The Bible's story of the birth of Jesus
by Steve Rudd

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Separating the Bible truth from the Myth

Introduction:

The birth of Jesus Christ is in direct fulfillment of many Bible prophecies, Isaiah 7:14 of the virgin birth; Gen 3:15 that he was born of the seed of woman, Isaiah 11:1 that he would descend from the line of Jesse (king David); Micah 5:2 that he would be born in Bethlehem; Matthew 2:18 + Jeremiah 31:15 that Herod would slaughter all the children in an attempt for the Devil to kill the Christ child. All these prophecies were made at least 700 years before Jesus was born. They stand as an irrefutable monument to the inspiration of the Bible and prove that God revealed himself through his messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

I. List of Christmas myths:

MYTH #1: Christmas on December 25th is found in the Bible.

TRUTH: There is no celebration of the birth of Christ in the Bible on any day, but began through human tradition to be celebrated about 250 AD in the spring and on December about 325 AD.
See also: Pagan origin of Christmas, Easter, Halloween "holy days".

MYTH #2: December 25 is the birthday of Jesus.

TRUTH: December 25 was the birthday of Mithra, the pagan God of light. In 325 AD, Roman emperor Constantine re-assigned the meaning to the birthday of Jesus, the true God of light. The Christian meaning over

MYTH #3: Mary wanted to spend the night at an inn, but there were no "motel rooms" available because the inn was full.

TRUTH: There was no space (room) in the "upper room" of a private house because other family members had got there first, not a public inn, motel, hotel etc.

MYTH #4: Mary remained a virgin until the day of her death.

TRUTH: Although Joseph did not have sex with Mary until after she gave birth to Jesus, Mary and Joseph had many other children: “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? “And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (Matthew 13:55-56)

MYTH #5: They spent the night in a separate building like a barn where the animals were kept.

TRUTH: There was no room on the upper floor of the house so they spent the night on the main floor of the house where the animals were kept inside the house. Most ancient Jewish houses had a common area on the main floor, including a manger where animals ate and slept at night, and an upper room where everyone slept. It is possible that there was a separate barn, but this would often be attached to the house directly.

MYTH #6: There were three wise men.

TRUTH: There were three gifts, gold frankincense and myrrh. There may have been 10 wise men, we don’t know, but each of them likely brought some gold frankincense and myrrh. Since these were common currency items of value, each wise man, regardless of the actual number, brought a little of all three.

MYTH #7: The star of Bethlehem shone over the manger the night Jesus was born.

TRUTH: 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. However, the redirection of the Magi to an alternate return route coupled with the same hour of the night urgent departure, both lend weight to the star leading the Magi to the same house Jesus was born.

MYTH #8: 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 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.

MYTH #9: God wants Christians to remember and celebrate the birthday of Christ!

TRUTH: The scriptures do not tell us to celebrate the birth of Christ but to celebrate His death... and not once a year at "Easter" but every Sunday through the Lord's Supper. (Acts 20:7)  

II. Here is a strictly Biblical chronology of the birth of Christ.

1.      Mary and Joseph were fully and legally married when Mary became pregnant. She is referred as his wife and Joseph considered "divorcing" her.

2.      Joseph was called a "just man" in wanting to divorce Mary privately because he was willing to pay the "bride price", (a large sum of money) to divorce her for no cause… when he actually had cause! How many men would care about the reputation of their "harlot" wife, whom they feel has committed adultery on him, then pay $25,000 to the father of the "Harlot" wife. When he was willing to divorce his wife secretly, he, not her, would look bad. He had certain proof she was unfaithful and could divorce her with no cost to himself. “And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away [divorce] secretly.” (Matthew 1:19)

3.      Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

4.      Mary and Joseph were members of the "house of David" and Jesus was born in their ancestral town of Bethlehem where David was born: “Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,” (Luke 2:4)

5.      Joseph and Mary tried to stay of a relative's house, not a public inn, but there was no space left in the "upper room" (mistranslated inn in many Bibles).

6.      Joseph and Mary were forced to sleep on the ground floor (directly below the upper room of the private home) where the animals slept.

7.      Jesus was born on the main floor of a relatives two story house because there was no room for Mary and Joseph to stay in the "upper room", in Bethlehem (Matthew 1:25 & Luke 2:1-7).

8.      That same night, angels announced to the shepherds that Christ was born and they visited the newborn Christ at the manger (Luke 2:8-20).

a.      In this way, all shepherds, who as a class had a very low social status, would take a keen and early interest in the Chief Shepherd (Jn 10:11; 1 Pet 5:4). Jesus is the "lamb ... who will be their shepherd" in Rev 7:17.

b.      It was fitting for many reasons that God designed that shepherds be the first to hear the gospel. All the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob etc., were shepherds.

c.       King David was a shepherd, and was not originally even considered a candidate as king. Jesus was the "good shepherd" (Jn 10:1ff).

d.      The office of overseers of the local churches (1 Tim 3; Tit 1) uses two other interchangeable words to describe the single office: Elders and Shepherds. (Acts 20:17,28; 1 Peter 5:1-2).

9.      Jesus was circumcised when He was eight days old (Luke 2:21). Jesus was then presented in the temple 33 days later after the "days of purification" were competed, which is the 40th day after Jesus was born. (Leviticus 12:2-6 & Luke 2:22-38).

10.  Contrary to popular myth, the "star of Bethlehem" is merely referred to as "his star" which the Magi saw.

a.      Further, there is no Biblical evidence that the star hovered over the stable where Jesus was born. Rather the star hovered over the house (See Matthew 2:11) of Jesus some time after his birth. Matthew 2:1-2,7,9 says "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him. ... Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared ... the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was"

b.      The Magi first saw the star at the time of Christ's Birth, then they saw the star long after Jesus was born and arrived at the house of Jesus, probably when Jesus was about 2-9 months old. (see below)

c.       There is no evidence that the Magi were led to Jesus by a bright low hovering star. Such a star would have been quite noticeable by many people. The fact that Herod had to ask the Magi when the star first appeared, proves that the star was not out of the ordinary to the untrained eye. Only the Magi, who studied the stars, would notice it. Hence the idea of a very bright low hovering star shining over the stable where Jesus is born is wrong.

d.      On the other hand, the star the Magi were attracted by, has no acceptable natural celestial explanation and it is clearly a special miracle to attract the Magi.

11.  After Joseph and Mary returned home from their journey, an unknown number of wise men (Magi), visited Jesus at his house (Matthew 2:1-12).

a.      The angel warns Joseph to flee to Egypt because of the impending slaughter of all the male children under the age of two (Matthew 2:13-15).

b.      King Herod kills all the male children out of fear that Jesus would supplant him as king (Matthew 2:16-18).

c.       After the death of King Herod, Joseph returns to Nazareth with Mary and Jesus (Luke 2:39 & Matthew 2:19-23).

d.      Jesus grows up in Nazareth.

III. No room in the Inn or a private house? Lk 2:7

1.      Word study of three important Greek words:

Passage

Kataluma

"Guest room"

Pandocheion

Public Inn, Hotel

huperōͅon

Upper room

Meaning of Greek word

Literally: "loosen down" metaphoric of loosening clothing and sandals

Literally: "all receiving" anyone with money is welcome to stay

Literally: "upper", as in the upper room of a private dwelling

No room for Jesus in the Guest room?

Lk 2:7

 

 

Prepare Passover in upper room

Lk 22:11, Mk 14:14

 

 

Parable of the Good Samaritan who stated in an inn with innkeeper

Luke 10:34-35

 

 

The twelve gathers in upper room waiting for Pentecost: Acts 1:13

 

 

Tabitha laid in upper room: Acts 9:36-37

 

 

Only recorded church service is in an upper room: Acts 20:8

 

 

2.      Notice Jesus began and ended his life in "the guest room", not an inn:

a.      Jesus' first night on earth there was no room in the guest room: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room [τόπος/topos] for them in the inn [κατάλυμα/kataluma] (Luke 2:7)

b.      Jesus' last night on earth was in the guest room: “And you shall say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?” (Luke 22:11)

c.       The word translated "inn" in most Bibles in Lk 2:7, literally means to "loosen down" and is metaphoric of loosening clothing, girdles, back packs, sandals, etc. and relaxing.

d.      Some suggest that "loosen down" includes unpacking horses, mules and proves it was a public inn. The problem with this logic, is this: If there was no room for them in the room where the place animals would be unburdened and "loosened" of their packs, how did they end up in the very place the animals spent the night in the inn? Obviously therefore, there was no room in the place that humans would sleep "guest room" so they had no choice but to spend the night in the place the animals would normally sleep.

e.      Is it possible that the second floor of homes had no separate guest rooms? Perhaps the entire living space was used by the family themselves. They generally did not have an area set aside for guests that had a little teddy bear on the bed and a chocolate under the pillow… just in case someone visited. These houses were tiny and it is a puzzle where guests would actually stay? Perhaps the "loosening down" room was the entire second floor of the house which is where guests would stay. In other words, the guests would stay in the same open area on the second floor as the family who lives there.

3.      There are two key Greek words used in Luke 2:7: "τόπος/topos: no room" and "κατάλυμα/kataluma: the inn"

a.      "Topos" does not mean a "hotel room" but simple the generic "space". There was "no place for them to stay" = "no room"

b.      "Kataluma" does not necessarily mean a public hotel or inn, but a simple upper room. The word is used three times in the Bible and the other two times refers to the "upper room" where Jesus ate the Passover mean and instituted the Lord's supper the night he was arrested: “And you shall say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?” (Luke 22:11) see also Mark 14:14 for same word.

c.       There is different Greek word (πανδοχεῖον/pandocheion) that specifically means a public in with an inn keeper used in the story of the good Samaritan: “and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn [πανδοχεῖον/pandocheion] and took care of him. “On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’” (Luke 10:34-35)

4.      The Upper Room in the book of Acts: huperōͅon, literally: Upper room. Why would Luke use two different words to describe the same area? In Luke, he uses kataluma (loosen down) in Acts he uses huperōͅon (upper room).

a.      “When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room [huperōͅon] where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.” (Acts 1:13)

b.      “And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room [huperōͅon]. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, “Do not delay in coming to us.” So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room [huperōͅon]; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them.” (Acts 9:37–39)

c.       “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room [huperōͅon] where we were gathered together.” (Acts 20:7–8)

5.      Many commentators say Jesus was born in a private residence:

a.      "I believe it means a room in a private house in which travelers could usually spend the night." (Hermeneia Commentary, Luke 2:7)

b.      "On this reading it is best to think of an overcrowded Palestinian peasant home: a single-roomed home with an animal stall under the same roof (frequently to be distinguished from the family living-quarters only by the raised platform floor of the latter). The manger could be free-standing in the stall or attached to the wall (it could also be on the floor of the living area adjacent to the stall area, but this would not fit with the exclusion of the child from the living quarters), κατάλυμα will, then, refer to the living quarters provided by a single-roomed Palestinian home in which hospitality has been extended to Mary and Joseph." (World Biblical Commentary, Luke 2:7)

c.       "κατάλυμα, ‘lodging’, can be used of a guest-room (22:11; Mk. 14:14), so that the reference may be to a room rather than to an inn (πανδοχεῖον, 10:34), and to a room in a private house rather than to a room in an inn" (New International Greek Testament Commentary, Lk 2:7)

d.      "And so they found a κατάλυμα or “stopping place,” surely with some relative of Joseph’s in the town. The house was small and perhaps had only one or two rooms and a shed for an animal or two. The only accommodation that could be offered to Joseph and to Mary was this shed. Here they slept, and when the time came, the baby was born here with only a manger in which to sleep. This manger may have been located on the stable floor. Joseph’s ass may have been tied here with any other animal that belonged to the house-owner. The shed would be roomy enough. This description adheres closely to all that Luke indicates. Besides, it utilizes what the author saw in the Holy Land, for instance, the house of one of the guides that was built of heavy stones (like all houses in Palestine) and had two rooms and a stone side room. It was entered only from the outside and was partly filled with a small heap of alfalfa and wheat." (Lenski, Luke 2:7)

e.      "Because there was no room for them in the inn: This does not refer to a lack of a “hotel room” but lack of a suitable “place” for Mary to give birth to her son. It does not imply any rejection on the part of the much maligned innkeeper. The “inn” probably refers to a public caravansary (a crude overnight lodging place for caravans), which was the one lodging place in Bethlehem." (The New American Commentary, Lk 2:7)

f.        "laid him in a manger. I.e. in a feeding trough for domesticated animals (see MM, 665). It could have been in a barn or in some feeding-place under the open sky, as the contrast with “lodge” in the rest of the verse would suggest. However, the word phatnē can also mean a “stall, feeding-place” (see H. J. Cadbury, JBL 45 [1926] 317–319; 53 [1933] 61–62), i.e. an enclosure where animals might be penned, either indoors or outdoors (see Luke 13:15). The verb aneklinen seems to the call for the meaning, “manger.” No mention is made of animals in this text. Their presence in the Christmas cribs of later date is derived from Isa 1:3. The tradition of Jesus’ birth in a “cave” is derived from the Prot. Jas. 18.1; it is also found in Justin Dial. 78, and Origen Contra Celsum 1.51. no room. I.e. no space (topos). The implication is that Mary and Joseph were not the only ones who have come to the town of David for the registration so that there was simply not space enough for all. in the lodge. In Luke 22:11 katalyma occurs again, to denote the “guestroom” where Jesus and his disciples eat the Last Supper. From the use there and here it is rather obvious that it does not mean an “inn”; furthermore, Luke uses the word pandocheion for that in 10:34. Actually, katalyma, a compound of kata + lyein, “loose,” denotes a place where one “lets down” one’s harness (or baggage) for the night. Cf. Luke 9:12; 19:7. In 1 Sam 1:18 Elkanah and Hannah on their visit to the sanctuary of Shiloh stay in a katalyma (LXX), which may have influenced Luke’s expression here. It should be understood as a public caravansary or khan, where groups of travelers would spend the night under one roof." (Anchor Yale Bible commentary, Fitzmyer, J. A., Luke 2:7, 2008 AD)

IV. The four room house in ancient Israel:

1.      Archeologically, it is well documented that the "middle class" house in ancient Israel was a two story building with four rooms on the main floor.

2.      The upper room, also called guest room may have taken up the entire second floor area, less the open air section. It may have the same floor plan as the main floor, or perhaps it had an open air roof area on one or both sides (as pictured below)

3.      On the main floor there were four rooms

a.      Room 1: A central open air working area.

b.      Room 2: A rear storage area for food that ran the full width of the house.

c.       Room 3: A manger and stable for domestic animals (this is where Jesus was born)

d.      Room 4: a general use room

4.      A cistern for water accessible from one of the four main floor rooms

V. Where did the star lead the wise men (Magi): Bethlehem or Nazareth?

1.      The tradition that the star shone over the manger of Jesus the night he was born and that the wise men were there that night is completely wrong.

2.      The Magi left Persia or Babylon (700 km trip) only after they saw the star.

a.      Herod determined to execute all children in Bethlehem under the age of two years old.

b.      Given the error margin, this would put Jesus anywhere from newborn to about 6 months old when the Magi arrived, given the travel time of no less than 30 days.

3.      The flight to Egypt did not happen until after Jesus had been circumcised on the 8th day and Mary had offered a sacrifice for her own purification on the 33rd day.

a.      “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: ‘When a woman gives birth and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean. ‘On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. ‘Then she shall remain in the blood of her purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed. ‘But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean for two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall remain in the blood of her purification for sixty-six days. ‘When the days of her purification are completed, for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the doorway of the tent of meeting a one year old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. ‘Then he shall offer it before the LORD and make atonement for her, and she shall be cleansed from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, whether a male or a female. ‘But if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’ ”” (Leviticus 12:2–8)

b.      “And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”” (Luke 2:21–24)

c.       Notice that the offering of two turtledoves/pigeons was for the mother after 33 days!

d.      The flight to Egypt did not happen before 33 days after Jesus was born.

e.      However, during this 33 day period, it is likely that Mary, Joseph and Jesus were either living in the same house he was born in, or in another house in Bethlehem.

f.        It says that Mary, "they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord", with proves they were not staying in Jerusalem, but most likely Bethlehem during the 33 days of purification.

g.      After the 33rd day, they departed for Nazareth. But was this immediately after the purification or after the flight to Egypt? “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)

4.      The Magi arrive in Jerusalem likely on about day 40:

a.      The Magi did not arrive in Jerusalem before 33 days after Jesus was born since Mary purified herself according to the law.

b.      They come to Jerusalem because the star indicated it was the king of the Jews and Jerusalem was the capital.

c.       They did not know where Jesus was born in Israel based upon the star, but had to consult religious leaders who quoted Micah 5:2. It is therefore important to understand that the star did not give them any information up to this point, as to where Jesus was located.

d.      Herod sends the Magi to Bethlehem and after they had begun the 10 km journey and left the presence of Herod, they are then guided miraculously by the star to the exact house where Jesus is living.

5.      The star led them to the HOUSE where Jesus was living. Was this house in Bethlehem or Nazareth?

a.      We know that Jesus was not born in the barn of an inn, but the main floor of a house of their relatives.

b.      So if Jesus was in Bethlehem when the Maji arrived on day 45 after Jesus' birth, then it is likely that Jesus is staying in the same house that he was born in… but staying in the upper room, not on the main floor.

c.       However, Luke 2:39 says that they departed for Nazareth after the 33rd day: “When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.”

6.      Harmonizing the Matthew and Luke accounts of the birth of Jesus:

 

Purification

Go home to Nazareth on day 34

Flight to Egypt

Return to Judah, then Nazareth after flight to Egypt

Matthew 2

No

No

Yes

Yes

Luke 2

Yes

Yes

No

No

Harmony #1

Yes

Yes

Yes from Nazareth

Yes

Harmony #2

Yes

No

Yes from Bethlehem

Yes

a.      Please take note of this difference between Matthew and Luke:

                                                              i.      Matthew has the flight to Egypt but not the 33rd day purification.

                                                            ii.      Luke has the 33rd day purification but not the flight to Egypt.

b.      How shall we harmonize the two accounts to arrive at the correct sequence of events when Luke 2:39 says they left for Nazareth after the 33 days of purification?

                                                              i.      Interpretation #1: Purification, move to Nazareth, flight to Egypt, return to Judah, return to Nazareth.

                                                            ii.      Interpretation #2: Purification, flight to Egypt return to Judah, return to Nazareth

c.       While it is clear that Jesus was staying with relatives in Bethlehem until the 33 days were complete, it is natural to expect them to return to their house in Nazareth immediately after.

d.      However, it is also possible that the Magi arrived shortly after the 33 days and visited the house in Bethlehem.

7.      Arguments that support the idea that the Magi were led by the star to homestead "house" of Joseph and Mary in Nazareth where they had already lived for some time:

a.      As soon as the Magi left Jerusalem the star would shine 180 degrees the opposite direction of Bethlehem. They would be led north of Jerusalem to Nazareth, not south to Bethlehem. This fact would not be learned by Herod, who wrongly assumed that Jesus was in Bethlehem and order the slaughter of all the children.

b.      The bible does not say that the Magi were ever in Bethlehem. In fact the Bible does not tell us where the Magi were when they visited Jesus.

c.       If Jesus was still in Bethlehem when the Magi left Herod for Bethlehem, this was a very dangerous place for God to have Jesus living in. Remember that Herod killed the babies not only in Jerusalem, but in the entire surrounding area. But if Jesus is 120 km north at Nazareth, he would be completely outside the area of the initial slaughter by Herod. There was a risk that Herod could have followed the Magi to the house in Bethlehem and immediately killed Jesus. If the flight from Bethlehem, they needed to also escape the surrounding area. This is quite dangerous.

d.      Luke 2:39 says: “When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord (on day 33), they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.”

e.      Mary and Joseph would want to return to their home in Nazareth where they came from.

f.        It might have been important for the baby Jesus to make an appearance to all their friends and family in Nazareth as a way to confirm he was indeed a natural Nazarene as per prophecy. If the flight to Egypt happened from Bethlehem, then the first time the people of Nazareth saw Jesus was at age 4-6 years old.  This might affect his status as growing up as a resident of Nazareth. But if Mary travels back to Nazareth for a few weeks and "shows off her newborn", then fled to Egypt, Jesus would have a firm claim of being a Nazarene before he arrived after returning to Nazareth and the flight to Egypt.

g.      The flight to Egypt would be necessary because, although Herod's first slaughter was in Bethlehem, he would eventually learn the wise men had been in Nazareth. However there is no indication that Herod ever initiated any slaughter around Nazareth.

8.      Arguments that support the idea that the Magi were led by the star to the birth "house" in Bethlehem:

a.      Although we are not told that the Magi ever went to Bethlehem, there is no indication in the narrative that the Magi went to Nazareth either.

b.      The natural reading of the text has the Magi leaving Herod for Bethlehem, and then being led by the star to the Baby. If they had such a significant change of plans by rerouting from their original intention of Bethlehem to Nazareth, we would expect some comment about this from Matthew.

c.       After the Magi left the baby Jesus, Herod initiated a slaughter in Bethlehem, not Nazareth. It is likely that Herod would have people following

d.      There is some urgency in the angel's command to leave, AS SOON as the Magi had left. They did leave in a rush that very night: “Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13–14)

e.      If the baby was in Nazareth, such urgency would be puzzling, given they are 120 km north of Jerusalem.

f.        A flight from Bethlehem to Egypt is away from Jerusalem. A flight from Nazareth, would require Jesus to pass by Jerusalem and the area of Bethlehem on route to Egypt.

g.      The Magi returned a "different route" from which they had come. This indicates that Jerusalem, the arrival city, was also their departure city. They would travel from Bethlehem through Jerusalem then back the route they came. If they departed from Nazareth, they would already be 120 km north of Jerusalem and have no need to avoid Jerusalem. It clearly indicates that the change in route was an effort to avoid Herod in Jerusalem. However, it may have been known the standard route they would travel even if they were departing from Nazareth, and for this reason took an entirely new route back to Persia or Babylon.

h.      Herod would eventually learn where the Magi had been and there is no indication that he initiated a slaughter in Nazareth, which he would have done, after being tricked by the Magi. First he would initiate a slaughter in Bethlehem, and later, when he learned the Magi were in Nazareth, he would have surely killed the children in Nazareth as well. But there is only one slaughter and that was in Bethlehem.

i.        The traditional view is that the Magi visited in Bethlehem… even if it is wrong about the visit taking place the night Jesus was born. There is no tradition we are aware of, that the Magi visited Jesus in Nazareth.

9.      Conclusion:

a.      The star could have shone over Bethlehem or Nazareth.

b.      Both scenarios are supported in scripture and either are possible.

c.       Perhaps the two key details are the urgent flight of Mary and Joseph the night the Magi left coupled with the fact the Magi took an alternate route to avoid Herod. These two details lend support to the idea that the Magi visited Bethlehem.

d.      If so, there was a star of Bethlehem, but the Magi did not arrive until after 33 days the birth of Jesus. The star the Magi saw from a distance in Babylon AND the star that led them to the house was not something the average person would notice.

e.      The Magi visited a house, not a barn, not an inn. If the star shone over Bethlehem, then scripture explicitly confirms the fact that first century houses had living quarters on the second floor and a place for animals on the first floor and that Jesus was born in a typical first century houses on the main floor and laid in a manger. The Magi visited a HOUSE, probably the same house where there was no space for them to sleep in the upper room, so they bedded down beside the animals.

VI. What is the date of Jesus' Birthday?

1.      There is virtual agreement among scholars that December 25 is not the birth date, not even the month that Jesus was born. The earliest trace of a celebration of Christ's birthday dates back to about 250 AD, when a date in the spring was celebrated by some Christians.

2.      The exact date of Jesus' birth is a mystery because God did not think it was an important date to know. About the best we can do is to possibly narrow it down to seasons.

3.      The Bible does give us some clues. The shepherds were in the fields with their flocks at night when Jesus was born. This may indicate that Jesus was born during the warmer seasons. During the coldest months like December or January, the shepherds didn't sleep in the fields but would bring their flocks into corals.

a.      "Flocks were kept outside in this way from April to November (SB II, 114–116) and occasionally in suitable locations during the winter (cf. Morris, 84)" (New International Greek Testament Commentary, Lk 2:8)

b.      "Out in the fields. Shepherds were out in the fields with their flocks usually during the months of March to November. Nothing in the two birth accounts ties Jesus’ birth to any specific date." (New American Commentary, Lk 2:8)

c.       "abiding in the fields—staying there, probably in huts or tents. watch … by night—or, night watches, taking their turn of watching. From about passover time in April until autumn, the flocks pastured constantly in the open fields, the shepherds lodging there all that time. (From this it seems plain that the period of the year usually assigned to our Lord’s birth is too late)." (JFB Commentary, Lk 2:8)

4.      However some reject this reasoning and maintain that the shepherds and flocks stayed in the fields year round.

a.      "The place [birth place] shown to tourists should deceive no one. So also the deduction that Jesus could not have been born in December, which is fortified by Talmudic notices to the effect that some time between April and November must be referred to. This conclusion is valueless, for in a climate such as Palestine has sheep could be kept out-of-doors all winter. While December 25 is only traditional and goes back to the celebration of the nativity at Rome on that date in the fourth century, it is at least traditional and better than deductions that have no basis and only assail the old date without furnishing even the inkling of a new one. Only one conclusion is sound, namely that Jesus was born at night—otherwise the angel would not have appeared to the shepherds “at night.” (Lenski, Lk 2:8)

5.      Was Jesus born during the lambing period?

a.      There is a tradition that Bethlehem was in fact, the very town where the Jerusalem Passover lambs were born and raised. This is quite credible, considering the fact that David (through inspiration) created a whole new spiritual system with the temple in Jerusalem that Solomon built. David was also a shepherd and given he was king, would logically chose his birth town, the "city of David" (Bethlehem) to be the place that raised such important lambs for the annual day of atonement on Nissan 14, when the High Priest would take the blood and sprinkle it on the Ark of the Covenant. If this is true, then it is possible that Jesus was born in the very manger where the actual Passover lambs were born.

b.      The "lambing season" for sheep is in February in Israel. It is an interesting suggestion that Jesus, being the "lamb of the world" was born at exactly the same time the literal lambs were born. If so then Jesus was born when the lambs were born and he died when the Passover lamb was slaughtered on Nissan 14.

c.       But as we pass from the sacred gloom of the cave out into the night, its sky all aglow with starry brightness, its loneliness is peopled, and its silence made vocal from heaven. There is nothing now to conceal, but much to reveal, though the manner of it would seem strangely incongruous to Jewish thinking. And yet Jewish tradition may here prove both illustrative and helpful. That the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, was a settled conviction. Equally so was the belief, that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, ‘the tower of the flock.’ This Migdal Eder was not the watch-tower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheep-ground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. A passage in the Mishnah leads to the conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple-sacrifices,2 and, accordingly, that the shepherds, who watched over them, were   V 1, p 187  not ordinary shepherds. The latter were under the ban of Rabbinism, on account of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances, and their manner of life, which rendered strict legal observance unlikely, if not absolutely impossible. The same Mishnic passage also leads us to infer, that these flocks lay out all the year round, since they are spoken of as in the fields thirty days before the Passover—that is, in the month of February, when in Palestine the average rainfall is nearly greatest. Thus, Jewish tradition in some dim manner apprehended the first revelation of the Messiah from that Migdal Eder, where shepherds watched the Temple-flocks all the year round. Of the deep symbolic significance of such a coincidence, it is needless to speak. (The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah, Afred Edersheim, p186-187)

6.      Another indication of the time of year Jesus was born, is that the census that Caesar Augustus took in Luke 2:1, would not have been done during the coldest harshest season.

a.      Such a census would require mass migration of large numbers of the population.

b.      Unless Augustus deliberately wanted to make life difficult, he would take such a census during the warmer months and certainly not in December

VII. Mary and Joseph: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed [ketubah] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to divorce her away secretly.” (Matthew 1:18–19)

  1. There were three states of a marriage in the Bible: (Click here for a detailed study of the Three Stages of ancient Jewish Marriage)
    1. Stage 1: signing the "ketubbah" contract (Creating the marriage bond)

                                                              i.      The bride would chose her husband and her father would sign a legal contract with him called a "ketubbah".

                                                            ii.      Once this is signed the couple is 100% married but do not have sex yet.

    1. Stage 2: The "chuppah": sexual consummation.

                                                              i.      Up to 7 years later, the groom is able to raise the money as set out in the ketubbah contract and notifies the father of the bride, who then sets a date to consummate the marriage at the bride's home.

                                                            ii.      The bride waits with her maidens, for the arrival of the groom and his companions.

                                                          iii.      The couple enters the chuppah room and consummates the marriage while the companions of the bride and groom wait and celebrate outside or in the next room.

                                                           iv.      The groom hands the bloodied "proof of virginity cloth" to the witnesses chosen by the bride's parents, who then give it to the bride for safekeeping.

    1. Stage 3: The wedding feast

                                                              i.      After consummation, the entire wedding party walks to the house of the groom in a procession for a wedding feast.

                                                            ii.      At the conclusion of the wedding feast, the couple has completed the ancient ritual of marriage.

  1. Joseph and the father of Mary had signed a ketubah and were 100 % married:
    1. The Holy Spirit calls Joseph "her husband" before they had "come together" (she was a virgin)
    2. Joseph was going to divorce her.
  2. Mary was in a vulnerable position at the mercy of her husband: She was pregnant before the chuppah (formal stage two consummation ceremony) and had no "virginity cloth".
    1. “Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:34–35)
  1. Joseph was a "righteous man":
    1. He did not want to disgrace her even though he believed she was an adulterer.
    2. He was going to divorce her secretly by merely handing her the "get" (divorce paper) without making an accusation of adultery.
    3. This meant that Joseph was required to return the inventory of assets the bride had brought into the marriage and pay the "bride price" to her father.
    4. He was righteous because he had grounds to accuse her, "get even with her" as is the motive in many divorces, keep her inventory of assets and not have to pay the 50 shekel bride price.
    5. Joseph had everything to gain by openly accusing her and it cost him much to divorce her secretly.
    6. How many divorcing spouses would give up a solid, winnable legal position in court and adopt the losing position, merely to protect the reputation of their spouse at great personal financial disaster?

Joseph had two choices:

Choice

Whose reputation was harmed?

Who got the bride's dowry

Joseph pays 50 shekel fine?

Choice 1: divorce Mary for cause

Mary's reputation harmed

Joseph kept the dowry for himself

Joseph doesn't have to pay.

Choice 2: divorce Mary for no cause secretly

Joseph's reputation harmed

Joseph gave the dowry back to Mary

Joseph must pay 50 shekels.

Would you make the same choice Joseph did?

Conclusion:

1.        There are many things missing from the Bible that are in many nativity scenes:

a.      There is no barn

b.      There are no barnyard animals

c.       There is no inn (it was a relative's home)

d.      There is no innkeeper (but there is both an inn and an innkeeper in the Parable of the Good Samaritan)

e.      There is no statement from the innkeeper (the narrator, not the innkeeper says "There was no room in the inn".

f.        There were no wise men present when Jesus was born when he lay in the manger (they came to Joseph's house in Nazareth)

g.      There was no star over the birth place of Jesus in Bethlehem. (it shone over Nazareth)

2.        Jesus was born under the "the guest room", and spent his last night in the "guest room" not an inn.

3.        Click here for a detailed study of the Three Stages of ancient Jewish Marriage.

4.        The Bible is absolutely silent about the celebration of Christ's birthday and "Christmas" as we know it, did not exist until after 300 AD.

5.        The scriptures do not tell us to celebrate the birth of Christ but His death... and not once a year at "Easter" but every Sunday through the Lord's Supper. (Acts 20:7)

6.        Any encyclopedia will give you the basic details of where and how the celebration of Christmas developed. See: Pagan origin of Christmas, Easter, Halloween "holy days".

7.        What is important is that Christ's birth did fulfill many important prophecies. The event brought about great joy to the world when mankind's King and Saviour, "God with us", was born into the world.

Signs of the Birth of Christ

To Whom Was Sign Intended

Pregnant, but never had sex. (Virgin birth)

Mary: Isaiah 7:14

John the Baptist leaped in womb when Mary arrived.

Elizabeth: Luke 1:41-44

Zacharias mute until naming of John the Baptist.

Zacharias: Luke 1:61-64

Baby wrapped in torn strips of cloth (perhaps from adult clothing) in manger (animal trough)

Shepherds: Luke 2:9

Star

Magi: Matthew 2:2,7

 

By Steve Rudd

 

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The Baby Grew Up!

By Zeke Flores

This time of year we see things like Nativity scenes with animals, shepherds and wise men gathered around a manger to gaze on the baby Jesus. We hear things like "Let's put Christ back in Christmas!" and "Jesus is the reason for the season!" There is even a tradition among the Catholics wherein a local couple is appointed to "shelter" a statue of the baby Jesus until Christmas Day. Among the denominations there will be plays and concerts, all to celebrate the birth of Christ. Though there are many errors associated with Christmas as a religious holy day, there is one thing that most folks focus on throughout this season: a baby.

 

In Luke 1:26-37, the angel Gabriel announces to Mary her impending pregnancy. In the angel's declaration he says, "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." (Luke 1:31-33) Note that the emphasis in the angel's news is not only in the fact that the virgin would conceive, but what the Child would grow up to be: A king.

 

In Luke 2:21 and following we have the account of Joseph and Mary presenting the infant to the Lord God as prescribed in the Law. A man named Simeon who was "looking for the consolation of Israel" saw Jesus and recognized Him as the Christ. He sweeps the baby into his arms and praises God for keeping His promise to send a deliverer. He foretells that Jesus would cause the "rise and fall of many in Israel." Similarly, in the same chapter, an old prophetess named Anna also recognizes Jesus as the "redemption of Jerusalem." Hardly the things that a baby could accomplish.

 

In Luke 2:40 we read, "The child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him." And this is my point: Jesus was born so that He would fulfill the mission decided on by God even before the beginning of time. The great accomplishment in His birth is not that a baby was born even of a virgin, but who the baby was and what He would grow up to do. Jesus is the "Word" that "became flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:14) Isaiah the prophet wrote, "For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him." (Is 53:2-3) Paul writes that "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the! point of death, even death on a cross." (Phil 2:8)

 

The baby grew up! He grew into a man to fulfill the plan for our salvation. He grew up to be the advocate, the intercessor, the "one mediator between man and God, the man Christ Jesus." (1 John 2:1, Heb 7:25, 1 Tim 2:5) He grew up so that He could die, thereby offering a perfect, sinless life in sacrifice for our sins. He grew up to be raised from the dead, conquering death and instilling a living hope of eternal life in all who come to Him. He grew up so that he might become "to all those who obey Him, the source of eternal salvation." (Heb 5:9)

 

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad that Jesus was born. But I rejoice even more in the life He lived, the death He died, and the accomplishment of His resurrection! While the world remembers a baby in a feeding trough, let our remembrance of His death every first day of the week help us to look to the Man, the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ throughout the year.

 

Let's not look for a baby in a manger. He's not there. The baby grew up!

 

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