In this age of skepticism, everything is being tested. Can we trust our leaders? Can we trust anything on the internet. Can we trust the Bible? Is it true or is it a bunch of made-up stories just to make us feel good…Those are all great questions come on the 1st and third Wednesdays to ask them! Just kidding
As we enter into the Christmas season some take the story to heart, other just accept that it is what everyone believes so they just go along with it, and others think it is foolish and that there are so many mistakes or made-up facts in the narrative that it can’t be true.
I hope to prove to you that everything is true, every word and that there are no contradictions or made-up facts at all. The story, primarily supplied to us by Matthew and Luke is true and accurate in every detail. Afterall if we can’t trust this story, can we trust any of it. I want to take it from the image so familiar that it is almost a fairy tale to a truth you can stand on.
I will mostly be explaining contradictions that many complain about that they believe proves the story to be a false narrative. Some you may have heard from friends and family others may be new to you.
Paul gives us this challenge that I present to you
2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth
So let’s begin rightly dividing the word of truth.
One of the early arguments is the confusion of the narrative after the dedication in the temple and the visit of the wise men. Let’s look at what the Bible says.
When the time came for Jesus’ dedication, Joseph and Mary took him to the temple to be blessed by Simeon and ultimately Anna in the temple….Luke 2:34-39
Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” 36 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.
39 When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee.
The word used as “child” here means a baby. The dedication would be done soon after the birth.
Here Luke’s narrative tells us the family left Bethlehem after the dedication and went to Nazareth, where they had come from before the census had been called, but there seems to be a contradiction with the Narrative from Matthew.
The wise men, which we will talk about later, met with Herod to inquire where the “king of the Jews” which by the way was one of Herod’s titles, was to be born.
Matthew 2: 1-11a
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: 6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” 9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him…
There is actually quite a bit more about who these wise men were, where they came from, and the importance of their journey and why Herod was especially fearful of them, we will get to that in a moment.
It would appear that someone got the story wrong. Luke says they went to Nazareth and in Matthew, we find them in Bethlehem. This is one of those supposed contradictions that some will point to insisting the narrative can not be trusted.
In Matthew’s story the word, “child” in verses 9,11 means a toddler, not a baby. The Greek is a very precise language as we have talked about before regarding the precision of the word for love having 4 distinct meaning to differential between erotic love, friendship love, unconditional love and the love you would have for your car or home.
We know time has passed from the birth until the wise men arrived for they also were now in a house in Bethlehem. Herod asked the wise men when the star first appeared we assume because later Herod had all male children two years and younger killed, that they told him they saw the star around two years earlier.
So, Jesus is anywhere from six months to two years old, a toddler. Let me suggest to you that both narratives are correct. Joseph and Mary had a few months to prepare from the time of the decree until the birth of Jesus. Their situation was a scandal in a small town like Nazareth where everyone knew everyone else’s business and many were related to each other. They probably thought they would come to Bethlehem for the census then go back home, which they did.
Let me ask you, if you were caught up in a scandal constantly being mocked and whispered about because it was assumed that Joseph was a weak man allowing himself to take on the unfaithfulness of his wife. Would you want to stay around? Mary had escaped all of the talk for 6 months while she had visited Elizabeth. The prophecy was to be fulfilled from Micah 5:2. I believed like Joseph’s slavery, Jacob’s being chased to his uncle’s home, David’s time in the wilderness and so many other uncomfortable situations the Lord allowed, Mary, Joseph and their baby boy were scandalized enough to want to leave.
Think about it Bethlehem was the place where the shepherds loved on this little family. All of the town heard the story that night and were amazed. They became instant celebrities that night in this little town…what would you do? Would you stay where you are merely tolerated or would you go where you are celebrated? I believe Joseph and Mary packed up shop and went back to Bethlehem after the crowds from the census were gone and began to set up home in Bethlehem.
Who were these “wise men”? Why did their presence so worry Herod and the people of Jerusalem
The Magi (magus, singular form)- were a hereditary priesthood among the Mede (modern day Kurds in northern Iraq) when Darius ruled over the empire, Daniel found favor with him and Darius promoted him. Darius was regent over the Medi/Persian Empire (photo)
Daniel 6 1-3
Darius the Mede decided to divide the kingdom into 120 provinces, and he appointed a high officer to rule over each province. 2 The king also chose Daniel and two others as administrators to supervise the high officers and protect the king’s interests. 3 Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire.
As you read the story, you find the priest did not like the idea of this foreigner, a Jew placed over this priesthood, that is why we get the story of Daniel in the lion’s den (the rest of chapter 6)
But what role did these Magi play in the nation? They had positions of power as priest and as King-makers, they literally chose the next king in media, Babylon and during this time among the Parthenian people.
This little strip of land, Israel… between the Persian empire, Parthenian people and Rome was a buffer zone. They had battled back and forth for this land over a 200 plus year period. Sometimes the Romans would win then other times, like a famous battle with Marc Anthony as the general, the Persian’s would crush the Romans. In Fact, not long after Herod was made King over this region, the Persians had gained control over the region and Herod was unable to be seated in his royal seat because the Persians were there. Then Rome pushed them out of the region again. The Jews fared better under the Persian rule, having more autonomy which put Herod in an even more precarious position here is why…
At the time of the Magi’s appearance. The ruler in Persia was not well liked, was in his waning season of life. The continuing struggle between Rome and Persia made Herod’s meeting with these “king-makers” even more scarry. Were they here to anoint a new king who would raise Persia up in strength and usurp Herod’s power again. Remember Matthew 2:3
King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem
Do you think Herod and all of Jerusalem would have been upset about three wise men on three camels?
The entourage was most likely hundreds of military, as well as the statesmen we call wise men, getting the whole city in an uproar. (the Armenians started calling them kings about 300 years after the birth of Christ)(photo of possible entourage)
Why did they look for this king? Daniel had been the head of the Magi in Babylon, and the Medi/Persian empires? He left prophecies for these men to remember, chiefest of which was Daniel 9:20-26 which explains the time of the Messiah. (69 periods of 7 years)
The Magi’s gifts including dream interpretation, as Daniel had taught them, however they began to look for a King star when they believed the prophecy was about to be fulfilled (more of that in three weeks) What was it that they saw in the sky for many months of travel?
What is your take away from all of this…more proof that God’s word is true but personally if every word is true then when God says he knows the number of your days, He created you perfectly to be His master piece, He has a plan for your life that is perfectly designed for you, that He loves you with an everlasting love. He has the ability to move governments to accomplish His purposes, we read two weeks ago no good thing will he withhold from them that walk rightly before Him. What is he going to bless you with, you can trust him with your yesterday, your today, and your tomorrow!