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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 51, 2003

G. J. Brooke (ed.), The Birth of Jesus: Biblical and Theological Reflections (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2000). Pp.Xiii + 141. Paper £9.95.

As a celebration of the ‘Millenium event’, scholars from the Department of Religions and Theology at the University of Manchester presented a series of public lectures focussed on the theme of the birth of Jesus. These have been collected and are presented for the wider reading public in a user-friendly style — no footnotes, but with notes gathered at the end of the book for the really inquisitive.

There are nine articles in all, including two from ‘outsiders’, and for me these were among the most fruitful. Barry Matlock (from Sheffield University) persuasively contends that the evidence in Paul suggests he had absolutely no knowledge of any birth narratives (pace D. Wenham). Arthur Peacocke, in a paper entitled ‘DNA of our DNA’, powerfully reminds readers that for both biological/genetic as well as theological reasons, a Jesus who did not have a human father as well as a human mother presents us with real difficulties. Docetism is not far away! And for those worried what this might do to traditional Christian orthodoxy, Gerald Downing points out that theotokos can rightly be applied both to Joseph (Jesus’ presumed father) as well as to Mary (both are parents to God incarnate.

Philip Alexander’s essay on ‘The Jewish Face of Jesus’ is a fresh look at some Jewish presentations of Jesus. George Brooke’s presentation, ‘Qumran: the Cradle of the Christ?’ considers several texts which relate to the covenanters’ messianic expectation, which also bear some comparison with early Christian traditions. In the former, however, metaphor (relating to divine sonship etc.) never gives way to literalness. What is interesting is the way this barrier is crossed once we come to the gospel birth narratives.

All told, a useful publication, provocative and readable, and therefore to be recommended.

Review by
Dr John W. Pryor
Benalla, Victoria