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The Birth of Jesus: Two Gospel Narratives

Similarities of the Matthean and Lucan Infancy Narratives

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These slides summarize the important religious insights shared in common by both infancy accounts, despite the fact that they are expressed through different narratives. Both Matthew and Luke express post-resurrection faith in Jesus as God’s Son. This conviction is conveyed by attributing his conception to the creative power of the Holy Spirit, though in different ways. In Luke, Mary is told by an angel that “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35), while in Matthew Joseph learns in a dream that “it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived” (Mt. 1:20). Both narratives insist that Jesus’ coming is in continuity with and the ultimate realization of Israel’s covenant with God.  They repeatedly draw upon Israel’s scriptures to assert this.

Both proclaim that the infant’s birth is important for all humanity. The Matthean magi and perhaps his genealogy convey this, while Luke’s recurrent references to Jesus as the bringer of peace have global ramifications. Both narratives link the baby’s significance to his eventual death.  Matthew constructs clear parallels between the magi episode and Jesus’ execution; the Lucan Simeon likewise alludes to Jesus as the bringer of division and judgment.

Finally, both narratives invite readers to become disciples of Jesus.  For Luke, Mary is the paradigm of discipleship: she hears the word of God and does it. For Matthew, Joseph is a model of one who observes and interprets the Torah according to the definitive teaching of Jesus that Matthew’s Gospel will go on to present. For Christian faith, such perceptions of the inspired Gospel writers are of paramount importance in reading their words.