In his previous book The Origins of Christmas, Joseph F. Kelly answers common questions about the development of Christmas rituals and legends, and explores the history of the holiday. In this book Kelly turns to the infancy narratives to see what the New Testament tells us about the Nativity. Readers will likely discover that their Christmas celebrations, cards, pageants, and crèches are often combinations and embellishments of the gospel narratives. Yet each of these narratives is quite distinct, reflecting the author’s talents and audience. In this practical book readers will:
- Encounter the stories in their gospel contexts and learn about the issues facing the early Christians as the gospels were being written.
- See the difference between the educator Matthew’s approach for an audience of Jewish converts and the great literary artist Luke writing for a primarily Gentile audience.
- Look beyond the literal level of the stories to what it means that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, who came to live in the family of a carpenter and his wife Mary.
- Recognize the infancy narratives as an invitation to meet Jesus Christ, king and savior, arrived to fulfill God’s plan on earth for all people.
Joseph F. Kelly, PhD, is professor of religious studies at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. He is author of The Origins of Christmas, An Introduction to the New Testament for Catholics, The Collegeville Church History Timeline, and The Ecumenical Councils (forthcoming), all published by Liturgical Press.
Reading this book is like having Christmas year round! So much that we associate with Christmas-warmth, love, generosity, care for others, joy-comes through the pages of this book. Kelly's close reading of the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke's gospels makes links with Old Testament texts and biblical culture that open up the meaning of the nativity narratives in interesting and intriguing ways. This book helps us grasp more deeply that Jesus' birth is not something we celebrate once a year but is an incarnated, saving presence among us every day.
Joyce Ann Zimmerman, CPPS, Director, Institute for Liturgical Ministry, Dayton, Ohio
The accounts of the birth of Jesus are only recorded in two of the four gospels, Matthew and Luke. The Birth of Jesus According to the Gospels examines the religious and political climate from which these texts emerged and in the process transports its readers into the first century where the familiar Christmas narratives are revealed as texts rich in theological meaning. After pondering the significance of these stories to the early Christians, the reader is guided through spiritual reflection on how the message of the nativity affects our world in the twenty first century. Dr. Kelly's book is an ideal place to begin any Bible study. The journey is thought provoking and faith filled. It leaves the reader wanting more.
Dianne Alaimo, Saint Leo University
In this brief but illuminating introduction Joseph Kelly, who teaches at John Carroll University in Cleveland, helps the more general reader to appreciate the beautiful theology of Matthew's and Luke's opening chapters, but also to weigh the weave of history and interpretation that are intrinsic to these texts. . . . This would be a fine resource for parish Bible Study groups.
The Bible Today
This book . . . will be read and enjoyed by all . . . The reading would be a fine Advent undertaking and will certainly add to our understanding of the Infancy narratives. It is recommended for parish libraries and Scripture study groups.
Catholic Library World
Eminently readable . . .