To receive daily emails from Breaking Christian News to your inbox CLICK HERE

SHARE THIS ARTICLE Printer friendly version of this page

The Nativity: Separating Fact from Fiction

Paul Harrington : Nov 26, 2010 : ASSIST News

Think you know your Nativity? Think again.

(Upstate NY)—The Christmas Story—often referred to as "The greatest story ever told"—is as familiar to us all as a comfy old pair of pajamas. It's the well-known, centuries-old, heart-warming tale of Mary, Joseph, and little baby Jesus, a manger, and the three wise men that came to greet the Child.

Sweet, innocent, and completely…wrong?

That's right. There's more fiction surrounding the Nativity tale than fact, and you might be surprised that many of the truths you hold near and dear to your Noel-loving heart are fairly questionable.

The NativitySo here are five things you think you already know about the Nativity, the wise men, and the Biblical story: question is, how many of them are facts we can substantiate?

Think you know your Nativity? Think again. (Photo by: Xiskya Valladares)

1) Fact or Fiction: Everything we know about the Nativity and the Magi comes from four Gospels. Fiction, my friend. The Nativity account appears in only two of the Gospels, Matthew and Luke, and their accounts differ dramatically. The Gospel of Matthew only devotes 12 verses to the Nativity, with the focus of the story on the interaction between the wise men and King Herod's search for the Baby. The Gospel of Luke deals mainly with the appearance of Jesus and His proclamation as God by angelic hosts.

2) Fact or Fiction: We know that three wise men from the East came to the manger. Again, fiction. Only the Gospel of Matthew even mentions the wise men, but the number of wise men was never given. It's been suggested that the number of wise men was assumed to be three because of the number of gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh) presented; three is also a symbolic manifestation of the Holy Trinity of Christian faith. The Magi's names—Melchior, Gaspar (sometimes Caspar) and Balthasar/Balthazar—seem to have been fictional creations as well. However, Marco Polo claimed to have seen the three tombs of the Magi on his journeys, and a golden sarcophagus/shrine in Cologne, Germany, is said to hold the bones of the three Magi to this very day.

3) Fact or Fiction: Well, at least we know the wise men were kings from Asia, Arabia, and Africa. Well, maybe; this one is kind of up for grabs. No Gospel verses account for the Magi's royal status, although some Psalms (71:10, for example) indicate that they were kings from Tharsis, Saba and Arabia. Many historians, however, maintain that the Magi would have been followers of Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion that studied the stars. Expert opinion theorizes that the wise men were astronomer priests who journeyed from an area in present-day Iran.

4) Fact or Fiction: The Star of Bethlehem is a myth, a convention cooked up by storytellers over the years. Actually, this one could be a fact. As we just learned, the Magi could have been priests who studied the stars. And according to Wikipedia, experts have theorized that the Christmas Star could be one of many things: "A nova, a planet, a comet, an occultation (when one larger heavenly body passes in front of an apparently smaller one), and a conjunction (gathering of planets) have all been suggested." In his DVD The Star of Bethlehem, Rick Larson uses sophisticated computer modeling and historical evidence to show that there is indeed convincing astronomical data to support the appearance of a dazzling star at the time of Jesus' birth.

5) Fact or Fiction: Jesus was born in a manger, an ancient barn, with peaceful animals at his side. This one seems like fiction. The artistic license of Western art probably contrived the bucolic manger scene, but Biblical scholars contend that Jesus was probably born in a cave carved into a hillside, and fitting animals in with three other people would have been a rather tight fit. To confuse matters even further, there is a holy site in Bethlehem today called the Grotto of the Nativity, an underground cave, where it is held that Jesus was born.

Perhaps it's not surprising that so many of the accounts that we consider to be fact are clouded with uncertainty and doubt; after all, the Nativity story is over 2,000 years old, and some embellishment was sure to have taken place along the way. And as sure as there are children dreaming of sugarplums on Christmas Eve, you can be certain that for every expert opinion you can cite about Nativity history, there's a counter-opinion with a handful of cryptic papyrus to challenge it.

So while the facts pertaining to the Nativity may be questionable, there's little doubt that after more than two millennia, the Christmas Story is a tale that continues to stir our imagination, and kindle a fire in our hearts.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE Printer friendly version of this page

To receive daily emails from Breaking Christian News to your inbox CLICK HERE

Other Recent Articles from Breaking Christian News

Search the Articles Archives

Words Posted on
Day Month Year

Not all search fields are required

To Order by Phone Call: 1-866-354-5245 (1-541-926-3250 outside the U.S.)

BCN Plus
An BCN Paid Advertisement

Register today for What is Heaven Saying For 2018?
A BCN Paid Advertisement
A BCN Paid Advertisement
BCN Store
Follow BCN on Twitter
Are You Praying for Our Government Leaders?
BCN Staff

Steve Shultz
Steve Shultz, Managing Editor

Aimee Herd
Aimee Herd, Editor

Teresa Neumann
Teresa Neumann, Reporter

BCN Plus
Are You Praying for President Trump?
An ElijahList Paid Advertisement
BCN Contact Info

All articles on this site and emails from BCN are copyrighted property of Breaking Christian News. Permission is given to link to, or share a BCN story if proper attribution is given to both the original writer and summarizer of the story. Breaking Christian News 2005-2017. All Rights Reserved.


Disclaimer: Articles and links, as well as the source articles linked to; do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Breaking Christian News.