story from prophecies of the Old Testament and misrepresented their original intent in order to make them seem to point to Jesus."
"Some of the Biblical verses alluded to by Matthew are such an odd fit with the events narrated that it is difficult to imagine that Matthew, or anyone else, 'derived' the narrative from the prophecies. On the contrary, the opposite process, of tradition scripturalized is far more plausible. e.g. Matt. 2.23 -- where does it say that the Messiah would live in Nazara? Matthew is weakly scripturalizing the tradition he knows."
I would enjoy seeing Mark write a sequel (or prequel) essay to the excellent one he did on the passion narratives, which mediated between the "history remembered" and "prophecy historicized" schools of thought. But I agree in essence with Ludemann. Unlike the passion narratives, the infancy narratives reflect a time when no one knew or cared about Jesus. History they aren't, though Ludemann's use of the term "fairy tales" is inappropriate. The infancy narratives are myths, not fairy tales, because they were (are) actually believed.
I also agree with Mark's point in (3), about Matthew trying to explain and defend a tradition of Jesus' illegitimate birth.
UPDATE: James Crossley exasperates over objections to Ludemann's tone, wondering "how much time is wasted...trying to prove/disprove stories of the variety that would so obviously be treated as fiction in other disciplines." A fair counter, given the tone of people like Wright.
UPDATE (II): Read Ludemann's pugnacious response to Goodacre.
UPDATE (III): Now read Goodacre's comeback to Ludemann. This has been a lively discussion.