The Infancy Narratives
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By Jean Daniélou, S.J.
Early Christians had no issue in grasping the biographical details of Jesus’ life. Their struggle, avers Jean Daniélou, was to go beyond the historical and see the “divine content” of those details. Modern Christians tend toward the opposite mistake. Modernist criticism dismisses the infancy narratives as the stuff of “pure legend.” Yet the historicity of these stories is of fundamental importance; as Daniélou emphasizes, “If Christ was not really conceived by the Holy Spirit, did not really rise from the dead, then our faith is vain.” Considering the Genealogy, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, and the Finding in the Temple, Daniélou demonstrates how the Evangelists’ literary forms and techniques worked to uphold the facts of Christ’s humanity and thus express “a total view of history which sees events in all their dimensions.”
Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin. (Gaudium et spes, §22)
The whole of Scripture declares that God does intervene in history to create, to save, to reveal things. (Jean Daniélou, S.J.)
The infancy narratives, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, recount “real history, theologically thought through and interpreted,” and thus give a deeper understanding of the the mystery of Jesus. The same can well be said of Daniélou’s exegesis in The Infancy Narratives.
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Jean Daniélou, S.J., (1905–1974) was among the leading theologians of the twentieth century. Renowned for his scholarship in the field of Patristics, he was the author of numerous works, including The Lord of History, Prayer as a Political Problem, and the three-volume History of Early Christian Doctrine.