|By Clyde Lewis
While our attention turns to religious writings during the holidays maybe it is time to assess just what the scriptures are trying to tell us about the significance of bright stars, angels and their appearance to shepherds. While many people feel guilty about telling children that Santa exists and worry about whether or not their children will resent them for continuing the myth, they never think about telling the truth about the nativity.
There is a tradition in most Christian households where the eldest of the family gathers everyone together and by the warmth of the holiday fire the first Christmas is read from the Gospel of Saint Luke the Apostle. The feelings that are felt by the faithful are magical and it sets the stage for the true and lasting meaning of the holiday.
Spun from those stories are many more myths and legends about the nativity and with 2000 years of telling and retelling the stories the mythology is more romantic than the real story.
It is a story seldom told.
The reason for this is simple. The Gospels were narrowed down to only four. It was unknown who truly authored the gospels. There was no signature given or preface for them. It is even doubted that the gospels were given by any of Jesus' true followers. Many of the verses that are read on Christmas Eve are merely versions of a story that have been told and retold and eventually agreed upon as Gospel truth.
It is often argued that the scriptures dealing with the Nativity are not historically accurate. As a result we have had a fairy tale version of the whole event and to even cry foul over it screams of blasphemy.
However I am not entirely wrong in telling you that the Bible has been the most translated book in history. It has also been the most interpreted and one must understand that regardless of it's sanctimonious religious peddlers the Bible should be looked upon in it's proper perspective.
It should be understood that while the Bible has certain remarkable truths, there are many embellishments and mythologies that have crept into the writings out of convenience. If this type of thought is already a turn off to you then you can stop reading now and continue a life of irresolution.
I have often been told by ignorant Christians and even people whom I have thought to be intelligent that Jesus was born in the year Zero. They will be the first to tell you that January 1, 2000, is truly the beginning of the 21st century and the third millennium. Even though the new century and new millennium really begins January 1, 2001.
If one reads the scriptures they will realize that Jesus birth happened about the time of the final reign of Herod the Great. This would be at or around 4 B.C. I once did a show about the true 2000 years after Christ's birth being 1996 and received tons of hate mail stating that there was a special place in Hell set aside for me. Let it be said that tradition is often more important than history.
December 25th is often sited as the date of birth for the Christ child, which once again is inaccurate and of course is not questioned unless of course you are the type of kid who revealed to his cousins that Santa Claus was really Uncle Dick wearing a beard.
In the Scriptures, no one, not even Christ himself celebrated his birthday. There is no record of a feast or any party or remembrance on his birth date
. Christmas was not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church. It was the practice in the early church to celebrate the death of notable individuals rather than celebrating their birthdays.
It was Clement of Alexandria that suggested that the true month and day of Christ's birth was the 20th of May however no one celebrated on that day.
It wasn't until the third and fourth centuries that there were dates proposed to celebrate the birth of Christ. December 25th was finally accepted by the western church as the date of his birth. There are many who say that the Christian embracing of the December 25th date was in direct opposition to the pagan celebration of the Natalis Solis Invicti or the nativity of the unconquerable sun.
Although the December 25th date was forced on the public at large, the debate continued as to when Christ was born into the world. Other dates that have been argued are March 28, April 2 and November 18. January 6 was the chosen date in the Eastern part of the world. It was a date that the Greeks coincidentally had celebrated as the birth of the god Dionysus and the Egyptians as the birth of the god Osiris.
Let me be clear that the Bible does not give the date of the birth of Christ. The date chosen had nothing to do with anything biblical. The date was nothing but a decree that was purely ecclesiastical in nature.
The ible does however show us when he wasn't born and obviously he wasn't born in December or on a winter night.
The Old song "The First Noel" when sung by cold carolers in your front yard is highly inaccurate:
"The First Noel
The angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields where they
Lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter's night that was so deep,"
While it is possible that shepherds could tend a flock in fields in December it would be highly improbable. While Snow is common for two or three days in Jerusalem and nearby Bethlehem in December and January, it is important to point out that the bible states:
"Now there were in the same land shepherds abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night."
It is a common practice of shepherds to keep their flocks out in the fields starting in the spring continuing to the fall. That would be from April to October. When the weather turns cold shepherds take their flocks back home and shelter them in stables barns even their own homes. This is important evidence to disprove a December date for Christ's birth.
If you think I am way off on this I have more evidence to show you that Jesus was not born in December. I will use the Bible to prove it:
"And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed ... So all went to be taxed, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son."
The Taxing, or Census taking of Rome was never taken in winter. Generally a census would take place after the harvest. The weather was usually good and the roads were still dry enough to allow easy travel for those making such trips to their city of birth. It seems to be a practical assumption that Jesus was born in September or October.
Another magical misinterpretation that needs to be cleared up is the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The biggest lie of Christmas is that the term refers to the conception of Jesus. It is also the general opinion that the Immaculate Conception is the conception of any child by a woman who has not engaged in sexual intercourse.
Well the act of introducing sperm to ovum is the only way a child can be conceived and the best way to do it is through sexual intercourse. Unless of course you believe in other methods and perhaps other more advanced ways such as a spirit over taking Mary or perhaps an Alien or Extra-Terrestrial method.
The Immaculate Conception has nothing to do with either the conception of Jesus or a virgin birth. It is dogma of Roman Catholicism that states that the Virgin Mary was free from original sin by divine grace from the moment of her conception. Do you understand this? It had nothing to do with Virgin Birth. It has more to do with the divinity of Mary. For she was blessed among women even after she was born. Without original sin. She was declared a Virgin throughout eternity, without the taint of sin.
The interpretation has become perverted and it's intent has been distorted over the centuries. It was after the 2nd and 3rd centuries that scholars came up with the idea that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary. It was thought that Sexual intercourse had to be a sin and that there was no need for Mary to have such relations since she was divine.
It is still argued that Joseph was not the stepfather of Christ but indeed the father and that Christ's divinity comes from Mary being immaculate and her soul free from sin. Some religions such as Mormonism teach that God impregnated Mary. Either way the idea has generated debate amongst biblical scholars, protestant and orthodox faiths.
Finally there is another myth that continues to show up in the first Christmas story that seems to be taken as gospel when the very scriptures show it to not be entirely correct. I am of course referring to the three Wise men.
The Old Christmas Carol continues the myth of three Kings from the east:
"We three Kings of Orient Are
bearing gifts, we've traveled so far.
Field and fountain, moor and Mountain
Following Yonder Star."
Many will swear that there were three wise men and that they arrived on Christmas morning finding the infant Jesus in a manger. Not only is this a falsehood but it is also highly unlikely that a journey of a thousand miles happened overnight by camel or on foot for that matter.
Many will say "But there are scriptures in the bible mentioning wise men. Well that is very true:
In Mathew 2:1 it says the following:
"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, "
Nowhere does it mention how many wise men and how they arrived at the place of the Christ Child. They were not Kings, however a group of men following a Star could mean that they were ancient astronomers, or even astrologers. It has generally been consensus reality that there were three wise men because later on in Matthew we read that three gifts were presented to the Christ child. Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. There is also the rumored names of the wise men Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. These names are not in the Bible or in the Apocrypha. These names do not appear in any of the 4 gospels. There have been theories that twelve astrologers made the journey to Bethlehem. One thing is certain they were not Jewish and they were not Christians. They probably came from Persia , and Babylonia.
It is also comical that while many Christians will tell you that witchcraft, divination, soothsaying, and astrology are tools of the Devil, they will not bat an eye at the fact that the Three Wise men or "magi" were quite possibly (if you go by the Greek translation) magicians, wizards, fortune tellers, and priests who probably worshipped the sun gods and the moon goddesses.
The very thought of receiving gifts from a witch, sorcerer, or pagan would be considered heresy. He was important to them for reasons that were not mentioned in the Bible. Many will say that it was because they knew he was the son of God, but I highly doubt it.
Another way that we can prove that the Magi were not Jews and unaware of what Christ's Divine mission is that they asked King Harod where they could find Jesus. If they knew who he was and what he meant to King Harod they never would have bothered. Jesus was apparently a threat to Harod's dynasty.
"Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him."
The wise men had a vision not to return to Herod and left the country after seeing Jesus.
"Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men."
The preceding scripture shows that these men took at least two years maybe more before they reached the Christ Child. And another scripture shows that the shepherds were probably the only visitors to the stable the night of Christ's birth:
"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him."
Notice how the scripture states that they went to a house and saw Jesus.
So we are to assess that according to scripture that the Star of Bethlehem first appeared when Jesus was born. Shepherds were told by an angel of the event and they arrived. They were there the first night of the Nativity.
Two or more years later the wise men met King Herod, Herod asked them to find Jesus, they did so and then fled the country after a vision. Herod then ordered the deaths of all children 2 years and younger after he felt betrayed by the wise men.
Another misconception about Christ is that he was born in a wooden stable much like a barn. Jesus was born in a cave. The Church of the Nativity is built over the cave where Jesus was born. Mangers of course are feeding troughs and in primitive cultures the sheep and livestock often spent the night in the houses and not in the caves. While inside, the animals were protected from theft, or wolves and they also provided body heat for cool nights. The animals would provide milk for meals and dung for lamp fuel.
The Nativity scene that is in everyone's front yard, that is on every mantel, that is painted in every Christmas card is only symbolic. The nativity scene is purely fictional. Much of the poetry and song of the season do not reflect the events that actually took place when Jesus Christ was born.
Saying that the nativity scene is fictional is by no means proof that Jesus Christ was not divine. It does not mean that he is not God's son. It means that we have created images that consensus reality has accepted as factual. Tackling subjects sensitive to Christian belief and faith can get you into trouble, however none of the popular Christmas beliefs are true Christian belief or faith. It is Christian mythology that has been accepted as fact throughout the centuries.
This is not case against Christianity, but a case for the historical facts surrounding the birth of Christ. The bottom line here is that Christmas survives on magic. Without it, it would just be another day. Religion survives on magic as well, however there would be a number of people who would deny it to their deaths.
Copyright 1998-2007 Ground Zero Media, Clyde Lewis, and John Hart. All Rights Reserved.