Bible scholars have many different views on the
same subject and it is sometimes difficult to
gather a consensus. We've used a compilation of
sources, cited at the end of Teaching the Bible,
so you are given different sides of the research.
Enjoy using these resources and others to discover
new ways to interpret this precious story of Jesus'
birth. Just one new thought keeps the story fresh
- During the Roman Empire, censuses were taken
for assessing taxes and drafting men into the
military. Since the Jews were exempt from serving,
the only reason for Joseph's trip to Bethlehem
was for taxation. He was required to go to the
town of his birth. A census was held every 14
- Joseph and Mary walked about 80 miles from
Nazareth to Bethlehem.
- There are many reports about where Mary and
Joseph stayed in Bethlehem. Some researches
suggest that there were a "series of stalls
opening off a common courtyard. Travellers brought
their own food; all that the innkeeper provided
was fodder for the animals and a fire to cook."
[Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Luke p.21]
This is where Mary was to give birth. Still
other researchers suggest that the word "inn"
was the same word used in that day to indicate
an upper room. Since there wasn't space in the
upper room, the area underneath the upper room
was where the animals were kept. Mary and Joseph
found room with the animals.
- The manger was a feed box in which a newborn
lamb was placed to keep it warm.
- Swaddling clothes were "squares of cloth
with a long bandage-like strip coming diagonally
off from one corner. The child was first wrapped
in the square of cloth and then the long strip
was wound round and round about him." [Barclay,
- It was customary for friends and family to
stand outside the dwelling and wait to hear
if the baby was a boy or girl. If the mother
delivered a girl, no one said a word, and they
left quietly. A boy, on the other hand, was
occasion for music. They played instruments
and sang. The angel choir was in full force
to herald Jesus arrival.
- It is reported that the shepherds were the
first to receive the birth announcement. These
shepherds may have been the suppliers of the
unblemished lambs offered at the Temple in Bethlehem.
They would be eager to see the Lamb of God (as
Jesus was later called).
- Some say the Star was the conjunction of the
planets of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation
of Pisces. This phenomenon takes place only
once in 800 years. However there is reason to
believe it took place three times in one year,
May, October, and December; two years before
the birth of Jesus. This conjunction of planets
presented the most brilliant spectacle in the
night-sky. The following year, Mars joined this
display. [Edersheim, p. 212] This similar formation
was visible in our skies this past May.
- Edersheim presents an interesting thought,
that Herod knew all about scriptural prophecy
and secretly sent for the Astrologers, wise
men, to help him in locating the whereabouts
of the Messiah.
- Some researchers indicate that the wise men
didn't arrive until Jesus was about two years
old. This would coincide with the edict from
Herod to kill all the boy babies under two years
of age. The Bible speaks of the wise men presenting
their gifts to the "child," not the
- If Jesus was a child of two years, this would
indicate that Mary and Joseph had settled in
the Bethlehem community. Some say Joseph had
no intention of returning to Nazareth of Galilee.
He needed a little push from Herod and the angels
to go to Egypt and then return to Nazareth to
fulfill prophecy. Matt 2:23 And
he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth:
that it might be fulfilled which was spoken
by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
- Jesus had already been presented in the Temple,
before the wise men arrived. This is further
proof that the wise men weren't there the night
Jesus was born.
- Wise men came from the East. Some scholars
say they were either from Persia, Arabia, or
Yemen. They may have been the first Gentiles
to recognize the Christ child. There is on the
other hand, reason to believe there were Jews
who did live in Yemen at that time.
- The notion that there were three wise men,
astrologers, or Magi comes from the presentation
of three gifts. Some researchers contend that
it was a particularly large group (dozens of
wise men) traveling with their entourage of
servants and guards.
- The presents weren't your average baby gifts.
Gold was for royalty from royalty. This is where
we get "We Three Kings from Orient Are."
The incense and myrrh would appear inappropriate.
But these offerings were examples of products
from their countries, expressing homage to the
country of the new-born King. Edersheim contends
the gold was emblematic of Jesus' Royalty; the
myrrh, of Jesus' Humanity; and the frankincense
of Jesus' Divinity. Silverthorne mentions that
these gifts provided the family an income while
they were in Egypt.
- Herod was devious and jealous. He didn't want
anyone to rival his authority. He wasn't well
liked. On his death bed, he imprisoned the most
prominent citizens with orders to kill them
after he died, so the country would truly mourn.
You can see not only why Joseph would flee,
but also why he would not return to Bethlehem.
- Some of the Nativity symbols point to statements
Jesus made about himself:
- Star: Light John 8:12 Then
spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I
am the light of the world: he
that followeth me shall not walk in darkness,
but shall have the light of life.
- Bethlehem meant "house of bread:"
John 6:35 -- And
Jesus said unto them, I am the bread
of life: he that cometh to me shall
never hunger; and he that believeth on me
shall never thirst.
- Shepherd: John 10:11
I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd giveth his life for the
- Shepherds tend sheep: Jesus' cousin, John
the Baptist, called Jesus the Lamb of God.
John 1:29 The
next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him,
and saith, Behold the Lamb of God,
which taketh away the sin of the world.
- Search for other symbols as you study the