This post is mainly a reminder for me to come back and investigate a question more fully (since part of what I envision this blog being for is to kick around ideas that I might want to write about). If it sparks other people to think about the issue, so much the better.
Reason #1 that the infancy narratives aren't historical had to do with the stories of Matthew and Luke being completely different. Although they are indeed extremely different, there are, as we will eventually see in the WINAH series (Why the Infancy Narratives Aren't Historical), there are a number of intriguing agreements between the two, both in terms of content and form. How should we account for these?
I'm finally reading Jane Schaberg's daring and brilliant book, The Illegitimacy of Jesus: A Feminist Theological Interpretation of the Infancy Narratives. The preface to the 20th anniversary edition, by the way, is a stunning and awful depiction of the harassment she experienced in response to publishing a book claiming that the historical Jesus was conceived outside of marriage, with someone other than Joseph as the father, as a result of Mary either being raped or seduced. I hope to publish a more complete review of the book on this blog in the future. But last night, the portion I read got me thinking again about the question of whether Matthew and Luke truly created their infancy narratives separately and independently of each other. More scattered thoughts below the jump.
Conventional wisdom, which is what I reproduced in reason #1 of WINAH, says that Matthew and Luke produced their infancy narratives completely independently of one another. That is, Matthew didn't know Luke was writing, and Luke didn't know Matthew was writing. And to some extent, this is a reasonable conclusion based on the substantial differences between the narratives. But, and I'm curious to research this in more detail, one very big potential reason for saying that they're independent is because that's what the Two Source Hypothesis requires. So how often are exegetes influenced, even unconsciously, by this theory, and expect to find it validated in the infancy narratives?
I'm a pretty big advocate of the Two Source Hypothesis, since it seems to do a very good job of accounting for the different ways Matthew and Luke change the text of Mark, plus their substantial agreements that suggest the use of an additional source like Q. But the infancy narratives are, to my knowledge, usually not discussed in any great detail in treatments of the Synoptic Problem. And they are a very interesting case of something that Matthew and Luke both have that is very different in terms of specific content but very similar in terms of formal characteristics. Several possible questions might emerge from this observation:
- How likely is it (and this is not a rhetorical question) that Matthew and Luke each decided on their own to compose accounts of Jesus' birth? After all, that seems like what they did with their resurrection narratives.
- But with their resurrection narratives, how much of that material did they create out of whole cloth, versus receiving it in written or oral form that they then put their own redactional tweaks on? And the same question could be asked (and has been asked) for the infancy narratives.
- Is there a way that the two key theses of the Two Source Hypothesis (that is, Matthew and Luke's independent use of Mark and their independent use of the Q source) could be correct, and yet have one of the infancy narratives depend upon the other? I'm thinking mainly in terms of Proto-Luke here.
- Has the concern not to be accused of uncritically harmonizing the infancy narratives steered some exegetes away from proposing that one is dependent upon the other, or that they're both dependent upon some sort of Ur-Infancy-Narrative?