The Christmas Myth, Part 2
Here are a few more quick observations which show that not even the biblical birth narratives support the popular images of Christmas as it is celebrated today:
- Most nativity scenes feature three “wise men,” or magi. The birth narrative in Matthew 2, however, makes no mention of the exact number of wise men. The number three comes from the three gifts presented to the infant: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (If somebody had brought a fruitcake I’d find the story more believable.)
- Mega-churches which present nativity scene extravaganzas frequently feature live camels as the mode of transportation for the wise men. The text makes no mention of them riding camels. They could have been hoofing it.
- Singing “Silent Night” is a sacred Christmas Eve ritual in most congregations. The text does not indicate what time of day Jesus was born. “All is calm, all is bright” is also not found in the Bible.
- The genealogies of Jesus in both Matthew and Luke trace his lineage to King David through his “father” Joseph. But if Jesus was born of a virgin, why would Joseph’s bloodline matter at all?
- The virgin birth of Jesus was supposed to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy found in Isaiah 7:14. The Greek version of the Old Testament (The Septuagint) which Matthew quotes uses the word “parthenos” (virgin) but the original Hebrew text uses the word “almah” which simply means “young woman.” (The Roman church has always insisted on the perpetual virginity of Mary throughout her life.)
Oh, well. I could go on, but you get the point. Christianity’s most sacred celebration has almost nothing to do with the events described in Christianity’s own holy book.
Let me anticipate so criticism. Why be a Scrooge? Why ruin the “fun?”
To which I would respond, why does the fun of the season need to be predicated on untruth? Anyway, it’s not like Scrooge exactly became a born-again Christian at the end of the story. Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has almost nothing to do with religion. It lifts up the values of charity and good will toward all people. That’s something we can all celebrate.