As Christmas fast approaches, the true believer in Messiah (or Christ) must begin to determine in their hearts, minds and souls, what exactly Christmas means to them. Today, most Christians in the know understand that Christmas was not the day of birth for Jesus the Messiah. Indeed, even the Pope has come out and declared that the papacy has known for quite a long time that Christmas is not the day of the Savior’s birth, along with the debunking of several other traditions that have been taught to us for centuries regarding the greatest of the annual Christian Holidays. (Read articles on Pope Benedict’s book on the life of Jesus Christ.) Furthermore, a myriad of scholars and even many well-read Christians understand fully that Christmas as it has been taught to us over the centuries is filled with traditions, myths and outright lies. Yet churchianity has made absolutely no moves to correct these falsehoods and set the record straight. During this Christmas season, I will be posting a series of blogs that will examine and even challenge 7-common Christmas myths. The debunking of these 7-myths are not intended to “spit in the eyes” of the Christian Faith, nor belittle the believer who simply loves Jesus and believes with their whole heart that by his/her celebrating the day he/she will be honoring the Son of the Most High. No, the intent is simply to set the story straight in the minds of anyone who would seek to know the truth about their redeemer and Christmas; and maybe cause the one who is searching for truth to take a serious look at their faith and make informed decisions that will ultimately impact their walk with Messiah in the most profound and positive way.
Let’s dive headlong into the 7-Myths of Christmas–Myth #1–The Three Wise-Men.
According to the Rood “Astronomically & Agriculturally Corrected Biblical Hebrew Calendar” and “The Chronological Gospels-The Life and Seventy Week Ministry of the Messiah,” today in history, Chaldean Astronomers presented to the Son of the Almighty gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Now Christian tradition teaches that three-wise men trekked across the dessert with these gifts and presented them to the newly born King as he lay in swaddling clothes in a manger. Tradition also suggests that these were 3-kings from unknown kingdoms in Asia. But nowhere in the Bible are we told that these wise-men were actually kings who benevolently set out on a trek to bow before the King of Kings and present the baby-king these special gifts. Furthermore, the holy record does not necessarily suggest that these fellows came to the family in a manger on the evening of December 25th or thereabouts.
I recall quite vividly, as a young one in Baltimore Maryland in a Southern Baptist Church, learning and revering the Christmas story. The story was consistent in content and charm. Furthermore, television and various mediums supported the entire Christmas tradition and story, even to the point of commercializing each aspect of the event.
“We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we travel (traverse afar) so far; field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.”
Of course the concept of giving gifts on Christmas morn as a tradition has in great part been built upon this simple but beautiful tale–three potentates humbling themselves to leave the thrones of their individual kingdoms, traverse a wide expanse of desert and through various cities (no doubt most of them impoverished), following a star that was positioned directly above the birthplace of the king of kings; and then bow before the great redeemer, presenting Him simple but royally deserving gifts I believed the story lock-stock-barrel. Even though I read the story countless times from the pages of my Bible (which by the way never refers to these visitors in number being three or that they were kings) I believed the story as presented by the various mediums throughout the years. Interestingly, I never thought or conceived that the actual story would be in conflict with the traditional story that has been embraced by Christians for two-millennia. Furthermore, if the story was in conflict with the Biblical record of the event, would or should I care? Would it make any difference if there was a discrepancy in the two stories? Besides, (thinking this in my pea-brain if you will), the point was not so much accuracy and truth, but intent and reverence, right (aka Kirk Cameron’s attitude and stance on Christmas in his latest film “Saving Christmas”)? Of course! We are saved by grace! Truth and accuracy is irrelevant because it’s all about the beauty of the day and the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the Advent.
But it wasn’t until about a decade ago that I finally came to a place in my life that I got THE point. And THE point has to do with my Faith and my perceptions about my Faith in Messiah. The Master said quite eloquently that:
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (Joh 4:24 KJV)
There it was. The whole concept of truth and worshiping the Almighty according to His truth; patterning our lives according to His truth and not leaning towards our own understanding (reference Prov. 3:5-7). I finally rationalized that if I’m willing to compromise understanding in the smaller things of the Faith for purposes of serving my own desires and preferences, it’s simply a hop-skip-jump away from compromising on the truths that are associated with my relationship with the Creator of the Universe and ultimately my eternal life. Quite frankly, the whole concept of building my Faith and a relationship with the Most High on a mound of lies became quite shameful to me and to realize that the Church condones building one’s faith on said mound of lies is obviously abominable to God as evident in how He dealt with Israel over her constant idolatry addiction. Thus, as the Master has said, the time has come for “the true worshipers to worship the Father in spirit and in truth…” (John 4:23) So let’s put things in to their proper perspective by seeing and understanding exactly what the Bible actually has to say about this most famous event:
First and foremost, this event is recorded only by Matthew and is found in the 2nd chapter of Matthew. The passage is as follows:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. (Mat 2:1-2 KJV)
A couple things: (1) nothing here is mention about there being three individuals coming to see the Messiah. No number is provided by Matthew. Thus we can assume that the number three was associated with the gifts that these prominent individuals brought with them for the Lord-gold, frankincense and myrrh. (2) These individuals were not identified as kings, but as “wise men.” (3) The wording in the KJV would lead us westerners to think that when these wise men had come to the region, Jesus had just been born–Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, (Mat 2:1 KJV) But it must become abundantly clear that we must always study the Holy Writ from a Near East perspective, not from the perspective of the West. The rendering of “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king” is not a literal, word for word translation of the ancient text. The ancient text reads more akin to as follows: And Jesus having been born in Beth-Lehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, (Mat 2:1 YLT) Thus there is no precise time frame or date provided that would naturally lead the well-meaning Bible student to conclude that these wise men came to the region of Judea the night or day of the Messiah’s birth. For all intents and purposes, that time frame could be days or even months beyond the actual date of birth. All background indications are that the Savior was actually born well over a year before the arrival of these wise men. If this is indeed the case, then it would naturally stand to reason that Mary and Joseph had long abandoned the original place of the Messiah’s birth and likely had returned home, raising their son in accordance to Hebraic and Jewish traditions. The actual disparity as it relates to a December 25th date of birth for the Redeemer will be discussed in the next posting.
Back to the topic of the three-kings or more accurately the wise men: there are indeed some key elements to this story that should be examined before a final debunking of this Christmas myth is completed.
1. Who were these so-called wise men (now that we’ve excluded or rejected the belief of these gentlemen being kings)? Clearly the Holy Writ does not record the identities of these interesting fellows nor does the record document from whence they came. Thus, the well-meaning and well-read Bible student would have to speculate on these folks’ identity based upon the entirety of the Bible record. The only identifying bit of information that we have regarding these gentlemen is that they were “magi” (a Greek term used to describe or identify astronomers/astrologers/magicians/wise men) and according to Michael Rood’s Chronological Gospels, magi would have been common to Chaldea. Magi or Chaldean Astronomers were essentially magicians (thus the root word Magi); extremely intelligent; and well versed astronomers and astrologers. They were, as we can clearly tell from Daniel, key advisers to many of the Babylonian kings. Interestingly, Babylon has often mistakenly been viewed as synonymous to Chaldea. But the simple fact of the matter is that Chaldeans were a separate people residing originally in south eastern Mesopotamia. In fact, Abraham was originally a Chaldean, originating in Ur of the Chaldees. Thus, the common belief that Abraham was born a Hebrew is a Christian myth. Let’s continue: The link with Babylon, however, occurred when the Chaldeans ruled over Babylon for roughly half a century. Thus the Chaldean rulership over Babylon was as such: ~731 BCE, Ukinzer; then Merodach-Baladan; then in ~626 BCE, Nabopolassar; next were Nebuchadnezzar, Amel-Markuk, Nabonidus and finally Belshazzar (Dan. 5:30). If you want a more detailed understanding of the Chaldeans and the Babylonian connection, I would refer you to Wikipedia.
2. And what do we know of any relevance or influence the Chaldean dynasty would have had on our Faith? Well, from the Biblical record we know that the Prophet Daniel, of royal Hebrew lineage, was a captive in Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 1:1-4) and Daniel actually became one of the ruling class under the Chaldean Dynasty. Additionally, Daniel’s tenure extended through to Belshazzar (Dan. 5). As one of the Hebrew Royals taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, in order for Daniel to serve the throne competently, he would have been trained and indoctrinated in the Chaldean Magi arts and sciences. Ultimately, as we’ve mentioned, Daniel was promoted to a place of leadership in the Babylonian-Chaldean kingdom; thus he would have had unquestionable control over the court’s Magi-contingent. There is also indication that Daniel was well trained in Torah and Hebrew astrophysics in Jerusalem (reference Rood, Chronological Gospels). With his knowledge and understanding of the esoteric arts and sciences, it would stand to reason that Daniel would understand clearly many of the prophecies associated with the coming of the Messiah, including him being able to read the signs in the heavens. This coupled with Divine revelation from the Creator, Daniel had knowledge of things concerning Jesus the Messiah centuries in advance. Rood postulates (and I agree with his assessment) that Daniel was hand-picked of the Father to see and in many cases record many of the events related to the coming Messiah and the end-times. Additionally, being of the ruling-class in Babylon, Daniel would have been extremely wealthy and it would have been no stretch to conclude that the Father would have made provision in advance for Daniel to set aside funds to assist the earthly family of the Savior (i.e., the visit of the Magi and the gifts they presented to the Savior) in their hour of need. Rood writes: “The gifts of the astronomers would finance their journey (Jesus’ family) and allow them to get resettled in the land after their flight to Egypt. Luke records that Yoseph (Joseph) and Mirian (Mary) presented the poor man’s sacrifice when Yeshua (Jesus) was taken to the Temple on his fortieth day. This indicates that they were quite poor at the time and obviously not yet in possession of the treasure of the astronomers. These gifts may have also partially financed Yeshua’s ministry.”
3. Chronologically, the visit of the Magi did not occur on the date of birth of the Master. Although the Biblical text and all of the manger scenes strewn across the world have figures of the “3-Kings” bowing down before baby-Jesus in a barn with animals round-about that the visit occurred in the middle of the night when Jesus was born, the truth of the matter is that the Magi did not execute their visit until months after the birth of the Savior. There are a few problems associated with a Christmas night visit of the 3-Kings: (a) the distance and means of travel at the time (i.e., foot, camel, etc.) would have required a prolonged trek across the region from the East to the West (Matthew 2:1), assuming (although incorrectly assuming) that these Magi began their trek on or close to the birth of the Savior. It has become common knowledge, even in traditional Christianity, that Jesus was NOT born on December 25th, in the year 1 A.D. All indications, based upon many known historic elements associated with the birth story, that the Master was born sometime in the early fall of the year. Furthermore, without a full understanding of the Feasts of the Lord (Leviticus 23), it is impossible to accurately determine the precise birth-date of the Savior. But for the sake of time, I will refer you to Rood’s Chronological Gospels, where he places the actual birthday of the Lord on the High Sabbath of the Feast of Sukkot in the year 3 BCE, which in that year, Sukkot occurred on September 26th. Again, there are many historical elements to the story that require the birthday of the Savior be at anytime other than a December 25th, 1 CE date. Furthermore, the star–according to astronomical records and mathematical extrapolation–that the Magi responded to did not appear until a full year later, precisely around October 13, 2 BCE. Given the distance that the Magi would have to travel and their means of travel, an arrival date to the home of Joseph and Mary could not have occurred for at least 2-full months–or December 19, 2 BCE. We must also remember that Herod upon learning of the birth of the Messiah from the Magi, consulted Jewish sages who would have been well-versed in the prophecies concerning the Messiah. Armed with the information he received from the Magi and his sages, it would have been rather easy for Herod to determine an approximate age for the young Messiah. Thus when the Magi were warned by the Almighty of Herod’s pending treachery against the child (Matthew 2:12), they avoided returning to Herod (as Herod had instructed in Matthew 2:7) and took an alternate route back–presumably–to Babylon. Thereafter, Herod commanded the execution of all children in Bethlehem, from 2-years of age (or 2-years of age and under), based upon the “time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.” (Reference Rood’s Chronological Gospels)
4. The Gospel record in no way provides us the number of Magi that made the trek across the wilderness to see the young Savior. So where did the legend of 3-kings come from? Well, likely from the 3-gifts that are sited in Matthew’s account: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Common human reasoning would conclude, without the employment of sound exegetical skills, that there were 3-gifts, thus there must be 3-persons bearing them. But it should also be reasoned that you don’t need 3-people to present 3-gifts. For all we know, there could have been 2, 3, 4 or a dozen Magi making this trek. We just don’t know and it would be foolish to speculate given what little we know about the actual story.
But what about the individuals being kings? Well, it seems that the gifts borne by the Magi would, in the ancient near east, be fitting gifts for royalty. These would have been very expensive items that would have been out of the financial reach of the common-folk, and thus the legend of there being 3-kings of orient (since they came from the East) came to be common traditional folklore and in many cases, doctrine of the Christian Faith.
There we have it. The myth surrounding the story of 3-Kings visiting the manger in the middle of the night on December 25, 1 AD, bearing gifts to the newborn baby Jesus laying in a manger, has been debunked. My question then becomes: if this one prominent Bible story as has come to be understood by Christians all over the world is filled with lies and falsehoods, what else in the Christian Faith is filled with lies and falsehoods? Hang on, the ride is going to get pretty bumpy from here on out. Just saying.