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The First Christmas: The Story of Jesus’ Birth in History and Tradition

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Interested in the Christmas story and what it meant to the earliest Christians?

In this free eBook, expert Bible scholars and archaeologists offer glimpses of the first Christmas as recounted and understood by those who first told the beloved story.

Discover what Bible experts have to say about the Gospel stories of Jesus’ birth, the history of Christmas, the three wise men, the adoration of the magi, the star of Bethlehem, the date of Jesus’ birth, shepherds and angels at the nativity, the location of Jesus’ birth, the magi in art and literature and early Christian Christmas traditions.

The time-honored traditions of Christmas are dear to the hearts of Christians today. The story of the first Christmas recaptures the imagination as it is retold year after year in Bible readings, carols, Christmas pageants, live manger scenes and crèche displays, to name a few. Perhaps in the midst of all this, we might wonder what the story of Jesus’ birth meant to the earliest Christians. How did their story differ from the one we tell today, and what significance did they give to each member of the cast of characters?

Chapter One

Witnessing the Divine: The Magi in Art and Literature

Witnessing the Divine

Early and modern-day Christians alike have been captivated in particular by the three magi in the Christmas story. Author Robin Jensen tells us that early Christian art contains more representations of the adoration of the magi than of the infant Jesus in the manger. What key theological message did the early Christians see in the story of the magi? Jensen uncovers the answer by tracing the magi’s numerous appearances in art and literature from the period in “Witnessing the Divine: The Magi in Art and Literature.”

Chapter Two

The Magi and the Star: Babylonian Astronomy Dates Jesus’ Birth

The Magi and the Star

Perhaps the most mystifying part of the magi’s journey is the star that guides them. Scholars and astronomers have tried for some time to identify a celestial event that corresponds with the magi’s guiding star, in part because it would also pinpoint the date of Jesus’ birth. Where modern science fails to explain the mysterious star, Babylonian astronomy gives better clues in “The Magi and the Star: Babylonian Astronomy Dates Jesus’ Birth” by Simo Parpola.

Chapter Three

What Was the Star that Guided the Magi?

What was the star that guided the magi

Author Dale C. Allison, Jr. does not look to astronomy for an explanation of the magi’s star, though he does look heavenward. In “What Was the Star that Guided the Magi,” he suggests that another sort of celestial entity was the bright light that guided the magi’s journey to pay homage to the infant Jesus.

This free eBook is a very special opportunity. In it, Bible scholars and archaeologists offer glimpses of the first Christmas as recounted and understood by those who first told the beloved story.

Chapter Four

Where Was Jesus Born? O Little Town of … Nazareth?

Nazareth

The star, tradition tells us, led the magi to the tiny Judean town of Bethlehem. However, many scholars of the New Testament have come to the conclusion that Jesus was born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem. Steve Mason’s “O Little Town of … Nazareth?” explores the the passages in the Biblical text that suggest Nazareth was Jesus’ birthplace.

Chapter Five

Where Was Jesus Born? Bethlehem … Of Course

Bethlehem

Despite the belief held by some researchers that Jesus was born in Nazareth, other prominent New Testament scholars remain convinced that the first Christmas took place in Bethlehem. Jerome Murphy O’Connor supports the Bethlehem tradition using archaeology, the gospels and other ancient texts in “Bethlehem … Of Course.”

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16 Responses

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  1. Tom says

    Yeah… Except he wasn’t born during the pagan festival of Christmas. Not even in the same month. I’m not certain if its touched in this book, but this title slams the validity of this book for me.

  2. J. says

    Jesus was born on an Appointed Time, one of the Feasts of the LORD. Christ was never a part of Christmas until men’s traditions forced Him there. Celebrate The LORD’s Holy Days which completely revolve around The Messiah in the Old Testament, New Testament and when Jesus returns. What a glorious time that will be!

  3. Tom says

    Nowhere in The Bible does it say there were three wise men. Men’s traditions, why do people cling to them over what God commands?

  4. mary says

    thank you! , my uncle Romy and Auntie Georgie Solina are astrologers who also mentioned about charting Jesus’ birthdate approximates it around august .. now am excited in receiving my free ebook ..

  5. Br says

    Jesus didn’t for celebration. He came that we might be saved from our sin. The only way we can celebrate CHRIST is to live the life of CHRIST. ( Mathew 1vs21; Romans 13 vs 11-13). Other things are just human imagination. People has forsaken Christ command to “preach the gospel to every creature and are following after traditions of men.

  6. Alembe says

    We cannot remember the death of someone without remembering his birth! if we accept Jesus was crucified because of our sin, we must accept also his birth.the very important thing his born!

  7. Krzysztof says

    R.E.Brown, The Birth of the Messiah, 1977 is a classic one;what’s new?

  8. Merit says

    Christmas celebration is neither a sin nor men’s imagination, but is a medium of thanks giving and for us to remember our saviour who died for us to be save and draw us closer to our heavenly father.

  9. Irene says

    Christmas is a medium of showing the love of christ, It is also a time of giving.

  10. buddy says

    Everything important that happened in the Bible, happened on a Jewish feast day. Yeshua(Jesus) was born on the Jewish Feast day, The Feast of Tabernacles(Sukkot). Yeshua lived out the Jewish feasts in his lifetime! Read what Feast Of Tabernacle is all about and compare Yeshuas name as mentioned in the book Of Matthew 1:23 – EMMANUEL(GOD WITH US). December 25 was set up by the catholic church to accommadate the pagens to worship their pagen god Mytheia, and for the catholics to do it together.

  11. Augustine says

    My questions are is it good or bad to for us to choose a day out of twelve month and celebrate our savior’s birth ? 2 is it right or wrong to celebrate our Messiah in the day which our God created the same day which pagen r celebrating their god too?

  12. Nicolas says

    Thanks! Hi from Paris and Happy New Year.

  13. oscar says

    isnt it possible that when dec. 25 was chosen to celebrate jesus’ birth is god’s will in itself.? because as the bible readers always says that when you read and study the bible you are being guided by the holy spirit. right..?

  14. Frank says

    No one knows the birth date of Jesus. It isn’t written in the gospels. In fact not much is written about Jesus except possibly his sayings and parables. The gospels are not biography. The only date could possibly be the death of Jesus just before the first night of Passover. He had to be buried in a hurry before sunset, but there’s no date or year.
    The 25th of December is arbitrary, being the Roman festival of Sol Invictus, the winter solstice.
    It really wasn’t important in ancient times.
    We have no dates of the emperors’ births, so why Jesus’? It’s a western idea.

  15. Irine says

    Shalom,nd praise Jesus,i guese its a matter of understanding the jewish perspective verses gentile view,,one thing is sure that the only way to salvation is to believe that Yashuah Hamashach was born died and resurrected and is seated at the right hand of God when,why,how is not my concern if this differences affects it..lets incorporate peace and share salvation…

  16. Bonnie says

    If the contents of a cup is contaminated, it doesn’t become clean and pure because it’s poured into a new cup!
    Jesus was born a Jew. Jews did not celebrate birthdays. Neither did the early Christians. If Jesus’ birth was meant to be ‘celebrated,’ why is there NO mention of it in Scripture? The apostle, John, penned the Book of Revelation in 98 C.E., 65 years after Jesus’ death! Wouldn’t a reasoning person expect to find some mention of a birthday celebration for him somewhere in the Bible? Instead, Jesus INSTRUCTED his followers to celebrate his DEATH… and this IS recorded! This is in keeping with what Solomon said at Ecclesiastes 7:1: “A good name is better than good oil, and the day of death is better than the day of birth.” Why? Because by the time a man dies, he has made a ‘name’ for himself. He has proven, by the way he lived, what he truly is. Jesus did not provide the ransom sacrifice until he died. It was his life course, not the day of his birth that he focused on when he said… at the age of 33: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him: “What is truth?” John 18:37, 38. Yes, What is TRUTH?

    If you really want to know… “Long before the fourth century, and long before the Christian era itself, a festival was celebrated among pagans, at the precise time of the year as “Christmas,” in honor of the birth of the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven; and it may fairly be presumed that in order to gain acceptance by the pagan, and to swell the number of nominal adherents of Christianity, the same festival was adopted by the Roman Church and given the name of ‘Christ.’ This tendency on the part of Christendom (not true Christianity) to meet Paganism half-way was very early developed; and we find the historian, Tertullian, even in his day, about the year 230, bitterly lamenting the inconsistency of the so-called disciples of Christ in this respect, and contrasting it with the strict fidelity of the Pagans to their own superstition. “By us,” says he, “who are strangers to Sabbaths, and new moons, and festivals once acceptable to God, the Saturnalia, the feasts of January, the Brumalia, and Matronalia, are now frequented; gifts are carried to and fro, new year’s day presents are made with din, and sports and banquets are celebrated with uproar; oh, how much more faithful are the heathen to their religion, who take special care to adopt no solemnity from the Christians.”

    Upright men tried to stem the tide, but in spite of all their efforts, the APOSTASY went on till the Church, with the exception of a small remnant, was submerged in Pagan superstition. That Christmas was originally a pagan festival is beyond all doubt! The time of the year, and the ceremonies with which it is still celebrated, prove its origin.

    In Egypt, the son of Isis, the Egyptian title for the queen of heaven, was born at this very time, “about the time of the winter solstice.” The name by which Christmas is popularly known, Yule-Day, proves its pagan Babylonian origin. “Yule” is the Chaldee word for “infant” or “little child”; * and as the 25th of December was called by the Pagan Anglo-Saxons, “Yule-day,” or the “Child’s day,” and the night that preceded it, “Mother-night,” long before coming in contact with Christendom, that sufficiently proves its origin. This pagan festival not only commemorated the figurative birthday of the sun in the renewal of its course, but it also was celebrated on December 24 among the Sabeans of Arabia, as the birthday of the “Lord Moon.”

    In Babylon, where the sun (Baal) was the object of worship, Tammuz was considered the incarnation of the Sun.
    There are many other Christmas counterparts of the Babylonian winter solstice festival, such as:
    1) Candles lighted on Christmas eve, and used throughout the festival season, were lighted by Pagans on the eve of the festival of the Babylonian god, to do honor to him.
    2) The Christmas tree was equally common in Pagan Rome and Pagan Egypt. In Egypt the tree was a palm; in Rome it was the fir. The tree denoted the Pagan Messiah.
    3) “The mother of Adonis, the Sun God and great mediatorial divinity, was mystically said to have been changed into a tree, and when in that state to have brought forth her divine son. If the mother was a tree, the son must have been recognized as the “Man of the branch.”
    4) The Yule log was considered the dead stock of Nimrod (or Tammuz, depending on the nation involved), deified as the sun god, but cut down by his enemies; the Christmas tree is Nimrod revived – the slain god come to life again. The Yule occultic colors are red and green!
    5) The Mistletoe branch symbolized “the man, the branch” and was regarded as a divine branch – a corrupt Babylonian representation of the true Messiah. Both mistletoe and holly were considered fertility plants by the pagans.”

    “Babylon was, at that time, the center of the civilized world; and thus Paganism, corrupting the Divine symbol as it ever has done, had opportunities of sending forth its debased counterfeit of the truth to all the ends of the earth, through the Mysteries that were affiliated with the great central system in Babylon.”

    The Apostle, Paul, said this to those who chose to remain enslaved by ‘the traditions of men:’ “Nevertheless, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those who are not really gods.  But now that you have come to know God or, rather, have come to be known by God, how is it that you are turning back again to the weak and beggarly elementary things and want to slave for them over again? You are scrupulously observing days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” Galatians 4:8-11


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