Christmas and the Wise Men
What the Bible says; What the Bible Doesn't Say

Herman asks: Questions about the wise men and christmas.looking for the passage where thay brought gifts to jesus home most people over look the truth I want to make sure I'm correct in teaching the truth
Question about A General Question: Meaning of a passage
Motivation - Curiosity: Discussion with friends; Guidance: Support my position
Bible view - The Word of God - [question 77, Wednesday, 23-Nov-2011]

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
- John 7:24 [KJV]

Your question is refreshing, Herman. You want to find out what the Bible actually says about Christmas, rather than rely on the personal accountings of others. Much of today's Christmas tradition comes from Folk Theology, that is, theology based on personal reflections, musings, and stories, rather than what is presented in the Bible. Some examples of folk theology are:

  1. Saint Peter guards the pearly gates of heaven
  2. The Lord helps those who help themselves
  3. All people are basically good
  4. Jesus was born on December 25th
  5. Three wise men worshiped the baby Jesus

While some folk theology is harmless, much of it is very damaging. In the list above, items 1, 4, and 5 have no real impact on people's lives, but items 2 and 3 are blatant lies from Hell with dire consequences, both eternal consequences and present-day consequences. In fact, the Bible says that the Lord discourages those who help themselves, and that He judges all people to be basically bad, not basically good.

The best Christmas tradition I know is attending a presentation of Handel's great choral work Messiah. All the words come from the Bible, and they all focus on the birth, life, death, and ressurrection of Jesus Christ. Listen carefully. You will hear the Bible message throughout.

So what does the Bible say about Christmas and the Three Wise Men? Let's look.

The Christmas Story in the Bible

Christmas pageants, manger scenes, and Hallmark specials aside, the Bible does not say a lot about the birth of Jesus Christ. Of the 260 chapters in the New Testament, only two chapters record events of Jesus' birth, while a full 14 chapters focus on events of His death and subsequent resurrection. Jesus was born for one reason: to die. You don't hear that much at Christmas time. Especially in the stores.

The Old Testament starts with 18 historical books, that is, books that chronologically (more or less) report the history of the Jewish people. Similarly, the New Testament starts with 5 historical books that recount the life of Jesus and His early followers. The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, provide parallel accounts of Jesus' life reported by four different men from four different viewpoints.

The definitive Christmas story appears only in Luke Chapter 2:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 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. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
- Luke 2:1ff [KJV]

Interestingly, the Christmas history appears only in Luke, not in the other Gospels. So anything not in the box above about the literal day of Jesus' physical birth is not in the Bible. There are, however, other details provided about the weeks, months, and years before and after the first Christmas. Here is a condensed list:

  1. Jesus' cousin John the Baptist is conceived miraculously (Luke 1:13)
  2. Jesus is conceived miraculously (Luke 1:31)
  3. Jesus and John somehow communicate in the womb (Luke 1:44)
  4. Mary magnifies God (Luke 1:46)
  5. John is born (Luke 1:57)
  6. Jesus is born (Luke 2:1-20 in box above)
  7. Jesus is circumcised (Luke 2:21)
  8. Mary and Joseph present Jesus to the Lord (Luke 2:22)
  9. Simeon takes the baby Jesus in his arms (Luke 2:28)
  10. Simeon makes a shrouded prediction of Jesus' death (Luke 2:35)
  11. Anna speaks prophetically about the baby Jesus (Luke 2:38)
  12. Wise men inquire about the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1)
  13. Wise men are precisely guided by a star (Matthew 2:9)
  14. Wise men bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus (Matthew 2:11)
  15. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee at an angel's command (Matthew 2:13)
  16. Herod kills all children in Bethlehem less than two years old (Matthew 2:16)
  17. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus return to Galilee in Israel after Herod dies (Matthew 2:19)

The passage in Matthew about the wise men reads:

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. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 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. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
- Matthew 2:1ff [KJV]

Like the birth day passage in Luke, the wise men passage appears only in Matthew. So if it isn't here, it isn't in the Bible.

Note that while there were at least three gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, there were not necessarily three wise men. Perhaps there were two. Perhaps there were twenty. They all fit into the Bethlehem house where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were living, so there probably were not 100 wise men. Note also that the Bible calls Jesus a young child, not a newborn baby, during the time of the wise men's visit. This is consistent with Herod's slaying of innocents two years old and younger. So while the majestic appearance of three wise men at the stable during church Christmas pageants is very dramatic, it is not biblical. At least the pageants generally omit Santa Claus!

What It Means

Some Christian groups diminish the celebration of Christmas. Most serious church-goers know that Jesus was probably not born in December (too cold for the shepherds!) and that Christmas trees, gift giving, yuletide logs, candy canes, Santa Claus, a Christmas spirit, and dozens of other trappings of the season are based on man made customs (mostly pagan customs, actually), not biblical sanctions.

I'm no grinch. I enjoy Christmas, give presents, and never miss It's a Wonderful Life. But I am careful with folk theology, and you should be too. It can kill you, spiritually and even physically. Read the Bible for yourself, without intervention from anyone. Make Bible reading a private affair between you and God. Don't rely on what other people tell you. They might be wrong, and often are.

Mon, 26-Jun-2017 03:44:16 GMT, unknown: 642317 AB7QeC2ODV992