Problems with the Traditional Christmas Story!
(Ver 1.3) Almost every Christmas these days I come across another example of how people have adopted a tradition rather than the Bible. It seems that people are more comfortable with their idea of Christmas rather than what God said really happened in the Bible. What am I talking about? Mostly I have a problem with the manger scenes and living nativities that many churches put up this time of the year. If you have ever read any of my blogs you know I am a stickler for the details. I feel if God went to so much trouble to put a story in the Bible for us to read, we ought to have enough respect to figure out what it says and then to teach that. Obviously there are a lot of people who disagree with me on this or they wouldn’t have the wise men visiting baby Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem.
You really don’t have to be a rocket scientist to read and to study the Bible. You just need to pay attention to every word. The wise men were never in the town of Bethlehem and Jesus was there for less than a week. If you have read the Bible you know that the story starts by Joseph and Mary having to travel to Bethlehem in order to pay taxes and participate in the census that the Roman government had imposed on all of their citizens. Sounds a lot like what Congress is trying to do to us now. But I won’t go there. Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem because they were of the house of David. If they were not David’s descendants Jesus would not have been born in Bethlehem. It is funny how God knew what was going to happen and He prophesied where Jesus would be born way before hand.
Mic 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Here is another point that I always like to make about the Christmas story. Why was Jesus born in a manager? I think most people think that it was simply because they were so poor that they couldn’t afford anything better. But, that is not what the Bible says either. We can clearly understand that because of Mary’s condition of being almost 9 months pregnant that they were not making as good of time as everyone else that was also having to travel to Bethlehem. When Joseph and Mary finally arrived in Bethlehem we know that Jesus was born in the manger because the inn was already full of people (Luke 2:7). We can easily conclude that Joseph had the money to stay at the inn and also enough in his pocket to pay his taxes. You did know you don’t pay taxes if you don’t have any income or money earned, don’t you? So Jesus was born in a manger because of the slower travel time and the insufficient space at the inn and not the lack of money of Joseph and Mary as many teach. That to me is a very important point to the Christmas story that you should not throw away and ignore.
Next, we find in the story of Christmas, that the angels appeared to some shepherds that were nearby tending their sheep and told them of the great news of the birth of the messiah (Luke 2:8-10). It is certainly significant that shepherds were told this since the Lamb of God was just born in Bethlehem and who better to come to see this Lamb of God, than these nearby shepherds tending their sheep. So we know that the shepherds were at the manger and witnessed the Lamb of God in Bethlehem personally. So where do we get the idea that Jesus was also visited by the wise men at the same time? I honestly do not have a clue where this tradition originated, nor do I care. If you read the account in the Bible you find that the wise men could have been there to see Jesus, up to two years after his birth in Bethlehem. We know that Jesus was circumcised in Jerusalem on the 8th day of his life so we can thus determine that Jesus was in the manger for less than a week. Just long enough for Mary to recover and for Joseph to pay the taxes. They then went to Jerusalem and did what the law instructed them to do for their new born son and offer all the appropriate sacrifices.
What would you assume that Joseph would have done then? If you guessed go home you would probably be correct. So here is the root of the problem, we have two different accounts of the birth of Jesus, the main account is found in Luke, but Matthew also provides us additional information. The problem occurs when people try to combine these two accounts into one story when they are really two separate accounts. In Matthew 2 we discover that the Magi were come from the east and they appear in Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. We also discover that they talk with King Herod and stir up a hornet’s nest of controversies. They are told that the messiah is prophesied to be born in Bethlehem of Judea. I guess this is automatically assumed to be where they travel to, to see Jesus. But that is not what the Bible says.
Mat 2:11 and having come to the house, they found the child with Mary his mother,
You can see in Matthew 2:11 that the wise men show up at a house and not at a manger. Who do you think this house belonged to? You can assume many options, but the one that makes the most sense was it was Joseph’s house in his hometown Nazareth. Here is the other interesting point to be made in this story, the Greek word translated as “child” does not mean baby or new born. When Jesus was a baby in the manger he is called by a different Greek word. You can look it up for yourself. This Greek word actually means a half grown child. So we can see that a lot of time has passed before the Magi make it to Jesus.
All you have to do is read and study and you come up with the right story. If you preach and teach the wise men showed up at the manger then you are either ignorant of the truth or you choose to preach a lie, either way the truth is oppressed for what you think and not for what the Bible actually says. So when we see a manger scene with 3 wise men on camels we are looking at a lie, a fabrication of the truth. How can the world learn to believe what a Christian is saying is the truth if what a lot of what they say is a lie. Is it important to be truthful all the time? I believe that it is. There are really so many other things we could look at in this story. For example, no where does it say that there were 3 wise men. Where did we get that in the story? I assume it is because they brought 3 types of gifts and everyone assumes that every wise man had a different gift. When we make such assumptions we again see how man can so easily get it wrong. There could have been 100 wise men or 2 wise men both would fit in the Bible text that we read in Matthew. My point is for us to be as precise to tell what the Bible actually says and for us to lose our traditions and what we thought was accurate. When we start to teach the real truth the world will have a much better opportunity to see it and to accept it.
I hope that you have a great Christmas Day.
Posted on December 24, 2009, in Bible Study, Christmas, Understanding and tagged Bible, Christianity, Christmas, Church, God, Jesus, Religion, Truth, understanding. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.
I agree there are many things wrong with the traditional Christmas story as you and others here have pointed out. However, I haven’t seen anyone bring up some other things regarding Christmas such as the origins of the date and traditions we have in the way we celebrate it. I was shocked several years ago to discover that December 25th was known as the Feast of Saturnalia and celebrated the birthday of the sun god, Tammuz (another name for Baal). It was celebrated by decorating an evergreen tree and using wreaths and garlands and the Yule log, etc., all of which were related to Tammuz. Christians adopted these practices somewhere around 325 AD after Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the realm. However., as a well known pantheist and sun god worshipper, he banned the previous church practices of keeping the 7th day Sabbath, circumcision, keeping the Feasts of the Lord (such as Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, etc. See Leviticus 23 for the full listing and note the Lord said they were His appointed feasts.) Because Christians wanted to be able to live peaceably without persecution they compromised their beliefs and even signed a document declaring their renunciation of these Christian practices and adoption of what Constantine sanctioned. They now were to worship on Sunday, named such because that was the day they worshipped the sun god. They adopted pagan festivals such as Christmas and tried to make it about Christ instead of Tammuz, all the while using the same pagan elements to do so. (Which we are told very clearly in Deut. In several places and in Jeremiah 10, not to do. It is an abomination to the Lord, just as the sin of the Golden Calf was which the Israelites made “to worship God”.) The same was true of Easter, named after Ishtar, the fertility goddess whose origins come from Semiramus, wife of Baal. They all stem from Nimrod and ancient Babylon. You can do your own research on this by looking up The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop, Time is the Ally of Deceit or Too long in the Sun by Richard Rives. There’s a lot more, Truth or Tradition by Jim Staley, The Mystery of Christmas by Norm Franz are very good, also. I have since quit keeping Christmas, Easter and Sunday worship and have returned to keep the commandments of the Lord. Everyone will have to pray, search this out themselves, and come to their own conclusions. As a last point, I want to remind everyone that we are told to come outmof Babylon that we won’t be a partaker of her plagues or judgments. Ask yourself why does He say we’re in Babylon and if we are, how do we flee from it? What does it mean in Revelation when it says the only ones who are called God’s children are those who have the testimony of Jesus AND keep His commandments? They are the only ones who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. These are questions that every serious Bible student and lover of God must ask. Our eternal destiny depends on it.
Thank you Suzanne for reading and commenting. God Bless you.
I have thoroughly been enjoying your “meat” in these lessons. I am overjoyed to have discovered your blog and you have actually confirmed many things in my mind about the correct interpretation of creation and the book of Revelation. I thought I would throw my two cents in here with something I learned about the Nativity. The Bible makes no mention of any innkeeper who told them that the inn was full for the night. The reason we imagine this scenario is because the translators of most English versions have chosen the word “inn” to translate the Greek word καταλυμα (kataluma), which gives modern readers the wrong impression.1 Jesus used this same Greek word in Luke 22:11 to refer to a “guest room.” This room is now known as the Upper Room—the scene of the Last Supper, the meal that Jesus ate with His disciples the night before His Crucifixion.
That may not sound convincing to most people who are familiar the traditional telling of the Christmas account. But consider that the Greek language has a word for hotel or inn. In fact, Luke used it in Luke 10:34, when he wrote about the Good Samaritan who took the beaten man to the “inn” (pandocheion, πανδοχειον) and paid the “innkeeper” (pandochei, πανδοχει, v. 35) to care for the man.
Since Luke was quite familiar with the proper term for inn, why didn’t he use it in the account of the birth of Jesus? The probable answer is that Joseph and Mary did not attempt to stay at an inn. The Bible states that there was no room for them in the kataluma, which would be better translated as “guest room.”
Joseph and Mary returned to Joseph’s ancestral home of Bethlehem because of the census (Luke 2:1–4).2 As the census was proclaimed throughout the Roman Empire, many Jewish families would have needed to travel to Bethlehem during this time and lodged with relatives who lived in the town.
Joseph and Mary probably stayed with Joseph’s relatives in Bethlehem, but because of the large influx of people, the house would have been crowded and the kataluma (guest room) was full. Consequently, Joseph and Mary would have been relegated to living in the lower level of the house. It is hard to believe that pregnant Mary would have been turned away from a relative’s home in a society that greatly valued familial ties.
Archaeologists have excavated first century homes from the Judean hill country. They have discovered that the upper level served as a guest chamber while the lower level served as the living and dining rooms. Oftentimes, the more vulnerable animals would be brought in at night to protect them from the cold and theft. This sounds strange to many of us, since we wouldn’t dream of bringing some of our cattle into the house at night, but even today in some countries of Europe (e.g., Germany and Austria), the farmhouse and the animal quarters are often different parts of the same building. The wise men did not come to Jerusalem until after Mary had purified on day 33 after the birth of Jesus. It was at that point the star began to move slowly ahead of the wise men till it hovered over the place Jesus was located. This means that the star was not hovering over Jesus the night he was born. The star shone over a house, not a barn or an inn. “And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother” (Matthew 2:11). It is never called “the star of Bethlehem”, simply, “His star”. The shepherds were directed by an angel (not a star) to the manger of Jesus the night he was born. The star led the “wise men from the east”, who traveled at least 700 km from the Persian or Babylonian area, to the house of Joseph and Mary. This trip would take at least 30 days after the birth of Jesus when you average 25 km per day travel time. After Jesus had been circumcised on the 8th day in the temple, and Mary performed her purification on the 33rd day, Jesus may have been taken to Joseph’s home in Nazareth and this is where the star led the wise men: “When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.” (Luke 2:39). The star, therefore, might have shone over Nazareth, not Bethlehem. The flight to Egypt did not happen until after Mary’s purification (on the 33rd day). Only after this did the Magi arrive in Jerusalem. They were directed to Bethlehem, not by the star, but because Jewish authorities quoted Micah 5:2. We can deduce that the Magi in Nazareth arrived before Joseph received the warning dream to take Mary and the Babe to Egypt. Then the Magi were redirected not to return to Herod but to take an alternate return route bypassing Herod’s request to “come back and report to him where they had found the child so that he could go and pay homage to him.”
MYTH: The wise men arrived the night Jesus was born in a manger.
TRUTH: The shepherds came to the manger (Luke 2:8-10), but not the wise men. They came to Joseph’s house. In fact, Herod orders the slaughter of the babies two years of age and younger. This means that the child would be well under two years old, in order that no error could be made in killing Jesus, but it also indicates that Jesus was older than a newborn.
Question. Is it wrong for Christians to celebrate Christmas?
there is one thing you forgot to mention is the day december 25, if i am correct it used to be a pagan holiday and since we don;t know the exact time christ was born( possibly early spring because of the shepherds and new born lambs) but thank you for the lesson, i must say i am rather enjoying your blunt but truthful way of saying things its refreshing to hear
Thanks for the interesting article. I too agree that wise men did not arrive immediately. But I have a question. Mat 2:8 says “Then he (Herod) sent them (wise men) to Bethlehem with these instructions. …”. Doesn’t this mean that the holy family were still in Bethlehem?
Also in my opinion there is a reason for the manger scenes with 3 wise men. Catholics and some other churches celebrate the visiting of Magi as a feast few days after Christmas in their liturgical calenders. This is not wrong as we celebrate the Easter few months after Christmas when actually these events were nearly 33 years apart. So in my opinion, there is no harm and it is not a lie to have wise men in the manger scene during Christmas season to as long as you know that it did not happen immediately. Why ‘3’? As you have rightly said, this is an assumption based on the number of gifts. When we don’t know the real number, what is the problem in making a reasonable assumption?
You are correct Matthew 2:8 says Herod sent the Magi to the city of Bethlehem to look of for the child. It was discussed in Matthew 2:6 that the prophesied city of birth for Messiah would be Bethlehem so it is natural to assume this is where the child still is located. Therefore, Herod sends them to Bethlehem but nowhere in the chapter does it say that is where they went. In fact reading down the chapter it says they followed the star to the child and not the words of Herod in verse 9. The star knew where the child was and He was not in Bethlehem. Thanks for you comment and question. God Bless!
Loved, loved, loved the blog. However, don’t you think you might reach more people’s minds, spirits, hearts, if you were not so harsh (you sounded like my mother and she was mean). Other than that, I do believe that you are absolutely correct, I will go back and study this more. Thank you for your words, insight into the word and encouragement to study. Blessings and have a happy Christmas season this year!