Back, due to popular demand! The annual Christmas quiz, last seen in 2014. Ten questions on Biblical trivia. Answers at the bottom of the page.
Good luck. You’ll need it.
1. Where did Mary and Joseph live prior to Jesus’ birth?
2. How did Mary conceive?
a) By the power of the Holy Spirit
b) She didn’t. It’s a story.
c) How’d you think?
3. What was the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus?
a) They were second cousins
b) They didn’t know each other and didn’t meet until they were adults
c) Jesus originally belonged to John’s baptism cult
4, When was Jesus born?
a) When Herod I was alive
b) After Herod had died and Quirinius was governor of Syria
c) Perhaps he wasn’t
5. How did Mary end up giving birth in Bethlehem?
a) There’s no evidence she gave birth in Bethlehem
b) She and Joseph had to go there because of the Roman census
c) She lived there anyway
6. The Lord tells Mary to call her child
7. Where did the family go following the birth?
a) They went home to their house in Bethlehem
8. Who preserved the songs of Zechariah, Mary and Simeon (Luke 1 & 2)?
a) They were preserved orally word-for-word for 50 years
b) They were recorded in Q
c) They were created in their entirety by Luke, based loosely on Jewish scriptures
9. Where is the prophecy, quoted by Matthew (2:23), that Jesus would be called a Nazarene?
c) Nowhere: there is no such prophecy in Jewish scriptures or anywhere else
10. Which is the most unbelievable part of the nativity stories of Matthew and Luke?
a) a host of singing angels hovering in the sky
b) the wand’rin’ star
c) a virgin giving birth
d) Herod’s re-enactment of a story from Exodus
e) All the angelic visitations, dreams and visions that are needed to make the stories function
1. Where did Mary and Joseph live prior to Jesus’ birth? All of the answers here are correct, so the Holy Bible say. According to Matthew, Mary & Joseph lived in Bethlehem. According to Luke they lived in Nazareth. According to Mark, it was known that Jesus hailed from Nazareth though he doesn’t say Jesus was born there. John refers to Jesus being from Galilee and acknowledges he comes from Nazareth (1:46).
Matthew and Luke insist Jesus was from Bethlehem to make him ‘fulfil’ the prophecy that the Messiah would come from there. Mark and John apparently don’t care.
2. How did Mary conceive? Matthew and Luke have the Holy Spirit do the deed. Matthew says merely that Mary ‘conceived by the Holy Spirit’, while Luke really goes to town with a ridiculous story involving an angel and Mary being orgasmic about the coming of the Lord. Mark hasn’t heard of either account, because neither had been invented, and fails to invent his own. John is only interested in Jesus as The Logos prior to his time on Earth. Actually, Jesus could only have been conceived by the only method we know that works: boy and girl hoochie-coochie.
3. What was the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus? All are correct. Luke says Jesus and John were second cousins (1:36) and their mothers were close (1:56). The Gospel of John (1:31) says that John the Baptist didn’t know Jesus personally. Some scholars think Jesus was originally a member of John’s baptism cult.
4, When was Jesus born? a) and b) are both correct according to the gospels. Matthew places Jesus’ birth in Herod I’s reign, which ended when he died in 4BCE. Luke meanwhile dates it to Quirinius’ governorship of Syria, which was in 6 and 7CE. No wonder there are those who think Jesus may never have existed, so encrusted with myth and make-believe is he.
5. How did Mary end up giving birth in Bethlehem? The census is a contrivance to shift the birth to Bethlehem. There wasn’t a census of the kind described when Quirinius was governor of Syria, nor in 4BCE. Quirinius’ census was of property and would not have entailed the (mass) movement of people. Matthew seems to think M&J lived in Bethlehem all along. No-one else thinks so.
As the Bethlehem connection derives only from prophecy (Micah 5:2), it is likely Matthew and Luke located the birth there to show the ‘fulfilment’ of that prophecy. In other words, they invented it, as they do other ‘fulfilments’. It looks like a) is the only viable answer.
6. The Lord tells Mary to call her child… According to Matthew. Mary is meant to call the baby Immanuel, which, as the text helpfully informs us, means ‘God with us’. This is to make the story comply with Isaiah 7:14 which claims the Messiah will be called Immanuel. But Mary doesn’t call her baby Immanuel. She calls him Yeshua, meaning ‘God Saves’, which is not the same thing. How Matthew thinks this is a fulfilment of the Immanuel prophecy is anyone’s guess. When the gospels came to be written, Yeshua was rendered in Greek as Iesus and eventually in English as Jesus. Neither he nor his mother would have recognised this rendering.
7. Where did the family go following the birth? Again, all are correct according to the gospels. The family went on living in Bethlehem according to Matthew (2:7-11) but fled to Egypt according to Luke. Mark doesn’t appear to know either the Bethlehem or Egypt stories and refers only to Jesus coming from Nazareth.
8. Who preserved the songs of Zechariah, Mary and Simeon (Luke 1 & 2)? c) is correct. No oral tradition could possibly preserve the three carefully structured poems verbatim for 50 years. The hypothetical Q is conjectured to be a collection of Jesus’ sayings so the songs don’t come from there either. Luke or his community made them up.
9. Where is the prophecy, quoted by Matthew (2:23) that Jesus would be called a Nazarene? There is no such ‘prophecy’ anywhere in Jewish scripture nor in any extant writing: c) is correct once again.
10. Which is the most unbelievable part of the nativity stories of Matthew and Luke? That’s right. All of them are completely unbelievable.
How did you do? If you’re confused, don’t be. It’s the gospel writers who were. They made up stories about Jesus so that he complied with parts of Jewish scripture that seemed to them to be speaking of the Messiah. (John’s stories are a little different; they and Jesus’ tedious monologues were created to make him seem more like a Greek demi-god.)
Perhaps though I’m taking it all too literally, ‘like a fundamentalist’ as my self-appointed chief critic likes to say. I should perhaps accept it’s all just a metaphor, as he advises. Of course, when I do, he objects to that too; ‘A metaphor for what?’ he asks, forgetting he’s the one who believes the stories are ‘intended’ to be deeply meaningfully symbolic.
The muddled accounts arose as each gospel writers attempted to make an origin story for their hero based on scraps from Jewish scripture, Paul’s teaching and the emerging beliefs of their particular brand of the cult. They’d have got away with it too if some clever-dicks hadn’t decided, many decades later, to put their efforts side by side so their differences were laid bare for all to see: all the contradictions, inconsistencies, fallacies, anomalies and incompatible flights of fancy. Thank god the church kept their writings hidden away from most folks by preserving them in a language they couldn’t read.
That same critic will no doubt tell me I’m wrong again. ‘Everything happened as Matthew and Luke relate. There are no contradictions between them and the other two, Mark and John, had different priorities anyway.’ (See comments to this post here). He’ll tie himself in knots rather than admit the nativity stories are myth, as is everything that follows.
Have a happy Christmas, ya’ll. See you on the other side.