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Every year, we see the story of Christmas on TV, in nativity plays, in books, and even in shopping malls. It is such a popular time of the year that most of us think that we know the story of Christmas. However, the truth is that lots of the things we think we know about this story aren’t actually right.
To set the record straight, here are five myths about the Christmas story that most people just accept:
1. The Star in the Sky When Jesus Was Born
You hear it all the time: there was a star in the sky over the manger where Jesus was born. In fact, it has pretty much become the one symbol that most people are familiar with. The truth, though, is quite different.
According to the Bible, there was no star in the sky on the night that Jesus was born. In fact, we’re told in no uncertain terms in Luke 2:8-11 that no star is even mentioned. There were signs to look for, but none of them indicated a star in the sky.
That’s not to say there was no mention of a star, but it was mentioned at a later time, well after the birth of baby Jesus. In Matthew 2.2, the Magi visiting the manger were associated with the appearance of a star, but the timeline is not quite clear. What is clear, however, is that the star was certainly some time after Jesus was born.
2. The Three Wise Men
It’s one of the central themes in the Christmas story: three wise men from the East came to visit the baby Jesus, bringing gifts with them. Unfortunately, there is no mention at all of three wise men. According to biblical sources, a number of Magi did come from the East to visit, but no specific number is provided. The number “three” likely comes from the mention of three gifts in Matthew 2:11: Gold, Myrrh, and Frankincense.
3. Did the Inn Have Any Room?
This one is so strong that just about every kid knows the line from the stories: “There was no room at the Inn.” It’s the story of Mary and Joseph being turned away by the Innkeeper and having to go to the manger instead. Here’s a fact though: the Bible doesn’t even mention an Innkeeper, and there might not have even been an Inn!
Recent studies have been done on the language used in the original Greek, and a great argument has been made to suggest that the original word that was later translated as “inn” actually just means “place to stay” in Greek. This really could mean anything, from an inn to Joseph’s home.
4. Where Was Jesus Born?
In Luke 2:7, he says that Jesus was born in a manger, but this manger could really have been anywhere. We usually think of Jesus being born in a stable or a barn in his manger, but the truth is that mangers were also kept in homes. The takeaway here is that it’s more likely that Jesus was born in a home - maybe in Joseph’s small guest room.
5. When Was Jesus Born?
It seems irrefutable that Jesus was born on December 25th right? This is the day that we celebrate Christmas and it seems completely logical that he was also born on this day, too. Unfortunately, the actual date of birth is unknown. Church historians suggest other days, including in May, March, and April. We have to ask then: what are we doing at Christmas time if we’re not celebrating the birth of Jesus?
Some people think that the ancient pagan holiday of Sol Invictus on December 25th because Christmas, and this would seem to have some evidence to back it up. After all, we know that the pre-Christian and ancient Zoroastrian religion of the Persians seems to have much in common with Christianity.
The consensus seems to be that the early Christians simply took the March 25th date and added nine months to it, which would give us December 25th. March 25th is when Jesus was supposed to have been conceived, so this makes sense.
So, What’s the Real Story?
All of this serves to remind us that just because something is popular and well accepted doesn’t mean that it’s factually or historically correct. There is still much to be learned about the early Christians, but this mystery is part of the beauty of the real Christmas story and the wonderful story of Jesus.