By: Jen McGee
In the “sprit of Christmas”, I thought it would be fun to address some common misconceptions surrounding the “Christmas Story”. I think it’s very important that we truly learn the Word of God and learn how to separate truth from what we have speculated or seen in movies and plays over the years. I have learned so much from Faith Bible Institute (John Yates) and also from traveling to Israel and learning so much on that trip. How many of us had this story a little off all of these years?
- HOW DID MARY & JOSEPH TRAVEL TO BETHLEHEM?
~ The traditional Christmas story always shows Mary on a donkey and Joseph walking beside her for all of those miles. They are almost always shown alone. However, the Bible does not mention a donkey! The Bible also does not say that they traveled alone. In fact, there is a very good chance that they would have traveled in a huge camel train as many were going back for the census in Bethlehem. We don’t know these details for sure, but we definitely have done a lot of assuming over the years.
- WHO DID MARY & JOSEPH TALK TO WHEN THEY GOT TO BETHLEHEM?
~ Nearly every Christmas play I’ve ever watched has Mary & Joseph pleading with a grouchy inn-keeper who refuses them a room. But the Bible actually never mentions an inn-keeper! In fact, as the word “inn” has been studied, it’s not even what we normally would think an “inn” would be! The word can be translated “Upper Room” or Guest Room”. So it’s very likely that there was no room left for them in the guest room!
- WHEN AND WHERE DID MARY DELIVER BABY JESUS?
~ We always hear that Mary was in labor as they arrived to Bethlehem and barely made it to the “stable” before delivering Baby Jesus. However, we only know that Mary was “great with child”. It never says she delivered as soon as she arrived. They could have been there days before the delivery. The Bible tells us “when the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” – this implies they were there for a bit before her delivery. It also is extremely likely that with a 70 mile trip between Nazareth and Bethlehem, that they would never have left so close to her delivery. They would have given her a “cushion” so to speak.
~ So did they stay in the quintessential wooden stable in a field like we have always pictured? No! There are two good ideas as to where the manger would’ve been. In ancient times, homes would have connected rooms in which animals would stay. They would especially keep the more vulnerable animals close by to avoid thieves or other predators. So Mary and Joseph could have been put in one of these connected rooms for animals.
When I traveled to Bethlehem, we were shown a cave that would have been used to house animals. Many believe that the manger scene could have also been in a cave-type dwelling. Bottom line – we can study words and culture, but we do not know 100% sure. Just get the mental picture of the typical American stable out of your mind. 🙂
- WHEN WAS JESUS’ EXACT BIRTHDAY?
~ The Western Church says Dec. 25th, the Eastern Church says Jan. 6th. For most of my adult life, I thought it was some time in the spring like March or April. However, history tells us that Herod the Great died sometime between March 29 – April 11 of 4 B.C. The Gospels tells us that Jesus was born at least two months before Herod’s death, which makes the latest he could have been born to be January of 4 B.C. Perhaps December and January dates aren’t that far off. Regardless of the actual date, the birth of Jesus is WORTH CELEBRATING!
- EXACTLY WHO WERE THE WISE MEN AND HOW MANY WERE THERE?
~ “We 3 Kings of Orient Are…” – LIES! Lol. We have always sung lies! The Wise Men were not Kings! They were Magi or Advisors to the King. They were extremely intelligent and were experts in science, math, religion & astronomy. I guess that makes perfect sense because they were charting stars and knew when something, like a bright star in the sky, was not where it was supposed to be!
~ Yes, there were 3 lavish gifts for Jesus, however, it never says how many wise men there were. There could have been 2 of them or hundreds of them! It is likely that when traveling THAT far, there could have been a lot of them traveling all at once.
- WHEN DID THE WISE MEN ARRIVE?
~ You pretty much won’t find a nativity without wise men. But we know that the wise men DID NOT arrive the night of Jesus’ birth. The Bible refers to Jesus as “the child”. Also, when Mary got past her 40 days of cleansing, she and Joseph presented two turtledoves as their sacrifice. Turtledoves were a gift that impoverished people would give. Lambs were given by people who had more money. Had the wise men visited them at this point, they would have had money and their sacrificial gift would have likely been a lamb. We know, based on wicked King Herod’s demands, that Jesus was less than 2 years old. It is probable that Jesus would have been around 2 MONTHS old when the wise men arrived to the “house” (not the manger), but that is just a guess. We only know for sure that he was older than 40 days and he was less than 2 years.
There is so much more that I can’t wait to learn about the Bible that I have read for decades. We get to be privy to an ancient, historical, God-breathed, Book that holds the very Words of God! It’s our job to never stop learning all about it.
Pics below: Me holding a sheep in Bethlehem; Me standing in a cave in Bethlehem where animals would have been kept; A close-up of the cave in Bethlehem; Josh and I standing in front of “Shepherd’s Field” in Bethlehem; A shot of “Shepherd’s Field” through a “Star”. 🙂