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Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 months ago

In these secular, consumerist times, it is truer now than it has ever been: if you take a Christ out of Christmas, then all you’re left with is M&S

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Oh excellent, must remember that one

ryan simpson
ryan simpson
3 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

very good..

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
3 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

On form today, Sir!

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
3 months ago

You can always count on some gasbag to sh** on Christianity at this time of year, claiming to debunk or at least asserting that “we don’t really know” if biblical events are facts. Weird how we never see similar articles during Ramadan.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
3 months ago

Excellent point!! They sh** on Christmas (and hence Christianity) because (1) they CAN without being beheaded, and (2) it helps destroy the foundations of western society, which is what all modern day hipsters and neo Marxists never tire of doing.

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago

If you want unquestioning acceptance of your personal beliefs, why do you read secular websites?
You might find it ‘triggering’, but most people, in my country at least, don’t belief Biblical events are facts. Maybe you should cancel this site, and stick to strictly theological ones?

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

John, aren’t you being a bit of a plonker here – are you claiming UnHerd as a site for atheists? I thought it was for an audience who is sick to death of the NEW York Times et al. and Wokish Orthodoxy ? Besides, it’s Christmas- when all the world’s secular hounds come to horn.

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  Richard Pearse

I’m not assuming it’s a site for atheists at all, and noting Ive said suggests that.
But neither would I assume it’s specifically a site for Christians- it’s supposed to be (though you wouldn’t know it from the group-think exhibited in the comments usually) a site for unorthodox and intelligent thinking of all persuasions.

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  Richard Pearse

To be honest, Richard, I’ve been naive.
I’m new to Unherd, and I was attracted to the selling point of a broad, independantly-minded set of articles. What I didn’t realise was that the reader comments are a very different thing- almost uniformly and predictably orthodox right-wing bubble-think, an echo-chamber just as narrow as the Guardian or the Telegraph.
I will, in future, continue to read the articles (I’ve paid my fee now, after all), many of which are intelligent and original, but leave the comments to the bubble-folk to congratulate each other on their correct thinking and eviscerate anyone who doesn’t toe the line.

Andy O'Gorman
Andy O'Gorman
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

My what a self indulging [email protected] you are.
Merry Christmas.

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy O'Gorman

Gosh, you’ve just proven me wrong about the quality of comments here.
Merry Christmas, Andy.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

“Gosh, you’ve just proven me wrong about the quality……”

American by any chance?

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy O'Gorman

And how Christian of you! An example to all.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

Are you sure you haven’t been here before? Perhaps under another name?

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago

No- why do you say that? Is a dissenting opinion really that rare here? Or is it because I am, in the erudite and Chritsian words of your fellow thinkers here, a t**t, a shit and an a**s?
And no, not American- an Americanism slipped in.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

Thanks I’m afraid that post hadn’t arrived by the time I replied.

Anyway what a relief! You will have to pay more attention to your syntax.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

Interesting analysis which inspired me to ask why it is that Unheard comments attract “predictably orthodox right-wing bubble-think” in your view. Perhaps it is that the thought-provoking material found at this site does not conform sufficiently to the the orthodoxy of “progressive” narratives, and so it is ultimately of little interest to the left.

Brett H
Brett H
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

I find aetheists triggered more easily than believers.

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  Brett H

Tell that to someone being stoned to death or burned at the stake for blasphemy.

Brett H
Brett H
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

Triggered.

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  Brett H

Eh? My God, these comments are lame. You’ll be saying ‘LOLS’ next.

James Stangl
James Stangl
2 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

And which faith is currently doing that?

Face it, your ability to even dis Christmas and orthodox Christian beliefs is because our Western society still relies on a veneer of Judeo-Christian morality. Try doing the same to Islam or Hinduism in a majority Muslim country or India, and good luck.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

Isn’t there a bit of a gulf between unquestioning acceptance and smug dismissiveness or agenda-driven contempt?

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Yes- absolutely.
Which is why some of the knee-jerk ‘no-platforming’ in the comments here over an intelligent if slightly provocative article is so depressing.
There is no “contempt” in this article, unless you desperately want to fid it- which it seems some do, for some reason.

Andy O'Gorman
Andy O'Gorman
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

It was an interesting read – not profound in the least! Was not going to comment on the article until I scrolled down and read your a**l comment.

Last edited 3 months ago by Andy O'Gorman
John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy O'Gorman

‘a**l’? Is that the word you’re struggling to say?
An odd choice, but it continues the intellectual brilliance of the comments so far- a**l, p***k, shit, t**t….it’s like playtime in the remedials’ school yard today. Educational.
Happy Christmas.

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  Andy O'Gorman

Ah- I didn’t realise the site prudishly cuts naughty words- except ‘shit’, for some reason.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

I admit that contempt is too strong a word. I was pushing back against your seemingly presumptuous phrase “unquestioning acceptance”.
Eagleton is a bit cheeky and given to (rather generalized) mockery, but then again so am I if I’m honest, and that’s part of what makes him readable.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

Hey, Merry Christmas, John! May the spirit of the season follow you into the new year and beyond!

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago

Thankyou. And you too.

Brett H
Brett H
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

“most people, in my country at least, don’t belief Biblical events are facts.”
What country is that?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago

Because it is approximately 630 years younger and quite obviously complete nonsense.

Last edited 3 months ago by stanhopecharles344
Chris Hudson
Chris Hudson
3 months ago

A strange mix of speculation and poor scholarship, based on Western assumptions..
1. The accounts never mention ‘a stable’.
2. Ditto, Mary Magdalene being a prostitute.
3. Ditto, the ‘winter’ journey.
4. Jewish messianic prophecies also mention a ‘suffering servant’, not just a military leader.
Anyone wanting a more scholarly unpacking of the Nativity should go to Ian Paul’s ‘Psephizo’ blog at
https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/challenging-christmas-myths-in-mission-and-ministry/.

Last edited 3 months ago by Chris Hudson
John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris Hudson

Why “western assumptions”?
Moreover, whether or not the gospels mention a stable or winter is hardly of any great importance to the point of the article.

Chris Hudson
Chris Hudson
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

Re Western assumptions: we assume M&J travelled alone. In Traditional cultures then as often now, travel took place in groups. A pregnant woman would have been accompanied by other women who ‘knew what to do’. Joseph would be with the men. On arrival in Bethlehem, Joseph had family who would have found room, although the guest room (mistranslated as ‘inn’) was full. Jesus’ birth took place, not in a lonely cattleshed…but in a place of hospitality, full of people. Terry’s point about the subversive nature of the Nativity holds true… but it challenges our Western sense of family and community as well. Read Ian Paul for more on this. Happy Christmas!

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris Hudson

You seem to know a great deal about Christ’s birth- rather more than is rationally justifiable.
I take your point about the norms of most traditional societies- but stating “Jesus’ birth took place…..in a place of hospitality, full of people” is an entirely evidenceless assertion, as is “Joseph had family”- not only do you not know that, but it misses the entire point, which is that the journey almost certainly would never have been made in the first place, and was probably invented to fit earlier prophesies.

Chris Hudson
Chris Hudson
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

To the main point…was there a journey at all? Censuses for tax purposes were common and intermittent in different Roman provinces, but Nazareth wasn’t part of Governor Quirinius’ remit, unlike Bethlehem. The only reason for Joseph to make that journey would be because he had ancestral property in Bethlehem being ‘of the house of David’. If he did, then it would be a case of turn up, or be considered a rebel. (Tax rebellions could turn violent.) So he decided to turn up. Mary, of course, didn’t have to go with him. In the narrative, she does, for reasons unknown.
So we then enter the question of whether we want to believe it or not, with all the supernatural elements of angel messengers, etc The story can’t be ‘proved’, but the historical background is credible enough.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

“You seem to know a great deal about Christ’s birth- rather more than is rationally justifiable”

What an extraordinarily ‘chippy’ remark! Almost as if you actually resent Chris Hudson’s exhaustive knowledge of his chosen subject.

You must be an exceedingly ill-educated fellow, and might I suggest you return to your friends on Twitter or wherever. You will be much happier I can assure you!
Happy Christmas!

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago

Well, what a charming fellow you are!
For a start, no-one’s knowledge of anything that happened two millennia ago in an obscure part of the Roman Empire can be “exhaustive”, by definition. Much of it is speculation.
Secondly, whatever Chris Hudson’s knowledge of the subject, it cannot, logically, extend to ‘knowing’ how many people were present at a particular illiterate person’s birth, or whether on not that person’s father had family in that town- particularly as he is claiming that the only written evidence we do have of either of these things is false.
I’m not saying he’s wrong- I’m asking how he knows this. Your rather hysterical reaction is merely silly. Still, at least you have yet to resort to direct personal abuse, as quite a few of your fellow intellectuals here have done- yet.
Happy Christmas, too.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

Firstly may I ask if you are an American? It may explain your sad predicament.

Secondly, you are all too obviously a contrarian who has recently ‘parachuted’ into this site to cause mischief. Is that not so?

If you wish to be taken seriously you will have to “up your game’. Having an inferiority complex is simply NO excuse old chap.

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago

You’ve already asked that particular non-sequitur Charles, and I’ve answered it.
Otherwise, you don’t actually seem to have a point, dear- perhaps you could try again, in the context of the actual discussion and the words therein.
Otherwise, have a sit down and a sherry: you seem to be working yourself up into a lather for no clear reason.
Pip pip!

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

Sorry for the excessive ‘otherwises’, too much sherry myself.
Must “up my game” at this temple to the intellect- to the giddy Socratic heights of calling people “anuses” and “twats”, no doubt.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

Steady on Ms Holland it can’t be that bad?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

You haven’t, (probably for the obvious reason), answered my polite query as to whether you are an American. After all who else would say “you’ve just proven me wrong “ rather you’ve just proved me wrong? (answer to Andy O’Gorman, 4 hours ago.)

So far today you have made some 20 asinine statements on this thread alone! Including this wonderfully conceited: remark:
“I’ve been naive.
I’m new to Unherd, and I was attracted to the selling point of a broad, independantly-minded set of articles. What I didn’t realise was that the reader comments are a very different thing- almost uniformly and predictably orthodox right-wing bubble-think, an echo-chamber just as narrow as the Guardian or the Telegraph.”

What a frightful transparently pseudo ‘intellectual’ you really are. Try some Bromide in your tea and shuffle of back to the Guardian, or wherever it is you came from, they need people like you.

O and by the way do try and have a Happy Christmas.

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago

My God, what an ass you are Charles- wonderful! Top marks for amusement value whilst stewing the red cabbage.
The sheer witlessness of responding to my complaint about the group-think of the Guardian comments with “go back to the Guardian” displays a quite breathtaking level of confusion and obtuseness. Perhaps you are being parodic, in which case I salute your effort.
Otherwise, Charlie, calm down, take a few deep breaths, and remove the seasonal holly wreath from your arse- it will afford you much relief.
Ok, now you’ve done that, try to meaningfully engage with something- anything- from the above exchange about the epistemological nature of the OP’s claims. Go on, Chas, give it a go- you know you can, if you just stop ranting like a drunken tramp for a moment, and engage the old brain.
See you Christmas morning for sherry and mince pies!
PS, no I’m not American. Although given the number of posters here who clearly are (mostly of the swivel-eyed Trumpist variety), that seems an odd thing to get you all flustered.

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

Oh, by the way- I do love the fact that you are so frothingly, hilariously furious about someone being supposedly “contrarian” on a website called ‘Unherd’, the pun in the name being a boast about its ‘mission’ to be outside the orthodox, of ‘group-think’, of, in fact, the ‘herd’.
I’m sure you appreciate the irony of your confusion. Don’t you?

Darwin K Godwin
Darwin K Godwin
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

Boorish.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

You only demean yourself by such a vulgar rant.
Try harder next year, there’s a good fellow.

Last edited 3 months ago by stanhopecharles344
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

Thanks I’m afraid that post hadn’t arrived by the time I replied. Anyway what a relief! You will have to pay more attention to your syntax in future.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris Hudson

Do you belong to an epistemology where Western is a euphemism for “bad” and non-Western a synonym for “better”?

Chris Hudson
Chris Hudson
3 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

No… But it helps to see other perspectives. Many dismiss the significance of the Nativity because of fanciful additions to the narrative since it was first written (Three kings, donkey, stable etc). Terry slips into that a little, but his overall point about the story’s subversion theme is a little off-beam. From what we know, M&I weren’t necessarily members of a poor underclass. They certainly were part of a strong community that did most things together because that’s how you survive. The theological point is that the Messiah is born into a place of welcome, not rejection or isolation…. which is how we tend to see it in the West on countless illustrations.

Don Phillipson
Don Phillipson
3 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

It helps to remember this event took place before the modern opposition between Western and Oriental thought had appeared. Jews were a peculiar religious minority in a coherent and familiar world framed by Persian empires to the east and Rome to the west, unified by the Greek lingua franca around all the shores of the Mediterranean (including Syria and Judaea) and by omnipresent Roman governors and garrisons.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
3 months ago
Reply to  Don Phillipson

That’s valid. The Greeks usually get more credit for humane qualities, but their term for foreigners was “barbarian”–akin to “gibberish speakers” (bar-bar-bar), and Rome in some respects may have been less ethnocentric than modern Western folk.

Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
3 months ago

Assuming much of this article is ‘tongue in cheek’, pour épater les bourgeois at Christmastide, I will only take one issue with one bit: the notion that, because Jesus was not a secular military leader, he could not be the Messiah.

That was exactly the point about the claim that he was; he didn’t fit the mold but indubitably, to his disciples (and I am one of them) wanted to lead people in a different direction. I see the distinction as one of analogy: in the older Jewish tradition, the model of leadership was the kingly, military one and therefore the conception of what the Messiah would be like, followed. What Jesus did, or rather his disciples did in the years after his death, was posit a different sort of leadership, moral, ethical, and spiritual, and say that is what the true Messiah was, and is.

There have been many different ‘messiahs’, and many different forms of leadership, but Jesus offered a distinct and universal model which many have followed, and found whole.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Yours

Simon

Alan B
Alan B
3 months ago
Reply to  Simon Diggins

It seems to me that the very idea of “the secular” is the product of one interpretation of Jesus’ ironic “messiah”-hood. (D.L. Dusenbury recently made this case in “The Innocence of Pontius Pilate”.) If so, then Eagleton’s use of the secular-sacred division is anachronistic.

Jonathan Patrick
Jonathan Patrick
3 months ago

I am constantly amazed how modern day atheists can raise objections that have been known, discussed and resolved for ages and think they have said something new. It is like they haven’t even begun to engage the literature that they are professing to critique.

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago

Well, now’s your chance to explain……

Brett H
Brett H
3 months ago
Reply to  John Holland

But Jonathon is right. It really is quite tiresome.

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  Brett H

Oh. Thanks for explaining.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
3 months ago

I’m a modern day atheist. The three supposed proofs which I know of of the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent creator are the Arguments from Design and Cosmology, and the Ontological Argument. In my opinion all three arguments fail, for reasons which I won’t bother to explore here. Moreover, although it can equally be said that no supposed proof of the OO&OC’s non-existence succeeds, nevertheless I find quite persuasive a methodological argument based on Ockham’s Razor, to the effect that reasoners ought to be atheists. Having said all of which, I entirely respect religious faith and wouldn’t dream of arguing against it.

Last edited 3 months ago by Drahcir Nevarc
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
3 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

You are therefore not a dogmatic or crusading atheist. Do you reject the label of agnostic? There’s a significant distinction between uncertainty that any God exists and a professed knowledge that no God can exist. I don’t know how faith can be proven beyond inner, subjective conviction or the inborn sense of a higher purpose and intelligence that most humans possess–arguably only according to their conditioning alone, but I don’t think so. If something were irrefutable or even established enough to almost satisfy a rigid empiricist, it would no longer be faith.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“You are therefore not a dogmatic or crusading atheist.”
Thank you. In fact as a conservative, I’m actually very much in favour of the practice of religion, for sociological reasons.
“Do you reject the label of agnostic?”
Yes. An atheist is a person who believes that there is no god, whereas an agnostic is a person who neither believes that there is nor that there isn’t a god, and I fall into the former camp.
“There’s a significant distinction between uncertainty that any God exists and a professed knowledge that no God can exist.”
I agree that there is a significant difference between atheism and agnosticism, but with respect your characterisation of atheism is too strong. Atheism at least as I define it is merely the belief, not the professed knowledge, that there is no god.

Serge Vandenplas
Serge Vandenplas
3 months ago

Wow, that photograph with Jezus next to the mass murderer Che, just wow.

Alan B
Alan B
3 months ago

Have you seen the photos of Che’s death, which (unwittingly) reference Mantegna’s “Lamentation of Christ”?

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
3 months ago

Oh come on, you know that’s not fair. Che only murdered 5 times as many people as Pinochet.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

If I may say so, très drôle! But spot on!

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
3 months ago

Thank you. I really don’t think we should indulge our white Western cavils against someone whom Mao out-murdered by a factor of roughly 5,000 to 1.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 months ago

Having just passed through the bizarre bureaucracy of the lockdown it is very believable that the Roman system would make everybody return to their birthplace to be counted, it is mild confirmed with what we have endured – no restriction on to one hours donkey riding per day, no rule of six. In any case not many people would have ever left their birthplace. (like Canterbury or Oxford intend to become I guess – “stay in your zone”.
Amusing article but based on very little knowledge of the subject.

John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

I’m really struggling to find a meaningful connection here between Roman census laws and Covid lockdown strategies- I’m sure there’s one somewhere, if only in your head.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
3 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Lockdown rules would have prevented me returning to my place of birth, seeing as I’m an immigrant.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
3 months ago

The author fails the mention the most obvious anomaly, which is the date of the birth of Jesus. No-one has a clue what his date of birth was.
His penultimate sentence is the most relevant: that the feast that we now celebrate as Christmas – shortly after the winter solstice would’ve become confirmed from time immemorial – is a cause for renewed hope, which springs eternal every year.
Many generations of peasants working the fields, for centuries on end until the modern era, and dependent on the eventual coming of Spring and the ability to sow their fields in order to survive, would’ve understood that hope irrespective of any religious connotations. We shouldn’t betray their thankless effort by losing it.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Note that, according to Tom Holland in his masterpiece about the history of Christianity “Dominion” , the timing of Jesus’ birth has nothing to do with the winter solstice (probably no snow in Bethlehem ?) or accommodating pagan rituals.

Rather, it’s simply calculating 9 months from when Mary met Elizabeth (pregnant with the Baptist) and Mary realized she was “great with child”. I forget how he calculates that date, but the gospel gives definite clues as to what time of year it was. Just sayin’.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
3 months ago
Reply to  Richard Pearse

That’s fair enough, admirable even, although the point about shepherds tending their flocks by night during Spring is a contrary argument. The more important point is that the winter solstice has been celebrated since time immemorial, and it certainly suited the early Church to tag onto this turning point in all our lives.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Christmas is the most wonderful story for all mankind: The Light of the World was born in the longest and darkest night amongst animals in a stable. How beautiful! Was it historical? Who cares…

Last edited 3 months ago by Stephanie Surface
Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The “spring” was when Elizabeth felt John Baptista stirring in her womb; “winter” weather in Bethlehem is different from Christmas in, say, London.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
3 months ago
Reply to  Richard Pearse

I wouldn’t be inclined to make assumptions about someone’s understanding (or not) of comparative weather patterns between the UK and the Middle East. The settling upon 25 December as the date to celebrate the birth of Christ is entirely down to its pagan festive origins. Even the (moving) date of Easter wasn’t settled until the Synod of Whitby in 664.

Ari Dale
Ari Dale
3 months ago

What a bizarre salad of secular puffery memes. Not education, not thought-provoking. Ho hum.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
3 months ago

“Have yourself a countercultural Christmas”

No.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
3 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Quite. I’m sticking to the tried and tested version of a big roast dinner (with a swift half in the pub while it cooks), well aged Claret, Christmas pud and a cheese board. Good health and a merry Christmas to all!

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
3 months ago

I’m actually a Christmas refusenik of about 35 years standing, and am presently avoiding it in the Canaries. However, now that the woketurds have added it to their list of heritage targets, I feel like defending it as an institution.

Brett H
Brett H
3 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

I’m very much with you there.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
3 months ago
Reply to  Brett H

Viva la contrarevolucion!

R Kays
R Kays
3 months ago

A thought on the Roman edict (in this province) for head-of-family to return to place of birth to be counted.

Jewish (Israelite) culture was fixated on genealogy. Tribal/family affiliation was critical in their religio-political structure. It was necessary to know, say, who was descended from Issachar, or Reuben, or Levi. On the most basic level, tribal and family land ownership depended upon genealogical accuracy.

It was also essential for identifying the Jewish Messiah foretold in scripture (remember … NT nonexistent at time of Christ; so Jewish scriptures were replete with Messianic prophecy).

Without these genealogies it would have been impossible to parse that the Old Covenant Levitical priesthood would of necessity give way to the New Covenant priesthood in Judah (from which Yeshua/Jesus descended). See Jeremiah 31:31-33.

The Romans were not stupid. They understood that scrupulous genealogical records were kept in the synagogues in every Jewish town. Census accuracy could therefore be increased by matching physical bodies to scrupulous records kept by the Jews (unsure how the author could miss this).

Quite logical/intelligent of Rome to decree the “Return Home” edict in this particular corner of their empire — where doing so made perfect sense and aided their cause.

As to the rest of the blasphemous blather from this author, consider the source: Secular humanist, full of self aggrandizement, and bereft of the Holy Spirit who could reveal the truth to this blind man.

Even so — Christ died for the author, so great was God’s love for him, not wanting him to perish but to have life everlasting.

Amazing irony.

Last edited 3 months ago by R K
Bruce Lewis
Bruce Lewis
3 months ago
Reply to  R Kays

Eagleton, though a Marxist, is also a type of Roman Catholic. What type? Ever heard of “liberation theology”?

Iris C
Iris C
3 months ago

It is always good to read articles like this at Christmas time.
I have enjoyed two programmes on television recently – Lachlan Gaudie’s “Painting the Holy Land” (BBC4 on the 20th) and Waldemar Janazzeski’s “The Mystery of the Nativity” (Sky Arts also on the 20th) which I am sure some of your readers would enjoy even if they do not have a strong faith. It is all part of our heritage..

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
3 months ago

The whole Christian story is a superb example of brilliant manipulation by the late Roman ‘ civil service’ to give their tottering Empire a new mission statement.

It is master class of hope over expectation, and it is still working!

Nunc est bibendum!

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
3 months ago

Indeed it is. I started at lunchtime.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
3 months ago

I am presently about a third of the way through a pleasingly vulgar blue-hued vodka-based cocktail.

Will James
Will James
3 months ago

Not sure I agree that Jesus failed “politically”. If Jesus had any agenda, it was not to displace Roman rule or become a worldly king. He was fulfilling providence that was in some sense above mere temporal politics. In this he was successful, of course, even if success takes the form of truth and goodness hanging dead on a cross. The success was of lasting symbolic and spiritual importance within our hopeless temporal existence. At least, that’s the idea upon the suspension of disbelief.

Last edited 3 months ago by Will James
Al Phlandon
Al Phlandon
3 months ago

I am saddened to read so much snark and vitriol in the comments to this article. Can people not discuss and disagree without taking things personally?

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
3 months ago

Is Unherd turning into Twitter?? The rudeness is quite unpleasant so I didn’t read to the end of the 100 comments. Unless there’s lots of men claiming to be women it seems there are very very few comments from women…. Less than usual assume they’re all doing Christmas…?

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
3 months ago

I’d always envisaged Joseph as a “yeoman” type – a relatively prosperous craftsman with tools and a workshop, who can afford to travel a considerable distance accompanied by his pregnant wife on a donkey

ryan simpson
ryan simpson
3 months ago

Did enjoy this piece. Amusing in places but thought provoking, too. Season’s Greetings and thank you for the piece

Peter A
Peter A
3 months ago

I note you refer to Joseph as Jesus’ father. An episode of Family Guy has a surly adolescent Jesus shouting at Joseph, “You’re not even my real dad”.

polidori redux
polidori redux
3 months ago

I had assumed that Terry Eagleton had long since passed on.
Seems not. A cry from the distant past.

John Paul
John Paul
2 months ago

Yes, Mary’s child was executed by the occupying imperial power. The Jews.

Nicholas Rowe
Nicholas Rowe
3 months ago

The most charming part of the Gospel accounts is the mention that Jesus had sisters. They are of course unnamed, unlike his some of His brothers. Perhaps He had a kid sister, one who followed His career with tender devotion but at a necessary distance, given the culture of the times.
Seek and ye shall find. This is an explanation of how the world works. It is also a most solemn promise. Mr Eagleton wants us to discover – find – the true egalitarianism of Christmas. Well, if you want to find egalitarianism, you can. If you want to find something else, you can find that too.
There’s this guy. He wants to find reasons for not believing in Christianity. So, he finds them. They might be in science, in Darwin, in the death of his child. Or in almost anything. If someone else wants to find reasons to believe in Christianity, they can find them almost everywhere, even in the death of their child. As C S Lewis has Aslan say in the Narnia stories, paraphrasing the Jesus: All find what they truly seek.
There’s this other guy. He wants to find egalitarianism, the spirit of the age in which he lives. He could find it in the deist philosophers and revolutionaries of the 18th century. He could find it in Thomas Payne, “We have the power to make the world anew.”
But he doesn’t want to throw Jesus out with the baubles of the Magi or the mass-produced plastic angels. After all, it’s Christmas. So, he makes the Gospels anew. He does so by decking Jesus and all the other associated figures out in the clothing of the spirit of the age in which he lives. They fit in just so well with the twenty-first century like that. Though he doesn’t realise that in wanting to find egalitarianism, he has let egalitarianism find him.
If anyone looks carefully at the account of Jesus’s meeting with the foreign woman who petitions Him about her sick daughter, it is evident that this is not an announcement of egalitarianism. Rather, it’s a statement about the primacy of Jesus’s own religion. The ‘crumbs’, the ‘ends of the loaf’ that the diners have cleaned their hands, on are given to the ‘dogs’. The connection between dog and diner is the bread, the analogy Jesus uses to justify helping the woman, but there’s a superior part eaten by the diner (His own people) and an inferior eaten by the dogs (everyone else).
If you wished, from this account you could discover – find – that Jesus was a Powellite. “Go not among the Gentiles”, Jesus tells His followers (Matthew 10:5). The Greeks in the colonist city in the hills above Nazareth still breathed the air from somewhere else, even after centuries. Judea is to be made great again, it’s just that the disciples are not to know the time (Acts 1:6-7). So that the sovereignty of Judea can be established, the coins bearing Caesar’s effigy must be taken out of the Temple to the place where the emperor is (Matthew 22:21). 

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
3 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rowe

I agree that this political or tribal dimension is part of the Gospels, but not in the one-sided or uncomplicated way that you’ve implied. And since we both think that what is or purports to be divinely-inspired can be fallible: Not every sometimes-conflicting word attributed to Jesus in the canonical writings has to be authentic, expressing only what Jesus himself believed–correct?
To assert or imply that he was just a sort of nationalist revolutionary is to ignore his radical compassion, the key parable of the Good Samaritan (a non-Hebrew), and his unworldliness that was nevertheless courageously engaged with the world, to his mortal peril. Leaving aside the Christmas story in particular, you’re mistaken to claim that Jesus made no “extra-tribal” outreach. But to your valid point concerning finding what you seek, Stuart Chase observed: “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible”. The slight-hyperbole of this truism applies to more than supernatural claims alone.
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “ Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith [as the Roman centurion], no, not in Israel. And I say unto you that many will come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be cast into out darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth –Matthew 8:10-12 [KJV]
Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had–Luke 21:3-4
Have a Merry Christmas or happy alternate holiday–if any–and a good remainder of the calendar year.

Last edited 3 months ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
3 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rowe

[Thought my earlier comment mightn’t be approved, for whatever reason]

Last edited 3 months ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
3 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rowe

[This was a re-framing of a previous comment I thought wouldn’t be approved, but it just took many hours. Sorry for the impatient over-posting.]

Last edited 3 months ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
3 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rowe

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also; and also greater works than these he will do, because I go to my Father”–John 14:12
Is that egalitarian–or at least non-hierarchical–enough for ya?

Last edited 3 months ago by AJ Mac
John Holland
John Holland
3 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rowe

Goodness me- you’ve really struggled to shoehorn your politics into that little bit of the Gospels.
Top marks for effort, if nothing else.

Ginny Grinevitch
Ginny Grinevitch
3 months ago

Brilliant! Just what I needed this morning.

Andy O'Gorman
Andy O'Gorman
3 months ago

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!