Title: False Christmas Traditions
Text: Luke 2.1-7
Introduction: The traditional Christmas story… note the picture in the title page;
So how off is the traditional story from what Scripture clearly shows…let’s look at some parts to the story that aren’t in the Bible; Luke 2.1
What a great beginning! Caesar Augustus; The Roman Empire lasted hundreds of years and there were many Caesars. But this Caesar is considered:
- The greatest of all Caesars.
- It has been said that when he became Caesar, Rome was made of Rock. And when he died, Rome was made of Marble.
- There is an inscription, which has been uncovered and discovered in our generation that reads of Caesar Augustus: The son of God and The Savior of the World.
- He was born into a wealthy family and inherited his role from the famous Julius Caesar.
- He ruled from 27 BC to 14 AD
- Indeed, the Gregorian Calendar’s 8th month is named in his honor: August
Rd v 2; thing to note: this is the 1st registration while Quirinius is Gov of Syria; I like the preposition before better: this was the 1st registration before Quirinius was governor of Syria. rd v 3-4; this is beautiful staging: From the ruler of the known world, to the region of Quirinius, down to a young man and his wife and their journey to their town…Bethlehem; From the richest, most powerful man in the world down to the lowliest of peasants; but what an incredible contrast:
- Born to lowly peasants
- To no great fan fare
- He truly would become the Savior of the World.
- He wouldn’t have day or a month named after him, but He would restructure the way time was counted and every date would be ascribed in reference to his birth BC & AD! What is truly funny is that academia has successfully changed the way these things are recorded. Modern scholars are now using BCE & CE as in Before the Common Era and The Common Era. But, nonetheless, the dates are still set by Christ.
Speaking of dates, here is my 1st Fallacy:
I. Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th.
We don’t really know the date. Jewish historian Josephus placed the death of Herod in the spring of 4 B.C. between a lunar eclipse on March 12 and the Passover on April 11. Not in December, but probably in the Fall of 5 BC. Truth is, we just don’t know.
So, according to Scripture, we’re only given a time period.
Transition: at this point, we don’t have a date, but we a time… 2nd fallacy,
II. There was No Donkey – ill.: Small One; That’s right, there is no donkey or burro mentioned in Scripture. It is at the end of his life, but not here. I remember having this conversation in Bible Study a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, there is no Donkey. She probably walked with Joseph. She could have ridden a donkey, but there isn’t any evidence that she did. #3…
III. They were not Late Arrivals. When Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had already been in Bethlehem – probably for some time.
exp.: we think of Joseph struggling to get to Bethlehem; maybe travel was harder because his wife was slowing him down? So, he got a donkey for her to ride on because she’s so close to giving birth. No, the text actually tells us that they were there for a period of time before she gave birth. Luke give us this double entendre to clarify: KJV – And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. KJV, v 1; v15; same here in v 6 – Lit.: And it came to pass ‘while they are there’; You see, Joseph and Mary would have had plenty of time to make arrangements for lodging; just note:
- This is his family’s hometown – he could have reproduced his simple heritage; he was royalty; the son of Jacob, the son of Eleazar; Or,
- Mary’s family was just down the road in the ‘hill country of Judea’
ill.: I haven’t lived in Copperas Cove since 1989. I was only at Robertson Avenue Baptist Church for just over two years. Yet, my sons could travel there today and find a place to stay in someone’s home – someone who knows us and would remember them.
app.: Joseph isn’t some sort of uncaring, unprepared husband; One more point here: I find it hard to believe that this little community would reject her in her labor. I don’t imagine there is a place in the world – a civilization in the world that would reject a woman in labor. Maybe some place with ethnic cleansing and war – but that’s not the case here.
t.s.: Fallacy # 4;
IV. Jesus was not born in a barn.
exp.: or a cave; rd v 7; so she gives birth, to her ‘first born’ son; lit.: she wraped him in cloths; she swaddled him; My all time favorite description of this came from Joshua Webb: She made a burrito baby; the text says she laid him in a manger. Well, to the western mind, that would mean a barn. But, that’s not the case in this time Period in the Holy Land.
The 1st question for us here is: just what is a manger? This word manger is popular in Scripture. Each time it is used, it means the same thing: a feeding trough for an animal; say a goat, a lamb or a cow; we as East Texans in 2015 know that you feed your cows outside or in a barn; but those from the Middle East see this differently;
The key isn’t found in the word ‘manger’ but rather in the next set of words which record the reason for why she laid him in a feed trough; Now, I’m going to use the KJV again, because that is the most popular version of the Christmas story and the one that has established what we believe. We start with the word because: KJV/NASB – because there was no room for them in the inn.
- No Room – lit.: place or space; two popular words in Gk for our Eng. word place; this word here is the most popular; 1. is to place or stand something there; the 2nd, is topos – meaning space; Meaning: if I said: put it over there in that space; You might respond: I can’t…there isn’t enough room! That’s what this word here means – there wasn’t enough space for them there. It doesn’t mean there were no rooms available for rent. We don’t have time to look at all 90 times this word appears, but move down a couple of chapters to Lk 4.17: 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written.
Now there is a 2nd word we need to look at here in this verse – because there was no room for them in the inn.
- Inn –the word is κατάλυμα and it appears 3x’s in the NT; most lit.: a shelter or a dwelling; this word appears here; and again in Lk in 22.7-12(11); 7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9 They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” So Luke uses this same word to describe a room added to a house. Guest room; 3rd time in Mk 14.14 – which is the same story;
Here’s the problem with because there was no room for them in the inn. I have 26 English translations; and 23 of them translate this word ‘inn’. My guess is the translators didn’t want to change what people had come to know as tradition. In keeping with the King James and tradition; one translation (NLT) says: no lodging was available; which insinuates an inn; and TNIV – no guest room was available; which still hints at an inn; YLT is the closest – because there was not for them a place in the guest-chamber.
Added to this: Matthew 2 tells us the story of the Magi who came from the east seeking this baby who was born King of the Jews. They found him in a house. Now here’s why I have a problem with this word being translated Inn. Is there a word for inn in the Bible? Yes, and it just so happens that Luke uses it; πανδοχεῖον; 10.29-35 (34, 35);
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
In this story, we have the word for inn and the word for innkeeper. If Luke had wanted us to know that Mary and Joseph couldn’t find a room at the inn, he would have used this word or these words.
But, there is even more evidence.
exp.: let me show you the blueprints for a typical house as drawn up from archeological evidence from that time period and for centuries before and after; show pictures. 1) side view; 2) top view 3) top view w/ kataluma 4) top view 2/ side Kataluma
But what is most important for us in asking: Was it really that way? – is for us to see what Scripture says – Can I take a moment and tell you how important this is – we must use Scripture as our basis – our standard!
1 Sam 28.24 – 24 Now the woman had a fattened calf in the house, and she quickly killed it, and she took flour and kneaded it and baked unleavened bread of it, 25 and she put it before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they rose and went away that night;
Judges 11.29-40; 29 Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”
This understanding of the home brings clarity to such passages as:
- Matt 5.14-15: 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house; how many of you can light a candle and it will give light to your whole house? It did for these people because there was only one room to the whole house!
- Luke 13.10-17; 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”
- Mk 7.35: 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. She was untied, released…just as they had done to their animals that morning; Kenneth Bailey, in his book Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, quotes from the Arabic Bible, translated in the 9th Century: Does not everyone of you untie his ox or his donkey from the manger in the house and take it outside and water it? There is no “in the house” in the GK, but this Arabic speaking Christian in the 9th Century understood the text and the culture.
I think the story of the shepherds, which follows in Chronological order, then makes even more sense. These folks were the lowliest of people. Uneducated, poor; Q: why in the world would they be invited to see the King of Kings? If they went, they’d probably be turned away! But no, here is a sign for you: rd v 8-12; Ok, let me stop here and give you fallacy #5…
V. The Angels didn’t sing
And the Angel said to them: rd v 11-12; you’ll find the baby swaddled…just as other common folk would care for their newborn babies; and 2nd, he’d be lying in a manger…not in some mansion or governor’s home, but rather in a home like theirs!
Suddenly, there is a host of angels! Rd v 13-14; Again, they didn’t sing but said: Praising God and Saying; rd v 15-16; Question: If they’d found the child and their family left out in the cold and rejected by Bethlehem’s residents, don’t you think one of them would have intervened? …Especially, after the announcement by the Angel!
- Mary & Joseph were not late in arriving to Bethlehem.
- Jesus was not born in a barn, and not in the guest room because it was already in use. He was most likely born in a home just like other babies in the era.
- One room homes were assumed by the listeners of Jesus: Matt & Luke
- The word translated room is topos; meaning spacee.: because there was no space for them in the guest room: kataluma: vs 7 she wrapped in him swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because that is where she was staying…in the house, not the guest room, because there was no space for them in the guest room.
- The Magi visited the house where they stayed (cf. Mt 2.11)
- This is how middle easterners thought and translated from the Greek over a 1,000 years ago (800’s)
Curious to hear from the many members who are from other countries as to what their home language records…