Saturday, December 19, 2009


We now know that Luke created some historical anomalies in his narrative of Jesus’ birth. Octavian, given the title of Augustus by the Roman Senate in 27 BCE, reigned as sole emperor from 31 BCE to 14 CE. As best we know too, Jesus was born prior to 4 BCE, during the last years of Herod the Great, King of Judea. Herod’s eldest son Archelaus was the puppet king of Judea, from 4 BCE to 6 CE when he was deposed. There is no record of any registration or census for taxation purposes being taken prior to 6-7 CE when Judea was restructured as part of the province of Syria by Roman governor Quirinius.

We must conclude that Luke got his dates wrong or deliberately rewrote history to fit his theological purpose. The idea of Mary, close to delivering her child, traveling 75-80 miles on foot is simply not credible to us today. Nor by donkey as often shown in religious art. There is no donkey in Luke's story, but there is a messianic reference in Zechariah 9:6 quoted at the time of Jesus' entry into Jeruslem prior to his crucifixion. Artist's may have adapted this to his birth as well. As for the census, an early 1st century CE version of Psalm 87:6 in Greek provides a clue to Luke’s rendition of the setting. It read, “In the census of the people, this one will be born.” Luke may well have known a messianic interpretation of this text from the early Christian tradition.

Contrary to a literal reading of the Lukan narrative, this is both exegesis (what the original text said) and eisegesis (reading theological interpretation into the text). More of this approach is found in the next passage, 2:8-14. Why do the shepherds play such an important part in the story? In those times, Jews regarded shepherds as dishonest thieves outside the Law. The connection was with David, the shepherd boy from Bethlehem who became Israel’s greatest king and a descendant of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (cf. Matt. 2:5-6; John 7:42; Micah 5:1-2; Gen. 35:19-21). The Messiah was to be a descendant of David.

We hear the same theme in the words spoken by the angel to the shepherds (2:11) and again in the shepherds’ excited decision to go to Bethlehem and see if it was all true (2:15). The angelic messengers, the glory of the Lord that shone around them and their song of praise symbolized the theological reality that the birth was a holy event in which God played the primary creative role.

Why would Luke have written that Jesus would be "laid in a manger?" In those times, the dwellings of humble folk included and attached room or mere shelter where animals could be sheltered during inclement weather. One scholar has proposed that the words "for there was no place for them in the inn" should read "there was no place for them in the guest room." Sleeping with animals in the shelter adjoining the house would not have been out of the question.

The curiosity of the shepherds, their public announcement of the child they found in the manger and the amazed reaction of all who heard it, were a foretaste, not only of the response of outcasts to Jesus’ own ministry, but also of the response to the proclamation of the gospel in the decades of the apostolic era. When Luke wrote his narrative of Jesus’ birth, he knew this tradition of how outcasts like the Gentiles had responded. And he had already written both the main part of his gospel and The Acts of the Apostles.

The conclusion of the birth narrative in 2:19-20 provided a transition to the next phase of the holy event. Some romanticists have fastened on Mary “treasuring” and “pondering the words in her heart” as evidence that she may have been the source for Luke’s information. More likely are several similar quotations in the Hebrew scriptures (cf. Sirach 39:1-3; Proverbs 3:1; Psalm 119:11. Luke also wrote of Mary being praiseworthy in 11:27-28. By the time he wrote near the end of the 1st century CE, Mary was already a greatly revered person in the Christian community.


Like the narratives of the angelic annunciations, the birth of John and Jesus, are obviously told in parallel. The two prominent Roman Catholic scholars, Brown and Fitzmyer, both believed that Luke did not include these stories in his original gospel. They were added later as parallel narratives for two reasons: Luke’s purpose was to show that John was the prophetic forerunner of the Messiah, as described in Luke 3:1-22. Secondly, he sought to indicate the supremacy of Jesus over John.

A large part of the story of John’s birth concerned an apparent conflict over the name of the child. Included in it is the fulfillment of the angel’s announcement to and apparent punishment of Zechariah for his disbelief of what the angel told him. (1:18-20) Unclear is how Elizabeth learned that the angel’s instructions the child’s name would be John.

A solution to that puzzle lies in Zechariah’s actions at the time of the child’s circumcision. When neighbours and relatives protested that the child would be named after his father and Elizabeth insisted he be named John against their objections,
Zechariah gestured for a writing tablet and confirmed that the child would be called John. Banal though the suggestion may be, Elizabeth could have learned before that incident of Zechariah’s intention in the same way. On the other hand, Brown held that Luke probably intended his audience to believe that Elizabeth’s assertion was “a spontaneous and marvelous confirmation of God’s plan.”

Luke also featured the element of fear in both the annunciation to Mary and the birth of John to Elizabeth(1:12-13; 65). Mary also received reassurance lest she fear during her encounter with Gabriel (1:30). Old Testament authors made frequent reference to “the fear of the Lord.” In most instances, this meant a deep awareness of some holy moment or reverence in the event of awesome divine intervention. Luke obviously had something similar in mind (1:66).

We have already noted that the Benedictus or Zechariah’s song of blessing (1:67-79), like the Magnificat (1:46-55), the Gloria (2:13-14) and the Nunc Dimittis (2:29-32) were likely additions to the narrative in the final rendition of the infancy narratives. That they were hymns of early Christian communities based on Jewish antecedents is entirely plausible.

Similar examples exist in certain martial psalms and the important document from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Zechariah’s psalm has a sense of something already accomplished about it rather than of expectation. This would be natural in a Christian context. Brown detected some correspondence with apostolic sermons in Acts with “the atmosphere of prophecy uttered by one filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Again 1:80 we have a parallel to the ending to the narrative of Jesus’ birth. Unlike his younger kin, John did not develop good social relations. He became an isolate living in the wilderness. In later Christian centuries, numerous monastics adopted similar behaviour designed to enhance holiness. Such separation for the world is still practiced in many Christian communities.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


To whom would Mary turn in her perplexity? Naturally she would visit her kinswoman to find out if what the angel has said to her was true.

But that creates another problem in Luke’s narrative. Would a young women, even at an early stage of pregnancy, walk all the way from Galilee to the hill country of Judea, not far from Jerusalem, where Elizabeth and Zechariah lived? Zechariah was one of the minor priests who served in the temple preparing and offering sacrifices for the assembled congregation. (1:8-9) Mary would have had to travel a distance of up to 75 miles - a week's journey. Did she go alone? This tells us that the story is a theological narrative designed for a special purpose and never intended to be literally interpreted.

Vs. 41 has the most natural feature of the story: As Mary arrived in Elizabeth’s home and greeted her kinswoman, the baby kicked in Elizabeth’s womb. Elizabeth interpreted it as the work of the Holy Spirit (vs. 42) and uttered what has become part of the rosary prayer of countless generations of Roman Catholic believers. Vs. 43 contains Elizabeth’s confession of faith akin to that of the early Church in its formative years: Jesus is Lord.

The question arises as to which of the two women, Mary or Elizabeth, is more suited to have actually uttered the canticle in vss. 46-55. Several quite old and mainly Latin manuscripts have Elizabeth as the spokeswoman. The canticle has been known as “The Magnificat” since the 5th century when Jerome translated the Gospels into Latin.

Brown came the most obvious if unprovable conclusion about the four canticles of Luke 1-2, i.e. (The Magnificat, the Benedictus (1:67-69), the Excelsis (2:13-14)and the Nunc Dimittis (2:28-32). He suggests that these “were all composed in a non-Lucan circle and originally praised the salvific action of God without any precise reference to the events that Luke was narrating in the infancy narrative.”

Brown went on to say with numerous other scholars, that they probably have their closest parallel in the Jewish hymns and psalms of the period from 200 BCE to 70 CE. Many of these hymns represented a martial point of view reflecting times of persecution and despair. Those were, after all, very disturbed times when the Jewish people often suffered great hardship from their own oppressive leaders as much as from overlords.

However, these scholars also point to a clear meassage in these hymns of salvation accomplished and fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham. Concomitant social justice and economic prosperity had been a part of Israel's hope since the time of the great prophets many centuries earlier. Rooted as they were in the Hebrew scriptures, these canticles would have been characteristic of Jewish Christian communities out of which they may have arisen.

It can be seen quite readily that the basis for Mary’s praise is to be found in Hannah’s song at the birth of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10). Several other Old Testament prophets and psalmists also used similar language in their praise of God’s activity in saving Israel. (Cf. Hab. 3:18; Gen. 29:32, 30:13; Zep. 3:17; Ps. 111:9; 103:17 Ezek. 21:31; Ps. 107:9; 98:3; Micah 7:20; 2 Sam. 22:51.)

A brief sentence (vs. 56) completed Luke's story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. She remained for three months and then returned to her home. But the text does not say that she was present for the birth of John the Baptist. It is unlikely that such a minor detail would have made any difference in Luke’s story other than make it more literally believable. Our interest should be on the theological message the story conveys, not its literal details.

Monday, December 7, 2009


The Annunciation to Mary in Luke (1:26-38) is sandwiched between two episodes about John the Baptist. In no way does this diminish its importance. Instead it marks the difference between the two births. The angelic annunciation gives special emphasis to the superiority of Mary’s child. Furthermore, it locates the visionary experience unquestionably in Nazareth in Galilee. That has implications for the rest of Luke’s narrative.

According to the customs of the time, Mary could have been a prepubescent child bride, engaged but not yet married, when she had this life-changing experience. (Geza Vermes gives an excellent discourse on this possibilty, pp. 78-81, in his The Nativity: History and Legend. Penguin Books, 2006). This would explain her perplexity at the words of the angel Gabriel. Mary does not understand because she does not yet share her husband’s bed and board. According to the customs of the times, while betrothed a girl still lived with her parents but was bound to her future husband for life. If she engaged in sexual activity, she could charged with adultery. After the appropriate marriage ceremony at some later date, perhaps as long as a year, she would go to live in her husband's home. Only then would a sexual union take place.

In introducing the Archangel Gabriel,Luke had tapped into much more ancient folklore of the Middle East. In the post-exilic period, Persian angelology dominated much of the development of angels in late Hebrew writing. Appearing first in Hebrew scriptures only in the early 2nd century CE Daniel (8:16 and 9:21-22 as a man) he was much more than a divine messenger. He came to give wisdom and understanding in a particularly holy situation. His power an authority increased exponentially in pseudographical literature. In Enoch 1 and 2 for instance, he sat at the left hand of God and was set over all other powers.

Gabriel’s response to Mary's anxiety about her virginity re-assured her that the Holy Spirit would play a part in her pregnancy and she would bear a holy child. To show that this would be possible, Gabriel informed her that her elderly, barren cousin Elizabeth was already six months pregnant.

The details of the annunciation reveal some unusual characteristics. Contrary to Matthew, Luke does not state unequivocally that Mary and Joseph abstained from sexual relations prior to the conception of their child. Matthew puts it circumspectly, "before they lived together." So from Luke’s perspective, the conception of Jesus could have been similar to that of John the Baptist and other accounts in the Hebrew scriptures involving normal sexual intercourse between spouses.

The angelic message extended beyond the announcement of a divinely favoured conception. The child Mary would bear was to be named Jesus, a contemporary form of Joshua, which meant “God (Yahweh) saves.” In other words, he was to have a divinely mandated redemptive mission. More than that, he would be the “Son of the Most High” (i.e. God) and heir to his ancestor David’s throne.

Brown stated that the future role of Jesus described by Gabriel had a parallel in the promise of the prophet Nathan to David in 2 Samuel 7:8-16. He called Luke’s rendering “a free interpretation” of the earlier passage. He further pointed out that the idea of a Davidic Messiah may have already existed in the Hebrew tradition. It can be found in references such as Psalms 2:7 and 89:30 as well as in Isaiah 9:5-6 and some texts discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

All this illustrates why scholars generally believe that the birth narratives in both Matthew and Luke are theological rather than historical in character. More evidence of this is found in Luke 1:35 with distinctive messianic reference to Isaiah 11:1-2 and 4:2-3. It is worth noting that in the gospel narratives, the power of God’s creative Spirit comes to the child’s mother, Mary, not to the king, as in David’s case.

Most scholars believe that this interpretation, designated as “Christology,” may have existed in Christian tradition even before Paul wrote of it in Romans 1:3-4. Brown described it as “backward development,” thereby associating Mary’s conception of Jesus’ by the Holy Spirit with the narratives of Jesus’ resurrection and baptism (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22). It also helps to explain why the Nativity narratives came so late in the literature of the Apostolic Age. Theology always follows religious experience, not vice versa. Only long reflection on the true nature of that special person, Jesus of Nazareth, led the Church of the late 1st century CE to create these narratives of how he may have been born as both the Son of God and a human being.


Although some question the hypothesis, many scholars now presume that Luke was a Greek-speaking Gentile Christian writing for other Gentiles that likely was an outgrowth of Paul’s ministry. It was a probably written during the 80s, or about a generation later that Paul. After the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 CE, the focus of religious history had moved from Jerusalem to Rome. Like the rest of the Gospel, the infancy narrative reflects this transformation.

In 1:1-4 Luke sets his version of the story within unique context. He wrote for a particular person identified only by a possibly assumed name: Theophilus (Eng. = God-lover). No one knows who this person really was and some suspect he may have been a figment of Luke’s imagination.

Immediately thereafter Luke attempts to date his narrative. The problem is that if the two births subsequently described occurred during the reign of Herod the Great, they had to happen before that brutal despot died in 4 BCE. Further historical references in 2:1-3 complicate the date and render it virtually useless.

Most scholars now place the date in a range between 7 and 4 BCE. The year 1 AD/CE was fixed as the Jesus’ birth year only in the 6th century CE by a monk, Dionysius Exiguus (470-540 CE). However inaccurate he may have been, Luke was trying to place Jesus in an historical context to show that he was a real person, which some still doubt.

Historical references dealt with, Luke went on to present the birth of John the Baptizer to Zechariah, a priest descended from Aaron, brother of Abraham, and his wife, Anna, as the prelude to the announcement of Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit. This extended prelude (1:5-25) is typical of similar births of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 18:1-19), and of Samuel to Elkanah and Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1-28). In each of those instances, God had intervened to give children to barren women.

Raymond E. Brown believed that this part of the narrative came about by Luke drawing on the annunciation of the birth of Jesus as a pattern for the earlier birth of John as the forerunner preparing the way for the Messiah. John and Jesus were contemporaries, both known as charismatic preachers “each proclaiming the imminence of God’s eschatological action and each dying a martyr’s death.” After John’s earlier death, there may have been an attempt to recruit some of John’s disciples (cf. Acts 19:3). This may have failed to some extent, but John’s role in preceding and preparing the way for Jesus did not diminish as all four Gospels witness.

Thus by Christian interpretation John became the one whom the prophet Malachi had described as “Elijah” who would herald the coming of the Messiah. (Mal. 3:1; 4:5) At this point in Luke’s Gospel history, scripture and theology coalesce in a carefully constructed narrative. Well into the 20th century, a Gnostic sect, called the Mandeans and claiming to be John’s disciples, still existed in modern Iraq.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Has any other passage in Matthew’s Nativity narratives raised so many questions? But what was Matthew really trying to do in 1:18-25?
Raymond E. Brown gives a succinct answer: He was proclaiming that Jesus is God’s Son and the promised Messiah of David’s line, begotten not by Joseph but by the Holy Spirit.
Geza Vermes adds that whatever else the words of the passage may say, “they certainly describe a child conceived in a way different from the normal and convey that the person to be born will be very specially connected with God.”
In the lst century Jewish tradition marriage was a two step process as vs. 18 reveals: 1) Betrothal, when at 12-13, a young woman became her husband’s wife, but still lived in her parents’ home. Any infringement of this relationship was considered adultery. 2) After a community ceremony, the couple lived together in the husband’s home.
Sexual customs varied in different places. In Judea, some sexual relations were not frowned on. In Galilee, premarital relationships were more strict. Matthew’s tone reflected the Galilean culture, but the subsequent birth states that they lived in Bethlehem, in Judea.
The role of the Holy Spirit was not to be the male element in a sexual act, but the divine agent in an unusual conception. The lead actor in Matthew’s narrative was Joseph. With the greatest of kindness he was unwilling to enforce his right of charging Mary with adultery. According to the law, the penalty was death by stoning. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21). He learned of God’s plan from an angel in a dream (vs. 20). This shifted his attitude to a more merciful compromise which did not detract from his upright character. Mary’s conception “by the Holy Spirit” was a matter of reverence and awe rather than strict legalism.
Dreams and angels have a significant place in scripture as the means by which God’s will and purpose are revealed. Joseph is to become the legal if not the natural father of God’s Son. The child is to be named Jesus, the Greek translation of the Hebrew phrase for “YHWH saves.” (Pronounced with vowels as “Yahweh.”)
Matthew then quoted, mistakenly as we now know, from Isaiah 7:14. Originally, that referred to a child to be born to King Ahaz of Judea (735-715 BCE). In the 8th century BCE that was a time of considerable religious and political chaos, not unlike the 1st century CE. Matthew’s intent was purely Christological. His reference to this passage showed that as the birth of Davidic Messiah and son of God was not a miracle but a fulfillment of God’s plan made known in prophecy as then interpreted.
Accordingly to Brown, the divinely arranged conception supported rather than destroyed the concept of human genealogical descent. Matthew‘s explanation also gave Jews and Gentiles in Matthew’s audience an irrefutable argument against Jewish accusations late in the 1st century CE that Jesus was a mamzer, illegimate.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Matthew began his narrative with a long genealogy of Jesus. Luke did not include a genealogy until the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 3:23-38). A quick comparison reveals that not only are the two set in different contexts, they include different names and follow totally distinctive patterns. Most surprising, perhaps, is that Matthew began with Abraham and traced Jesus’ lineage down to Joseph, “the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born.” Luke began with Jesus” the son (as was thought) of Joseph” and traced Jesus’ ancestry back to “Adam, son of God.” Sonship was important to Luke, as some of his parables also indicate.

Leaving Luke’s genealogy aside, Matthew stated his intent in defining Jesus’ ancestry in the first words of his text: “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” He wished his audience to understand that Jesus, as Messiah/Christ, was descended from Abraham, the father of God’s holy people, and also heir to the royal line of David. The forty-two generations in three segments of fourteen may have referred to the mystical number seven. Almost certainly this genealogy was artificial rather than historical.

The audience for whom Matthew wrote was most likely a mixture of Jewish and Gentile Christians, but mostly Jewish. Matthew the author was probably not the so-named apostle but someone using his name. He may have been a Greek speaking Jew very familiar with the Hebrew scriptures and also a Pharisee. Although he generally favoured the Pharisees, he was adamantly negative toward those scribes and Pharisees who rejected Jesus. The expulsion of Jewish Christians from synagogues dominated by the Pharisees the Synod of Jamnia (ca. 85 CE) may well have been the historical background of his narrative.

There is a real possibility that Matthew sought to present Jesus as the new Moses sent by God to lead God’s people to a new destiny. He wrote in the 80s CE possibly in Edessa, a city east of the Euphrates River then in Syria and now in southeastern Turkey. His vision of the kingdom of God was of a people far more pluralistic than his own Jewish nation had become since the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

The Bible is full of family genealogies, most of them plainly boring, but quite significant. They legitimated priests and kings by tracing the priesthood back to Aaron of the tribe of Levi and monarchs back to the royal line of David. They also could be used to settle contested inheritance of ancestral property. Generally they included only male ancestors.

Surprisingly, Jesus’ genealogy included five women - Tamar, who seduced her father-in-law; Rahab, a prostitute of Jericho; Ruth a Moabite; and Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite, and mother of Solomon by King David. This was Matthew's way showing that although Jesus was Jewish, he was also descended from non-Jews and women of humble if not doubtful social status. Mary was named only to anticipate the next part of Matthew’s narrative.


The Nativity of Jesus has been studied in depth by many and diverse scholars. Far be it for us to add to this corncucopia of scholarly debate and discussion. But we shall make use of only a few of the many sources in our search for an clearer understanding of what the only two gospel authors Matthew and Luke were saying in their exclusive narratives.

Passing reference may also be made to commentaries and other works which make brief mention of the problems these narratives raise in the minds of modern readers. Some were Christian believers and others were of other faith traditions. Two authors in particular have provided the greater part of the material for this study: Raymond E. Brown and Geza Vermes.

In 1979 Brown published an exhaustive work called The Birth of The Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke (Garden City, NY. Doubleday Image Book). It remains the standard authority, although recognized as the work of a Roman Catholic priest and published with the nihil obstat of his Church and under the imprimatur of the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of New York. Brown closely examined the Gospel tradition and a vast amount of scholarly commentaries. In the end he sustained the traditional view of his Church.

In 2006 Geza Vermes, professor emeritus of Jewish Studies at Oxford University, published a short but carefully analyzed study of the Gospel narratives: The Nativity : History and Legend. (London: Penquin Books) He presented a unique viewpoint on the key question most people ask: Was Mary a virgin when Jesus was conceived? Vermes had included a brief excursus on this subject in his earlier work, Jesus the Jew (London: William Collins, 1973; SCM Books, 1983.)

As our study begins, quotations from two other renowned scholars bear repeating. In his Pelican New Testament Commentary on St. Luke’s Gospel, (London, 1963) the late Professor George Caird wrote: “Those who believe that the virgin birth was simple history must hold that the story came ultimately from Mary herself. For those who find this belief an unnecessary impediment to faith an alternative theory of origin has been put forward ... that the doctrine arose out of a misunderstanding when the story was taken from it original Judean environment in the Greek world.”

Sherman E Johnson, author of the Introduction and Exegesis of The Gospel According to St. Matthew in The Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville, TN. Abingdon Press, 1951) wrote on the subject: “Matthew and Luke have knowledge of such a story from separate and independent sources. The story first appears in Christian circles which are in close touch with the Jewish tradition. If it arises out of pious speculation, it is nevertheless based on faith in the unlimited power of the one God, not on pagan mythology."

So now we turn to our study in earnest.

Friday, November 27, 2009

1 - The Nativity Under Scrutiny

Suppose you have been assigned to write your own story of the Nativity of Jesus. What do you put into it? What would you leave out? What is your story line or plot? What would be your opening scene?

If those questions were put to any of us, we would most likely tell the story as we heard and saw it performed, or participated in it ourselves in Christmas pageants as children. Then, if we sat down and read the actual Nativity narratives in Matthew and Luke, we would quickly find out how much we had missed. So why not sit down and read the two narratives right now?

Do you see how different they are? Do you see how much our Christmas pageants leave out? Or add? Have you any idea why that is so? And why are Matthew and Luke the only two Gospels - or any other New Testament texts - that have anything at all to say about Jesus’ birth?

Did you notice too that his actual birth was perfectly normal for a human being? As Paul said in Galatians 4:4, he was “born of a woman.” That can happen only in one way. So while the Nativity narratives do describe very briefly that Jesus was born in a very human way, the idea of a virgin birth is just not there. What is there is a virginal conception. And that is where our theological and interpretation difficulties begin.

Did Matthew and Luke believe in a viriginal conception by the Holy Spirit? That certainly is how the narratives read. But is it credible in this day when we know all the scientific details about human biology, evolution, genetics and so forth?

It was not a problem for the two Gospel authors in the 1st century of the Christian era. Jews of that time might have had more difficulty with it than Greeks. No one in either cultures had the slightest idea exactly how conception took place. In fact, as examples in the Hebrew Scriptures attest, it was believed that it was the man’s seed the woman received and she was no more than the vessel carrying the developing foetus until she gave birth in a painful way (Gen. 3:16;12:7). Their model was the way plants grew in soil (Gen. 1:29).

Greek culture, on the other hand, did have numerous examples in their mythology of gods who gave birth to children in unusual ways. Gods impregnating women was well known. There is also an instance of this in Genesis 6:1-4 which Hebrew thought regarded as remarkable but wrong. Scholars have long wondered whether this aspect of Greek culture influenced Matthew and Luke. After all, the text is in the Hebrew scriptures o which they depended for so much of their material.

As we proceed this study will try to show that they had another agenda in mind. They were rooted far more in the Hebrew tradition although they also wrote for Gentiles who would hear their stories.