Traditions! Traditions!...Are you sure of that?

Not everything people tell you about the bible is true.

by Lura Langenback

© 4/20/02

When I was 5 years old, we belonged to this huge, cathedral-like church, or so it seemed to me in those days. At Christmas time, as in many churches across the world, there was always a play that depicted the birth of Jesus with all the accessories being played by young children. I was a shepherd.

Bravely, I walked down the long isle, my trusty counterpart next to me, following the paper star that was hanging from a pole another kid was holding, walking in front of us all the way up to the altar. On we trudged to the steps, up three, then admired the brand new baby, hurried over to sit on a step off on the side away from the main action, where I could stare out into the crowd until I saw Mommy and Daddy. I beamed my brightest smile, waving to them vigorously (and somewhat loudly as I recall), wondering why folks were laughing. I didn't see a thing to chuckle at, no matter where I looked. Still they laughed harder. It must have been quite a joke. I didn't get it.

There were Joseph, Mary and babe, all safely in the manger area, which looked mostly like a lean-to, straw and all. Just prior to our arrival there had been an announcement made by an angel saying 'Fear not!' I, for one, did anyway. Personally, I never thought she was an angel but they said that's what she was. (she bites, you know) The animals were paper cutouts, which was good because you didn't want the obvious after effects of real animals of that sort. The babe Himself was someone's doll. No one wanted to donate a real baby for this, although I never really understood why. The parents, who bravely took care of their little offspring (the doll), were older than the rest of us...6th graders, I think.

Off in the distance you could hear the song 'We Three Kings Of Orient Are'. That was the signal that the kings were coming. Over and over we were told to look properly impressed by 'the arrival'. Dramatically they came down the isle. The three kings with their valuable presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were swishing along in robes of what could only have been old curtains. I don't recall what the gifts really were although I do remember that they were not the real thing. At least I don't think they were.

The classic nativity scene; Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus, angel, animals, shepherds, and kings. Recently, I began to wonder how many folks realized that not much of that portrayal is true. It was at this point that I once again thought of the fact that much of what we are taught is traditional and isn't in the bible at all, the story has been altered over the years to fit a certain program or belief system or possibly it is that way because 'that's the way we always did it'. You can translate that to...they let someone else read the book and tell them what it said instead of looking it up themselves.

So, let's take a small quiz. (Remember: I caution folks not to take my word alone, but to look things up for themselves.)

True or False

1) Joseph and Mary were in the manger area because they were so poor that they couldn't pay for other accommodations.

2) They never lived anywhere else in Bethlehem.

3) Three kings from the orient visited the baby Jesus and parents by themselves.

4) Three kings visited Jesus and family on the night of His birth, each bearing a gift in his hand.

Now, which are false and which are true? Does it surprise you to know that not one of those statements is true? It's possible I heard someone wondering if at least SOME of them have to be true, don't they? Let's examine them.

1) Joseph and Mary were in the manger area because they were so poor that they couldn't pay for other accommodations.

Logic would tell you that this is not true simply because we know that Joseph had a trade. He was a carpenter. They had the money to travel to Bethlehem because it was tax time. But frankly, the scripture speaks for itself.

Luke 2:7, "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." At that time, all of the heads of families of Jewish ancestry had to travel to their birth city to pay taxes. So there were huge numbers of folks in that place all at once. Yet how many times have you heard how poor this small family was because they stayed in the manger area? I have heard that more often than I can count.

2) They never lived anywhere else in Bethlehem.

This one is also false although I have heard it said that they stayed there for quite a while. Yet this scripture too can speak for itself. I am only quoting the part that I need here but PLEASE read the scripture around it. Do not take my word alone. It explains who these folks are that come to visit.

Matthew 2:10-12, "When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." It's fairly obvious that these are the kings, right? They came into a house, not a manger.

3) Three kings from the orient visited the baby Jesus and parents by themselves.

This one would require some background which I cannot provide here but briefly; no king ever traveled alone in those days. They all had large numbers of servants and family that went with them. If three kings had joined together, then the caravan would have been enormous with hundreds of people. Do some research! Check out the travel habits of the old testament kings. They never went anywhere alone.

4) Three kings visited Jesus and family on the night of His birth, each bearing a gift in his hand.

By now you should know that the folks who visited did not come on the night of Jesus' birth because they came into a house, not the manger area. (see quote from Luke 2:7 above) But now another question pops up. Were those folks really kings? They were not.

Matthew 2:1-2, "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him."

If you will look it up, you will find that the wise men were sorcerers. Strong's Concordance calls them 'Oriental scientists' or magicians, not kings although almost every nativity scene and play has them portrayed that way. Again the question is..did they come alone? No, in those days it was very dangerous to travel alone. In this case, it would have been doubly so because they were carrying valuable gifts. Yet another question comes to mind. Were they able to carry those gifts into the house alone? Not really. These folks came from a long distance away to honor someone they knew to be a King. It would have been a horrible blunder on their part to travel that far for one small little gift. They most likely brought camels full of gifts and brought only a sample of those gifts into the house to present. Remember, they were honoring a King!

What does all of this mean to you? Hopefully it will make you wonder what else you need to check out. It's time to dust off that bible and look these things up. Not everything people tell you about the bible is true. Find out for yourself!!

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