Escaping Shame: Mary's Dilemma and the Birthplace of Jesus


Author: N. Clayton Croy
The only narratives of Jesus’ birth locate the event in Bethlehem, but the adult Jesus is consistently associated with Nazareth. How do we reconcile these two indisputable facts? Some dismiss Bethlehem as a theologoumenon, a theological fabrication. Others insist on Bethlehem based on the census of Quirinius. In the present volume, N. Clayton Croy argues that both are wrong. Instead Jesus’ birthplace was determined by the scandalous nature of Mary’s pregnancy, with it being necessary for Mary and Joseph to escape the inevitable shame of an ill-timed conception and decamp to a less hostile environment. In this light, a Bethlehem-born Jesus who grew up in Nazareth should never have been considered problematic.

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N. Clayton Croy, PhD. (1995), Emory University, has taught at Trinity Lutheran Seminary (Columbus, OH), Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University, and Southern Nazarene University (Oklahoma City). He has written academic monographs, peer-reviewed articles, and textbooks, including A Primer of Biblical Greek.

1 The Birthplace of Jesus: The State of the Question
 1.1 Are Matthew and Luke Independent Sources?
 1.2 Two Stubborn Facts
 1.3 A Survey of Scholarly Opinions
 1.4 How Is the Bethlehem Tradition to Be Explained?

2 Modern Scholarship’s Explanation: A Theologoumenon
 2.1 Two Preliminary Observations
 2.2 Second Temple Messianic Expectations
 2.3 Interpretations of Micah 5:2
 2.4 New Testament Evidence of Jewish Messianic Views?

3 Luke’s Explanation: The Census under Quirinius
 3.1 Roman Censuses
 3.2 The Census of Quirinius
 3.3 A Grammatical Solution?
 3.4 Why Did Luke Tell the Story the Way He Did?
 3.5 A Theological Aside

4 An Alternative View: Travel Provoked by Shame
 4.1 Shame vis-à-vis “Illegitimate” Births: Greco-Roman Culture
 4.2 Shame vis-à-vis “Illegitimate” Births: Ancient Judaism
 4.3 Shame vis-à-vis “Illegitimate” Births: The Specific Case of Jesus
 4.4 The NT Evidence Intimating Scandal in the Conception of Jesus
 4.5 Other Early Christian Texts and the Scandalous Conception of Jesus
 4.6 Later Jewish Writings and the Conception of Jesus
 4.7 Summary: Shame – A Moving Experience
 4.8 A Second Theological Aside
 4.9 A Constantinian Coda

5 “Jesus of Nazareth, Born in Bethlehem.” Is This a Problem?
 5.1 Commonsense Observations about Mobility
 5.2 The Semantics of the Key Term
 5.3 Philosophical and Poetic Reflections on One’s Homeland
 5.4 Ancient Persons associated with Cities Other Than Their Birthplaces
 5.5 Summary

6 Conclusion
Scholars of New Testament and early Christianity, graduate students, seminarians, and pastors.