As a theologian by training, I noticed several flaws in the footnotes of http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2010/12/21/matter-of-time. At the end of footnote 2 you state the angel told Joseph to go to Galilee, when in fact it was only the more general term “Israel.”

However, I was far more concerned by footnote 8 which seeks to reconcile the birth passages only by twisting and misquoting Luke 2:39. The verse is quite clear in its statement that Mary and Joseph went back to Nazareth after completing what the LAW OF THE LORD commanded, which in context is clearly the sacrifices.

If such a passage had appeared in Matthew the context—a wider sense of Torah to include all the Tanakh, and linking to the messages of the angel and the prophetic reference to Egypt—might justify you including the angelic messages. But in Luke, taking the obedience to law out of context to refer to incidents that don’t occur in that gospel is utterly unwarranted exegetically. It is eisegesis.


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As a theologian by training, I noticed several flaws in the footnotes of http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2010/12/21/matter-of-time. At the end of footnote 2 you state the angel told Joseph to go to Galilee, when in fact it was only the more general term “Israel.”

Sorry for the confusion, but we did not state that “the angel” told Joseph to go to Galilee. We asked, “Why would Joseph take Mary and Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem when they feared Archelaus (Herod’s son) who was ruling in Jerusalem? Why would they go to Judea after being instructed to go to Galilee?”

It is true that the angel told Joseph to return to Israel (Matthew 2:20), but once they entered Israel, Joseph was warned by God in a dream to go to Galilee (Galilaias) instead of Judea (Matthew 2:22).

It seems strange that Matthew would mention that Joseph was afraid to go to Judea if they were already planning to go back to Nazareth. We believe it makes more sense that they had been living in Judea (probably Bethlehem) prior to leaving for Egypt and were planning to return to Judea until the warning from God.

However, I was far more concerned by footnote 8 which seeks to reconcile the birth passages only by twisting and misquoting Luke 2:39. The verse is quite clear in its statement that Mary and Joseph went back to Nazareth after completing what the LAW OF THE LORD commanded, which in context is clearly the sacrifices.

We did not twist or misquote Luke 2:39; it is affirmed in our chronology (they did go to Nazareth after completing what was commanded in the Law of the Lord). We simply propose that some time elapsed between Luke 2:38 and 39, and that the events in Matthew took place during that time (visit of the magi, flight to Egypt, slaughter of children of Bethlehem). Luke does not mention these, but that does not mean they did not happen, just that Luke did not record them. So, these events had to happen somewhere within Luke’s account, and we believe this spot makes the most sense.

Interestingly enough, there are other examples where Luke left out details that Matthew provided. Luke 23:25 reveals that Pilate released Barabbas from prison and delivered Jesus to be crucified. The next verse states, “Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus” (Luke 23:26). This would seem to give the impression that Jesus was led away to be crucified immediately after Pilate pronounced the sentence. But this isn’t the case.

Matthew also discussed these events and he shows that something else occurred between the sentencing and Christ being led away to His Crucifixion. He wrote the following:

Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him.

When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.

Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross. (Matthew 27:26–32)

If we only had the Gospel of Luke, we would not know about the scarlet robe, the crown of thorns, and the brutality and mocking by the soldiers.

It is very interesting in this case that Luke used the exact same Greek words to transition from Luke 23:25 to 26 as he did in the transition from Luke 2:38 to 39. The Greek καὶ ὡς (kai hōs) is translated as “So when” (Luke 2:39) and “Now as” (Luke 23:26).

It is perfectly acceptable for a writer to skip over events while recording history, as Luke did in these cases. In fact, this is the nature of historical reporting. Since no historian can provide exhaustive details of the events they are recording, information will inevitably be left out. Luke did not write about Christ’s mistreatment at the hands of the soldiers, nor did he discuss the visit of the magi, the flight to Egypt, and Herod’s slaughter of the children. Thankfully, Matthew filled in these details for us. In other places Luke filled in some details which Matthew did not discuss, such as angelic announcement to the shepherds, the shepherds’ visit to see Christ, and the accounts of Simeon and Anna.

If such a passage had appeared in Matthew the context—a wider sense of Torah to include all the Tanakh, and linking to the messages of the angel and the prophetic reference to Egypt—might justify you including the angelic messages. But in Luke, taking the obedience to law out of context to refer to incidents that don’t occur in that gospel is utterly unwarranted exegetically. It is eisegesis.

We did not take Luke 2:39 out of context. We have simply proposed that Matthew filled in some details that were not included in Luke’s account. Did they perform all the requirements of the Law prior to going to Nazareth? Absolutely. Why assume they left for Nazareth immediately after fulfilling the law when the Scriptures do not say so? Terms like εὐθεωσ (eutheōs, immediately) were not used in this context, so why assume their departure was immediate?

If what we proposed did not come from God’s Word or was inconsistent with it, then we would have been guilty of performing eisegesis. However, the Bible mentions many events associated with the birth of Christ and divides them between two books (Matthew and Luke). Our goal was to refute the critics by developing a timeline to give a plausible sequence of the events following the birth of Christ. There are other ways to reconcile the accounts, but we believe this one makes the best sense of the data given. However, we also clearly stated in the first footnote, “We should not be dogmatic about the specific details here. This article is designed to show that the details of the biblical account are not contradictory but entirely consistent.”

With kindness in Christ,
Bodie Hodge and Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S.

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