Wandering through Bournemouth Square, I came across a model of the traditional nativity scene set in a glass and timber presentation case close to the annual Christmas market.
Of course most people are familiar with stable scene, the ‘holy family’ surrounded by farm animals, shepherds, angels and the three wise men bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, all paying tribute to the new ‘king’. Some find it very touching.
However, even the Catholic Church doesn’t accept this scene as genuine. In November 2012 Pope Benedict decreed that nativity scenes should not show cows, donkeys or a choir of angels because they aren’t mentioned in the Bible!
We could go further. Disregarding for the moment the evidence that Yeshua bar Yehosef (‘Jesus’) was probably born in Nazareth, Nativity scenes shouldn’t show shepherds and the Three Wise Men together either. They couldn’t possibly have attended the birth at the same time. According to the author of the Gospel of Luke, the shepherds left their sheep immediately at the behest of an angel and went straight to the new-born Messiah. Fair enough, but it would have taken weeks for Wise Men of the Gospel attributed to Matthew to arrive from a foreign country.
Moreover, the gospel says they followed a star which led them to Bethlehem and, incredibly, hovered low enough over the place where the infant was for it to be identified.
I wonder what happened to the gold, frankincense and myrrh they brought as gifts? They were extremely valuable. If Maryām and Yehosef had actually had these things they could have sold them and lived the rest of their lives in comfort.
And is it merely a coincidence that these wise men bore the same gifts as stated in an ancient Zoroastrian myth. Scholars think this twist was added much later.
Until the early 19th Century few people in the Christian world dared to question the accuracy of the Bible. Only when the biblical texts began to be studied seriously and cross referenced with other sources did a better understanding begin to emerge. Biblical scholarship has reached a new high in recent decades and is steadily revealing the inaccuracies, contradictions and sheer nonsense in the biblical texts.
The Nativity stores certainly fall into these categories. Long may we continue to expose them!
©David Lawrence Preston, 17.12.2016
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Balboa Press, 2015