I have recently been working on a series of articles for Answers in Genesis which focuses on clearing up some of the misconceptions that people have about the Bible. The first several articles have to do with traditions that have been built up around the celebration of Christmas. It seems that many of us have learned about Christmas through movies and songs, but often fail to check the things we have learned against the Word of God.
The first article explains that the purpose of the series is not to attack one’s favorite traditions, but to lead each of us to take a close look at the text. After all, some of the things people believe about Christmas are not clearly stated in Scripture, or worse, contradict the Bible. You can read the introductory article here.
The first misconception that I wrote about dealt with the actual location of Jesus’ birth. We know it was in Bethlehem, but most people believe He was born in a stable or cave because there was no room for them at the inn. This is based on a misunderstanding of the Greek word translated by many Bibles as “inn.” However, the Greek word is kataluma and really means “guest room,” and is used that way by Jesus later on in Luke 22:11 (we now know this room as the Upper Room where Jesus held the Last Supper with His disciples). It is more likely that Mary and Joseph were staying with members of Joseph’s family in Bethlehem and she gave birth to Jesus in the lower level of the house. It was common in those days for some animals to be brought into the house at night for warmth and protection from thieves. This is why there would have been a manger in the room. To find out more about this topic, read “Born in a Barn (Stable)?”
The second misconception deals with the angelic announcement to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth. Many Christmas hymns and plays portray the angels singing that night, but did you know the Bible doesn’t clearly state this? It says that they praised God and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). Now, they may very well have sung that night, since there is a strong link in the Bible between singing and praising, but it isn’t explicitly stated. Also, some have claimed that angels can’t sing, but this is very doubtful as the article explains. Click this link to read “Hark the Herald Angel Said?”
The third misconception will discuss the wise men (magi) who came to visit Jesus. How many were there? Where were they from? When did they arrive? These questions and more are covered in We Three Kings.
The next one in the series will deal with a timeline of the major events following Christ’s birth. I helped write this one with Bodie Hodge and it is fairly detailed and well-researched. It will demonstrate that Matthew 2 and Luke 2 do not contradict each other, as some skeptics have charged, and will clear up a few other misconceptions about the events of that time. Check out A Matter of Time for an in-depth study of these events and a plausible timeline.
The series on misconceptions will conclude shortly after Christmas with an article that covers several other points. Some have charged that Christmas trees are of pagan origin and forbidden by Jeremiah 10. Others have claimed that “x-mas” is just an abbreviation for Christmas, while some believe it is a deliberate attempt to remove “Christ” from Christmas. These issues and a few more are explained in Miscellaneous Misconceptions About Christmas.
Again, the purpose of this series is to give you a closer look at the text so that your beliefs about Christmas will be rooted and grounded in God’s Word rather than man made traditions. Traditions can be fine as long as they are consistent with the Bible, but if they directly contradict Scripture, then we shouldn’t hold to them.