Who are the characters in the nativity scene?
The Significance of the Nativity is the subtle deception associated with the events, though they seem harmless the fact is, if you believe something that is supposed to be biblically based and the facts are twisted, it can subtlety but effectively effect your faith and what you believe. Despite the commercial worldly depiction of biblical accounts, any demarcation in the truth if accepted, will effect our ability to believe God in what HE has said.
There were 8 presidents before George Washington, who was inaugurated as President of the United States on April 30, 1789 however, the US had a functioning government that started operating from September 1774 and as a confederacy from July 4, 1776. For about 15 years from 1774 until 1789 there were 8 Presidents before Washington. They weren’t called the Presidents of the United States, they were called the President of the Continental Congress, each one served about year in office from 1782 until 1789 respectively, they included..
John Hanson (1782), Elias Boudinot (1783), Thomas Mifflin (1784), Richard Henry Lee (1785), John Hancock (1786), Nathan Gorman (1787), Arthur St. Clair (1788), Cyrus Griffin (1789)
The point is, just because something is said over and over again or has the appearance on its surface as being a fact, as in the case of the first President of the United States being supposed as George Washington, it does not make it so, particularly if you give it closer examination, as in the Nativity and the birth of Christ.
The word Christmas comes from the Greek word “Christos/Kris-tos” means anointed, the Messiah, or the more complete definition “the ideal truth that comes as a divine manifestation of God to destroy incarnate sin and evil, or the works of the devil”. “Mas”means to assemble in a large group.
There are many things of note that surround the birth of Jesus starting with the travels of Mary and Joseph prior to His birth because of the Census of Caesar Augustus.
Lukes account on the census was written in 60-62 AD to a Roman audience.
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city”. Luke 2:1-3
Mary and Joseph travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-3) again, because of the census ordered by Caesar Augustus (who was emperor from 27 BC to 14 AD). Men had to register at their home town (so they could be taxed by the Romans), Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem because Joseph was a descendent of King David and Joseph’s family came from Bethlehem.
What marks the period in time is that the census took place when Cyrenius was the Roman governor of Syria.
This Roman census actually occurred eleven or twelve years after Jesus birth. Jesus was born while Herod the Great was King of Judaea, no Roman Governor of Syria would have had the jurisdiction to organize a census and general taxation in Judaea at the time of Jesus’s birth.
(This means there was some other intervention, that caused Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem, it is thought this was a spiritual intervention)
Nazareth to Bethlehem - Luke 2:1-20
90 miles 34 hour walk (4-5 days)
Nazareth was the hometown of Mary, in 5 BC, Nazareth, where Mary lived, was a small village in the hills of Galilee just 4 miles south of the city of Sepphoris.
It was a hilltop settlement looking south across the Plain of Jezreel (also called the Plain of Esdraelon). It was close to the trade routes along the Jezreel Valley and up through the hills to the Sea of Galilee. Its name means a ‘watch-tower’ in Aramaic.
Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem in Judaea, where Joseph’s family lived. The journey takes four or five days as Nazareth is 65 miles north of Jerusalem, while Bethlehem is a hilltop town situated on a ridge near the edge of the Judaean desert, 5 miles south of Jerusalem. Luke 2:1-5
Jesus is born
Jesus is born in Bethlehem in 6 or 5 BC. He is laid in a manger – (an animal’s feeding trough) – as there is no room for Mary and Joseph in the Inn. Luke 2:6-8
The Greek word for Inn is ‘kataluma’, but it actually means a guest-room or chamber “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” Luke 2:7
This word “Inn” is precisely the same word that is used to describe the upper room or guest-chamber where Jesus and his disciples shared the Last Supper in Jerusalem on the night before Jesus was crucified.
“And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest chamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?” Luke 22:11
The common depiction of the Nativity, is that of shepherds, 3 wise men, Jesus in a manger, Joseph, Mary, Angels and a animals round about. Just as the depiction of Washington as the first President, the display of the nativity and December 25th as the date of Christ birth is equally as misleading.
Shepard’s in the field - Luke 2:8-15
According to the biblical accounts, the Angels, Shepherds and wise men were never actually in the same place at the same time, neither did they see Jesus on the same night.
The Shepard’s in the Bethlehem fields have an encounter with Angels. There is no record of these Angels appearing with Jesus in the manger as depicted in nativity scenes.
The Shepard’s go into the city of Bethlehem and find Jesus Mary and Joseph in the Inn - there are No Angels nor Magi present. Luke 2:15-17
The encounters of the Shepards and Magi were actually months if not years apart. Only the Shepherds saw Jesus in the manger (a water trough animals drink from) the same day of His actual birth if not a day or two later. - Luke 2:1-19
The actual date of Christ birth is unknown and lost in antiquity, but it is NOT December 25th.
The oldest existing record of a Christmas celebration is found in a Roman almanac that tells of a Christ’s Nativity festival led by the church of Rome in 336 C.E. The precise reason why Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25th was based on obscure reasoning, but the date was originated as a Christian substitute for pagan celebrations of the winter solstice.
As Christianity began to take hold in the Roman world, in the early fourth century, church leaders had to contend with a popular Roman pagan holiday commemorating the “birthday of the unconquered sun” (natalis solis invicti)–the Roman name for the winter solstice.
Every winter, Romans honored the pagan god Saturn, the god of agriculture, with a festival that began on December 17 and usually ended on or around December 25 with a winter-solstice celebration in honor of the beginning of the new solar cycle.
This festival was a time of merrymaking, and families and friends would exchange gifts. At the same time, Mithraism–worship of the ancient Persian god of light–was popular in the Roman army, and the cult held some of its most important rituals on the winter solstice.
After the Roman Emperor Constantine I converted to Christianity in 312 CE and sanctioned Christianity, church leaders made efforts to appropriate the winter-solstice holidays and thereby achieve a more seamless conversion to Christianity for the emperor’s subjects. In rationalizing the celebration of Jesus’ birthday in late December, church leaders argued that since the world was allegedly created on the spring equinox (late March), so too would Jesus have been conceived by God on that date. The Virgin Mary, pregnant with the son of God, would have given birth to Jesus nine months later on the winter solstice. (obscure reasoning)
From Rome, the Christ’s Nativity celebration spread to other Christian churches to the West and East, and soon most Christians were celebrating Christ’s birth on December 25th. The Roman celebration later added other winter-solstice rituals observed by various pagan groups, such as the lighting of the Yule log and decorations with evergreens by Germanic tribes later adopted by Christians by decorating Christmas trees and burning logs in fireplaces.
The word Christmas entered the English language originally as Christes maesse, meaning “Christ’s mass” or “festival of Christ” in Old English. A popular medieval feast was that of Saint Nicholas of Myra, a saint said to visit children with gifts and admonitions just before Christmas. This story evolved into the modern practice of leaving gifts for children said to be brought by “Santa Claus,” a derivative of the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas–Sinterklaas. This is the basis for modern Christmas celebrations on December 25th that embody pagan rituals.
The Magi - Matthew 2:7-13
There are some defining details that help us understand the age gap of Jesus during the encounter of the Wise men, who are assumed to be three people, but the number of wise men (also known as Magi - astrologers) is an extrapolation, their number is not revealed in scripture.
Most make this leap of three wise men because of the number of gifts presented to Joseph and Mary for Jesus.
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh”. Mathew 2:11
In Eastern Christianity, especially the Syriac churches, the number of Magi is pro ported to be twelve. Syriac Christianity speaks ancient Syriac, a dialect of Middle Aramaic that started in Edessa in the early 1st century AD, and is closely related to the Aramaic language of Jesus. Syriac Christianity dates back to the 1st century CE, in modern times, the denominations are primarily in the Middle East, Asia Minor and in Kerala, India.
Jesus circumcised in Bethlehem 8 days later - Luke 2:21, Genesis 17: 10-12, Leviticus 12:2-3, Exodus 13:1-2
Jesus birth fulfills the prophecy found in Micah. “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting..” Micah 5:2
On the eighth day after Jesus is born, He was taken from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to be circumcised according to the law.
This was a 6 mile trip one way.
“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb”. Luke 2:21
It is likely that Mary and Joseph went to stay with their relatives in Bethlehem. While Romans and other foreign travelers often stayed in roadside hostelries or ‘inns’, Jews always stayed in the homes of relatives or other Jews when traveling (Jewish hospitality - Luke 9:4-5, 10:7 & 10:30-35 - the good samaritan).
Jews never stayed in ‘inns' the food wasn't kosher (it didn't meet Jewish food laws - Leviticus 11:1-47), Jews were forbidden to eat with Gentiles (non-Jews Acts 10:28). Instead, Jews always stayed in the homes of relatives or other Jews when traveling.
33 Days of Purification
In Bethlehem - Leviticus 12:4, Luke 2:22
6 miles 1 hour walk from Bethlehem to Jerusalem
After Jesus is born 8 days later He was circumcised in Bethlehem, Mary fulfilled the 33 days of purification in Bethlehem which was a requirement of the law, Leviticus 12. Mary, Joseph and Jesus travel to Jerusalem's temple to present Jesus to the Lord, to christen Him. The trip is only 6 miles long. His parents make an offering at the temple of two young birds. It is during their visit that a priest named Simeon prophesied about Jesus' mission in life and blessed his parents (Luke 2:22-35). Before Mary and Joseph leave the temple to return home a woman named Anna, a widowed prophetess who lived in the house of God, blesses them as well (Luke 2:36-38).
Jerusalem to Nazareth
92.3 miles 32 hour walk
“And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth”. Luke 2:39
The mileage from Jerusalem to Nazareth and Capernaum or vice versa is approximately 92 miles. The most direct route would be about 90 miles, however this would be through Samaria.
This was an area between Jerusalem and the Galilee area to the north. The Jews as a whole hated the Samaritans and they the Jews.
Travel through Samaria was to be avoided because of the mountainous conditions and the racial hatred.
The travel route was from Jerusalem down to the Jordan valley ‘the Jericho Road’. Then across the Jordan River into the area know as Perea (part of present day Jordan and once a part of Israel).
One would then go north on the east side of the River Jordan on up into Decpolis still on the east side of the River Jordan.
Just below the Sea of Galilee the route crossed back over the River Jordan and then split.
One route went on Northwest to Nazareth the other route passing along the West side of the Sea of Galilee past Tiberias and on through Magdala to Capernaum. Both these routes are about the same mileage.
Magi sent to Bethlehem - Matthew 2: 1-15
Some months after Jesus is born, perhaps as much as 24 months, the Magi arrive in Jerusalem from the east.
They head to King Herod's palace to sell their merchandise to the wealthy in the royal court. They congratulate the king on his good fortune. They tell him they have seen a star indicating that they will find “the baby who was born to be the king of the Jews” Matthew 2:2
When the wise men see Jesus for the first time, He is in Nazareth, NOT Bethlehem, Jerusalem or Egypt.
It is typically assumed that the wise men saw Jesus in Bethlehem because Herod dispatched the wise men to Bethlehem.
"Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also”. Matthew 2:7-8
The wise men never even went to Bethlehem, they followed the star in the East to where Jesus was, Galilee in the city of Nazareth. (Mathew 2:9-12, Luke 2:39)
“And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.” Luke 2:39
The Magi did not arrive until sometime after Christ’s presentation in the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:22-39). By the time the wise men saw Jesus, he was a young child in a house.
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother” Matthew 2:11
A young child means one who is between the ages of 3 months to 2 years of age. There were no Angels, shepherds or animals at the house with the Magi.
The approximate age of Jesus is supported by Herod’s decree to kill every child in Bethlehem from a new born to the age of 2 years.
“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men”. Matthew 2:16
The ‘massacre of the innocents’ was typical of Herod’s extreme behavior recorded independently by the Jewish historian Josephus. Herod was intensely jealous and chronically insecure. He had suffered a severe breakdown in 29BC after he murderedhis wife Mariamne and his brother-in-law Joseph after falsely accusing them of having an affair.
As recently as 7BC, Herod had executed his own sons Aristobulus and Alexander (whom he accused of plotting to take the throne) and the following year, around the time of Jesus’s birth, he tortured each of his slave-girls in turn to reveal any further threats to his authority. In 4BC Herod executed his own son Antipater.
When Joseph and Mary escaped with Jesus to Egypt in 5 or 4BC, it was to Judaea with a large Jewish community. Following the defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII (the last Ptolemaic “Greek” ruler of Egypt) by Octavian (Augustus Caesar) at the Battle of Actium in 31BC, Egypt had become part of the Roman Empire.
Their journey from Nazareth to an Egyptian-controlled territory (was outside the jurisdiction of Herod, and was at least 40 miles away).
After the encounter with the wise men, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Egypt to wait out the death of Herod.
“And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son”. Matthew 2:13-15
Herod Dies - Egypt to Israel
Matthew 2:19-23, Luke 2:39
Joseph is told by an Angel to return to Israel and they came to live in Nazareth. (Matthew 2:13-23) The normal mileage from Bethlehem down to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, through Gaza across the Sinai Desert and into Egypt to the Pyramids along the Nile would be about 350 miles.
Herod’s Palace was built on the western side of the Upper City, where important Roman travelers from Caesarea would have entered Jerusalem. The palace covered most of what is now the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
It was almost totally destroyed by the Roman general Titus in 70AD. All that remains is one tower of the Citadel, a fortress built originally by Herod at the northern end of his palace. In addition, sections of Herod’s city wall were incorporated into the impressive walls (still standing today) erected by Sultan Suleiman in the 16th century.
Herod – who relied on Roman patronage – tried to ‘hellenise’ Jerusalem, encouraging Greek customs and making it more like other cites in the Roman empire. He built a large amphitheater, a smaller odeion (theatre) and a hippodrome (a stadium for chariot racing).
It’s important to note that Herod was unaware of the travels of Jesus, he only knew of the prophesy that the Christ would come out of Bethlehem. Those children who Herod killed, died in a futile quest by Satan, as Jesus was by this time, already in Jerusalem.
These actions by Satan reveal the depth of his lack of understanding of prophesy and the scripture, as all that God does is done so in plain sight, in this, case thousands of years in advance but revealed to those who are filled with the Spirit of the Lord, which demons are not.
“but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him”. 1 Corinthians 2:7-9
So when you see the Nativity simply know, it is a cute story, but is of no more consequence then the fables of Santa Claus.