Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes: Individualism

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible  -             By: E. Randolph Richards, Brandon J. O'Brien    We’re considering Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible, by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien — an excellent book.

America and the rest of the West has an individualist culture. We are all about the individual, even at the expense of the family or church.

It’s not unusual for children to live thousands of miles from their parents to pursue a career. Few people will turn down a promotion to avoid leaving their congregation. Our culture just assumes that the good of the individual overrides the good of the group.

However, the Middle Eastern culture of First Century Judea was quite different. Sons followed their fathers’ trade in their home village, living in a very small room built adjacent to their parents’ home.

Many a First Century Jew would have left his home town only for the occasional pilgrimage to Jerusalem. His wife would be from his home town and selected for him by his parents.

The birth of Jesus

Our cultural assumptions color how we read Bible passages. To a Westerner, Mary gave birth in a manger with no there to help except Joseph, the angels, and the animals. Why do we assume they were alone? Well, the Bible mentions no one else. We fill the gap with our cultural assumptions.

It seems clear in the text that Mary and Joseph were traveling during festival time–that’s why all the inns were full. Bethlehem was what we might call a bedroom community, or suburb, for Jerusalem. … But why take Mary when she was “great with child”? It wasn’t ignorance; ancients knew how to count to nine. … in antiquity one’s relatives were the birthing crew. Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem when they did because everybody else was going. We imagine Joseph and Mary trudging alone up to Jerusalem, in the quiet of night. Nope. They were part of two large clans–his and hers. (This also explains how Mary and Joseph could “misplace” the twelve-year-old Jesus later. They assumed that he was with his perhaps hundred cousins as the extended family headed home. Only at evening did the boy Jesus go missing.) The birth of Jesus was no solitary event, witnessed only by the doting parents in the quiet of a cattle fold. It was likely a noisy, bustling event attended by grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

(Kindle Locations 1057-1064). Is this provable to an absolute certainty? Well, no. But the culture of the day made it unthinkable that Joseph and Mary would have gone to Jerusalem alone, without family, especially with her 9 months pregnant.

I mean, if you were Mary’s mother or sister or cousin, wouldn’t you have gone with her? And imagine what it was like in a culture much more centered on family than we are! I mean, do we really think Mary intentionally delivered her baby far away from home with no family to help, no aunt to serve as midwife, no sisters and brothers there to celebrate the birth with them, no fathers and mothers to attend the circumcision?

Westerners can imagine a lonely birth, although even we will normally be surrounded by family and friends. First Century Judea was all that times 100. This was First Century Judaism. Someone had to dance in celebration.

Household conversions

We Westerners like to emphasize our “personal relationship” with Jesus. For us, the decision to be saved, to have faith in Jesus, is intensely individual. But in Acts, we notice that entire households made the decision together.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are miraculously freed from their chains in prison. The jailer, apparently recognizing what happened as an act of God, asks the men, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Their response is striking: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved you and your household” (Acts 16:31, emphasis added).

(Kindle Locations 1095-1097). Notice that Paul and Silas assume a household conversion before they even get warmed up with their gospel sermon. Well, the jailer would not have wanted to join the Christian community without his family. If the invitation had not been extended to the entire household, Paul and Silas would have received no hearing.

Choosing your family

The New Testament is filled with examples of references to the local congregation as a “family” or “household.” Older men are “fathers.” Older women “mothers.” Fellow members are “brothers” and “sisters.”

To us Westerners, this is a quaint, kind of old-fashioned way of talking. We don’t take it seriously. But in the First Century, some converts lost their physical families when they converted. It would have been much harder to go against one’s family then than now, and it’s hard now. The church would have become the only real family many of the converts had.

Moreover, in the First Century, you didn’t get to pick your congregation. There was one per town. The church might divide to meet in separate houses. A house couldn’t hold more than 30 or so. It was similar to our modern “small group” practice — a large church meeting in several private residences.

While we can be quite particular about which church we join (“the music’s too loud!” “the song leader waves his arm too much!” “I wasn’t fed!”), the First Century Christians had but one congregation to join, under but one eldership. And for a collectivist culture, this was quite okay. They were accustomed to submitting to the larger group. You don’t get to pick your family, and so no one would be surprised at not getting to pick his church.

In fact, in Europe, most villages had only one church for hundreds of years. Even during the Protestant Reformation, most villages were either Catholic or Protestant. The idea of having a choice was unimaginable. It’s only been in the last few centuries that a villager could meaningfully choose a denomination, and it’s only been in the last century or two that a denomination would have two congregations in the same town — other than in a very large city.

The idea of having four or five Churches of Christ in the same town, with people driving past one to attend another, was unthinkable to David Lipscomb, who lived and wrote only about 100 years ago. He considered it divisive and sinful to attend any congregation other than the nearest Church of Christ.

The result of our extreme Western individualism is a highly divided Christendom, and even highly divided denominations, where churches of even the same denomination see each other as competitors — rather capitalistic, actually — rather than sister congregations of the same church.

Worse yet, this willingness to divide means we aren’t exposed to contrary views and we feel no pressure to change. If we don’t like the elders’ decision on X or Y, we’ll just move down the road to a competing church — treating our God-given household and family like Wal-Mart or Target. The consumer is king in a capitalistic society, and we’ve rebuilt our church identity based on our preferences rather than any real sense of community and family.

We don’t choose who else is a Christian with us. But we are committed to them, bound to them by the Spirit. And we are not free to dissociate our identities from them–mainly because once we are all in Christ, our own individual identities are no longer of primary importance.

(Kindle Locations 1142-1144). Imagine what church would be like today if we felt so much loyalty to our congregation that we’d turn down a promotion to stay with our “family.” Imagine that it was unthinkable to change congregations, not for doctrinal reasons but because your congregation is your household, your sisters, your brothers, and your parents. And just like your physical family, it doesn’t even occur to you that you should get to pick who is part of your “family.” After all, we all have the same father. We’re all begotten by the same Spirit. We all have the same big brother.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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40 Responses to Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes: Individualism

  1. Alabama John says:

    Mary was carrying an illegitimate child, not Josephs, as far as the neighbors knew so that is why they were alone. That has been the teaching of the Church of Christ I know of for at least the last 70 years.
    Even today the story told about a virgin birth is hard for some folks to swallow, easy to see how it would of not been believed back then.

  2. laymond says:

    Man, what do you think the bill at McDonald’s would be today, if Jesus had not put a stop to all that peace within the family, thingy ?

    Mat 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
    Mat 10:35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
    Mat 10:36 And a man’s foes [shall be] they of his own household.

    Seems like it worked, most kids can’t wait to get away from their parents. We seem to be the lucky ones, we only have two, a daughter, and a son, they both seem to tolerate us quite well. they even ask for advice from time to time. hey they even love each other, now if we had twenty kids, not sure how that would work out.

  3. toddes says:

    If each Jewish male was required to go to their own city to register the women may not have had a choice to go with Mary but to go with their husbands to his required city. We are not given any indication that anyone else traveled with them (unlike the trip to Jerusalem) so to place a sister, aunt or cousin much less a large group is to read into the text something that is not there. We are given specific information that we can be certain of. Anything else is conjecture.

  4. laymond says:

    A.J. most if not all of Christianity is based on belief not proof. based on telling not showing, that is the choice we have to make, to believe, or not to believe. I believe whole heartedly there is a God, a God of all creation, and if I don’t believe in his having a son, sending a messenger, what else do I have to believe in ?, a golden calf !!
    Or maybe a white buffalo ?

  5. toddes says:

    Alabama John,

    One thing (and perhaps this series will cover it) is the respect given to dreams in Eastern cultures. Even today, there are reports of Muslim converts to Christianity based on Jesus appearing to them in dreams. We are told that Joseph was a righteous man. His relating the angel’s message from his dream, while laughable to our “Western sensibilities”, would have some measure of authority in his culture.

  6. Jay, thanks for once again bringing to our attention how much our current religious structure is founded on our consumerism. This is the beam in our eye, too often invisible to us, camouflaged as it is by its similarity to the surrounding culture. I would note that even Burger King no longer advertises “Have it your way!” because our response is now, “Of course! What else is there?”

  7. Alabama John says:

    Toddes,
    I also believe the story exactly like we have told it in the past and still do to our children and new converts.
    You are right, anything different is conjecture and confusing so why do it? WE as members of the Church of Christ have had our fill of one-up-man-ship so lets learn how disruptive and divisive it can be and not be a part of it.

    laymond,
    No one has seen God, but civilizations have tried to see him through many different things. Ever how they invented His look, it was still God they worshiped. We do the same with Jesus, our God, when we picture him as a white man with blond hair and blue eyes. How we picture him in our minds doesn’t really matter, its how we see Him in our hearts that does.

  8. Price says:

    Really enjoying this series… downloaded the other book and reading it as well… So much “meat” here.. Sure beats arguing over IM !! 🙂

  9. laymond says:

    AJ said, ” We do the same with Jesus, our God,” John it is very hard for me to believe you attended a CoC when you were young, that referred to Jesus as God. Jesus’ God, and your God are one and the same God. Anyway that is what Jesus thought, and said.

    Jhn 20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and [to] my God, and your God.

    Jesus called us his brethren, not his creation, not his subjects, his brothers. We are to share the Father’s gifts with him, not worship him as our God.

  10. alreadybeen2 says:

    Is it fashionable with progressives to refer to Jesus as God? When did that start? Even the
    faintly religious recognize the Son relationship. Please don’t start with John 1. Jesus declared
    his relationship to his father repeatedly and some on this forum use John 1 to confuse readers.
    In all due respect brothers this is divisive to members who know Jesus as Lord, the one and
    only Son of God.

    Really, are you willing to declare and teach that Jesus is NOT the Son of God?

  11. laymond says:

    Hey there alreadybeen2 . if people read and understood John 1 as Alexander Campbell understood John 1 there would be no confusion.

    quoting Alexander Campbell from The Christian Baptist 4, May 1827 , “There was no Jesus, no Messiah, no Christ, no Son of God, no Only Begotten, before the reign of Augustus Cesar.
    The relation that was before the christian era, was not that of a son and a father, terms which always imply disparity; but it was that expressed by John in the sentence under consideration.
    The relation was that of God, and the “word of God.” ”

    Brother Campbell explains it beautifully to a questioner named Timothy.

  12. Alabama John says:

    laymond,
    Every prayer was and still is to Father God, (our Father who art in heaven) but, was and is ended in Jesus name, not Father God or simply amen.
    Jesus is one of the trinity and all three are God.

  13. alreadybeen2 says:

    Laymond

    I beg to differ. Evidently Bro Campbell never studied 1 Enoch where a clear description is given
    of the begotten of God.

  14. toddes says:

    alreadybeen2,

    Why should 1 Enoch be considered authoritative concerning the relationship between God and Christ and yet John 1 considered divisive? At what point did 1 Enoch come to be considered inspired aside from a verse being quoted in Jude?

  15. laymond says:

    alreadybeen2, I don’t know if you are joking, or if you are serious . I never studied 1 Enoch in bible study either.

  16. alreadybeen2 says:

    Give it a try Laymond. I guarantee your eyes will be opened. Not canonized in the third century
    except for the Ethiopic Christian church fragments were found with the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was
    accepted by early church fathers and the apostles as well. Jude and 2 Peter are similar in
    teaching. Peter’s “new heaven, new earth” coincides with Enoch and the major prophets.

    There has been a ton of scholarship on the books of Enoch but none seemingly in our tribe.
    The same is true concerning fulfilled prophecy. I was thrilled that Jay had a three-series blog
    on that pivotal subject. It is passing strange that ‘preaching schools’ ignore both.

  17. alreadybeen2 says:

    toddes,

    I do not diminish John’s treatment of “the Word WAS God”. Of course the Messiah was the
    “image” but Christ deferred to the Father. Jesus was given authority in heaven and earth by
    God? How could Jesus confer that honor on himself? The “son of man” prayed to the Father,
    not to himself. There is no contradiction unless men make one.

    I don’t ask anyone to treat 1 Enoch or any apocrypha/psudepigrapha as God’s breath. Read
    for yourself and see if:

    1 It edifies and glorifies God
    2 The source is biblical
    3 The narration does not conflict with the KJV (which skips over the subject matter)

  18. mark says:

    The canon was not settled for a long time after the apostles died. Paul did not have New Testament to beat on the lectern with when he preached.

    From the second Psalm:

    7I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

  19. Not sure how the OP got hijacked into yet another set-to on the divinity of Christ, or onto canonical vs. non-canonical writings. I think I missed the exit…

  20. alreadybeen2 says:

    Take it away Charles! The floor is yours.

  21. laymond says:

    Alabama John, why is it that you pray to 1/3 of god,(the father) in the name of 1/3 of god,(the son) and leaving out the final 1/3 of god (the holy ghost) altogether. ? I pray to the all mighty God, in Jesus’ name because he said I could. and just maybe he has more pull than me alone. Jesus said he would not pray for us, but he did say we could mention his name in our prayers.

  22. laymond says:

    alreadybeen2, does it say anywhere in the bible that Enoch, was a prophet of God.

  23. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Guys,

    I doubt seriously that the readers care to see another discussion of Trinitarian theology. It’s not a taboo subject — just one that’s been worn out and is no longer interesting.

  24. toddes says:

    alreadybeen2,

    A lot of assertions and fair amount of deflection.

    1. No problem here but does not make it inspired.
    2. That is what we are trying to determine.
    3. See 2.

    Jay,

    Aside from being new to the site, the idea that some within the CoC brotherhood deny (perhaps too harsh a word but that is what it appears as from this snippet) Christ as fully God is also new to me despite my forty plus years. (Perhaps that comes from not church hopping or from my location). AB2 mentioned a series you did on Enoch. I searched but did not find. Do you have a link to it?

  25. alreadybeen2 says:

    toddes

    I mentioned the Surprised by Hope series. I don’t know if Jay has covered psudepigrapha.

    Laymond, look it up on wiki to check out the scholarship of 1 Enoch.

    Charles & Jay, So sorry to take up your valuable time.

  26. laymond says:

    alreadybeen2, I started reading 1 Enoch. a while back, got side tracked and never returned, I will try it again, thanks for the suggestion.

  27. laymond says:

    When I first discovered Jay’s blog I didn’t think well of it . I believe I first saw it referred to by Tim in the kitchen. I am progressive in almost everything, religion not so much. In other words I am a rarity a CoC democrat. I certainly didn’t believe I would be aloud to comment as long as I have, I have been quarantined from time to time, and politely told to shut up, more than once. but as I see it Jay has been a gracious host, and not afraid to hear opposing opinions, We have had it out over The Trinity, The indwelling HG. and Jesus is God. no one’s mind was changed. So, I think I will give Jay a break, and take off for awhile, maybe brother Jay will come to realize I was right all along, and see things my way, after all he did get new eyes to see through. thank you Jay.

  28. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    toddes,

    Most Church of Christ members and ministers are very orthodox when it comes to Trinitarian theology. However, there’s a strand of thought going back quite a long way seeking to rethink the relationship of God, Jesus, and the Spirit. For some, it’s driven by the desire to be smarter than “the denominations.” It’s same psychology that leads to some folks getting bent out of shape when someone mentions the “three wise men.” For others, it’s simply a desire to speak exclusively in Bible terminology, and thus not speak of the “Trinity” or “essences” or “hypostatic union” at all. This second rationale comes straight from Alexander Campbell. But rejection of the teaching the doctrine of the Trinity is a distinctly minority position.

  29. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    toddes,

    Luke 2 records that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to be registered because he was of the line of David. So was Mary. But so were there siblings, cousins, second cousins, third cousins, etc.

    In fact, it appears that “Nazareth” is based on the Hebrew root “netzer,” meaning “shoot” or “branch.” It’s a reference to the prophecies that the Messiah would be a shoot or branch from the line of David. Evidently, the founders of the Galilean village were descendants of David who took pride in the prospect that the Messiah might come from one of them! http://www.jesus.org/is-jesus-god/old-testament-prophecies/a-shoot-from-the-stump-of-jesse.html

    This makes sense. Family members did not leave their villages when they grew up, as a rule, in that society. Hence, if Nazareth has been founded when Jews resettled in Galilee after the time of Ezra, there may have been Judean families with Davidic blood bearing children for 400 or more years in Nazareth, making a substantial number of people in that village kin to Joseph and Mary.

    You can see from the genealogies in Luke and Matthew (one for Mary, one for Joseph) that while they were both descendants of David, they were only very distantly related and yet from the same village. This means that there was more than one family line of David represented in the village.

    In short, a large portion of the village would have had to go to Bethlehem to be registered, because there were at least two entire families — and probably far more — there who descended from David, who was born in Bethlehem.

    Therefore, it seems very likely that Mary and Joseph didn’t travel alone. If their siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles, etc. all had to go to Bethlehem to register, what better time to go than to travel with a pregnant relative?

    The theory that they were shunned on the presumption of illegitimacy is without evidence, and pretty much refuted by the fact that the shunning, if it existed, would not have ended before Jesus turned 12. It would have been for his entire life, and yet when he was about 12, Mary and Joseph did travel with family to Jerusalem.

    Also of interest is the timing of their trip. Luke 2:8 says there were shepherds in the fields. This only happens after the fall harvest, when the sheep are allowed to feed in the fields to eat the stalks and produce manure for the spring crops. (Otherwise, the sheep would be eating the wheat being raised for people.)

    Here are some interesting links as to the timing of the birth of Jesus — likely between June and September. A good guess is at the time of the Feast of Trumpets in Jerusalem, which would explain the fact that there was no place to stay.

    http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/ARTB/k/568
    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CC8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fpreservingbibletimes.org%2Fimages%2Fstories%2Fpdfs%2FReflection%2520-%2520The%2520Birth%2520of%2520the%2520Pascal%2520Lamb%2520of%2520God.pdf&ei=CvkGUtfgGuWp2gXBioH4DA&usg=AFQjCNG_bq2TZjyxyQyQla3xR0uDmtA2wQ&sig2=ipdB5ngHoJJGVYfJNmwZ3A

    The Feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hoshanah, has its own interesting history: http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/books/festivals_2/2.html It’s easy to see how it might have been considered the appropriate time for the birth of Jesus by God.

    However, the Day of Atonement would have been only 10 days later, and may well have been the date of Jesus’ birth, for reasons stated in the links.

    In any event, it’s very likely that many people in Nazareth needed to go to Bethlehem to register, and it would make sense that the trip would be coordinated with a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Why go to New York the day after New Years when you could leave a day early and be there for the holiday celebration? Why go to New Orleans the day after the Sugar Bowl when you could just as easily be there for the football game? Why go to Bethlehem, next door to Jerusalem, a long and difficult trip, unless you could combine the census with a pilgrimage. After all, there were holy days in Jerusalem several times a year. (Mary wouldn’t be able to make the festival, in all likelihood, but many in her entourage would be able to do so. They surely would have planned the trip together, to get Mary there in time not to deliver on the road, and if possible, to take in a festival or two while there.

    Let’s say it was the Day of Atonement. Then surely many people from Bethlehem went, too. Why not travel together? It would be safer from thieves. It would be easier to travel together. Mary might have been only 14 years old. Girls were betrothed shortly after puberty in those days. It’s hard to imagine her family letting her travel, pregnant, with only Joseph – maybe 20 years old – for protection and guidance across the country.‎

    As a result, I can’t imagine Mary and Joseph being in Bethlehem alone.

  30. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Ted,

    Thanks for the link. That’s a great article. I hugely enjoyed reading it.

  31. Larry Cheek says:

    Does it make you wonder where all the rest of the family members stayed? How many of them could have stayed in the inn if there would have been even one room available? Did they stay in the manger (stable) in Bethlehem several days.
    (Luke 2:15 NIV) 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.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
    The text indicates that after Mary’s purification they traveled to Jerusalem.
    (Luke 2:21 NIV) On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. 22 When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord

    Do you suppose all of the relatives of the family stayed in Bethlehem also until this purification was completed? Would this have been too large of a group to stay in the stable with those mentioned? The shepherds did not mention finding any other family relatives there. Wouldn’t you think that John the Baptist and his parents close (relatives) would have been in this traveling party, especially understanding the close connection and common knowledge between Mary and Elisabeth? John was born first was he there, approximately 6 months old? Do you suppose that he was consecrated at a time very close to Jesus’s consecration?
    (Luke 2:23 NIV) (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”),
    Just some questions that came to mind while considering this large body of family members traveling together that are not mentioned in the text.

  32. Alabama John says:

    Once again, we the few have it right and all the others for the past 2000 years all have it wrong.
    Are we doing exactly what we are condemning?

  33. I don’t think it is condemning to suggest that our traditional Western view of scripture may not be entirely accurate. To challenge long-held assumptions is not to attack those who have held them. And we need not close our minds to such possibilities merely out of reverence for past believers. I love my grand-daddy, and he was a godly man, but where he was wrong, he was wrong. No shame in that. I feel sure my own grandchildren will one day say something similar about me.

  34. Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth and with the census, only Davidic family members would have been leaving for Jerusalem. It’s quite possible that only a few people from Nazareth would have gone to Bethlehem. They likely traveled alone.
    Going to Jerusalem was quite different. Those trips were related to the annual festivals when virtually everyone would have been going up to the city to worship at the temple.
    There’s plenty to criticise regarding Western individualism but it sounds like the author has erred on this point.

  35. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Protoprotestant,

    Many believe that the village of Nazareth was founded by descendants of David. “Nazareth” may derive from the Hebrew word for “branch,” often a metaphor for the Messiah. Most villages were made up of only a few clans or extended families. Hence, it’s possible that nearly the entire village was made up of Davidic descendants and so had to go to Jerusalem. http://www1.cbn.com/BibleArcheology/archive/2010/12/19/five-things-you-didnt-know-about-nazareth may overcook the evidence — that is, we may not be quite as certain as the writer suggests — but the evidence does point toward his conclusions.

    It is certainly true that people in that world generally chose to live with their extended families. It’s unlikely that Joseph and Mary chose a town with none of their kin present.

  36. I’m afraid I’m not too impressed with the CBN article. Points 3 and 4, even 5 are wholly unconvincing. There’s no proof.

    Anti-individualism, yes. But sorry I can’t buy this revision of the traditional understanding of the Gospel narrative.

  37. Sail Avi says:

    Since Bethlehem was his — (or their?) native or ancestral village — it’s VERY suspicious that there were NO relatives willing to provide lodgings to Joseph and his heavily pregnant wife, and that they instead had to seek lodgings at an inn (in vain!) and ended up in a stable!!! All other things being normal, this is absolutely unthinkable in terms of the “laws” of hospitality (obligations of families and relatives to provide hospitality) in the Middle East! — Under ordinary circumstances, having your relatives staying at an inn instead of with you would have caused YOU an immense LOSS OF HONOR!!! So SOMETHING ELSE is definitely going on here!

  38. Dwight says:

    Sail, We don’t know how many brothers or sisters or other family members Joseph had so when family comes calling we are called to ask how many relatives can a household hold, especially if the family is a relatively poor one? Hospitality only goes so far when you have no room in your house?

  39. Larry Cheek says:

    I have listened to many attempt to make a case for God’s people being so community involved, in opposition to individuality. But, I see many flaws in their lack of comparing the context supporting many of God’s people on both sides of the cross being held accountable individually rather than a community. Notice a few events and see if you can place more persons into the stated text and support them being there.

    Mat 2:13-15 ESV Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (14) And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt (15) and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

    Mat 2:19-23 ESV But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, (20) saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” (21) And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. (22) But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. (23) And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

    All the arguments that have been made to support a caravan of family members at the birth would surely be of the same value on this event. But, they left at night and no one not even one family member was able to contact them or divulge their location to Herod. It wasn’t a family member who contacted them to tell them it was now safe to return.

    There are many records in NT confirming the individuality of relationships of people who believed in God. The complete time of the persecution was an attack waged on individuals, very seldom was the attack upon a community assembled. Maybe a family, but not huge bodies of assembled Christians.

    Many years later, we read of attacks of the Roman Church on large bodies of people like the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre.

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