Nativity of Jesus

Birth of Jesus
Adoration of the Shepherds by Dutch painter Matthias Stomer, 1632
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The nativity of Jesus, nativity of Christ, birth of Jesus or birth of Christ is documented in the biblical gospels of Luke and Matthew. The two accounts agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Judaea, that his mother, Mary, was engaged to a man named Joseph, who was descended from King David and was not his biological father, and that his birth was caused by divine intervention. Some scholars do not see the two canonical gospel nativity stories as historically factual[1][2] since they present clashing accounts and irreconcilable genealogies. The secular history of the time does not synchronize with the narratives of the birth and early childhood of Jesus in the two gospels.[3][4][5] Some view the question of historicity as secondary, given that gospels were primarily written as theological documents rather than chronological timelines.

The nativity is the basis for the Christian holiday of Christmas and plays a major role in the Christian liturgical year. Many Christians traditionally display small manger scenes depicting the nativity within or outside of their homes, or attend nativity plays or Christmas pageants focusing on the nativity cycle in the Bible. Elaborate nativity displays featuring life-sized statues are a tradition in many continental European countries during the Christmas season.

The artistic depiction of the nativity has been an important subject for Christian artists since the 4th century. Artistic depictions of the nativity scene since the 13th century have emphasized the humility of Jesus and promoted a more tender image of him, a major change from the early "Lord and Master" image, mirroring changes in the common approaches taken by Christian pastoral ministry during the same era.

Gospel accounts

Only the Gospels of Matthew and Luke offer narratives regarding the birth of Jesus.[6] Both agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the reign of King Herod, that his mother was named Mary and that her husband Joseph was descended from King David (although they disagree on details of the line of descent), and both deny Joseph's biological parenthood while treating the birth, or rather the conception, as divinely effected.[7]

Beyond this, they agree on very little.[7] Joseph dominates Matthew's and Mary dominates Luke's, although the suggestion that one derives from Joseph and the other from Mary is no more than a pious deduction.[8] Matthew implies that Joseph already has his home in Bethlehem, while Luke states that he lived in Nazareth.[7] In Matthew the angel speaks to Joseph, while Luke has one speaking to Mary.[8] Only Luke has the stories surrounding the birth of John the Baptist, the census of Quirinius, the adoration of the shepherds and the presentation in the Temple on the eighth day; only Matthew has the wise men, the star of Bethlehem, Herod's plot, the massacre of the innocents, and the flight into Egypt.[8] The two itineraries are quite different. According to Matthew, the Holy Family begins in Bethlehem, moves to Egypt following the birth, and settles in Nazareth, while according to Luke they begin in Nazareth, journey to Bethlehem for the birth, and immediately return to Nazareth.[9][note 1] The two accounts cannot be harmonised into a single coherent narrative or traced to the same Q source, leading scholars to classify them as "special Matthew" (or simply the M source) and "special Luke" (the L source).[9]

Comparison between the Nativity narratives in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew
This table:
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Luke Matthew
Map of the Nativity narrative according to Luke
Map of the Nativity narrative according to Luke
Map of the Nativity narrative according to Matthew
Map of the Nativity narrative according to Matthew
1. Annunciation to Mary in Nazareth 1. Annunciation to Joseph
2. Census of Quirinius (6–7 CE)
3. Joseph and Mary travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem
4. Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem 2. Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
5. Annunciation to the shepherds in the fields
6. Adoration of the shepherds in Bethlehem
3. Magi "follow the star" and visit Herod in Jerusalem
4. Adoration of the Magi in Bethlehem
7. Jesus is presented at the temple in Jerusalem 5. Joseph, Mary and Jesus flee to Egypt to escape Herod
6. Massacre of the Innocents in Bethlehem
7. Death of Herod (4 BC)
8. Joseph, Mary and Jesus return home to Nazareth 8. Joseph, Mary and Jesus return from Egypt
9. Joseph, Mary and Jesus settle in Nazareth

Gospel of Matthew

A page from the 11th-century Bamberg Apocalypse showing Matthew 1:21

Annunciation to Joseph

Mary the mother of Jesus was betrothed to Joseph, but was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Joseph intended to divorce her quietly, but an angel told him in a dream that he should take her as his wife and name the child Jesus, "because it is he who will save his people from their sins". This would fulfil the prophecy that a virgin would give birth to a son, who would be known as Emmanuel, meaning "God is with us". Joseph awoke, took Mary for his wife, did not have intercourse with her until she had given birth to a son, and gave him the name Jesus (Matthew 1:18–25).[10]

These verses present a problem, for in the preceding Matthean genealogy of Jesus, Joseph has been shown to be the descendant of David (the angel addresses him as "son of David") and heir to the kingdom of Judah, but Matthew 1:16[11] reveals that Jesus is not Joseph's son, and Matthew is careful never to refer to him in this way.[12] The role of Joseph in naming the child indicates that he is being legally adopted, and thus becoming, like his now-legal father, "son of David."[13]

Adoration of the magi

The birth took place in the town of Bethlehem in the region known as Judea to the Romans and Palestine to the Assyrians, in the time of King Herod (Herod the Great). Wise men from the East (the Magi) came to Jerusalem, asking where they could find the child born king of the Jews, for they had seen his star at its rising, and wished to pay him homage. Herod and all Jerusalem were afraid when they heard this, but Herod, learning from the chief priests and scribes that the messiah would be born in Bethlehem according to prophecy, sent the Magi there with instructions to return and tell him when they had found him. The Magi worshipped the child in Bethlehem and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but an angel warned them in a dream not to return to Herod, and they returned home by another way.

Massacre of the innocents, flight into Egypt, and return to Israel

When Herod learned that the Magi had tricked him, he was infuriated and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem under the age of two (the Massacre of the Innocents). This was in fulfilment of the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more." But an angel had appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him to take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and the Holy Family remained there until Herod died to fulfil the words of the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son." On the death of Herod an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to return with the child and its mother to Israel, but Herod's son was now ruler of Judea, and after being warned in a dream Joseph went instead to Galilee, where he made his home in Nazareth "so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He will be called a Nazorean.""[14]

In this chapter, the author of Matthew needs to establish that "Jesus of Nazareth" was in fact born in Bethlehem, the town where David was born, for the "son of David" born there will be "King of the Jews" (a designation that does not reappear in Matthew until the crucifixion).[15] Herod's fear and the visit of the Magi underline the royal birth, as do the various prophetic texts quoted or referenced in this chapter.[16]

Gospel of Luke

Angel Gabriel's Annunciation to Mary, by Murillo, c. 1660

In the Gospel of Luke, when Herod was king of Judea, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth in Galilee to announce to a virgin named Mary, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, that a child would be born to her. The angel Gabriel announced that she was to name him Jesus, for he would be the son of God and rule over Israel forever. When the time of the birth drew near, Caesar Augustus commanded a census of Roman domains, and Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem, the ancient city of David, as he was of the House of David. Jesus was born in Bethlehem; since there was nowhere for them to stay in the town, the infant was laid in a manger while angels announced his birth to a group of shepherds who worshipped him as Messiah and Lord.

In accordance with the Jewish law, his parents presented the infant Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem, where two people in the temple, Simeon and Anna the Prophetess, gave thanks to God who had sent his salvation. Joseph and Mary then returned to Nazareth.

Date and place of birth

Altar in the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Nativity of Jesus, by Botticelli, c. 1473–1475

Matthew and Luke agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem during the reign of Herod the Great.[7] In Luke the newborn baby is placed in a manger "because there was no place in the katalyma.[17] Katalyma might mean a private home (this has little support among scholars), or a room in a private home, or an inn, but it is impossible to be certain which is meant.[18]

In the 2nd century, Justin Martyr stated that Jesus had been born in a cave outside the town, while the Protoevangelium of James described a legendary birth in a cave nearby.[19][20] The Church of the Nativity inside the town, built by St. Helena, contains the cave-manger site traditionally venerated as the birthplace of Jesus, which may have originally been a site of the cult of the god Tammuz.[21] In his Contra Celsum (1.51), Origen, who travelled throughout Palestine beginning in around 215, wrote of the "manger of Jesus".[22]

The date of birth for Jesus of Nazareth is not stated in the gospels or in any secular text, but basing it on the death of Herod would place the date between 6 BC and 4 BC.[23] The historical evidence is too ambiguous to allow a definitive date to be determined,[24] but dates have been estimated through known historical events mentioned in the nativity accounts,[25] by working backwards from the estimated start of the ministry of Jesus,[26][27] or by associating the claimed astrological portents mentioned with actual historical astronomical alignments and phenomena.[28]

Themes and analogies

Thematic analysis

Gospel of Matthew from an Ethiopian Bible, 1700

Helmut Koester writes that while Matthew's narrative was formed in a Jewish environment, Luke's was modeled to appeal to the Greco-Roman world.[29] In particular, while shepherds were regarded negatively by Jews in Jesus' time, they were seen in Greco-Roman culture as "symbols of a golden age when gods and humans lived in peace and nature was at harmony".[29] C. T. Ruddick Jr. writes that Luke's birth narratives of Jesus and John were modeled on passages from Genesis, chapters 27–43.[30][31] Regardless, Luke's nativity depicts Jesus as a savior for all people, tracing a genealogy all the way back to Adam, demonstrating his common humanity, and likewise for the lowly circumstances of his birth. Luke, writing for a gentile audience, portrays the infant Jesus as a savior for gentiles as well as Jews.[32] Matthew uses quotations from Jewish scripture, scenes reminiscent of Moses' life, and a numerical pattern in his genealogy to identify Jesus as a son of David, of Abraham, and of God. Luke's prelude is much longer, emphasizing the age of the Holy Spirit and the arrival of a savior for all people, both Jew and gentile.[33]

Mainstream scholars interpret Matthew's nativity as depicting Jesus as a new Moses with a genealogy going back to Abraham,[34][35] while Ulrich Luz views Matthew's depiction of Jesus at once as the new Moses and the inverse of Moses, and not simply a retelling of the Moses story.[36] Luz also points out that in the massacre narrative, once again, a fulfilment quotation is given: Rachel, the ancestral mother of Israel, weeping for her dead children (Matthew 2:18).[37][38]

Scholars who interpret Matthew as casting Jesus in the role of being a second Moses argue that, like Moses, the infant Jesus is saved from a murderous tyrant; and he flees the country of his birth until his persecutor is dead and it is safe to return as the savior of his people.[39] In this view, the account in Matthew is based on an earlier narrative patterned on traditions about the birth of Moses. Moses' birth is announced to Pharaoh by Magi; the child is threatened and rescued; the male Israelite children are similarly put to death by an evil king.[34][39]

According to Ulrich Luz, the beginning of the narrative of Matthew is similar to earlier biblical stories, e.g., the Annunciation of Jesus' birth (Matthew 1:18–25)[40] is reminiscent of the biblical accounts of the births of Ishmael (Genesis 16:11, Genesis 17),[41] Isaac (Genesis 21:1),[42] Samson (Judges 13:3, 13:5),[43] and recalls the Haggadic traditions of the birth of Moses. Yet in Luz's view, the contours appear, in part, strangely overlapped and inverted: "Egypt, formerly the land of suppression becomes a place of refuge and it is the King of Israel who now takes on the role of Pharaoh. Yet Matthew is not simply retelling the Moses story. Instead, the story of Jesus really is a new story: Jesus is at once the new Moses and the inverse of Moses."[36]

Old Testament parallels

A page from the Codex Sinaiticus, 4th century

Scholars have debated whether Matthew 1:22 and Matthew 2:23 refer to specific Old Testament passages. Fourth century documents such as the Codex Sinaiticus do not mention the prophet Isaiah in the statement in Matthew 1:22: "All this happened to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet", but some copies of Matthew from the 5th–6th centuries, such as the Codex Bezae, read "Isaiah the prophet".[44] The statement in Matthew 1:23, "Behold the virgin shall be with child", uses the Greek term parthenos ("virgin") as in the Septuagint Isaiah, while the Book of Isaiah 7:14 uses the Hebrew almah, which may mean "maiden", "young woman", or "virgin".[45] Raymond E. Brown states that the 3rd century BC translators of the Septuagint may have understood the Hebrew word almah to mean "virgin" in this context.[45]

The statement in Matthew 2:23 that "he will be called a Nazarene" does not mention a specific passage in the Old Testament, and there are multiple scholarly interpretations as to what it may refer to.[46] Barbara Aland and other scholars consider the Greek Ναζωραίος, Nazoréos used for 'Nazarene' of uncertain etymology and meaning,[47] but M. J. J. Menken states that it is a demonym that refers to an "inhabitant of Nazareth".[48] Menken also states that it may be referring to Judges 13:5 and 13:7.[49] Gary Smith states that Nazirite may mean one consecrated to God, i.e. an ascetic; or may refer to Isaiah 11:1.[50] The Oxford Bible Commentary states that it may be word-play on the use of nazirite, "Holy One of God," in Isaiah 4:3,[51] meant to identify Jesus with the Nazarenes, a Jewish sect who differed from the Pharisees only in that they regarded Jesus as the Messiah.[39] The Swiss theologian Ulrich Luz, who locates the Matthean community in Syria, has noted that Syrian Christians also called themselves Nazarenes.[52]

Christian theology

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The theological significance of the Nativity of Jesus has been a key element in Christian teachings, from the early Church Fathers to 20th century theologians.[53][54][55] The theological issues were addressed as early as Apostle Paul, but continued to be debated and eventually lead to both Christological and Mariological differences among Christians that resulted in early schisms within the Church by the 5th century.

Birth of the new man

Nativity at Night, by Geertgen tot Sint Jans, c. 1490

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.

— Colossians 1:15–16 regards the birth of Jesus as the model for all creation.[56][57][58][59]

Paul the Apostle viewed the birth of Jesus as an event of cosmic significance which brought forth a "new man" who undid the damage caused by the fall of the first man, Adam. Just as the Johannine view of Jesus as the incarnate Logos proclaims the universal relevance of his birth, the Pauline perspective emphasizes the birth of a new man and a new world in the birth of Jesus.[60] Paul's eschatological view of Jesus counter-positions him as a new man of morality and obedience, in contrast to Adam. Unlike Adam, the new man born in Jesus obeys God and ushers in a world of morality and salvation.[60]

In the Pauline view, Adam is positioned as the first man and Jesus as the second: Adam, having corrupted himself by his disobedience, also infected humanity and left it with a curse as inheritance. The birth of Jesus, on the other hand, counterbalanced the fall of Adam, bringing forth redemption and repairing the damage done by Adam.[61]

In patristic theology, Paul's contrasting of Jesus as the new man versus Adam provided a framework for discussing the uniqueness of the birth of Jesus and the ensuing events of his life. The nativity of Jesus thus began to serve as the starting point for "cosmic Christology" in which the birth, life and Resurrection of Jesus have universal implications.[60][62][63] The concept of Jesus as the "new man" repeats in the cycle of birth and rebirth of Jesus from his nativity to his resurrection: following his birth, through his morality and obedience to the Father, Jesus began a new harmony in the relationship between God the Father and man. The nativity and resurrection of Jesus thus created the author and exemplar of a new humanity.[64]

In the 2nd century Church Father Irenaeus writes:

When He became incarnate and was made man, He commenced afresh the long line of human beings, and furnished us, in a brief, comprehensive manner, with salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam – namely to be according to the image and likeness of God – that we might recover in Christ Jesus.[54][55]

Irenaeus was also one of the early theologians to use the analogy of "second Adam and second Eve". He suggested the Virgin Mary as the "second Eve" and wrote that the Mary had "untied the knot of sin bound up by the virgin Eve" and that just as Eve had tempted Adam to disobey God, Mary had set a path of obedience for the second Adam (i.e. Jesus) from the Annunciation to Calvary so that Jesus could bring about salvation, undoing the damage of Adam.[65]

In the 4th century, this uniqueness of the circumstances related to the nativity of Jesus, and their interplay with the mystery of the incarnation, became a central element in both the theology and hymnody of Ephrem the Syrian. For him, the uniqueness of the nativity of Jesus was supplemented with the sign of the majesty of the Creator through the ability of a powerful God to enter the world as a small newborn.[66]

In the Middle Ages the birth of Jesus as the second Adam came to be seen in the context of Saint Augustine's Felix culpa ("happy fall") and was intertwined with the popular teachings on the fall from grace of Adam and Eve.[67] Augustine was fond of a statement on the nativity by Gregory of Nyssa and he quoted it five times: "Venerate the Nativity, through which you are freed from the bonds of an earthly nativity".[68] He also liked to quote: "Just as in Adam all of us died, so too in Christ all of us will be brought to life".[68][69]

The theology persisted into the Protestant Reformation, and second Adam was one of the six modes of atonement discussed by John Calvin.[70] In the 20th century, leading theologian Karl Barth continued the same line of reasoning and viewed the nativity of Jesus as the birth of a new man who succeeded Adam. In Barth's theology, in contrast to Adam, Jesus acted as an obedient Son in the fulfilment of the divine will and was therefore free from sin and could hence reveal the righteousness of God the Father and bring about salvation.[53]


In Summa Theologiæ, (1471 copy shown here) Thomas Aquinas addressed many of the open Christological questions regarding the Nativity of Jesus.

The nativity of Jesus impacted the Christological issues about the Person of Christ from the earliest days of Christianity. Luke's Christology centers on the dialectics of the dual natures of the earthly and heavenly manifestations of existence of the Christ, while Matthew's Christology focuses on the mission of Jesus and his role as the savior.[71][72]

The belief in the divinity of Jesus leads to the question: "was Jesus a man to be born of a woman or was he God born of a woman?" A wide range of hypotheses and beliefs regarding the nature of the nativity of Jesus were presented in the first four centuries of Christianity. Some of the debates involved the title Theotokos (God bearer) for the Virgin Mary and began to illustrate the impact of Mariology on Christology. Some of these viewpoints were eventually declared as heresies, others led to schisms and the formation of new branches of the Church.[73][74][75][76]

The salvific emphasis of Matthew 1:21 later impacted the theological issues and the devotions to the Holy Name of Jesus.[77][78][79] Matthew 1:23 provides the only key to the Emmanuel Christology in the New Testament. Beginning with 1:23, Matthew shows a clear interest in identifying Jesus as "God with us" and in later developing the Emmanuel characterization of Jesus at key points throughout the rest of his Gospel.[80] The name 'Emmanuel' does not appear elsewhere in the New Testament, but Matthew builds on it in Matthew 28:20 ("I am with you always, even unto the end of the world") to indicate that Jesus will be with the faithful to the end of the age.[80][81] According to Ulrich Luz, the Emmanuel motif brackets the entire Gospel of Matthew between 1:23 and 28:20, appearing explicitly and implicitly in several other passages.[82]

A number of ecumenical councils were convened in the 4th and 5th centuries to deal with these issues. The Council of Ephesus debated hypostasis (co-existing natures) versus Monophysitism (only one nature) versus Miaphysitism (two natures united as one) versus Nestorianism (disunion of two natures).[83][84] The 451 Council of Chalcedon was highly influential and marked a key turning point in the Christological debates that divided the church of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 5th century. In Chalcedon the hypostatic union was decreed, namely that Jesus is both fully divine and fully human, making this part of the creed of orthodox Christianity.[85][86][87][88]

In the 5th century, leading Church Father Pope Leo I used the nativity as a key element of his theology. Leo gave 10 sermons on the nativity and 7 have survived. The one on December 25, 451, demonstrates his concern to increase the importance of the feast of nativity and along with it emphasize the two natures of Christ in defense of the Christological doctrine of hypostatic union.[89] Leo often used his nativity sermons as an occasion to attack opposing viewpoints, without naming the opposition. Thus Leo used the occasion of the Nativity feast to establish boundaries for what could be considered a heresy regarding the birth and nature of Christ.[73]

In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas addressed the Christologocal attribution of the nativity: if it should be attributed to the person (the Word) or only to the assumed human nature of that person. Aquinas treated nativity in 8 separate articles in Summa Theologica, each posing a separate question:

  • "Does Nativity regard the nature rather than the Person?"
  • "Should a temporal Nativity be attributed to Christ?"
  • "Should the Blessed Virgin be called Christ's Mother?"
  • "Should the Blessed Virgin be called the Mother of God?"
  • "Are there two filiations in Christ?", etc.[90]

To deal with this issue, Aquinas distinguishes between the person born and the nature in which the birth takes place.[91] Aquinas thus resolved the question by arguing that in the hypostatic union Christ has two natures, one received from the Father from eternity, the other from his mother in time. This approach also resolved the Mariological problem of Mary receiving the title of Theotokos for under this scenario she is the "Mother of God".[91]

During the Reformation, John Calvin argued that Jesus was not sanctified to be "God manifested as Incarnate" (Deus manifestatus in carne) only due to his virgin birth, but through the action of the Holy Spirit at the instant of his birth. Thus Calvin argued that Jesus was exempt from original sin because he was sanctified at the moment of birth so that his generation was without blemish; as generation was blemishless before the fall of Adam.[92]

Impact on Christianity

Christmas, the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord

On Christmas, the Christ Candle in the center of the Advent wreath is traditionally lit in many church services.

Christian Churches celebrate the nativity of Jesus on Christmas, which is marked on December 25 by the Western Christian Churches, while many Eastern Christian Churches celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord on January 7 (in 20th and 21st century).[93] This is not a disagreement over the date of Christmas as such, but rather a preference of which calendar (Gregorian or Julian) should be used to determine the day that is December 25. In the Council of Tours of 567, the Church, with its desire to be universal, "declared the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany to be one unified festal cycle"; at this time, the disagreement was caused by using lunar calendars in Eastern provinces of the Empire.[94][95][96][97][98] The liturgical season of Advent precedes, and is used to prepare for the celebration of Christmas.[99] Customs of the Christmas season include completing an Advent daily devotional and Advent wreath,[100] carol singing,[101] gift giving,[102] seeing Nativity plays,[103] attending church services,[104] and eating special food, such as Christmas cake.[105] In many countries, such as Sweden, people start to set up their Advent and Christmas decorations on the first day of Advent.[106][107] Liturgically, this is done in some parishes through a hanging of the greens ceremony.[108]

History of feasts and liturgical elements

Nativity scene in Baumkirchen, Austria

In the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Lord's Day (Sunday) was the earliest Christian celebration and included a number of theological themes. In the 2nd century, the Resurrection of Jesus became a separate feast as Easter and in the same century Epiphany began to be celebrated in the Churches of the East on January 6.[109] The celebration of the feast of the Magi on January 6 may relate to a pre-Christian celebration for the blessing of the Nile in Egypt on January 5, but this is not historically certain.[110] The festival of the Nativity which later turned into Christmas was a 4th-century feast in the Western Church notably in Rome and North Africa, although it is uncertain exactly where and when it was first celebrated.[111]

The earliest source stating December 25 as the date of birth of Jesus was Hippolytus of Rome (170–236), written very early in the 3rd century, based on the assumption that the conception of Jesus took place at the Spring equinox which he placed on March 25, and then added nine months.[112] There is historical evidence that by the middle of the 4th century the Christian churches of the East celebrated the birth and Baptism of Jesus on the same day, on January 6, while those in the West celebrated a Nativity feast on December 25 (perhaps influenced by the Winter solstice); and that by the last quarter of the 4th century, the calendars of both churches included both feasts.[113] The earliest suggestions of a feast of the Baptism of Jesus on January 6 during the 2nd century comes from Clement of Alexandria, but there is no further mention of such a feast until 361 when Emperor Julian attended a feast on January 6 in the year 361.[113]

Christmas Eve Nativity at Resurrection Lutheran Church, Fredericksburg, Virginia

The Chronography of 354 illuminated manuscript compiled in Rome includes an early reference to the celebration of a Nativity feast. In a sermon delivered in Antioch on December 25, c. 386, John Chrysostom provides specific information about the feast there, stating that the feast had existed for about 10 years.[113] By around 385 the feast for the birth of Jesus was distinct from that of the Baptism and was held on December 25 in Constantinople, Nyssa and Amaseia. In a sermon in 386, Gregory of Nyssa specifically related the feast of Nativity with that of the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, celebrated a day later. By 390 the feast was also held in Iconium on that day.[113]

Pope Leo I established a feast of the "Mystery of Incarnation" in the 5th century, in effect as the first formal feast for the Nativity of Jesus. Pope Sixtus III then instituted the practice of Midnight Mass just before that feast.[114] The feast was celebrated in Jerusalem by the 6th century,[115] when Emperor Justinian declared Christmas to be a legal holiday.[116]

In the 14th and 15th centuries, the theological importance of the nativity of Jesus was coupled with an emphasis on the loving nature of the child Jesus in sermons by figures such as Jean Gerson. In his sermons Gerson emphasized the loving nature of Jesus at his nativity, as well as his cosmic plan for the salvation of mankind.[117]

By the early part of the 20th century, Christmas had become a "cultural signature" of Christianity and indeed of the Western culture even in countries such as the United States which are officially non-religious. By the beginning of the 21st century these countries began to pay more attention to the sensitivities of non-Christians during the festivities at the end of the calendar year.[118]

Transforming the image of Jesus

A Nativity scene inside an American home
Paper on wood Nativity scene from 1750, Milan, presenting a tender image of Jesus

Early Christians viewed Jesus as "the Lord" and the word Kyrios appears over 700 times in the New Testament, referring to him as such.[119] The use of the word Kyrios in the Septuagint Bible also assigned to Jesus the Old Testament attributes of an omnipotent God.[119] The use of the term Kyrios, and hence the Lordship of Jesus, pre-dated the Pauline epistles, but Paul expanded and elaborated on the topic.[119]

Pauline writings established among early Christians the Kyrios image, and attributes of Jesus as not only referring to his eschatological victory, but to him as the "divine image" (Greek εἰκών, eikōn) in whose face the glory of God shines forth. This image persisted among Christians as the predominant perception of Jesus for a number of centuries.[120] More than any other title, Kyrios defined the relationship between Jesus and those who believed in him as Christ: Jesus was their Lord and Master who was to be served with all their hearts and who would one day judge their actions throughout their lives.[121]

The lordship attributes associated with the Kyrios image of Jesus also implied his power over all creation.[122][123] Paul then looked back and reasoned that the final lordship of Jesus was prepared from the very beginning, starting with pre-existence and the nativity, based on his obedience as the image of God.[124] Over time, based on the influence of Anselm of Canterbury, Bernard of Clairvaux and others, the Kyrios image of Jesus began to be supplemented with a more "tender image of Jesus", and the Franciscan approach to popular piety was instrumental in establishing this image.[123]

The 13th century witnessed a major turning point in the development of a new "tender image of Jesus" within Christianity, as the Franciscans began to emphasize the humility of Jesus both at his birth and his death. The construction of the nativity scene by Francis of Assisi was instrumental in portraying a softer image of Jesus that contrasted with the powerful and radiant image at the Transfiguration, and emphasized how God had taken a humble path to his own birth.[125] As the Black Death raged in Medieval Europe, the two mendicant orders of Franciscans and Dominicans helped the faithful cope with tragedies. One element of the Franciscan approach was the emphasis on the humility of Jesus and the poverty of his birth: the image of God was the image of Jesus, not a severe and punishing God, but himself humble at birth and sacrificed at death.[126] The concept that the omnipotent Creator would set aside all power in order to conquer the hearts of men by love and that he would have been helplessly placed in a manger was as marvelous and as touching to the believers as the sacrifice of dying on the cross in Calvary.[127]

Thus by the 13th century the tender joys of the nativity of Jesus were added to the agony of his Crucifixion and a whole new range of approved religious emotions was ushered in, with wide-ranging cultural impacts for centuries thereafter.[127] The Franciscans approached both ends of this spectrum of emotions. On one hand the introduction of the nativity scene encouraged the tender image of Jesus, while on the other hand Francis of Assisi himself had a deep attachment to the sufferings of Jesus on the Cross and was said to have received the stigmata as an expression of that love. The dual nature of Franciscan piety based both on joy of nativity and the sacrifice at Calvary had a deep appeal among city dwellers and as the Franciscan Friars travelled these emotions spread across the world, transforming the Kyrios image of Jesus to a more tender, loving, and compassionate image.[127] These traditions did not remain limited to Europe and soon spread to the other parts of the world such as Latin America, the Philippines and the United States.[128][129]

According to Archbishop Rowan Williams, this transformation, accompanied by the proliferation of the tender image of Jesus in Madonna and Child paintings, made an important impact within the Christian ministry by allowing Christians to feel the living presence of Jesus as a loving figure "who is always there to harbor and nurture those who turn to him for help".[130][131]

Hymns, art and music

Canticles appearing in Luke

Luke's nativity text has given rise to four well-known canticles: the Benedictus and the Magnificat in the first chapter, and the Gloria in Excelsis and the Nunc dimittis in the second chapter.[132] These "Gospel canticles" are now an integral part of the liturgical tradition.[133] The parallel structure in Luke regarding the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, extends to the three canticles Benedictus (Song of Zechariah), the Nunc dimittis and the Magnificat.[134]

The Magnificat, in Luke 1:46–55,[135] is spoken by Mary and is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns, perhaps the earliest Marian hymn.[136] The Benedictus, in Luke 1:68–79,[137] is spoken by Zechariah, while the Nunc dimittis, in Luke 2:29–32,[138] is spoken by Simeon.[139] The traditional Gloria in Excelsis is longer than the opening line presented in Luke 2:14,[140] and is often called the "Song of the Angels" given that it was uttered by the angels in the Annunciation to the Shepherds.[141]

The three canticles Benedictus, Nunc Dimittis and the Magnificat, if not originating in the Gospel of Luke, may have their roots in the earliest Christian liturgical services in Jerusalem, but their exact origins remain unknown.[142]

Visual arts

Medieval miniature of the Nativity, c. 1350
Annunciation by Nesterov, 19th century, Russia

One of the most visible traditions during the Christmas season is the display of manger scenes depicting the nativity, usually in the form of statues or figurines, in private homes, businesses and churches, either inside or outside the building. This tradition is usually attributed to Francis of Assisi[143] who was described as creating such a display at Greccio, Italy, in 1223[144][145] as related by St. Bonaventure in his Life of Saint Francis of Assisi written around 1260.[146]

Before the tradition of building and displaying manger scenes developed, there were paintings depicting the subject. The earliest artistic depictions of the nativity were in the catacombs and on sarcophagi in Rome. As gentile visitors, the Magi were popular in these scenes, representing the significance of the arrival of the Messiah to all peoples. The ox and ass were also taken to symbolize the Jews and the gentiles, and have remained a constant since the earliest depictions. Mary was soon seated on a throne as the Magi visited.[147]

Depictions of the nativity soon became a normal component of cycles in art illustrating both the Life of Christ and the Life of the Virgin. Nativity images also carry the message of redemption: God's unification with matter forms the mystery of the Incarnation, a turning point in the Christian perspective on Salvation.[148]

In the Eastern Church painted icons of the nativity often correspond to specific hymns to Mary, e.g. to the Kontakion: "The Virgin today bringeth forth the Transubstantial, and the eart offereth a cave to the Unapproachable."[149] In many Eastern icons of nativity (often accompanied by matching hymnody) two basic elements are emphasized. First the event portrays the mystery of incarnation as a foundation for the Christian faith, and the combined nature of Christ as divine and human. Secondly, it relates the event to the natural life of the world, and its consequences for humanity.[149]

Hymns, music and performances

The Nativity depicted in an English liturgical manuscript, c. 1310–1320
A Christmas carol card, Boston, 1880

Like 1st-century Jews, early Christians rejected the use of musical instruments in religious ceremonies and instead relied on chants and plainsong leading to the use of the term a cappella (in the chapel) for these chants.

One of the earliest nativity hymns was Veni redemptor gentium composed by Ambrose of Milan in the 4th century. By the beginning of the 5th century, the Spanish poet Prudentius had written "From the Heart of the Father" where the ninth stanza focused on the nativity and portrayed Jesus as the creator of the universe. In the 5th century the Gallic poet Sedulius composed "From the lands that see the Sun arise" in which the humility of the birth of Jesus was portrayed.[147] The Magnificat, one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn, is based on the Annunciation.[136][139]

Romanus the Melodist had a dream of the Virgin Mary the night before the feast of the nativity, and when he woke up the next morning, composed his first hymn "On the Nativity" and continued composing hymns (perhaps several hundred) to the end of his life.[150] Re-enactments of nativity, which are now called nativity plays, were part of the troparion hymns in the liturgy of Byzantine Rite churches, from Sophronius of Jerusalem in the 7th century.[151] By the 13th century, the Franciscans had encouraged a strong tradition of popular Christmas songs in the native languages.[152] Christmas carols in English first appear in a 1426 work of John Awdlay, a Shropshire chaplain, who lists twenty-five "caroles of Cristemas".[153]

The largest body of musical works about Christ in which he does not speak are about the nativity. A large body of liturgical music, as well as a great deal of para-liturgical texts, carols and folk music exist about the nativity of Jesus. Christmas carols have come to be viewed as a cultural-signature of the nativity of Jesus.[154]

Most musical nativity narrations are not biblical and did not come about until church music assimilated opera in the 17th century. However, thereafter there was a torrent of new music, such as Heinrich Schütz's 1660, Marc-Antoine Charpentier (Midnight Mass, Pastorals, Oratorio, instrumental music, 11 settings), The Christmas Story and Bach's Christmas Oratorio in the 18th century, as well as Lisz's Christus, Berlioz's L'Enfance du Christ (1850), Camille Saint-Saëns' Christmas Oratorio (1858), etc.[154] John Milton's classic 1629 poem Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity was used by John McEwan in 1901.[154]

Historical analysis

Traditional views

Beginning of a Byzantine copy of the Gospel of Luke, 1020

According to some scholars, the two Gospel accounts of the nativity are historically accurate and do not contradict each other,[155] with similarities such as the birthplace of Bethlehem and the virgin birth. George Kilpatrick and Michael Patella state that a comparison of the nativity accounts of Luke and Matthew show common elements in terms of the virgin birth, the birth at Bethlehem, and the upbringing at Nazareth, and that although there are differences in the accounts of the nativity in Luke and Matthew, a general narrative may be constructed by combining the two.[156][157] A number of biblical scholars have attempted to show how the text from both narratives can be interwoven as a gospel harmony to create one account that begins with a trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born, followed by the flight to Egypt, and ending with a return to Nazareth.[158][159][160][161][162]

Neither Luke nor Matthew claims their birth narratives are based on direct testimony.[163] Raymond E. Brown suggested in 1973 that Joseph was the source of Matthew's account and Mary of Luke's, but modern scholars consider this "highly unlikely", given that the story emerged so late.[164]

Roman Catholic scholars, such as John L. McKenzie, Raymond E. Brown, and Daniel J. Harrington express the view that due to the scarcity of ancient records, a number of issues regarding the historicity of some nativity episodes can never be fully determined, and that the more important task is deciding what the nativity narratives meant to the early Christian communities.[165][166][167]

Critical analysis

Many scholars do not see the Luke and Matthew nativity stories as historically factual,[4][1][2] regarding them as laced with theology and presenting two different accounts and genealogies.[168][169][170][171] For instance, they point to Matthew's account of the appearance of an angel to Joseph in a dream; the wise men from the East; the massacre of the innocents; and the flight to Egypt, which do not appear in Luke, which instead describes the appearance of an angel to Mary; the Roman census; the birth in a manger; and the choir of angels appearing to the shepherds in the fields.[172][168][169][4][1][170][171][2] Sanders considers Luke's census, for which everyone returned to their ancestral home, not historically credible, as this was contrary to Roman practice; they would not have uprooted everyone from their homes and farms in the Empire by forcing them to return to their ancestral cities. Moreover, people were not able to trace their own lineages back 42 generations.[1] More generally, according to Karl Rahner the gospels show little interest in synchronizing the episodes of the birth or subsequent life of Jesus with the secular history of the age.[5] As a result, modern scholars do not use much of the birth narratives for historical information.[168][170] Nevertheless, they are considered to contain some useful biographical information: Jesus being born near the end of the reign of Herod, during the reign of Emperor Augustus and his father being named Joseph are considered historically plausible.[168][173]

Most modern scholars accept the Marcan priority hypothesis, that the Luke and Matthew accounts are based on the Gospel of Mark, but that the birth narratives come from the evangelists' independent sources, known as the M source for Matthew and the L source for Luke, which were added later.[174]

While Géza Vermes and E. P. Sanders dismiss the accounts as pious fiction, Raymond E. Brown sees them as having been constructed from historical traditions which predate the Gospels.[175][176][177] According to Brown, there is no uniform agreement among scholars on the historicity of the accounts, e.g., most of those scholars who reject the historicity of the birth at Bethlehem argue for a birth at Nazareth, a few suggest Capernaum, and others have hypothesized locations as far away as Chorazin.[178] Bruce Chilton and archaeologist Aviram Oshri have proposed a birth at Bethlehem of Galilee, a site located 7 mi (11 km) from Nazareth at which remains dating to the time of Herod the Great have been excavated.[179][180] Armand P. Tarrech states that Chilton's hypothesis has no support in either the Jewish or Christian sources, although Chilton seems to take seriously the statement in Luke 2:4 that Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem.[181]

Many view the discussion of historicity as secondary, given that gospels were primarily written as theological documents rather than chronological timelines.[182][183][184][185] For instance, Matthew pays far more attention to the name of the child and its theological implications than the actual birth event itself.[186]

See also

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  1. ^ A more complete account of the similarities and differences between the two can be found in Raymond E. Brown, "Birth of the Messiah", pp.34-35, and in Barbara Shellard, "New Light on Luke: Its Purpose, Sources and Literary Context", pp.79-81.



  1. ^ a b c d Sanders, E. P. The historical figure of Jesus. Penguin, 1993. Sanders discusses both birth narratives in detail, contrasts them, and judges them not historical on pp. 85–88.
  2. ^ a b c Marcus Borg, 'The Meaning of the Birth Stories' in Marcus Borg, N T Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (Harper One, 1999) page 179: "I (and most mainline scholars) do not see these stories as historically factual."
  3. ^ Crossan, John Dominic; Watts, Richard J. (October 1999). Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions About the Historical Jesus. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-0-664-25842-9.
  4. ^ a b c Vermes, Géza (2006-11-02). The Nativity: History and Legend. Penguin Books Ltd. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-14-102446-2.
  5. ^ a b Encyclopedia of theology: a concise Sacramentum mundi by Karl Rahner 2004 ISBN 0-86012-006-6 p. 731
  6. ^ Edwards 2020, p. 101.
  7. ^ a b c d Robinson 2009, p. 111.
  8. ^ a b c Brown 1977, p. 35.
  9. ^ a b Scholz 2009, p. 112.
  10. ^ Matthew 1:18–25
  11. ^ Matthew 1:16
  12. ^ France 2007, p. 47.
  13. ^ France 2007, p. 48.
  14. ^ Matthew 2
  15. ^ France 2007, p. 61.
  16. ^ France 2007, p. 67.
  17. ^ Brown 1977, p. 399.
  18. ^ Brown 1977, p. 400.
  19. ^ Taylor, Joan E. (1993). Christians and the Holy Places: The Myth of Jewish-Christian Origins. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 99–102. ISBN 978-0-19-814785-5.
  20. ^ Protoevangelium 18; Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho; cf. Origen, Contra Celsum 1.2.
  21. ^ Taylor, Joan E. (1993). Christians and the Holy Places: The Myth of Jewish-Christian Origins. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 99–100. ISBN 978-0-19-814785-5.
  22. ^ Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible 2000 ISBN 90-5356-503-5 p. 173
  23. ^ Dunn, James DG (2003). "Jesus Remembered". Eerdmans Publishing: 324. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  24. ^ Doggett 1992, p579: "Although scholars generally believe that Christ was born some years before AD 1, the historical evidence is too sketchy to allow a definitive dating".
  25. ^ e.g. Luke 2:1 states that Jesus was born during the census of Quirinius, which Raymond Brown notes has led most scholars to conclude that Luke is in error. Brown, R.E. "An Adult Christ at Christmas: Essays on the Three Biblical Christmas Stories". Liturgical Press. 1978, p=17
  26. ^ Paul L. Maier "The Date of the Nativity and Chronology of Jesus And Virgin Mary." in Chronos, kairos, Christos: nativity and chronological studies by Jerry Vardaman, Edwin M. Yamauchi 1989 ISBN 0-931464-50-1 pp. 113–129
  27. ^ New Testament History by Richard L. Niswonger 1992 IBN 0-310-31201-9 pp. 121–124
  28. ^ Molnar, M.R. (1999). The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi. Rutgers University Press. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-8135-2701-7.
  29. ^ a b Helmut Köster, "Ancient Christian gospels: their history and development", Continuum International Publishing Group, (2004). pp. 307–308
  30. ^ Genesis 27–43
  31. ^ C. T. Ruddick, Jr. (1970) "Birth Narratives in Genesis and Luke" Novum Testamentum 12(4):343–348.
  32. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "Luke" pp. 297–301
  33. ^ "Jesus Christ." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  34. ^ a b Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "Matthew" pp. 272–285
  35. ^ Brown 1977, pp. 104–121.
  36. ^ a b Ulrich Luz, The Theology of the Gospel of Matthew, ISBN 0-521-43576-5 p. 24/25
  37. ^ Matthew 2:18
  38. ^ Ulrich Luz, Theology of the Gospel of Matthew, ISBN 0-521-43576-5 p. 28
  39. ^ a b c Barton, John; Muddiman, John (6 September 2001). The Oxford Bible Commentary. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780198755005 – via Google Books.
  40. ^ Matthew 1:18–25
  41. ^ Genesis 16:11, Genesis 17
  42. ^ Genesis 21:1
  43. ^ Judges 13:3, Judges 13:5
  44. ^ See Aland, op.cit., p. 3.
  45. ^ a b Brown, Raymond E.; Achtemeier, Paul J. (1978). Mary in the New Testament: A Collaborative Assessment by Protestant and Roman Catholic Scholars. Paulist Press. p. 92. ISBN 0-8091-2168-9.
  46. ^ Matthew's Bible: the Old Testament text of the evangelist by M. J. J. Menken 2004 ISBN 90-429-1419-X p. 161
  47. ^ Aland, Barbara; Aland, Kurt; Martini, Carlo M.; Karavidopoulos, Johannes; Metzger, Bruce M. (December 1983). Novum Testamentum Graece Et Latine—Greek/Latin New Testament. American Bible Society. p. 5. ISBN 978-3-438-05401-2.
  48. ^ Matthew's Bible: the Old Testament text of the evangelist by M. J. J. Menken 2004 ISBN 90-429-1419-X p. 164
  49. ^ Menken, Maarten J. J. "The Sources of the Old Testament Quotation in Matthew 2:23" Journal of Biblical Literature120:3 (451–68), 467–8.
  50. ^ Smith, Gary (2007-08-30). The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1–33, Vol. 15A (New American Commentary). B&H Publishing Group. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-8054-0115-8.
  51. ^ Isaiah 4:3
  52. ^ Ulrich Luz, the Theology of the Gospel of Matthew, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-43576-5 p. 18
  53. ^ a b Church dogmatics, Volume 4, Part 1 by Karl Barth, Geoffrey William Bromiley, Thomas Forsyth Torrance 2004 ISBN 0-567-05129-3 pp. 256–259
  54. ^ a b An introduction to the early history of Christian doctrine by James Franklin Bethune-Baker 2005 ISBN 1-4021-5770-3 p. 334
  55. ^ a b A History of the Christian Church by Williston Walker 2010 ISBN 1-4400-4446-5 pp. 65–66
  56. ^ The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia by Geoffrey W. Bromiley 1988 ISBN 0-8028-3785-9 page 308
  57. ^ An introductory dictionary of theology and religious studies by Orlando O. Espín, James B. Nickoloff 2007 ISBN 0-8146-5856-3 p. 238
  58. ^ Mercer dictionary of the Bible by Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard 1998 ISBN 0-86554-373-9 p. 712
  59. ^ Basic Theology: by Charles Caldwell Ryrie 1999 ISBN 0-8024-2734-0 p. 275
  60. ^ a b c Systematic Theology, Volume 2 by Wolfhart Pannenberg 2004 ISBN 0567084663, pp. 297–303
  61. ^ An exposition of the epistle of Saint Paul to the Philippians by Jean Daille 1995 ISBN 0-8028-2511-7 pp. 194–195
  62. ^ Christ in Christian Tradition: From the Apostolic Age to Chalcedon by Aloys Grillmeier, John Bowden 1975 ISBN 0-664-22301-X pp. 15–19
  63. ^ The Witness of Jesus, Paul and John: An Exploration in Biblical Theology by Larry R. Helyer 2008 ISBN 0-8308-2888-5 p. 282
  64. ^ Encyclopedia of theology: a concise Sacramentum mundi by Karl Rahner 2004 ISBN 0-86012-006-6 pp. 474 and 1434
  65. ^ Burke, Raymond L.; et al. (2008). Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons ISBN 978-1-57918-355-4 pp. 613–614
  66. ^ The Early Christian World, Volumes 1–2 by Philip Francis Esler 2004 ISBN 0-415-33312-1 p. 452
  67. ^ Handbook to life in the medieval world, Volume 1 by Madeleine Pelner Cosman, Linda Gale Jones 2008 ISBN 0-8160-4887-8 p. 329
  68. ^ a b Orthodox readings of Augustine by George E. Demacopoulos, Aristotle Papanikolaou 2008 ISBN 0-88141-327-5 pp. 92–96
  69. ^ 1Corinthians 15:22
  70. ^ The theology of John Calvin by Charles Partee 2008 ISBN 0-664-23119-5 p. 159
  71. ^ Theology of the New Testament by Georg Strecker 2000 ISBN 0-664-22336-2 pp. 401–403
  72. ^ Matthew by Grant R. Osborne 2010 ISBN 0-310-32370-3 lxxix
  73. ^ a b Toward the origins of Christmas by Susan K. Roll 1995 ISBN 90-390-0531-1 pp. 208–211
  74. ^ McGrath, Alister E. (2007). Christian theology: an introduction. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. p. 282. ISBN 978-1-4051-5360-7.
  75. ^ Ehrman, Bart D. (1993), The Orthodox corruption of scripture: the effect of early Christological controversies on the text of the New Testament, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-510279-6
  76. ^ Mary and the Saints by James P. Campbell 2005 0829417257 pp. 17–20
  77. ^ All the Doctrines of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer 1988 ISBN 0-310-28051-6 p. 159
  78. ^ Matthew 1–13 by Manlio Simonetti 2001 ISBN 0-8308-1486-8 p. 17
  79. ^ Matthew 1-2/ Luke 1–2 by Louise Perrotta 2004 ISBN 0-8294-1541-6 p. 19
  80. ^ a b Matthew's Emmanuel by David D. Kupp 1997 ISBN 0-521-57007-7 pp. 220–224
  81. ^ Who do you say that I am?: essays on Christology by Jack Dean Kingsbury, Mark Allan Powell, David R. Bauer 1999 ISBN 0-664-25752-6 p. 17
  82. ^ The theology of the Gospel of Matthew by Ulrich Luz 1995 ISBN 0-521-43576-5 p. 31
  83. ^ Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, Vol XIV p. 207, translated edition by H.R. Percival.
  84. ^ The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church, trans H. R. Percival, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, ed. P. Schaff and H. Wace, (repr. Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1955), XIV, pp. 192–242
  85. ^ The acts of the Council of Chalcedon by Council of Chalcedon, Richard Price, Michael Gaddis 2006 ISBN 0-85323-039-0 pp. 1–5
  86. ^ The creed: the apostolic faith in contemporary theology by Berard L. Marthaler 2007 ISBN 0-89622-537-2 p. 114
  87. ^ Essential theological terms by Justo L. González 2005 ISBN 0-664-22810-0 p. 120
  88. ^ Doctrine and practice in the early church by Stuart George Hall 1992 ISBN 0-8028-0629-5 pp. 211–218
  89. ^ Leo the Great by Pope Leo I, Bronwen Neil 2009 ISBN 0-415-39480-5 pp. 61–62
  90. ^ Summa Theologica, Volume 4 (Part III, First Section) by St. Thomas Aquinas 207 Cosimo Classics ISBN 1-60206-560-8 pp. 2197–2211
  91. ^ a b Aquinas on doctrine: a critical introduction by Thomas Gerard Weinandy, John Yocum 2004 ISBN 0-567-08411-6 p. 98
  92. ^ Calvin's Catholic Christology by E. David Willis 1966 Published by E.J. Brill, Netherlands, p. 83
  93. ^ Christmas in the Holy Land. World Book Encyclopedia. 1987. p. 58. ISBN 9780716608875.
  94. ^ Forbes, Bruce David (2008-11-13). Christmas: A Candid History. University of California Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-520-25802-0. In 567 the Council of Tours proclaimed that the entire period between Christmas and Epiphany should be considered part of the celebration, creating what became known as the twelve days of Christmas, or what the English called Christmastide. On the last of the twelve days, called Twelfth Night, various cultures developed a wide range of additional special festivities. The variation extends even to the issue of how to count the days. If Christmas Day is the first of the twelve days, then Twelfth Night would be on January 5, the eve of Epiphany. If December 26, the day after Christmas, is the first day, then Twelfth Night falls on January 6, the evening of Epiphany itself. After Christmas and Epiphany were in place, on December 25 and January 6, with the twelve days of Christmas in between, Christians gradually added a period called Advent, as a time of spiritual preparation leading up to Christmas.
  95. ^ Hynes, Mary Ellen (1993). Companion to the Calendar. Liturgy Training Publications. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-56854-011-5. In the year 567 the church council of Tours called the 13 days between December 25 and January 6 a festival season. Up until that time the only other joyful church season was the 50 days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost.
  96. ^ Knight, Kevin (2012). "Christmas". The Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent. Retrieved December 15, 2014. The Second Council of Tours (can. xi, xvii) proclaims, in 566 or 567, the sanctity of the "twelve days" from Christmas to Epiphany, and the duty of Advent fast; that of Agde (506), in canons 63–64, orders a universal communion, and that of Braga (563) forbids fasting on Christmas Day. Popular merry-making, however, so increased that the "Laws of King Cnut", fabricated c. 1110, order a fast from Christmas to Epiphany.
  97. ^ Hill, Christopher (2003). Holidays and Holy Nights: Celebrating Twelve Seasonal Festivals of the Christian Year. Quest Books. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-8356-0810-7. This arrangement became an administrative problem for the Roman Empire as it tried to coordinate the solar Julian calendar with the lunar calendars of its provinces in the east. While the Romans could roughly match the months in the two systems, the four cardinal points of the solar year—the two equinoxes and solstices—still fell on different dates. By the time of the first century, the calendar date of the winter solstice in Egypt and Palestine was eleven to twelve days later than the date in Rome. As a result the Incarnation came to be celebrated on different days in different parts of the Empire. The Western Church, in its desire to be universal, eventually took them both—one became Christmas, one Epiphany—with a resulting twelve days in between. Over time this hiatus became invested with specific Christian meaning. The Church gradually filled these days with saints, some connected to the birth narratives in Gospels (Holy Innocents' Day, December 28, in honor of the infants slaughtered by Herod; St. John the Evangelist, "the Beloved," December 27; St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, December 26; the Holy Family, December 31; the Virgin Mary, January 1). In 567, the Council of Tours declared the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany to become one unified festal cycle.
  98. ^ Bunson, Matthew (October 21, 2007). "Origins of Christmas and Easter holidays". Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). Archived from the original on 17 December 2014. Retrieved December 17, 2014. The Council of Tours (567) decreed the 12 days from Christmas to Epiphany to be sacred and especially joyous, thus setting the stage for the celebration of the Lord's birth not only in a liturgical setting but in the hearts of all Christians.
  99. ^ The Church of England Magazine, Volume 49. J. Burns. 1860. p. 369.
  100. ^ Kennedy, Rodney Wallace; Hatch, Derek C (27 August 2013). Baptists at Work in Worship. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 147. ISBN 978-1-62189-843-6. There are a variety or worship practices that enable a congregation to celebrate Advent: lighting an advent wreath, a hanging of the greens service, a Chrismon tree, and an Advent devotional booklet.
  101. ^ Geddes, Gordon; Griffiths, Jane (2002). Christian Belief and Practice. Heinemann. p. 102. ISBN 9780435306915. Carol singing is a common custom during the Christmas season. Many Christians form groups and go from house to house singing carols. The words of the carols help to pass on the message of Christmas to others.
  102. ^ Kubesh, Katie; McNeil, Niki; Bellotto, Kimm. The 12 Days of Christmas. In the Hands of a Child. p. 16. The Twelve Days of Christmas, also called Twelvetide, are also associated with festivities that begin on the evening of Christmas Day and last through the morning of Epiphany. This period is also called Christmastide [...] one early American tradition was to make a wreath on Christmas Eve and hang it on the front door on Christmas night. The wreath stayed on the front door through Epiphany. Some families also baked a special cake for the Epiphany. Other Old Time Traditions from around the world include: Giving gifts on Christmas night only. Giving gifts on the Twelfth Night only. Giving gifts on each night. On the Twelfth Night, a Twelfth Night Cake or King Cake is served with a bean or pea baked in it. The person who finds the bean or pea in his or her portion is a King of Queen for the day.
  103. ^ Collins, Ace (2010). Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. Zondervan. pp. 139–141. ISBN 9780310873884.
  104. ^ Bharati, Agehanada (1 January 1976). Ideas and Actions. Walter de Gruyter. p. 454. ISBN 9783110805871. These were services of worship held in Christian churches at Christmastide...
  105. ^ Nair, Malini (15 December 2013). "Cakewalk in Allahabad". The Times of India. Retrieved 28 March 2015. Around early December, an unusual kind of pilgrim starts to take the Prayag Raj from Delhi to Allahabad: the devout worshipper of the Allahabadi Christmas cake. This is no elegant western pudding – it is redolent with desi ghee, petha, ginger, nutmeg, javitri, saunf, cinnamon, something called cake ka jeera and marmalades from Loknath ki Galli. All this is browned to perfection at a bakery that has acquired cult status – Bushy's on Kanpur Road. The ancient city has had a great baking tradition. It could be because Allahabad has a sizeable population of Christians.
  106. ^ Michelin (10 October 2012). Germany Green Guide Michelin 2012–2013. Michelin. p. 73. ISBN 9782067182110. Advent – The four weeks before Christmas are celebrated by counting down the days with an advent calendar, hanging up Christmas decorations and lightning an additional candle every Sunday on the four-candle advent wreath.
  107. ^ Normark, Helena (1997). "Modern Christmas". Graphic Garden. Retrieved 9 April 2014. Christmas in Sweden starts with Advent, which is the await for the arrival of Jesus. The symbol for it is the Advent candlestick with four candles in it, and we light one more candle for each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Most people start putting up the Christmas decorations on the first of Advent.
  108. ^ Rice, Howard L.; Huffstutler, James C. (1 January 2001). Reformed Worship. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 197. ISBN 978-0-664-50147-1. Another popular activity is the "Hanging of the Greens," a service in which the sanctuary is decorated for Christmas.
  109. ^ An introductory dictionary of theology and religious studies by Orlando O. Espín, James B. Nickoloff 2007 ISBN 0-8146-5856-3 p. 237
  110. ^ The journey of the Magi: meanings in history of a Christian story by Richard C. Trexler 1997 ISBN 0-691-01126-5 p. 9
  111. ^ Christian worship in Reformed Churches past and present by Lukas Vischer 2002 ISBN 0-8028-0520-5 pp. 400–401
  112. ^ Mills, Watson E.; Edgar V. McKnight; Roger Aubrey Bullard (1990). Mercer Dictionary of the Bible. Mercer University Press. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-86554-373-7. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
  113. ^ a b c d Aspects of the liturgical year in Cappadocia (325–430) by Jill Burnett Comings 2005 ISBN 0-8204-7464-9 pp. 61–71
  114. ^ Sacred Christmas Music by Ronald M. Clancy 2008 ISBN 1-4027-5811-1 pp. 15–19
  115. ^ Frøyshov, Stig Simeon. "[Hymnography of the] Rite of Jerusalem". Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology.
  116. ^ The Feast of Christmas by Joseph F. Kelly 2010 ISBN 0-8146-3325-0 pp. 331–391
  117. ^ Pastor and laity in the theology of Jean Gerson by Dorothy Catherine Brown 1987 ISBN 0-521-33029-7 p. 32
  118. ^ The Feast of Christmas by Joseph F. Kelly 2010 ISBN 0-8146-3325-0 pp. 112–114
  119. ^ a b c Mercer dictionary of the Bible by Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard 1998 ISBN 0-86554-373-9 pp. 520–525
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  121. ^ II Corinthians: a commentary by Frank J. Matera 2003 ISBN 0-664-22117-3 pp. 11–13
  122. ^ Philippians 2:10
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  124. ^ Christology: Biblical And Historical by Mini S. Johnson ISBN p. 211
  125. ^ The image of St Francis by Rosalind B. Brooke 2006 ISBN 0-521-78291-0 pp. 183–184
  126. ^ The tradition of Catholic prayer by Christian Raab, Harry Hagan, St. Meinrad Archabbey 2007 ISBN 0-8146-3184-3 pp. 86–87
  127. ^ a b c The vitality of the Christian tradition by George Finger Thomas 1944 ISBN 0-8369-2378-2 pp. 110–112
  128. ^ La vida sacra: contemporary Hispanic sacramental theology by James L. Empereur, Eduardo Fernández 2006 ISBN 0-7425-5157-1 pp. 3–5
  129. ^ Philippines by Lily Rose R. Tope, Detch P. Nonan-Mercado 2005 ISBN 0-7614-1475-4 p. 109
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  132. ^ An Introduction to the Bible by Robert Kugler, Patrick Hartin ISBN 0-8028-4636-X p. 394
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  134. ^ Sanctity of time and space in tradition and modernity by Alberdina Houtman, Marcel Poorthuis, Joshua Schwartz 1998 ISBN 90-04-11233-2 pp. 61–62
  135. ^ Luke 1:46–55
  136. ^ a b The History and Use of Hymns and Hymn-Tunes by David R Breed 2009 ISBN 1-110-47186-6 p. 17
  137. ^ Luke 1:68–79
  138. ^ Luke 2:29–32
  139. ^ a b Favourite Hymns by Marjorie Reeves 2006 ISBN 0-8264-8097-7 pp. 3–5
  140. ^ Luke 2:14
  141. ^ All the music of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer 2004 ISBN 1-56563-531-0 p. 120
  142. ^ Music of the Middle Ages, Volume 1 by Giulio Cattin, F. Alberto Gallo 1985 ISBN 0-521-28489-9 p. 2
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  147. ^ a b The Feast of Christmas by Joseph F. Kelly 2010 ISBN 0-8146-3325-0 pp. 22–31
  148. ^ The mystical language of icons by Solrunn Nes 2005 ISBN 0-8028-2916-3 p. 43
  149. ^ a b The meaning of icons by Leonide Ouspensky, Vladimir Lossky 1999 ISBN 0-913836-77-X p. 157
  150. ^ Church Fathers and Teachers: From Saint Leo the Great to Peter Lombard by Pope Benedict XVI 2010 ISBN 1-58617-317-0 p. 32
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  157. ^ The Gospel according to Luke by Michael Patella 2005 ISBN 0-8146-2862-1 pp. 9–10
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  160. ^ The horizontal line synopsis of the Gospels by Reuben J. Swanson 1984 ISBN 0-87808-744-3 page xix
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  162. ^ Steven L. Cox, Kendell H. Easley, 2007 Harmony of the Gospels ISBN 0-8054-9444-8 pp. 289–290
  163. ^ Lord Jesus Christ by Larry W. Hurtado 2005 ISBN 0-8028-3167-2 p. 322
  164. ^ Lincoln 2013, p. 144.
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  167. ^ Daniel J. Harrington 1991 The Gospel of Matthew ISBN 0-8146-5803-2 pp. 45–49
  168. ^ a b c d The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible: Volume 3 Abingdon Press, 2008. pp. 42, 269–70.
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  170. ^ a b c Jeremy Corley New Perspectives on the Nativity Continuum International Publishing Group, 2009 p. 22.
  171. ^ a b Wright, Tom (March 2004). Luke for Everyone. London: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-664-22784-5.
  172. ^ Crossan, John Dominic; Watts, Richard J. (October 1999). Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions About the Historical Jesus. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-0-664-25842-9.
  173. ^ Bruce M. Metzger, Michael D. Coogan, The Oxford Guide to People & Places of the Bible. Oxford University Press US, 2004. p. 137
  174. ^ Funk, Robert W. and the Jesus Seminar. The acts of Jesus: the search for the authentic deeds of Jesus. HarperSanFrancisco. 1998. "Birth & Infancy Stories" pp. 497–526.
  175. ^ Vermes, Géza (2006-11-02). The Nativity: History and Legend. Penguin Books Ltd. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-14-102446-2.
  176. ^ Sanders, Ed Parish (1993). The Historical Figure of Jesus. London: Allen Lane. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-7139-9059-1.
  177. ^ Hurtado, Larry W. (June 2003). Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans. pp. 319–320. ISBN 978-0-8028-6070-5.
  178. ^ The birth of the Messiah by Raymond Brown 1993 ISBN 0-385-47202-1 p. 513
  179. ^ Oshri, Aviram (November–December 2005). "Where was Jesus Born?". Archaeology. 58 (6). Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  180. ^ Chilton, Bruce (2006), "Recovering Jesus' Mamzerut", in Charlesworth, James H. (ed.), Jesus and Archaeology, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, pp. 95–96, ISBN 9780802848802
  181. ^ Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus edited by Tom Holmen and Stanley E. Porter (Jan 12, 2011) ISBN 9004163727 pages 3411–3412
  182. ^ Interpreting Gospel Narratives: Scenes, People, and Theology by Timothy Wiarda 2010 ISBN 0-8054-4843-8 pp. 75–78
  183. ^ Jesus, the Christ: Contemporary Perspectives by Brennan R. Hill 2004 ISBN 1-58595-303-2 p. 89
  184. ^ The Gospel of Luke by Timothy Johnson 1992 ISBN 0-8146-5805-9 p. 72
  185. ^ Recovering Jesus: the witness of the New Testament Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld 2007 ISBN 1-58743-202-1 p. 111
  186. ^ Matthew by Thomas G. Long 1997 ISBN 0-664-25257-5 pp. 14–15


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