By Leon Suprenant | December 21, 2007
In case you haven’t heard, Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, recently made the news for his comment that the account of the Magi is but “legend” and for calling into question other aspects of the Christmas story. Some observations:
(a) Dr. Williams’ apparent desire to “debunk” aspects of the Gospel narratives is not unique to the Church of England, but rather reflects a modernistic approach to divine Revelation that sadly is also found at times in some contemporary Catholic scholarship. I remember one Scripture class in seminary in the 80s, where our textbook taught us that Jesus really wasn’t born in Bethlehem. Rather, the authors of Matthew and Luke inserted that detail so that Micah’s OT prophecy would be fulfilled. I’m not kidding.
(b) Thank God for Pope Benedict XVI, who made this comment at this week’s Wednesday Audience: “Christmas is a commemoration of the incredible miracle of the birth God’s only son, born of the Virgin Mary in the cave of Bethlehem.”
(c) Dr. Williams wasn’t sure about the star. Of course, what would be the purpose if there were no Magi? Anyway, here’s an interesting article about a Notre Dame astrophysicist’s quest to find the star.
(d) Surely there are some details found in Christian art and creche displays that are not matters of faith (e.g., snow on the ground, the presence of particular animals, and so forth). However, the essentials of the Nativity narratives are not legends or merely the imagination of creative evangelists. For Church teaching on this issue, see CUF’s Faith Fact on the historicity of the infancy narratives.