Dr Rowan Williams has claimed there was little evidence that the Magi even existed and there was certainly nothing to prove there were three of them or that they were kings.
Dr Williams argued that the traditional Christmas story was nothing but a ‘legend.’
He said the only reference to the wise men from the East was in Matthew’s gospel and the details were very vague.
Dr Williams said: “Matthew’s gospel says they are astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire, that’s all we’re really told. It works quite well as legend.”
The Archbishop went on to dispel other details of the Christmas story, adding that there were probably no asses or oxen in the stable.
He argued that Christmas cards which showed the Virgin Mary cradling the baby Jesus, flanked by shepherds and wise men, were misleading. As for the scenes that depicted snow falling in Bethlehem, the Archbishop said the chance of this was “very unlikely”.
In a final blow to the traditional nativity story, Dr Williams concluded that Jesus was probably not born in December at all. He said: “Christmas was when it was because it fitted well with the winter festival.”
I’m not a Bible scholar, although I’m aware that many serious ones support Williams’ assertion about the season of Jesus’ birth. I also know the account of the magi in Matthew 2, and Williams is correct: It’s pretty vague.
So it’s not the soundness of William’s conjecture I necessarily object to; my problem is with Williams’ insistence on saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, all the time. Where, for example, is Dr. Williams’ criticism of the kookiness in the Koran, whenever Ramadan rolls around?
Remind me never to ask him to play along about Santa around children.
Having had an opportunity to see the entire interview, it is obvious, as I note in my comments below, that the Telegraph misquoted the Archbishop. He does not deny that the Magi existed as historical figures. He simply disputes the traditional extra-biblical numbers and ethnic variety assigned to them.
This is quite comforting and, as I said yesterday (see below), I withdraw my criticism as it was based on the Telegraph’s misquote.
But that was not my sole objection (again, see below). The Archbishop;s assertion that belief in the Virgin conception and birth of Jesus is not a necessary element of saving faith is as false as it is troublesome. To deny Christ’s Virgin birth is on the same level as a denial of his Resurrection. Both are clearly taught in scripture and they must be believed by all who call themselves Christian.