Sunday, December 13, 2009

Things That Aren’t In The Bible, Holiday Edition

The following parts of the Christmas story are not in the Bible: Mary riding a donkey to Bethlehem, an innkeeper, a stable where Jesus was born, three Kings, camels, and singing angels. Oh, and also, the date of December 25.

None of it is there.

The Bible does not say that Mary rode a donkey, just that she gave birth while she was in Bethlehem. She could have been there for months.

It says Jesus was laid in a manger “because there was no room for them in the inn.” But no stable or innkeeper are mentioned.

Luke’s gospel makes reference to “shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” This would have happened in the spring months, not December. And there was one angel appearing to the shepherds--one. And Luke writes:
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

Saying, not singing. And do we know what the "heavenly host" is?

And then we have my favorite Christmas myth: the three kings. No, Virginia, three wise men did not visit the Jesus in a stable on the night of his birth. The Biblical text merely refers to “Magi,” and they visited Jesus months or even years after his birth. It even says in Matthew 2

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea...

After. Not the night of. After. And nowhere does it mention that they rode camels.

It has become so ingrained in our culture’s Christmas narrative, with carols like “We Three Kings” and nativity scenes showing three men wearing crowns and flowing robes bowing before the manger, that this may come as a shock. However, none of that is in the Bible. Even the entire nativity scene is not in the Bible.

The Magi that are mentioned in the Bible a) were not especially wise, b) were not kings, and c) may have numbered two or twenty. They were Persian astrologers (some sources even say sorcerers). And they weren’t all that bright if you ask me because they wandered around Jerusalem, where King Herod’s paranoia was legendary, asking after this newly-born “King of the Jews” so they could worship him.

Not smart. And thanks for unleashing the Massacre of the Innocents. Jerks.

So how's that for a war on Christmas for you? I find it very interesting that human tradition has supplanted what the Bible actually says about the birth of Christ--even though there are bazillions of Bibles out there for anyone to pick up and read for themselves. We have legal battles and a "War On Christmas" over things like nativity scenes when the nativity scene isn't even in the Bible!

I'm wondering what else about the Bible is the product of our human traditions?