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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?


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


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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  • Bobby says

    Christmass Day?
    Hippolytus A Saint born about the year of 175 AD, fixed the Christmass date upon Dec. 25 based on the following.
    He had reached the conviction that Jesus’s life from conception to crucifixion was precisely thirty-three years and that both events occurred on Mar. 25. By calculating nine months from the annunciation or conception he arrived at Dec. 25 as the day Of Christ ‘s birth.
    If Jesus was conceived on March 25 and died on The Cross march 25th then he would have went full circle. Full Circle a never ending God.
    33 years old at death, the number 33 means promise. Jesus is our promise. Jeremiah 33 is the promise chapter of the messiah. Esp verse 14
    As well the number 25 is the number for forgiveness of sins.
    Jeremiah 52.31 is a Prophetic allegory of the Messiahs birth.
    The Chapter # 52 represents how many weeks are in a year. The fifty second week starts on the 25th day of the twelfth month, or 12.25.
    12 is the number representing Governmental Perfection.
    Verse 31 represents: Offspring Luke 1.31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
    31 is as well the number for covenant
    Jeremiah 31.31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
    Jeremiah 31 as well tells of Christmass’ coming.
    Jeremiah 52.31 And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, in the five and twentieth day of the month, that Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the first year of his reign lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah, and brought him forth out of prison,
    More later.

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