What happens when tradition starts to slip into the way we interpret truth? Take a look at your nativity scene. If you have wise men, you will likely have three. This has just become the traditional, accepted number due to the three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the magi brought to Jesus. Matthew’s Gospel, however, does not mention the number of wise men who visited the Christ child. If you take an informal poll, you will find that most people, due to tradition, assume that there were three. Does it make a difference if there were three or thirteen? Probably not, but perhaps our resistance to challenge ingrained thinking matters.
In the Nov.–Dec. issue of Bible Study Magazine, Gary A. Byers, archeologist of near eastern sites and contributing member of the Associates for Biblical Research, makes such a case for interpreting Christ’s very birth place. In an article entitled Away in a Manger, but Not in a Barn, Byers challenges our traditional preconceptions about inns, inn-keepers, and where exactly one would find a manger in the first century. It is very likely, according to Byers, that Jesus wasn’t born alone in a barn, but in the downstairs living quarters of a home where the animals would have been kept at night.
This is the kind of article that would provide great discussion in your Bible study, home group, or even around the dinner table. As Byers concludes in his article, “If this is an accurate reconstruction of the facts, we can say that the Christmas story is not about rejection and being alone. Rather, the focus appears to be just the opposite. It tells us that God the Father made sure His Son was born into this
world surrounded by family.”
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