Woke up this morning to hearing Fred Grandy (former congressman, former Gopher, currently Episcopalian) on WMAL Radio talking about this:
Dr Rowan Williams has claimed there was little evidence that the Magi even existed and there was certainly nothing to prove there were three of them or that they were kings.Now this is a classic example by the Archbishop of Canterbury of the sort of musings of someone who is at home in academia, but probably has no idea what it's like to stand at the door of the church after services and listen to the laity stream out, shaking your hand while offering weak smiles of bewilderment before marching off to find the senior warden to learn how long it will be before you are sacked.
Dr Williams argued that the traditional Christmas story was nothing but a 'legend.'
He said the only reference to the wise men from the East was in Matthew's gospel and the details were very vague.
Dr Williams said: "Matthew's gospel says they are astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire, that's all we're really told. It works quite well as legend."
The Archbishop went on to dispel other details of the Christmas story, adding that there were probably no asses or oxen in the stable.
He argued that Christmas cards which showed the Virgin Mary cradling the baby Jesus, flanked by shepherds and wise men, were misleading. As for the scenes that depicted snow falling in Bethlehem, the Archbishop said the chance of this was "very unlikely".
In a final blow to the traditional nativity story, Dr Williams concluded that Jesus was probably not born in December at all. He said: "Christmas was when it was because it fitted well with the winter festival."
Why should academics fear the laity? Academics are free to speculate all they wish and who will dare challenge them but the brow-furled evangelical seminarian who has to decide whether to write the final paper with footnotes or give in and go for the A. But a rector who has to stand out in the cold shaking the hands of his congregation will get a word or two of instant response. Rectors learn after a while to keep such speculation out of the pulpit - or else they run for General Convention Deputy.
Read the full interview here.
One starts to wonder if Rowan Williams' staff is now trying to get rid of him.
LATER: Or maybe he was really talking about the Three Wise Guys: