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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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  • John says

    Chapter 2 of this book says: ” 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.”
    Suggestions have been made that it could have been a comet, meteor, supernova or conjunction of planets.One could ask – How come any one of these bodies, remained stationary, over one house in Bethlehem? As 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 says, Satan can use very powerful works and lying signs, and mislead and delude many into believing lies. John 8:44 describes the religious leaders of his day as being like Satan, the father of the lie……….and this no doubt was a reason that only the astrologers ‘saw’ this star.

  • John says

    BAR says: “……….particular by the three magi in the Christmas story.”
    Who stated that there were three astrologers (magi), it certainly does not mention it in the Bible……….only based on assumption because there were three gifts mentioned.
    BAR says: “….the adoration of the magi than of the infant Jesus in the manger.”
    Matthew 2:7, 8 tells us that Herod sent the astrologers, (NOT wise men – although they may have been considered ‘wise men’ by those practicing astrology), to look for a YOUNG CHILD, not an infant………that of course, that is why Herod wanted all males up to the age of two killed.
    Also in this book it says: “Author Dale C. Allison, Jr. does not look to astronomy for an explanation of the magi’s star,”………….of course he couldn’t look to ASTRONOMY, because, what is being dealt with is ASTROLOGY……….because it was only the astrologers that saw the star.

    • John says

      Another little interesting point on this is, if the astrologers had been present when Jesus was an an infant, why does the Bible at, Luke 2:22-24 that Joseph and Mary offered a pair of turtle doves or pigeons, instead of a bull, (when the time came for their purifying, when Jesus was 40 days old)……..which they would have done, had they already received the gifts from the astrologers

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