The Search for Jesus      with      Peter Jennings


Jennings: "Scholars told us early on that they don't take everything they read in the New Testament literally because the New Testament has four different, and sometimes contradictory versions of Jesus' life---the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  There is no reliable evidence about who the authors actually were.  It is pretty much agreed that they were not eyewitnesses.  In fact, the gospels were probably written 40 to 100 years after Jesus' death."


Marcus Borg: "In Luke, of course, we have the famous story of them living in Nazareth but needing to go to Bethlehem for the census.  And that's why Jesus is born in a stable, in a manger, because there's no room in the inn.    In Matthew, and this is where the most striking difference is, the family apparently lives in Bethlehem and Jesus is born at home."


Jennings: "To get the whole nativity scene that we're all familiar with, you have to put the two stories together.  Only Luke has the shepherds and the angels, and only Matthew has the kings and the star."


Voice Over: "Much of the information that we have about this part of the world in the first century does not support either gospel story.  Take the gospel according to Saint Luke.  Luke writes that Joseph and Mary came here to Bethlehem from Nazareth because the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus ordered such a tax.  Roman tax records do show that a man is to be taxed where he lives and where he works, and Joseph lived and worked in Nazareth.  Tax records also show they didn't count women.  And so, why would Joseph have brought Mary on this very difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, through the desert, especially when she was very pregnant?"


Borg: "In all likelihood, Jesus was born in Nazareth and not in Bethlehem."

Jennings: "On what basis do you think he was born in Nazareth?"

Borg: "The fact that Jesus is known as Jesus of Nazareth points very, very heavily to Nazareth being his birthplace.  People in that world were known either as son of so-and-so, or by the village in which they were born."

Voice Over: "But if Jesus wasn't born in Bethlehem, why would the gospel writers say that he was?  A lot of scholars point to the Old Testament of the Bible.  The Old Testament prophecies say that God would someday send a Messiah, a Jewish leader, to rid the world of violence and injustice.  The gospel writers believed that Jesus was the Messiah.  And the Old Testament says the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem."


What is not important is whether or not Jesus was born in Bethlehem or even in Rome!  What is important is his message of love, his commitment to justice.  Instead of arguing over relatively insignificant and historically unproveable details, we need to take in the full meaning of what Jesus had to tell us all.  Those who spend all of their time splitting hairs and making claims for the infallibility of the bible and the need for literal interpretations of it, often tend to miss Jesus' message.