5 Misconstrued Truths Regarding the Birth of Jesus

Because we are in the 21st century, we can subconsciously assume Mary and Joseph took a motor ride to Bethlehem and arrived only to realize the entire village was full, including their family home; the 3 wise men saw the star as soon as Jesus was born and came in their limousine to see the baby. I’m obviously exaggerating but you get the point.

Our imagination only makes sense in our current context, and until you learn the historical context, you’re likely to picture the story in a wrong way. Forget about the movies. This is 2000 years ago, not 20 years ago. Here are 5 widely known misconceptions about the birth of Jesus;

The Bible Didn’t Say…

1. …That It All Happened in One Night

“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Perhaps, because we live in a fast track world – or we may have picked that assumption from the movies – we read the Christmas story and over-simplify the story. There are no cars and airplanes, remember? To give a little bit of context, it was a 90-mile journey from Nazareth to the south along the flat lands of the Jordan River, then west over the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and on into Bethlehem. It takes about 10 days to make such a journey.

With a pregnant woman, the journey would have taken longer. Now imagine the wise men traveling all the way from the East! Even a Christmas movie isn’t likely to be shot in one day.

2. …That There was no room in Joseph’s family house

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:7‬ ‭NKJV

Why are we trying to make Joseph’ family and the entire neighborhood look bad? Why are we assuming that literally nobody had common sense to give their space to a pregnant woman? Except, of course, that it’s not true and only an assumption. The Bible never said that Joseph’s family house was full and that they were looking for another place. Just like the other assumptions, the misunderstanding comes from just one word; inn. The New Testament was originally written in Greek, and the Greek word translated “inn” here is kataluma.

Typical architecture of 1st century Israel villages

This is better translated as “guest room” as the NIV does, and is different from pandokheion, also translated as “inn” – in the Good Samaritan story in Luke 10:34 – which rightly means hotel. What the Bible said is that the guest room was full. Simple! It’s like all your uncles travel home and one of them sleeps in the living room because the guest room is full. The place was full of people and wouldn’t be so comfortable for a woman to give birth there.

3. …That Jesus was Born the Very Night they Arrived

“While they were there [in Bethlehem], the time came for her to give birth,”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:6‬ ‭AMP‬‬

They arrive and Mary is in labor. Joseph runs from place to place, asking insensitive hotel owners if they have any suite available. They don’t get any but one kind old man said he had a little stable he could rent out for free. Mary is rushed in, where she gives birth to a baby boy. Such a fast-breaking epic Hollywood scene! Read Luke 2:6 in different version and think about this whole scene again and watch it slowly fade away. Truth is, Mary was in Bethlehem for days, long before she gave birth.

4. …That Jesus was Born in a Stable

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Pictures of Jesus’ birth is filled with animals staring at a baby in their manger. Yet no, no Bible version ever insinuates that it was a barn or a coup or a stable. The only word to suggest that is “manger”. Manger is not a place where animals are stored; it’s simply a long trough in which the food of livestock are put in and they feed from.

This is not to say that there weren’t animals around. I’m just saying that when someone says he put his books on a shelf, don’t be quick to assume that he has an entire library room. It could be a simple book shelf in his living room.

5. …That There Were Only 3 Wise Men

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Because they presented three gifts and many movies, plays and pictures portray three old men dressed to kill, the most famous assumption in the Christmas story is that of the 3 wise men. If someone came to your house and presented to you a couple of gifts, you wouldn’t count the gifts to assume the number of people behind the gift, will you?

Matthew 2:1 simply says “wise men”. In fact, with men of such calibre, they are probably traveling with an entire voyage. Plus, they presented gifts to Herod too – since it was the culture – when they went to inquire of him about Jesus’ birth. The three gifts they presented Jesus were mentioned into detail to draw our attention to its utmost significance to Jesus’ ministry.

Surely these doesn’t take an inch away from the humble birth of the King of Kings. What it certainly takes away is the vilification of Joseph’s home and the neighborhood of Bethlehem. It also allows us to meticulously meditate on the story of the first Noël, instead of assuming every year.

Mind you, this wasn’t written so you could argue out your new found knowledge with your paddies. Just like the Scriptures, this was written so you could appreciate the greatest birth story ever told; the greatest of kings, born in the humblest of places.

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