Thursday 7 December 2017

The Non-Existent Donkey, the Stable, the Unknown Birthday and the Extra Apostles or Too Few Disciples - Christmas with the Independent

The Independent announces that the British public don't know anything about Christmas, by proving it knows nothing about Christmas.

It tells us (you can follow the link, or I can save you the trouble):

That " one in five Brits do not know that Jesus was born on Christmas Day"

Now, first up, that should be "one in five Brits does not know. But why waste our time with minor pedantry when there's much more major pedantry?  We have no idea which day of the year Jesus was born. The suggestion that the date was stolen from another Roman religion is almost certainly pure earwash. The idea that it's to coincide with a British solar feast - when the date was first defined in the area of Rome, not Stonehenge - is even more likely to be rubbish. But the Bible doesn't tell us what the date was. Not a mention. Doesn't even say if there was a particularly gloomy episode of Eastenders that day.

"10 per cent were unaware he was born in a stable"

Fair enough. Well done the 10%. I'm not aware that he was born in a stable. He was laid in a manger - but that was likely to have been in the ground floor of a house, not a distant, lowly cattle shed.

"One in 20 couldn’t name Mary and Joseph as Jesus’s parents"

Again, call me old fashioned. But I don't think Joseph was his parent. Stepfather, sure. Great all-round bloke who brought him up as his own, while being slightly nervous lest his real dad thought he wasn't doing it right - yeah. Parent?  Don't think that's what the Bible says.

While 85 per cent believe Jesus spoke Hebrew, just three per cent were aware that he is also said to have spoken Greek."

Seems nobody knew his mother tongue was actually Aramaic. Greek is a strong possibility, but I'm not sure it's actually mentioned. And yes, he clearly read Hebrew. But maybe didn't speak it like a native.

"20 per cent [were] unaware he had 12 disciples. One in five had no idea that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were four of them."

So where do we start? He had lots of disciples. He had 12 apostles. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were either one, none or two of them. Definitely not four. Mark and Luke are notable missing from all the lists of the apostles. I suppose arguably Mark might have been one of the many disciples, but probably not. And Luke almost certainly not. And the people that wrote Matthew and John's Gospels may or may not have been the same as the apostles. Or they might have just had their names stuck on the books later.  A bit hard to tell, as the titles themselves came after the books were written.

Finally, "just eight in ten knew that a shepherd, star and donkey had starring roles in the story of Jesus’ birth"

What donkey? The one on Palm Sunday? There ain't one in the Nativity narratives.

So there you are. The Independent. Wallowing in ignorance. While accusing everybody else of the same thing.  There's a quiz, but I wouldn't take it. I suspect you won't be able to trust the answers.

Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!


  1. You were right about the quiz.

  2. Still, at least there were reindeer, snowmen and Christmas trees in the New Testament narrative.

  3. I was very surprised to learn that Our Lord was a Stonemason from the Quiz. I wonder where they got that from? And as you write above, the language of Aramaic does not even feature in the question relating to language and as I typed in 'other' it was marked incorrect!

    The BBC has had its share of incorrect statements too.I remember one presenter on BBC 4 who was an Art Historian saying that 'Easter was the date that Christ died.' Some historian!

    1. Reasonable translation, actually. He could have been either stonemason, carpenter, or maybe a but of both.

  4. Name the 12 Apostles: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Adam, Eve, Esau, Jacob, David, Goliath, Pontius Pilate. I knew I could do it.

  5. I'm sure there's a Prancer and dancer in there.

  6. Bruvver Eccles, you missed out Donner and Blitzen.


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