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Social History at its Best
In 2006 Ken and I noticed that another movie was produced about the birth of Jesus. I thought "Ho Hum," here we go again. Why would we want to watch another remake of the nativity story? But, was I wrong! Please…be sure to rent or purchase The Nativity Story produced by Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, New Line Cinema. This is what we are using to teach our Fiskso ladies at the Gospel Rescue Mission about the birth of Christ this season. It is a special film that every family should see.
Joys of Social History
Social or cultural history was my favorite subject in graduate school. It answered questions about New Testament times such as where did families live? What did families eat? How did they cook? What kind of crops did they grow? How were children taught in school? How or where did they worship?
First-century Nazareth or Bethlehem
In The Nativity Story our Gospel Rescue Mission ladies will see what Nazareth and Bethlehem most likely looked like in first-century Israel. They will see that homes were probably stone caverns often set against hillsides where families lived with goats, chickens, stone wells, wine presses and other features of daily life. This is the daily life that Jesus probably experienced.
Oral History - Recitation Like AWANA or CEF Today
How is it that Jewish children learned the bible without the aid of bible books such as we possess today? Ah…students were taught by rote. They recited favorite verses over and over until the children memorized entire books of the Old Testament:
…"but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice…" (1 Kings 19:11-13, NKJV).
Surprisingly, this is very much like the teaching of organizations such as AWANA and Child Evangelism Fellowship here in our country today.
While some viewers criticized Mary's "flat affect" or little display of emotion in the film, this is exactly how the first-century Jewish female child would have behaved! Jewish women were taught to be obedient and quiet at home or in social gatherings. They did not voice their opinions as do our 21st century female counterparts. In fact, our only criticism of the film is the anachronistic portrayal of Mary's concerns about being forced to marry someone she did not love. No first-century Jewish female would have even questioned an "arranged" marriage.
A Young Child Pregnant Out of Wedlock?
Mary was appropriately presented as 13 or 14 years of age. In her seeming condition of "pregnancy out of wedlock" it is a miracle that Mary was not stoned to death by the authorities, something the film brought to our attention.
History tells us that a few thought that Mary might have conceived a child due to rape by a Roman soldier. However, the ancillary evidences and biblical prophecies such as the star over Bethlehem, the wisemen from the East and the 500 year old prophecies concerning the coming Messiah support the Matthew and Luke stories of the nativity. (Be sure to read Micah 5:2; Isa 7:14; Isa. 9:6; Zech. 9:9 and Daniel 9:24-26, etc., for yourself).
Do yourself a favor and watch the film with us this year as we celebrate Christmas. It is a story about God becoming flesh and walking among us. We know that it won't be long before this Messiah returns for us!
Gospels of Luke and Matthew, chapters one and two.
Nazareth Village. www.nazarethvillage.com.
Rich, Mike. 2006. The nativity story. (DVD). Produced by Bowen, Marty and Wyck Godfrey. USA: New Line Cinema.
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