Friday, May 2, 2008

50BC08 #8: The First Christmas

BOOK: The First Christmas
AUTHORS: Marcus Borg & John Dominic Crossan
YEAR: 2007 (Hardcover, HarperOne)
PAGES: 255
GENRE: nonfiction, religion, christianity
RATING: 3.5 stars out of 5

While it may seem odd to be posting about a book about Christmas on the day after Ascension, authors Borg and Crossan would no doubt find it somewhat fitting as both the Ascension and Christ's birth are filled with light imagery, something the authors feel is a prominent and important aspect of the Christmas biblical narratives.

The authors successfully argue that the discrepancies found between Luke and Matthew's Christmas stories are only problematic should one chose to take the biblical narratives literally rather than allegorically. Through a careful analysis of language and symbolic representation, Borg and Crossan reveal how Matthew and Luke both see Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of God's promise to Israel, but communicate this message via different genealogies and troping of the Old Testament.

This book largely supports Borg's message that the Biblical language to describe Jesus was in fact a very intentional attempt to subvert Roman authority. By applying titles used for Roman emperors and nobility to Jesus, Christ is set up as an alternative to the Roman "peace through victory" approach.

Those familiar with the author's theses regarding political subversion and what they call "participatory eschatology" might find the book a bit repetitive. The authors are careful to provide several examples and a thorough investigation of both Matthew and Luke, in addition to their Old Testament references. Borg and Crossan write for a general audience, condensing the more weighty theological principles into concise and relevant explanations. Those who are interested in reading the Bible as more than a literal and historical narrative will no doubt find this book to be very engaging and a good study of what Christmas really means.

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8 / 50


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