Misconceptions About the Birth of Christ
Misconceptions About the Birth of Jesus
12/13/15 - Christmas
"Jesus was born on December 25th"
If you were to ask most people in the world (be they religious or non-religious) "When was Jesus born?" After receiving a rather puzzled look they would probably tell you -"Well, December 25th, of course!" In fact, the Bible does not tell us a date upon which Jesus was born, and a little bit of calculation can show that it could not have been near that date at all. The gospel of Luke begins with the account of Zacharias being visited by an angel while he was serving in the temple. This angel announced to him that he would have a son (who would grow to be John the Baptist). Luke 1:5 tell us that Zacharias was of the priestly division of Abijah. During the time of King David, the priests had been separated into twenty-four divisions in order to determine who would serve in the temple at different times. The eighth division was that of Abijah (I Chronicles 24:10). Each division appears to have served one week each which would give each division two times a year that they would serve (II Kings 11:7, II Chronicles 23:8). Unlike our year the Hebrew year began in the spring with the month of Abib or Nisan (Exodus 12:2, Deuteronomy 16:1). Based upon this it can be determined that the times of service for the division of Abijah would be in approximately June and November. The visit of the angel to Zacharias was during his time of service in the temple (Luke 1:8,9) and his wife conceived after his time of service (Luke 1:23-25). The gospel of Luke tells us in chapter one verses 26 & 36 that when the angel came to Mary (Jesus' mother) that it was during the sixth month of the pregnancy of Elizabeth (the wife of Zacharias). That would place the time of Mary's conception at either May or December. Nine months from May would place the date of Jesus' birth sometime in February. Or nine months from December would place it in September. Thus there is no indication in Scripture that December 25th is even close to the date of Jesus' birth.
"There were three wise men"
Regarding the wise men who came from the east to visit Jesus, it is often suggested that there were three. Some have even expanded upon what the Bible records to such a degree that they have given names to the three. This notion probably comes from the fact that the Bible tells us that three gifts were brought to Jesus, yet nowhere are we told the number of Wise Men. It could have been three, two or thirty-three the text says simply - "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem" (Matthew 2:1).
"The Wise Men visited Jesus while He was in the manger" Millions upon millions of "nativity" scenes have been produced which portray the wise men standing over the baby Jesus as he lies in the manger. In fact, the indication from Scripture seems to be that the visit of the Wise Men came sometime after Jesus' birth and swaddling in the manger. To begin with, the text says - "And when they had come into the HOUSE, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him..." (Matthew 2:11 emphasis mine). Notice the scene of their adoration of Christ was not in a place where one would find a manager but rather in a "house". Further, Matthew 2:7 tells us that Herod asked the Wise Men when the star appeared in order that he might determine when the child was born. Apparently based upon this answer he determined to have all male children under the age of two put to death (Matthew 2:16). Thus it may be that Jesus was as much as two years old by this time.
"The Shepherds brought gifts"
In addition to confusion about the Wise Men, it is also suggested that the Shepherds who were in the fields brought gifts to Jesus. Of the shepherds, the text tells us - "So it was when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.' And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen Him they made widely known the saying times, which was told them concerning this Child." (Luke 2: 15-17). Unlike the Wise Men, the shepherds had not been seeking Jesus. Thus when they were told about Him they went to investigate, rather than worship.
"The Bible teaches Christians to celebrate 'Christmas'"
Many in the religious world that would count themselves very religious people do so base upon two things: they attend a church service somewhere on Christmas and Easter! Most likely they would tell you that they are doing so "because the Bible says to!" In fact, the Bible says nothing about observing any type of memorial of the birth of Jesus. That is not to say that Christians should not appreciate and remember Christ's entrance into the world as well as all aspects of His life. Yet we should do so at all times, remembering not only His birth but His life, death, teachings, and resurrection. What is ironic is that while the religious world has added a religious day of the memorial where none was commanded, they have almost wholeheartedly neglected that which is commanded and authorized, ie. worship every first day of the week. For a church to attribute to December 25th a special sanctity is to act without Scriptural authority.
Now, some Christians individually may choose to have a time of gift giving, pretty lights, and family togetherness, while others may choose to reject any association at all with what the world calls "Christmas." This is all in the realm of personal liberty, but definitely, the Bible gives no authorization for the church to celebrate a special day in memory of Christ's birth.