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Posts Tagged ‘nativity’

12 Days of Christmas Correction – The Star

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 24, 2009

Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. – Matthew 2:2

The “Star of Bethlehem” as it has become known has produced much conjecture over the centuries.  Is it a real star, a celestial event or something supernatural.

To be completely honest, it really doesn’t matter what the star was, but that it “was” and that the people who needed to see it saw it and their encounter is recorded in Matthew.

Many times throughout Scripture, God uses the natural things of this world in a supernatural wa to accomplish a particular task.  God brought water from a rock through Moses, 9 of the 10 plagues on Egypt were natural occurrences, and even some of the miracles of Jesus, though not explainable through natural means, were accomplished using natural methods (e.g. putting mud on eyes to heal them).

It’s easy to write off the star as a supernatural event, but that brings several things into question:

  • They why was it that Magi, who were trained astronomers/astrologers the only ones to see it?
  • Why didn’t anyone else see it?
  • Why did it guide them to the region of Judea, but not directly to the place where Jesus was until they got more information from the Jews about where Jesus was to be born?

Over the years, many people have tried to discover the celestial event that may have been the event that the Magi followed, but to no real avail.  There are many possibilities from comets to exploding stars, but nothing really showed three key things about the Magi :

  • This event was all that was needed to define for the Magi that a King was born in Judea
  • This event was something that would fit their understanding of the stars
  • This visit was not blown off by Herod (he believed it credible enough to slaughter the boys in Bethlehem)

Recently, an interesting hypothesis was brought up based on an archeological finding.  A coin was found dating to the first century A.D. that shows Aries (the ancient constellation symbol for Judea), the moon and a star (Jupiter).  The representation of them together had to do with the annunciation of a king that was born. The event represented by the coin occurred on April 17, 6 B.C.

This date fits with biblical accounts.  King Herod died in 4 B.C.  He was king when Jesus was born, so Jesus would have had to been born before that date.  Since the Magi visited him when he was close to 2 years old, and Jesus family fled to Egypt at this time, that puts the date to at least 6 B.C.  This, and the fact that the Bible says Herod dies, and so Jesus come back from Egypt, tells us that his birth was most certainly at least in 6 B.C.

The Star, according to the researcher, was the eclipse of Jupiter and the Moon while it travelled through the constellation of Aries.  This would explain why nobody else saw it, how it could lead the Magi East and why it was Magi that followed the star in the first place.

Just a thought. Merry Christmas!


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12 Days of Christmas Correction – Away in a Stall

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 4, 2009

A famous and often sung Christmas Carol is away in a Manger. The song goes something like this,

“Away in a Manger no crib for his bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head, the stars in the sky looked down where he lay that the Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.”

Again, this song uses a little poetic license with a few assumptions, but  hey, it’s Christmas!

The details in question are the manger and the crib. One detail in this song that is most likely accurate is that he was probably asleep on the hay. As I was doing some research on the details of the stable, I discovered an interesting fact about the manger.

The two words are used interchangeably when translated from the Greek or Hebrew word. The Hebrew word is abus, and the Greek word is phatne.

For example, Luke 13:15 uses the same word to refer to the stall. The Hebrew word can be used for bed, stall and feeding trough. When the angel comes to the shepherds in Luke 2:12, he tells them that they will find a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a phatne, or stall.

The Hebrew word when translated as “stall” talks holistically about the stall which includes the feeding trough, the stalls and the location. That concept is carried through to the Greek. In fact, in the King James the word translated “crib” in Job 39:9 is the same word as the word translated manger and stall. So technically speaking, he may have been away in a Manger but he did have a crib for a bed.

Think of it like this, if someone asks me where I sleep, I can say, “In my house.” That is not a very specific way of saying that I sleep in my bed, but the reality is that I sleep in my house. When the angel told the shepherds you will find him in a phatne, he was telling them to go to the stall or stable.

Most likely, if Jesus was just born, Mary probably would not put him in a feeding trough but would keep him very close to her in order to keep him as warm as possible. Being nighttime, she and Joseph could have both been laying down in the straw in the stall with the baby Jesus next to her. This would fit the description given by the angel to the shepherds and make the most sense.  It might not be the pretty nativity picture for your post card, but would be the responsible thing to do.

Yes, I know, it is a minor detail, but to think dogmatically that Jesus was in a feeding trough, probably is not a good idea.

Also, the stable was probably not made out of wood, since wood was an expensive commodity.  It was most likely a cave or a fenced in area with rock.  There are plenty of rocks and caves in and around Bethlehem.

Finally, the song mentions,”no crying he makes”. I don’t know about you, but every birth than ever heard about, there was screaming involved. There is nothing in the text to indicate Jesus did not cry. In fact, Jesus experienced everything that we experience including, messy diapers, potty training, learning how to walk (he even probably had some skinned knees in the process), and he even had to learn how to talk. Sure, he was probably the perfect child, but he still had to grow up just like everyone of us.

All this being said, Jesus was born in the humblest of circumstances. He was a king born in a stable, and destined for a criminal’s death. He illustrated to us in every way imaginable and what it is to be human and what it is to follow after God’s will.

Jesus entered this world perfect, and he left this world perfect. In doing so, we have the perfect Savior, and in him is a life everlasting.

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12 Days of Christmas Correction – Missing Men

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 2, 2009

Just about every nativity scene you see around town has shepherds, sheep and wise men.  There is only one problemwith that… there weren’t any wise men at the birth of Jesus.

The Matthew 2 passage tells us plainly several things that demonstrate this:

  1. The magoi (Greek plural of magos magi is Latin, and the Bible wasn’t written in Latin –  see my previous article) said it themselves, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” – Matthew 2:2.  They knew they had missed it.
  2. They came to the house… not the stable (verse 11), so right there, we see that they never even made it to the manger.
  3. But the biggest clue is verse 14:

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

It seems that the magoi told Herod the time of the birth… and that they missed it, so the gifts they brought were belated.

So the short of it is that the magoi were not present at Jesus’ birth and probably didn’t even make it there for up to two years after the birth.  Sorry to rain on the collection of Christmas cards you just bought, but the truth needs to be proclaimed even if it crushes tradition.

Either way, the magoi did play a special role in the life of Jesus.  Just remember that these were men bringing tribute to a king.  They would not have been small gifts.  In fact, the potential is there that the amount brought to Jesus would sustain Mary, Joseph and Jesus for their entire lives.

After Jesus is 12, you don’t hear from Joseph anymore.  If Joseph did pass away, as some believe, how would Mary support the family which included other brothers and sisters if Joseph is no longer in the picture?

If this worst case scenario is indeed true, then it is just one more testament of God’s provision.  For he knew that Mary would need this long before that day came.  The Father took care of the need of the widow years before, and in so doing, represented to us the importance of taking care of the widows, orphans and family.

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12 Day of Christmas Correction – A Wise Men or Kings

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 1, 2009

Christmas is a time of joy and celebration as we recognize the sacrifice God made by sending his only son to earth as a little child. However, there are a few details in the story that need to be corrected from a biblical point of view.

So over the next 12 days I’m going to look at 12 themes in the way we traditionally understand Christmas that don’t exactly line up with Scripture.

The first of these is the three wise men. Actually, there are several details about these men that that are incorrectly observed, so I will break it up over the first few postings.

Wise Men or Kings?

The well-known Christmas carol goes, “We three Kings of Orient are…” Well the Bible does not tell us that they are Kings. In fact, Augustine mentions that there were 12. The actual number is not important, but we do know that there are three gifts, but the Bible does not mention 3 wise men.

The word used in the Bible is the Greek word magos which is the same word used for the sorcerer, Barjesus (a.k.a. Elymas), that followed Paul around in Acts 13. Elymas is the Aramaic word for “wise man”. The word for “sorcerer” in this passage and “wise man” in the Matthew story is the word magos which is the Greek word based on a Babylonian word for the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers etc.

Did you follow all of that?

They were basically a group of men, according to the Greeks, that followed Zoroaster’s teaching as early as 400 to 600 B.C. who was an astrologist whose followers found of what would be known as magic (the word “magic” comes from the Latin plural of magosmagi)

Hebrew Roots

The Hebrew word for magos, is rabmag, and the Bible used the root of this word to describe the group in which Daniel and the other Hebrew children were assimilated (Daniel 1:3). The Septuagint uses the word magos multiple times in refering to the order in which Daniel was a part. It is possible, since Daniel did prophecy about the coming messiah and the time of his coming (c.f. Daniel 9) that Daniel had an influence on a group of magoi that led up to the coming of these men in Matthew 2.

The magoi (the Greek plural for magos since magi is the plural for the Latin magus) that came to visit Jesus believed first that a savior of the world was to be born of the Jewish people. This base belief tells us that the influence of this particular group of magoi were not of Baylonian origin, but of Hebrew origin and probably influenced, again, by Daniel’s visions several hundred years earlier.

To summarize, the magoi, or “wise men” if you prefer, were not kings, but simply astrologers and men who believed that a savior was to be born of the Jews and that the time of his birth was foretold years earlier. They had the faith and the drive to track him down, with the help of God, to a little town in order to present gifts of worship.

We can learn one thing from these men… They put a ton of effort into one single act of worship. How much are we willing today to sacrifice and give for one special moment of worship before the King of kings and the Lord of lords?

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