Journey to the Manger: Exploring the Birth of Jesus by Paula Gooder

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In Journey to the Manger, scholar Paula Gooder takes the reader step-by-step through the Biblical narratives of the birth of Jesus. She scrutinizes the sections in each of the three Gospels that talk of our Lord’s coming (Matthew, Luke, and John) in as close to chronological order as possible. Gooder examines individual Hebrew and Greek words and explains how their various translations have an important impact on the birth narratives, as well as taking the recorded history of the time and the historicity of the narratives into account in her inquiry. She also adds in at the end of each section her own reflections and even some poems she composed.

This was an interesting read. I found quite a bit of intriguing information to guide a study of the birth narratives, which is what I believe this book was written for – not to be an end-all, be-all on the Gospel accounts, but an aide for pastors, Bible study groups, and individuals who want to look more deeply at the birth of Jesus.

That said, I definitely don’t think it’s for everyone. For one, it’s an academic text – not something you pick up to have a comfy read on the couch or the beach (or rather a beautiful day in the mountains, if you’re like me). It’s fairly thick with information that you really need to pay close attention to as you read. Also, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to a new Christian or a non-believer, who may be intimidated by or even turned away by the lack of decisiveness at times. Let me explain that: Gooder presents different interpretations of  and information about the various Gospel accounts, occasionally verging on discounting parts of the Bible altogether. I’ll admit, this frustrated me at times, because I was taught and truly believe that God is only constrained by your lack of belief…if you believe He can do it, He can, whether or not it fits with your particular knowledge of the world and its history.

So, I would recommend this book for study, but with the caveat that it not be your ultimate guide – let the Word of God itself be that.

Thanks to Hymns Ancient and Modern and NetGalley for the free copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

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