Research: An Opportunity to Set the Record Straight

My not especially accurate nativity.

Tuesday morning I was reading through various articles when I came across a piece on flaws in the traditional nativity narrative.  In short, looking at the original text and knowing a thing or two about the local culture allows contemporary translators and scholars to straighten out a few kinks concerning where the baby would have been born. He would have been born in the family quarters and laid in the manger located in that part of the home.

The article I read appeared here on the Presbyterian Outlook web page. It included research into the culture of that area at that time.  Instead of going back to the Latin text (the Latin Bible from which the King James Bible was created) scholars went back to the original Greek.  This meant that they were one step closer to the story as originally told.

It can be easy to see why you need to use current research when writing about science, but people who write history often wonder why they should look for new scholarship on their topic. Writing a story or article using only older sources means that you will be rehashing what has already been written.  Yes, you may write it better.  And you may write it for a new audience.  But the information will be the same old same old.

If, on the other hand, you look at more recent scholarship, you will have the opportunity to create an updated, more accurate narrative.  This is especially important when the updated account allows for a more complete story that doesn’t malign a particular cultural group, race, or religion. It helps readers, even young readers, move from a story based on preconceptions and misunderstandings to a more complete picture.

For more on research, check out Research: How Much is EnoughResearch: Organizing What You Find, and The Library of Congress: Research and Idea .