The Story of the Christ Child
Leon Morris – Eerdmans – 128 pp. – $2.50
In many contemporary churches, earnest laymen learn enough of the Greek language to enable them to read the New Testament in the original. They regard, and rightly, the benefits derived from ability to understand the special stresses and connotations of the Biblical Greek to surpass the effort put forth in mastering the Greek. In our own circles, Greek is for the pre-sems and none else. If this unfortunate situation persists, it will be all the more necessary that ministers take pains to explain the peculiarities of that language and that readers of English spend time with books such as The Story of the Christ Child.
Dr. Morris, by his own admission, does not write so as to cause the reader, “to contemplate mysteries or hear music.” But he has “a love for the Greek New Testament, and a conviction that many of its riches can be made available to the non-Greek reader by dint of careful explanation.” In this book he treats the events leading up to and the events of the birth of Christ as found in Matthew and Luke. With the familiarity and ease of a man in his element, the Cambridge scholar ferrets out of the Greek information and explanation not to be gotten from the English. The passage in Luke 2:14 which reads in the English, “and on earth peace, good will toward men,” is used falsely, though eagerly, by most men. There is here no basis for regarding the essence of Christmas to be “good fellowship, . . . general mirth and jollility.” Instead, Morris insists, the real message is that a Savior from sin has come; there is the insistence that the Glory of God receive priority; and, in fact, the correct translation is, “on earth peace among men of good pleasure.” That one is a man of good pleasure can only mean that one is a recipient of God’s favor.
This last interpretation characterizes the author throughout. For he constantly applies his comments and commentaries to the present day. God’s people, lured into love of power and fame, must remember that God’s ways are not men’s ways. God’s choices have always been the obscure, unknown, and analogized, Elizabeth, Mary, Christ – and us.