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CONFUSION ABOUT THE BIRTH OF JESUS
As a Bible believing Christian, I feel compelled to respond to certain inaccuracies about the birth of Jesus. Even renowned journalist David Waters had it wrong in his article "The why and how of Christmas" that appeared in the Lancaster New Era on December 23rd, 2005. In his article, Mr. Waters makes the following statement about Christmas: “Even the Gospel writers couldn’t agree on how the story starts.” The fact of the matter is that nowhere in the Bible does it say that Luke and Matthew disagreed about any aspect of the Christmas story. Mr. Waters’ statement is not fact, but merely an assumption based on his misunderstanding of the two accounts of the birth of Christ.
Error #1: Contrary to David Waters’ understanding, the book of Matthew is not the same exact story as in Luke, but rather a continuation or supplemental to the same event. Waters states that the accounts of Matthew and Luke contradict each other because in one story (book of Matthew) Mary and Joseph lived in a house in Bethlehem and then flee to Egypt. In the other story (Luke) Mary and Joseph are migrants who can’t find room at an inn, so Mary has the baby in a manger before they quietly return to Nazareth. Which is correct? Was Jesus born in a manager or in a house?
Explanation: One must understand that the books of the Bible are not in Chronological order. That being said, one should read the story in Luke first because it tells us that an angel of the Lord told the Shepards that “TODAY in the town of Bethlehem” Jesus was born. The story goes on to explain about the inn and the manger. Matthew picks up the story by saying “AFTER Jesus was born in Bethlehem” to show that we are now probably months later, and the family has found a permanent home. The Magi were obviously following the star for quite some time and could not have been at the manger until long after the day Jesus was born. This idea is supported by the fact that Herod asked the Magi “the exact time the star had appeared” so he would know the approximate day of Jesus’ birth. That would also explain why Herod ordered the killing of males all the way up to two years of age in order to make sure he would kill the baby Jesus. As far as Herod was concerned, Jesus was born as much as two years before the Magi visited Herod in Jericho (about 35 miles from Bethlehem).
Error #2: Waters seems to believe that the book of Luke says that Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus went from Bethlehem directly to Galilee, which would contradict the Matthew story.
Explanation: Luke 2:39 states that “When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee”. Since Biblical prophecy required Jesus to come out of Egypt, this scripture implies that among other requirements such as circumcision, Joseph and Mary had to go to Egypt according to the Law (the Bible) before reaching Galilee.
Waters now moves on to state that “in one, the birth is attended by three kings from the east. In another, shepherds witness the Miracle and spread the word.”
Explanation: Nowhere in the Bible does it say there were three people giving gifts to the baby Jesus. The number of people can be assumed because of three types of gifts, but obviously, there could have been any number of gift bearers.
Error #4: Waters states that the gift bearers were “kings”. This is not true.
Explanation: After checking eight of the most popular English translations of the Bible, I can tell you that seven versions use the term “wise men” and the NIV uses the term “Magi”. One should know that the word “Magi” is a translation of the Greek word “magos”. Magi, or magos, were members of a religious sect in the area of Persia. They studied the stars and were considered to be very wise. Hence, we get the other translation of “wise men”. Magi were actually also considered to be sorcerers or magicians. It is unlikely that they were kings. David Waters like many people is evidently mixed up with the song “We Three Kings” which takes artistic liberties with the Jesus story.
In summary, The Luke story tells about the Shepards at the inn when Jesus was born, but Matthew tells the story about the Magi that visited the house where Mary and Joseph resided months later. I challenge you to decide for yourself the accuracy of Waters’ statements. Take the time to read Mathew chapter 2 and Luke chapter 2 to gain a full understanding of the story of Jesus’ birth.
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