Pope's book on Jesus debunks Christmas myths
November 22nd, 2012
02:25 PM ET

Pope's book on Jesus debunks Christmas myths

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

(CNN) - It's Christmas, but not as you know it: a new book by released this week by Pope Benedict VI looks at the early life of Jesus - and debunks several myths about how the Nativity really unfolded.

In "Jesus of Nazareth - The Infancy Narratives," the pope says the Christian calendar is actually based on a blunder by a 6th century monk, who Benedict says was several years off in his calculation of Jesus' birth date.

According to the pope's research, there is also no evidence in the Gospels that the cattle and other animals traditionally pictured gathered around the manger were actually present.

Full Story

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Catholic Church • Christianity • Pope Benedict XVI

soundoff (577 Responses)
  1. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    ... and the evolution of religion continues.
    Obvious attempt at making the Jesus story more believable for a modern audience.

    November 24, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Edweird69

      How can you possibly, not believe that a god wrapped himself in flesh, came to earth with full intention of being slaughtered, so he could forgive the sins of the people he created, knowing they were going to sin when he created them.. uhhh... oh great, now I'm an atheist. As always, love your posts!

      November 24, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  2. martin

    mono theism is a blunder

    November 24, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Lilith

      Theism by any number is a blunder.

      November 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • End Religion


      November 24, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  3. robert

    "Jesus Birthday a blunder", I thought the article was about how God and Mary didn't plan to have a kid. Perhaps just a careless booty call. They got caught up in the moment and someone forgot to stop by the pharmacy while picking up flowers and a couple bottles of wine. As I underestand it, Mary ended up having to care for the kid herself while Joseph, the real hero of the story, stepped in to play dad to someone else's kid. No child support. No weekend visits. Just one day god said, I want to teach you the family business and Jesus was gone. In a way, the story of Jesus is like the sci-fi story, the Midwich Cuckoos with a happier ending.

    November 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  4. keepperspective

    The people who say Jesus never existed, if they are consistent, will say that Socrates never existed - neither did Buddha or Muhammad, or virtually no one before the 1800s. It's utter foolishness.

    I find it hard to believe that the gospel writers would die for what they *knew* to be a lie. Let these so-called historians offer examples of that.

    November 24, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • I wonder

      "I find it hard to believe that the gospel writers would die for what they *knew* to be a lie."

      Lots and lots of people over the eons have died for mistaken beliefs. They get caught up and swept away by the fantasy. What would you say about the deaths of the followers of Jim Jones, David Koresh, Heaven's Gate, and countless Muslim suicide bombers, mentioning just the more recent ones?

      November 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Hollybush123

      Jesus never existed and neither did Buddha or Mohammed. It's all a myth no matter how many calendars you use to try to support your claims.

      November 24, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • devgil

      Socrates unlike mortal Jesus, Muhamad and Buddha has his own writings. All this so called prophet lived vicariously thru their disciples and their so called teachings were not wriiten years after thier demise.

      November 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • End Religion

      apparently there is scant evidence "some dude called jesus" existed around that time. I don't have any trouble believing that. It was apparently a common name.

      But there is not a scintilla of evidence that "Jesus Son of God" existed. The bible is a known manmade fraud whose only hold left on society is in the realm of "belief."

      The only folks left claiming any "truth" to the bible are:
      – people who've redefined "fervent belief" to mean "truth"
      – people who somehow think that archaeological evidence of biblical-era cities somehow proves a miracle-working dude existed therein

      November 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Chad

      Can you name any serious scholar that claims Jesus didnt exist?

      Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed,[5][6][7][8] and biblical scholars and cla ssical historians regard theories of his non-existence as effectively refuted.[9][10][11] Scholars generally agree that Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was born BC 7–2 and died AD 30–36.[12][13] Most scholars hold that Jesus lived in Galilee and Judea[14][15][16] and that he spoke Aramaic and may have also spoken Hebrew and Greek.[17][18][19][20][21] Although scholars differ on the reconstruction of the specific episodes of the life of Jesus, the two events whose historicity is subject to "almost universal as sent" are that he was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate.

      [5] Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies by Craig A. Evans 2001 ISBN 0391041185 pages 2-5
      [6] Christopher M. Tuckett In The Cambridge Companion to Jesus edited by Markus N. A. Bockmuehl 2001 ISBN 0521796784 pages 122-126
      [7] Amy-Jill Levine in the The Historical Jesus in Context edited by Amy-Jill Levine et al. 2006 Princeton Univ Press ISBN 978-0-691-00992-6 pages 1-2
      [8] Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium by Bart D. Ehrman (Sep 23, 1999) ISBN 0195124731 Oxford Univ Press pages ix-xi
      [9] In a 2011 review of the state of modern scholarship, Bart Ehrman (who is a secular agnostic) wrote: "He certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees" B. Ehrman, 2011 Forged : writing in the name of God ISBN 978-0-06-207863-6. page 285
      ^ Robert M. Price (an atheist who denies existence) agrees that this perspective runs against the views of the majority of scholars: Robert M. Price "Jesus at the Vanishing Point" in The Historical Jesus: Five Views edited by James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy, 2009 InterVarsity, ISBN 028106329X page 61
      [10] Michael Grant (a cla ssicist) states that "In recent years, 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus' or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary." in Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels by Micjhael Grant 2004 ISBN 1898799881 page 200
      [11] Richard A. Burridge states: "There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church’s imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that any more." in Jesus Now and Then by Richard A. Burridge and Graham Gould (Apr 1, 2004) ISBN 0802809774 page 34
      [12] Robert E. Van Voorst Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-8028-4368-9 page 16 states: "biblical scholars and cla ssical historians regard theories of non-existence of Jesus as effectively refuted"
      [13] James D. G. Dunn "Paul's understanding of the death of Jesus" in Sacrifice and Redemption edited by S. W. Sykes (Dec 3, 2007) Cambridge University Press ISBN 052104460X pages 35-36 states that the theories of non-existence of Jesus are "a thoroughly dead thesis"
      [14] The Gospels and Jesus by Graham Stanton, 1989 ISBN 0192132415 Oxford University Press, page 145 states : "Today nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed".
      [15] Paul L. Maier "The Date of the Nativity and Chronology of Jesus" in Chronos, kairos, Christos: nativity and chronological studies by Jerry Vardaman, Edwin M. Yamauchi 1989 ISBN 0-931464-50-1 pages 113-129
      [16] The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament by Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum 2009 ISBN 978-0-8054-4365-3 page 114
      ^ Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, I. Howard Marshall, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (InterVarsity Press, 1992), page 442
      [17] The Historical Jesus in Recent Research edited by James D. G. Dunn and Scot McKnight 2006 ISBN 1-57506-100-7 page 303
      [18] Who Is Jesus? by John Dominic Crossan, Richard G. Watts 1999 ISBN 0664258425 pages 28-29
      [19] James Barr, Which language did Jesus speak, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 1970; 53(1) pages 9-29 [1]
      [20] Handbook to exegesis of the New Testament by Stanley E. Porter 1997 ISBN 90-04-09921-2 pages 110-112
      [21] Discovering the language of Jesus by Douglas Hamp 2005 ISBN 1-59751-017-3 page 3-4
      ^ Jesus in history and myth by R. Joseph Hoffmann 1986 ISBN 0-87975-332-3 page 98

      November 24, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Serious scholars claim that God doesn't exist. Such a claim also means that your Jesus did not exist.

      November 24, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Chad

      @Tom, Tom, the Other One "Serious scholars claim that God doesn't exist. Such a claim also means that your Jesus did not exist."

      =>nonsense 🙂

      to claim that God does not exist, is to maintain that you have the evidence to demonstrate the truth of your claim.

      I know of many atheists "scholars", I know NONE that claim God does not exist..

      November 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • End Religion

      Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus
      Thomas L. Brodie
      "Jesus did not exist as a historical individual"

      Bart Ehrman
      http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/05/15/bible.critic/index.html (debunks the bible)
      In another Bart D. Ehrman book his introductory statement is similar to mine, there was likely some dude named jesus but there is no proof he was divine.

      So, you list scholars who've proved some dude names jesus existed. We list scholars who say no special jesus existed. And then we both post OTHER people who call our experts crazy and uneducated.

      And around we go herding translucent cats in a dark basement, landing back down on your belief versus our need for proof. So until we have that proof, jesus son of god did not exist. And since we know the bible is a book of lies concocted by men, and there exists nothing else that could even be considered proof, your god doesn't exist either. Since god doesn't exist it's a safe assumption any jesus mentioned in a holy book was just a regular dude built up via myth.

      But I will leave the door cracked for you that there exists the chance that one day there may be proven a creator.

      November 24, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Funny, I heard a lecture by a devout Christian theologian who explained at length that God does not exist. Kind of daring, he was ruling out ontological arguments for God as being things that actually confine God.

      November 24, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • End Religion

      TTPS, that would be interesting to hear!

      November 25, 2012 at 12:30 am |
  5. John

    I have yet to read a scripture in the bible that says that Jesus was born in December or that he was born with animals, however if he was laid in a manger(feeding trough) it is very likely that there were animals in the area. And why we would we even listen to the catholics anyway. They gave us the ungoldiest of holidays, all Hallow's eve, a celebration of the dead, Mardis Gras, a celebration of sin and debauchery. Priests whose favorite past time involve making out with little boys, Celibacy in ministry, not biblical, confessions to priests; not biblical, praying to dead people; not biblical. Need I say more.

    November 24, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      "They gave us the ungoldiest of holidays, all Hallow's eve, a celebration of the dead, Mardis Gras, a celebration of sin and debauchery."

      You need to brush up on your history and causality a bit. All Hallows – the Feast of All Saints – is celebrated by the church, and falls on November 1. All Hallow's eve is...the night before the celebration, and is not celebrated by the church. Similarly, Mardi Gras falls just prior to the beginning of Lent and culminates on Fat Tuesday – the day prior to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten fast. Again, neither Mardi Gras nor Fat Tuesday are celebrated by the church.

      It pretty much undercuts everything you say when you make such simplistic and wrong assumptions and statements. If you're going to criticize, it pays to know your subject.

      November 24, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • End Religion

      @john: i thought jesus was celibate. You're saying instead that he got laid in a manger? Kinky!

      November 24, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  6. Reality

    "And the day will come,
    when the mystical generation of Jesus,
    by the Supreme Being as His Father,
    in the womb of a virgin,
    will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva
    in the brain of Jupiter.

    – Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
    Letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823

    November 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • SciGuy73

      Could we hurry it along? I yearn for the day when religion is treated as a mental illness.

      November 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Dale

      Same with Mohamed but we cannot talk bad about Mohamed or Islam only Christians and Jews.

      November 24, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  7. SciGuy73

    Yes, someone just made it up and passed it off as truth for over a thousand years. Like so much else in the bible.

    November 24, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Correctlycenter

      God is real, He created the heavens and the earth and all living things on it. The fairytale you may believe in (evolution) says that non-living matter poofed out of nothingness and created life, really? Scientists know that only life can create other life, that's called biogenesis. Tadpoles and monkeys cannot create humans either bub...

      November 24, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • midwest rail

      You have absolutely zero understanding of evolution.

      November 24, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Doc Ock

      Wow Correctlycenter, you really need to back to school as it's clear you have zero understanding of evolution or of science in general.

      November 24, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      People like Correctlycenter are down right scary .. and are the reason we need religion to quickly take it's rightful place among fables, folklore and the books of Grimm.

      November 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • TODAY

      CORRECTLYCENTER...you are kidding, right?

      November 24, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  8. TODAY

    Hello...it is not about Jesus we all know that...IT IS ABOUT BLACK FRIDAY, CHRISTMAS TREE AND RETAILERS COUNTING BUCKS....

    November 24, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  9. Bishop Hairy Palms

    Next they'll be telling us that there's no such thing as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

    November 24, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • TODAY

      ....Santa Claus and Christmas Bunny are invented by Walmart and Best Buy :))

      November 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  10. Bishop Hairy Palms

    So much of the Jesus story was either made up or borrowed from other myths.

    November 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • ???

      Not so much. Scientist have actually gone out trying to "disprove" the Bible and the messages inside and were unable to disprove it. Maybe if you were a real bishop you would know that.

      November 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Bishop Hairy Palms


      "Scientists"? Which "Scientists"? The Bible says the Earth is 6,000 years old = totally debunked. The Bible says that the Sun revolves around the Earth = totally debunked. As for Jesus, there is no historical proof that he even existed.

      November 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • ???

      Actually, there is proof the man himself existed. As for the Bible saying what you "think" is says shows you havent ready it. But thats ok. You will eventually find out. I will be praying for you.

      November 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • SciGuy73

      How is it possible for so many people to be so incredibly gullible?

      November 24, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      "The Bible says the Earth is 6,000 years old"

      Sort of. It never explicitly makes such a statement, however. The figure was arrived at by adding up the ages and length of events as related throughout the Old Testament. This is a carryover from a very old Hebrew tradition that did much the same thing and arrived at similar ages. Such chronicles have always been fraught with ambiguity and the possibility of misinterpretation, however, and such reckonings have generally been disapproved by the church; Origen and Augustine, among many others, both argued that many of the ages chronicled in the OT are simply of unknowable length, and went on to note that the "days" of the creation story simply cannot be "days" in the ordinary sense of the term as the sun isn't created until the fourth "day". Until the rise of the creationist movement amongst southern baptists over the last couple of centuries, belief in a 6000 year old earth was never doctrine in any christian church.

      November 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • ekim

      yep, check out the details in
      Will Durant's "Caesar and Christ"
      vol III in The Story of Civilization.
      way depressing.

      November 24, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  11. motionlessinpink

    I agree. I also think the headline and the way the article is written invites hateful comments. It could have been an interesting discussion about the new book but, instead it's another veiled stab at people of faith.

    November 24, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  12. Rob

    "Intentionally appropriating part of the pagan calendar in order to weaken competing faiths" hardly seems like something you could describe as a "blunder." Whoopsie - completely altered our messiah's fundamental origin story!

    November 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      I guess you missed that the book isn't about the date, but the year in question.

      November 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Rob

      It hardly matters what the book is "about," since it's "about" whatever those in power want it to be "about" at the time. I guess YOU missed that the "date of the savior's birth" was altered by the early Catholic Church in order to convert pagans ... along with "GOD KNOWS" how many other changes, omissions, and errors as "the book" was translated and re-translated for thousands of years. The idea that the pope is "debunking myths" or "fixing a blunder" is laughable, since the blunder was fully intentional and simply no longer serves the needs of the power elite.

      November 24, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  13. You

    This is hilarious. If we are so far off from "his" birthday then what other "facts" are false? Besides all of it, I mean really?

    Its proven that the bible wasnt written until after his death assuming he ever existed in the first place. Take whatever was written and transcribe it between multiple languages and now 2000+ years later all you sheep still believe in this?

    xmas is a corporate holiday and nothing more. I stopped believing in religion when I asked as a very young child "why, where is the proof..show me" and got nothing in return.

    If you truly believe then fine that's on you but stop pushing this false religion on others and killing in the name of "god".

    November 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • ???

      Response for YOU: No one knows the actually dates of anything. Dec 25 is the day that Jesus' birth is observed. As for you thinking the Bible was written after his death is also incorrect. The Bibles old testament was written before his birth in fact and predicted it as well. People of faith, ALL faiths, don't need actual physical proof shown to them. That is why belief is also called faith. If you dont want to hear about faith, please dont read articles then post on them. Christmas is about family and faith. Santa and christmas trees are not about the Christian belief what so ever. Let people celebrate their own way and you can do the same. Merry Christmas YOU.

      November 24, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  14. erin andrews perky breasts

    did he google it?

    November 24, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  15. motionlessinpink

    Laura – Did you read the book ? How much do you know about the Roman Catholic faith ? You might want to check out the Litugical Calendar for the Roman Catholic Church before you write another article. No Catholic over the age of eight believes that Christ was born on December 25th. The closest we get to an actual date for anything would be for Easter which is calculated by the Jewish Community's Passover. The highlights of Christ's life are celebrated each year, that's the Liturgical Year. His birth, life as a child, ministry, death, and resurrection are studied. The Vatican selects readings, psalms, songs, prayers, etc for each day of the year and they are bound in a Missal which you will find in every pew in every Catholic Church in the world. There are three cycles to choose from. Each Dioscese selects the cycle they will use for the year. Nativity Scenes were created in Europe. It snows in Europe and there are different types of animals than you would see in Bethlehem. Catholics don't take the traditional nativity scene literaly, nor do we believe that icons are magical, nor are statues in churches inhabited by sprites or other beings. They are just images, something familiar to look at. The Roman Catholic faith is very old. We have many traditions. Each color on a vestment, each particular scent of incense for a Mass, the Altar Cloth, the gowns the Altar Servers wear has meaning for us and has a story. It is our tie to the ancient church. There has been prejudice based on misunderstanding and hatred against our faith, always. Please do not perpetuate that hatred and misunderstanding by writing articles with incenary headlines. Read the book.

    November 24, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Colin

      But, yo ustill believe a lot of hocus-pocus nonsense, don't you? See my post below.

      November 24, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • End Religion

      "Catholics don't take the traditional nativity scene literaly, nor do we believe that icons are magical, nor are statues in churches inhabited by sprites or other beings."

      No, you wouldn't be caught dead doing such silly things. You only believe in the "monotheism" of a trinity of imaginary gods. LOL!
      All cults build in the "persecution complex" so you can moan and complain when people apply reason to your delusion.

      November 24, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • motionlessinpink

      Colin, why do you care what other people believe ? How does my faith harm you ? I have no desire to convince you that God is real, nor does the Church. Why waste your time reading and then commenting at length on an article about a man you believe is imaginary written by a Pope you don't support? Seems a little silly to me. By the way, Catholics believe in one God not three. Your explanation of the trinity is a Protestant belief not catholic.

      November 24, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • End Religion

      Yeah, the catholics have Mary to pray to. So catholics don't believe in the Father? WHo do you pray to, just Jesus? So you deny the Holy Ghost? You don't believe in the Trinity? Which version of this cult do you subscribe to again?

      November 24, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • motionlessinpink

      Catholics "pray to Mary" ? Really ? and you don't know the difference between the catholic and protestant view of the Trinity ? Really ? Wow, I thought you were the expert here Colin. Check out the Nicene Creed or you could visit the Vatican Library online and do a little research. I promise no one will turn up at your door and try to convert you. If you're going to dis a religion Colin at least get the facts straight.

      November 24, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • End Religion

      – i am not colin
      – i do not claim expertise on religion
      – i do not study science
      This catholic web site provides answers as to why catholics pray to Mary: http://www.ourcatholicfaith.org/prayingtomary.html

      November 24, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • End Religion

      apparently catholics pray to mary to pray to jesus. More ridiculous machinations to avoid being called polytheistic, which is just disingenuous. But that's religion for you:

      November 24, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • End Religion

      you might want to get together with other catholics and fight over this. If you google "catholic pray to mary" you'll find endless catholics who pray to mary. Since I do not have time to take a semester of biblical study and get back to, I will have to assume some of these catholic sites know what they're talking about, and you do not.

      November 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  16. Rev. Charles

    We have been lying to ourselves, and particularly to our kids about Christmas. It is time we discard this fake holiday and focus on the real and true teachings of Jesus Christ. I wish all religious leaders will be honest enough to teach this to their congregations.

    November 24, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Colin

      Well, Rev, why not go the whole way and stop bullshi.tting our children altogether.

      The book debunks some myths. It still leaves a lot in place. Indeed, there are a number of problems in knowing anything about what transpired around the birth of Jesus that appear to be insurmountable.

      The only two accounts we have are in the gospels of Luke and Matthew, both of which were written about 70AD – 74 years after the event. Mark and John do not mention Jesus' birth. No other book of the Bible talks about Jesus’ birth and no other writing from the time does.

      All we have is the accounts in Matthew and Luke. The fact that they were penned 70 years later in an age with virtually no writing would make them suspect, even if Matthew and Luke were interested in historical accuracy, but they were both committed followers of Jesus and wrote in an effort to convert others to their faith (Matthew was writing, it seems, to convert Jews and Luke principally gentiles). Both accounts are riddled with supposed supernatural occurrences. Their credibility is highly questionable to say the least. They also contradict one another in pretty significant ways.

      For a start, both knew they had to claim that Jesus was born in Bayt Lahm ("Bethlehem") in order to claim he was the messiah – as the Torah clearly stated that the messiah would come from Bet Lahm – but they apparently didn’t collaborate in finding a solution.

      In Matthew, Mary and Joseph are originally from Bethlehem. Three wise men come from the East, following a star which is to lead them to the great messiah prophesized by the Torah. King Herod hears of this and calls the three wise men before him in Jerusalem. He asks them to tell him when they find Jesus. The star reappears and they follow it to Bethlehem and present the baby Jesus with gold, frankincense and myrrh. Having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Jerusalem, they hightail it back East.

      Herod hears of this, throws a fit and kills all babies under two years of age in Bethlehem. However, Joseph and Mary have been earlier warned by God in a dream that this is coming and have fled south to Egypt. They stay there until God tells them in another dream that Herod is dead. However, on returning to Bethlehem, they hear that Herod’s son Archelaus has taken the throne in Jerusalem and this poses a continuing threat to the child Jesus, so they continue north to Nazareth in Galilee, where Jesus is raised.

      In Luke, Mary and Joseph are NOT originally from Bethlehem, there are no wise men from the East, no star to be followed, no flight to Egypt, no slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem and no gold, frankincense and myrrh. Instead, Mary and Joseph are originally from Nazareth but have to return to the land of David, their ancestor from 1,000 years ago, to be assessed in a Roman tax imposed under Caesar Augustus. So Joseph and Mary, who is heavily pregnant, set off on the 70 mile trip from Nazareth due south to Bethlehem. There is no room at any inn, so Jesus is born in a manger. Three shepherds in a nearby field are told by a singing chorus of angels that the king of the Jews has been born and they come and pay homage. Eight days later, Jesus is circu.mcised and, after the period of Mary’s “purification” under Jewish law, Jesus is taken to the temple in Jerusalem and presented. In the temple, they offer Yahweh two turtledoves and two pigeons as a sacrifice then return to Nazareth, where Jesus is raised.

      The second problem was that of Jesus’ non-royal pedigree. Israel of the time, although under Roman rule, was a semi-autonomous region under a Roman overseer, not unlike occupied France. It was also was ruled by a paternal hereditary line of Jewish kings. Claiming the throne required ancestry as surely as it did in medieval England (and still does). This hole is also plugged by Matthew and Luke in very different ways.

      They both purport to give a genealogy of Jesus that traces him through Joseph back to David but..….Noticed a problem yet? Jesus’ genealogy? What genealogy? He is supposedly the son of God, born of a virgin. His paternal genealogy is as simple as it gets, isn’t it? Jesus-God. God begat Jesus, end of story. Ah the perils of incorporating pagan virgin birth mythology into pre-existing Jewish cultural tradition.

      Nevertheless, Matthew in Chapter 1 and Luke in Chapter 3 both have a swing at it. They disagree immediately and wildly. They can’t even agree on who Joseph’s father was! Jacob according to Matthew, Heli according to Luke. The names continue back, virtually never agreeing and Matthew has 28 generations tracing Jesus back to David, whereas Luke has 43.

      Then we have the problem of the virgin birth itself. The authors of Matthew and Luke were Greek speaking Jews who had relied on Septuagint, the standardized Greek translation of the Hebrew Torah (or Tanakh to be more accurate). The original Hebrew Book of Isaiah held that the messiah would be born of a “young woman,” it did not say that she was a virgin. But, when the Septuagint was translated into Greek, in about 250 BC in Egypt, the authors mistranslated the Hebrew word for “young girl” – altnah – into the Greek word for virgin – parthenos. Hence, the authors of Matthew and Luke both erroneously felt the need to make Mary a virgin.

      In short, we do not, cannot and likely never will know what transpired around Jesus’ birth. It was most likely a totally normal, nondescript birth much the same as any other at the time. It was only after he found fame as an adult that his followers, like those of any religious or cult leader, felt the need to embellish his birth to supernatural status and fit it into to the expectations of the people they were trying to convince or influence.

      It is a pity really, as it would be a fascinating event were it true. But, unfortunately being interesting, nice, or warmly comforting does not make it true.

      November 24, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • erin andrews perky breasts


      November 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • ???

      Colin, the book does NOT debunk the myths. This is one guys (the pope) thoughts on the subject. Relax.

      November 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  17. barbarianofgor

    Well, I guess if they are going to throw 4 gospels in the trash 'coz the Jews cry about "The Blood Curse" and want to make believe to make it go away, might as well go around edit out anything else inconvenient... Yeah, let's get poor St Simon of Trent and throw that statue in the trash... It used to be "What PART of HIS BLOOD be upon us and our Children's Children's Children until the END of TIME don't you understand!? but "Waaaahhh! All of it! Waaahhh! Oy, vey, you know we own media? We could make it difficult to get on tv..." so whoops, let's just cut out things...ignore things...

    Still, though, this is the same group that screams "Cafeteria Catholic" at those that want them to accept Abortion, birth control, men doing it with other men, priests marrying and by that I mean doing it with Adult Women.... Literally the "Inquisition" is going against a group of nuns that actually go around working for the poor and oppressed.

    FundyMENTAList when it suits them, Liberal when it don't.

    November 24, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • End Religion

      Mankind's entire pantheon, including Jesus son of god and the Abrahamic god itself, never existed. All religion is a fraud. If you suffer from a brand of the delusion that holds any of it as "reality", it is no less crazy than any other.

      November 24, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  18. Tatiana Covington

    It's all a blunder! Time to debunk the whole thing, and all other religions besides.

    November 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  19. Steve Wilkinson

    Q: This is news to?????

    (A: people who don't know about Christianity and are looking for an attempted 'gotcha' or those who didn't pay attention in Church, or had pretty horrible teaching)

    November 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  20. tba

    Never ceases to amaze me how many people there are who aren’t interested in religion or theology, yet will take the time to sit on these forums and throw comments out about a subject which they know nothing about. Why are you even here? Nothing better to do with your time?

    November 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • John

      Please tell us! Did baby Jesus tell you to come hang out?

      November 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • End Religion

      We're here because of your entertainment value.

      Religion is a manmade club like any other, with rules and perks to make the club feel special from other clubs. The club gets together periodically to reinforce the delusions of members. Many branches of this club have dues which most call a tithe.

      You've chosen the club that aligns best with your own fantasy concerning how to minimize your fears in life. You and others in the club are afraid so you've made up a god that soothes you by making decisions for you, helping you feel less alone in the universe, and promising you life everlasting. The various club gods offer perks to induce membership such as seeing dead relatives, virginal sex partners, planets to rule or even one's own god status.

      The Jesus you believe in never existed, was and is king of nothing. The bible is a collection of stolen, modified, pre-fabricated myth and forgeries about a non-existent deity. You don't have to be afraid. You do not need religion.

      Deal with the lack of afterlife by celebrating life and family in the here and now. Be responsible for your own decisions. Be kind to the earth and others on it. Forge a path with determination, or "go with the flow" and let life determine the course if you're the lazy type. Either way, you don't need a god or a club for any of that.

      November 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • SciGuy73

      Most athiests know far more about christianity than most christians do. Athiests bother to learn about it, read the books, and consider them critically and see if they make sense.

      November 24, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.