Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Mythbusters

Andy and I have "discussed" (quotes because it's all e-mail/blogger stuff) about the traditional Christmas views and how I'm different than most Christians -- Christmas to me is a completely secular deal. Every day is Easter, every day is Christmas, so the special holiday stuff is just that -- special holiday stuff. No more, no less. I still enjoy Christmas, it's just all about the fun.

There are a number of myths and misconceptions surrounding Christmas, and here are a few. I'll bet that you didn't know at least a few of these.

- The song "We Three Kings" is full of baloney. First of all, they are known as "wise men" in the Bible, and they probably worked for a king, but they weren't kings. They were astrologers who used the stars to guide the ruler with whom they associated. Secondly, we haven't a clue as to how many "wise men" actually visited the baby Jesus; we only know that there were more than one (plural) and that they brought three gifts: gold, frankensence and myrrh.

- The concept of three wise men in a nativity scene is in error. The Bible says that the wise men first consulted with Herod in Jerusalem (three days on foot) asking where Jesus had (already) been born (Matt. 2:1), then saw Jesus "in the house" (Matt. 2:10). Jesus wasn't born in a house, he was born somewhere with a manger. Therefore, these men came sometime after the birth -- at least a number of days, so they weren't at the birth scene with the manger, etc. And, again, there is no Biblical nor historic reference indicating that there were exactly three wise men (see above).

- A wooden shed as a stable and a wooden manger are likely in error, too. This one isn't for certain by any means, but the custom in that time and in modern times in Judea is to use a cave below the city to keep livestock. The shepherd would gather the sheep into the cave and lay down to sleep across the opening to ensure that the sheep wouldn't get out. Likewise, the manger was usually a crude trough made of stacked stones near the entrance to the cave.

- Jesus was not born on December 25, A.D 1. Of course, this one is a biggie for some folks. It's not hugely important to know the exact date, but the time was likely in the early autumn, for a couple of reasons: 1. The shepherds were still in the fields, which they wouldn't have usually been in December, and 2. from Luke 2:1-2 we know that Jesus was born during the first census taken by Quirinius, and a winter census would have been a real hardship for travel during the rainy winter months. About the year: the Romans were good record keepers, and that census was likely taken in 4 B.C. I say 'likely', because there is a little doubt about how our modern calendar and the Roman calendar match up. To further drive this point home, we also know that Herod the Great died in 4 B.C., and he certainly was alive when Jesus was born (Matt. 2:1-3).

- The wise men are likely of the same ethnicity. Many nativity scenes depict the wise men of three varying ethnicities. However, there is evidence to the contrary. First of all, the Bible records that they "from the East" (Matt. 2:1). A single direction. Secondly, the Bible records that "they returned to their country by another route" (Matt. 2:12). A single country. It certainly is possible that they were of different origin and living in the same place, but it isn't likely, especially given that they were likely high-ranking advisors to their king.

- Silent Night - NOT! We know that the birth process ain't no box of chocolates for the mothers among us, and presumably, since Jesus was born a man just like us, there was some discomfort involved. Strike one. Second, the town of Bethlehem was crowded -- remember the lack of room in the inn? There were people everywhere camping out, etc. Strike two. Then, the angels get in on the act, singing praises and bringing the shepards to see Jesus (Luke 2:13-20). The shepards start spreading the word, too! Strike three. It wasn't a very silent night, no siree Bob.


There are other misconceptions, but these are the ones that I always marvel at -- do people really read their Bibles? Really?

3 Comments:

Blogger Andy Rupert said...

Reading, thinking, and responding are three very different things.

8:39 PM  
Blogger EggsnGrits said...

indeed.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Randall said...

I've thought about the same stuff before as well. And no, I've found the far majority of religious persons do not actually read the Bible much at all. Sad, really.

12:29 PM  

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