Plain Truth Magazine
November-December 1983
Volume: Vol 48, No.10
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Clayton D Steep  

Many — even some who have read the book for years — express surprise and amazement when they learn what the Bible really says!

   THE BOOK nobody knows," a famous agnostic once remarked, referring to the Bible.
   He was almost right.
   Certainly it is the book few people know. It is safe to say that no other book on earth is so widely read and at the same time so misunderstood.
   Why should this be?
   Take the "Christmas story" for example. Most people assume that if anything comes from the Bible surely the popular notion of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus' does. Yet, amazingly, when one looks at what the Bible really says, it becomes apparent that there are major discrepancies between the birth of Jesus as described in the Bible and the Christmas story so familiar to the world.

Not in the winter

   The Bible nowhere says Jesus was born December 25. It doesn't tell us which day Jesus was born. It doesn't even tell us the month. The Bible does', however, show that Jesus' birth did not take place in late December or, for that matter, in any of the winter months!
   In fact, when Jesus was born, "there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8, RAV throughout). The shepherds were living out in the open fields, sleeping with their flocks at night.
   Shepherds would not be doing this during the cold and rainy winter months. Contrary to what some have assumed, it did — and does — get cold during the winter in Judea. Even in April, in the early spring, when Jesus was crucified, certain "servants and officers... made a fire of coals... for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself' (John 18: 18).
   Hardly indicative of the kind of weather for sleeping out in the fields. Or for having a baby in a stable and laying him in a manger (Luke 2:7)!
   So we know when Jesus was not born. The fact that Jesus' birth date is purposely n6t recorded is also clear evidence that God never intended us to celebrate Jesus' birthday. When God revealed certain days he wants his people to observe, no room was left for doubt as to when those days occur.

The Prince of Peace?

   When Jesus' birth was announced to the shepherds they heard "a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!'" (Luke 2:13-14). The reason one of the members of the God family came to earth as Jesus Christ is as generally misunderstood as are the events surrounding his birth.
   "Peace on earth, good will to men," proclaim Christmas decorations and greeting cards at this time of the year. And "The Christ child came to bring peace." But where is that peace? Where has it been for the last near 2,000 years?
   Wars and armed conflicts have not ceased to grow in numbers and intensity. Bitterness and hatred divide races, nationalities and religions. The structure of the family is breaking up because people are unable to get along with each other. Peace on earth starting from the time of Jesus' birth? Not according to history. Not according to today's news.
   And, not according to Jesus! He himself declared, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword " (Matt. 10:34).
   Have you ever heard that scripture before? It's not quoted often in this world's churches. And yet it's in the Bible! Jesus said it!
   What does it mean?
   The purpose of Jesus' First Coming nearly 2,000 years ago was not to usher in world peace. The angels' proclamation "Peace on earth, good will toward men" is a prophecy that this very Jesus who was born in Bethlehem will — in the near future — impose world peace. He will do it at his Second Coming, for which the way is even now being prepared.
   Jesus came over 1900 years ago to die for the sins of humanity, to qualify to replace Satan as ruler of this world and to establish his Church. But Jesus promised he will come again (John 14:3), this time to bring that peace foretold by the angels at Jesus' birth. This time, as King of kings, he will establish and maintain worldwide peace. It is then that "of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end" (Isa. 9:7).
   Over the centuries between Jesus' First and Second Coming, however, it is impossible to calculate how much hatred, persecution and warfare have been the result even of misunderstanding Jesus' teachings. The angels' proclamation to the shepherds, however, did include a second truth: that, even though surrounded by a society gone awry, those who yield to God and obey his laws now experience peace and good will in their individual lives (Ps. 119:165).
   And that can include you if you are willing to admit where you have been wrong and begin to live God's way instead.

The Magi and Their Gifts

   You're familiar with the "Nativity scenes" — representations of a stable showing a haloed baby in a manger, Mary and Joseph nearby being joined by Shepherds and three "wise men" and varying numbers of winged angels. Such scenes, widely displayed at Christmastime, differ extensively from the biblical account of how it really was.
   The shepherds, who were from the region close to Bethlehem, as soon as they were told about Jesus' birth, immediately sought out the stable as they were instructed to do. They quickly found it (Luke 2:16).
   The "wise men" or Magi, on the other hand, came from a considerable distance. Traveling from the East, searching for the one who was born "King of the Jews," they came to Jerusalem first. From there they journeyed to Bethlehem (Matt. 2:2). When they reached Bethlehem, they found Jesus no longer in a manger in a stable. Jesus and his family were living in a house (Matt. 2:11).
   At the time of the arrival of the Magi, Jesus may have been two or more months old. When king. Herod learned from the Rabbis and the Magi that Jesus was born to be a ruler, he was worried for his own position's sake. He decided that this child must be eliminated. So when he questioned the Magi, who at that time were in Jerusalem en route to find Jesus, he was able to determine the initial appearance of a star announcing Jesus' conception and birth. When the time was estimated, Herod ordered the slaughter of all male children "from two years old and under" (Matt. 2:16).
   Herod did not order the slaying of all newborn babes, or all babes a few weeks old. He extended the limit up to two years to prevent any possible escape.
   When the Magi finally located the house where the "young Child" Jesus (Matt. 2:11) was, they presented gifts they had brought. These were not birthday gifts, the day of Christ's birth having long since passed. The Magi, aware that Jesus was born to be a king, offered gifts to him because it was, and still is, customary in such circumstances to bring costly gifts when entering the presence of royalty.
   The giving of gifts by the Magi is often used to justify the practice of exchanging Christmas gifts. What is overlooked is that the Magi did not exchange gifts among themselves. Rather, they presented all their gifts "to Him" — to Jesus (Matt. 2:11). How different from the modern custom of trading Christmas gifts and giving nothing to Christ on a day mistakenly assigned as his birth date.
   Can you imagine a birthday celebration where all the guests bring gifts, exchange those gifts among themselves and the person they are supposedly honoring receives nothing? It doesn't make sense. Neither does the modern custom of trading Christmas gifts while supposedly honoring Christ.

Angels and Halos

   Most Nativity scenes portray three Magi, usually one each of the three general racial divisions of mankind. But this is pure imagination. The Bible does not say there were three "wise men." There may have been as many as 12. Nor does the Bible indicate that they were of different races.
   The Bible states that the Magi were led to Jesus from their land in the East by a "star" (Matt. 2:2). Exactly which presumed star or planet this was has given rise to much speculation. The Bible, however, leaves little doubt on the subject. The " star" moved, leading the Magi on their long journey and finally stood over the house where Jesus was (verse 9). A planet, asteroid or distant star could not move and position itself in such a way as to point out a specific house in a little city in a small country on earth. This "star" was something else.
   In the Scriptures, angels are sometimes referred to as stars (Job 38:7; Rev. 1:20). The righteous angels are spirit beings, ministering in God's service, able to appear as flames of fire (Heb. 1:7, 14). The "star" that guided the Magi was such an angel.
   Angels do not have wings as most Nativity scenes and popular notion portray them. There exist some spiritual beings called seraphim and cherubim. They do have wings. But the Bible never describes ordinary angels as having wings, nor always playing harps of gold, nor appearing as the chubby infants so prevalent in medieval paintings.
   Even the halos artists have placed over the heads of their representations of Jesus and various saints are not biblical. Jesus, for example, looked like the average man of his day when he had grown up. Judas had to point him out by giving him a kiss. Why would that be necessary if Jesus had a halo?

Do Some Checking

   Such terms as Christmas ("Christ's mass" or "mass of Christ"), Noel and Yuletide never appear in the Bible. There is no record in the New Testament of the early Christians celebrating Christ's birth. They commemorated Jesus' death annually in the early spring as they were commanded to. do (Luke 22: 19; I Cor. 11:26). But never his birth.
   Even so, the Bible does talk about what has come to be called the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree is not a modern invention. Its history goes back to distant antiquity, a few thousands of years before Jesus' birth. (Read our free article "Christmas 2,000 Years Before Christ.") People were decorating such trees in the prophet Jeremiah's day. If you want a real surprise, read what God inspired Jeremiah to write about the practice (Jer. 10:1-5)!
   And if you want to know why there are all the festivities surrounding December 25, consult the section under "Christmas" in any major encyclopedia. You will be in for quite a shock!
   Isn't it high time to read and believe what the Bible really says, rather than what most people — without checking — suppose it says?

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Plain Truth MagazineNovember-December 1983Vol 48, No.10