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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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  • Skye says

    Donald, you are right,I do not agree with you….How could someone be a true follower of Christ and only believe some of what the bible tells us …..It would be like saying that I believe in God but not His son Jesus….only believing some or half of what is the truth….For God says that all His words in the bible are His truths….

  • Racquel says

    Why celebrate Christmas, when the Bible already told us what to celebrate? The Bible stated that we should celebrate the Lord’s death until he comes. KJV 1 Corinthians 11
    26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

  • John says

    “The time-honoured traditions of Christmas are dear to the hearts of Christians today.”
    ………however, the unfortunate thing is that it is not backed up in the Bible.
    One could ask! How so?…………because christmas is a man-made, pagan custom, even reputable encyclopaedias will back that up, and that’s apart from the Bible itself, which has no mention of christmas, nor does it even allude to the fact that the birth of Jesus should be celebrated……….think about it! That is probably why the birth date was not included…….yet the date of Jesus death is clearly discernible from scripture.

    • Just says

      Your Right! We ate taught by Christ Jesus to follow his examples. He kept the Passover, Days of Unleaved Bread, Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles, and The Last Great day.
      They were given by God for ever to keep!
      The Ten Commandments were given forever!
      Lets not forget The Sabbath Day a sign that we belong to our God.
      Friday sunset to Saturday sunet.
      This time is Holy and it does not belong to man.

      • John says

        Matthew 5:17 says of Jesus, that He came to fufill the Law, that is the Mosaic Law.
        After Jesus death, Christians were no longer under that Law, Colossians 2:13, 14
        Acts 15:28, 29 tells us what the older men in Jerusalem said concerning the Law.
        Interesting also is the book of Hebrews, here Paul explains in great detail how Jesus changed or, really did away with that Law.
        By the way Just, the 10 commandments, were just part of that Law that contained over 600 commands.
        Galatians 4:9-11 we find here that Paul said it was of no use keeping those special days that were once observed when the Jews were under the Law……Why?…….because they were no longer under the Mosaic Law.
        Colossians 2:13, 14 point out that the Law was virtually put ‘to death’ when Jesus was put to death.

  • John says

    Whilst I may not agree with you, we all have that freedom of choice to decide for ourselves what we do; what we believe, etc.
    I believe the words penned at 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 that points out that ALL scripture is inspired of god; and at Revelation 22:18, 19 which basically points out that we cannot pick and choose as to what we accept, or do not accept from His Word.

  • Donald says

    You might not agree with me but it is possible to be a Christian and not believe every word of the Bible.

    • Oliver says

      Be specific on what is not true in the Bible and quote the verse if you want us to take your arguments seriously.

      • Bern says

        Agree…just because one doesn’t understand HOW something could happen….doesn’t mean that it didn’t.

    • Skye says

      Donald,you are right, I do not agree with you..How can someone be a true follower of Christ and not believe the whole bible to be true…..It would be like me saying I believe in God and not His Son Jesus…Only believing some or half of what is the truth….God tells us that the whole bible are all Gods truths…..

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