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Yarnell, on CNN, defends biblical account of Christmas

DALLAS (BP)–Can the biblical account of the birth of Christ really be trusted?

The answer is a resounding “yes,” Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Malcolm Yarnell III told a CNN TV audience Dec. 8.

The Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, while told from different viewpoints, are in harmony with one another, Yarnell said on the “Paula Zahn Now” program.

“I look at it this way. The Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — are more like a choir, and they each sing a different part. Matthew singing as a soprano, Mark as an alto, Luke, you know, singing another part as a tenor and John as a bass,” said Yarnell, associate dean of the theological studies division at Southwestern and director of the Center for Theological Research.

“Each one of them is singing a different note and yet they are all in harmony,” Yarnell said, noting that the harmony of the Gospels was the result of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “I do not see a disagreement whatsoever.”

Yarnell was responding to comments from Hal Taussig, a professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary, who said that the Gospel accounts should not be taken as a “journalist report” about the events that took place in the biblical account of Christmas.

“There are actually two different stories in the Bible about Jesus’ birth. One in the Gospel of Matthew and one in the Gospel of Luke, and they do not agree in their story,” Taussig said.

Zahn asked Taussig what proof he had that the Bible was historically inaccurate.

“I don’t have proof,” replied Taussig, a founding member of the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars who seek to discredit the biblical accounts of Jesus’ deity, miracles and resurrection. He said he came to his conclusions about the reliability of the biblical account through his “way of reading” the Bible.

“I was glad to hear he said that he had no proof for his view,” Yarnell said. “To be honest with you, the data that we have concerning the life of Jesus is pretty much restricted to the four Gospels, and those four Gospel writers were very clear about their search for accuracy in what they told us.”

Yarnell said the writers were, in a way, like journalists, “because they were seeking, at their best, to record and to give us the facts. But they went beyond what a journalist does, because they were also writing so that people would believe and have faith in Jesus Christ.”

Before the program, a CNN poll online indicated that only 30 percent of the people who responded to the poll believed the biblical account of the Christmas story to be true. At the end of the program, the number of people claiming they believed the biblical account had increased to 38 percent.

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  • Gregory Tomlin