Teaching Information Literacy Using the Bible (or, Is Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem “Fake News”?)

cobra662 (Posted by) Level 3
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It has been a long while since I radically revised my one-semester course on the Bible to focus on information literacy. The has, however, almost entirely focused on the wise use of sources about the Bible, and not what we can learn about bias and trustworthiness from within the Bible itself. But the Bible includes religious and political propaganda, and claims that are most likely historically counterfactual. As one commenter put it when responding to a post about Jesus’ birthplace being Nazareth rather than Bethlehem, the claim that he was born in Bethlehem is “fake news.”

We can see this in the way each of the two Gospels in the New Testament that tries to have Jesus of Nazareth be born in Bethlehem accomplishes it in very different ways. Here is what I wrote about that subject on Facebook yesterday (in a discussion of a blog post of mine from a previous year about “Contradictory Christmases”):

Matthew - Gospel - Jesus - Home - Bethlehem

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is simply to be found in a home in Bethlehem, where his family lives, with no indication whatsoever that they are from somewhere else. He is usually thought to be about 2 years old, since based on information about the star that heralded his birth, Herod kills all male children in Bethlehem who are 2 years old or younger. They flee to Egypt, and after Herod dies they want to return to their home in Judaea. But because Archelaus, Herod’s son, is on the throne, they fear to return and make their home in Galilee. The impression given is that this is how they end up in Galilee.

In Luke, the family is from Nazareth. The census under Quirinius, which takes place after Archelaus is deposed by the Romans, is cited as the reason they go to Bethlehem. Once Jesus is born, they...
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