What Really Happened in Bethlehem…?


The above is a picture of the Nativity Scene I found online, but there are a few things not quite right about it. Can you spot them?

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
(Luke 2:7)

Firstly, Baby Jesus is shown to be lying on a stack of hay, not in a manger.

Secondly, a manger is “a box or trough in a stable or barn from which horses or cattle eat”, but the picture is clearly an outdoor scene (see the star?), not in a stable or barn.

Some of you might think it is no big deal, but apparently, God did not see it that way.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.
(Luke 2:8-12)

Baby Jesus lying in a manger was a specific sign for the shepherds to identify Him as Christ the Lord. In fact, it is so significant that the Holy Spirit mentioned it again after they arrived at the scene.

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
(Luke 2:15-16)

Thirdly, you would have realized by now it was a group of shepherds who came to visit Baby Jesus right after His birth. Do the 3 kneeling men, with their expensive looking outfits and gift boxes, look anything like shepherds to you?

But isn’t it written somewhere that Jesus was also visited by 3 wise men? Maybe the artist decided to leave out the shepherds and just focus on the 3 wise guys instead?

Yes. In the Gospel of Matthew, some “wise men from the East” did come to look for Jesus aka King of the Jews…

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
(Matthew 2:1-2)

… but it was not at the time of His birth. It was much later.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
(Matthew 2:10-11)

Notice they came to a “house”, not a stable or barn, and they saw “the young Child”, not a Baby, which means the family was, at that point of time, already living in a house and Jesus was around 1 to 2 years old.

How can we tell His age, you might ask?

It can be deduced from Herod’s reaction after the wise men did not report back to him of Jesus’ whereabouts:

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.
(Matthew 2:16)

Thus, the fourth mistake in the picture is that the wise men were not supposed to be there at the time of Jesus’ birth.

And contrary to popular belief, there was no mention of how many wise men were there. Most of us just assumed it was 3 because 3 gifts were presented. It could be 3, could be 5 or 6 or maybe just 2. Any number more than 1 is possible. No one really knows.

Not sure why most of the paintings, even those used by Catholic churches, are not accurate depictions. Maybe the artists did not read their Bible?


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