Nativity of Jesus

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Adoration of the Shepherds by Dutch painter Matthias Stomer, 1632 Adoration of the sheperds - Matthias Stomer.jpg
Adoration of the Shepherds by Dutch painter Matthias Stomer, 1632
Medieval miniature of the Nativity, c. 1350 Meister von Hohenfurth 002.jpg
Medieval miniature of the Nativity, c.1350

The nativity of Jesus, nativity of Christ, birth of Christ or birth of Jesus is described in the Biblical gospels of Luke and Matthew. The two accounts agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, his mother Mary was betrothed 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. [1] [2]


The nativity is the basis for the Christian holiday of Christmas on December 25, and plays a major role in the Christian liturgical year. Many Christians traditionally display small manger scenes depicting the nativity in their homes, or attend Nativity Plays or Christmas pageants focusing on the nativity cycle in the Bible. Elaborate nativity displays called "creche scenes", featuring life-sized statues, are a tradition in many continental European countries during the Christmas season.

Christian congregations of the Western tradition (including the Catholic Church, the Western Rite Orthodox, the Anglican Communion, and many other Protestants, such as the Moravian Church) begin observing the season of Advent four Sundays before Christmas. Christians of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Church observe a similar season, sometimes called Advent but also called the "Nativity Fast", which begins forty days before Christmas. Some Eastern Orthodox Christians (e.g. Greeks and Syrians) celebrate Christmas on December 25. Other Orthodox (e.g. Copts, Ethiopians, Georgians, and Russians) celebrate Christmas on (the Gregorian) January 7 (Koiak 29 on the Coptic calendar) [3] as a result of their churches continuing to follow the Julian calendar, rather than the modern day Gregorian calendar. [4] The Armenian Apostolic Church however continues the original ancient Eastern Christian practice of celebrating the birth of Christ not as a separate holiday, but on the same day as the celebration of his baptism (Theophany), which is on January 6.

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. [5] [6] [7]

Date and place of birth

Altar in the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem Nativity Church15.jpg
Altar in the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Nativity of Jesus, by Botticelli, c. 1473-1475 Botticelli Nativity.jpg
Nativity of Jesus, by Botticelli, c. 1473–1475

The Gospels of both Matthew and Luke place the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. [8] [9] The Gospel of Luke states that Mary gave birth to Jesus and placed him in a manger “because there was no place for them in the inn". [10] The Greek word kataluma may be translated as either “inn” or “guestroom”, and some scholars have speculated that Joseph and Mary may have sought to stay with relatives, rather than at an inn, only to find the house full, whereupon they resorted to the shelter of a room with a manger. This could be a place to keep the sheep within the Bethlehem area, called Migdal Eder ("tower of flock") as prophesied by prophet Micah in Micah 4:8. [11] Although Matthew does not explicitly state Joseph's place of origin or where he lived prior to the birth of Jesus, [12] [13] the account implies that the family lived in Bethlehem. [14] Luke 1:26–27 states that Mary originally lived in Nazareth at the time of the Annunciation, before the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. [13]

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. [15] [16] 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. [17] In Contra Celsum 1.51, Origen, who from around 215 travelled throughout Palestine, wrote of the "manger of Jesus". [18]

The date of birth for Jesus of Nazareth is not stated in the gospels or in any secular text, but a majority of scholars assume a date between 6 BC and 4 BC. [19] The historical evidence is too ambiguous to allow a definitive dating, [20] but the date has been estimated through known historical events mentioned in the Gospels of Luke chapter 2 and Matthew or by working backwards from the estimated start of the ministry of Jesus. [21] [22] Luke 2:1 states that Jesus was born when "Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria." All that is generally accepted is that Jesus was born before circa 4 BC, the estimated year of Herod's death. [23]

Like the Christian Gospels, Islam places the virgin birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. [24] [25] [26]

New Testament narratives

The two accounts: Matthew and Luke

Of the four canonical gospels, only two offer narratives regarding the birth of Jesus: Matthew ( Matthew 1:18-25 , plus a genealogy of Joseph at Matthew 1:1-17 ) and Luke ( Luke 2:1-7 , plus a genealogy of Joseph at Luke 3:21-38 ). Of these two, only Luke offers the details of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem.

Gospel of Matthew

A page from the 11th-century Bamberg Apocalypse showing Matthew 1:21 BambergApocalypse06LargeInitialE.JPG
A page from the 11th-century Bamberg Apocalypse showing Matthew 1:21

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 Mary as his wife and name the child Jesus, because he would save his people from their sins. Joseph awoke and did all that the angel commanded.

The infancy gospel is part of the Matthean Prologue in 1:1-4,16. In the main section 1:1.18-4:16 Jesus is introduced as the son of David, Joseph and God with the help of the noun "son", while Matthew in 1:2-17 portrays the origin of Jesus Christ with the help of the verb "to give or give birth". [27]

Chapter 1 of Matthew's Gospel recounts Jesus's birth and naming [28] and the beginning of chapter 2 states that Jesus was born in Bethlehem during the time of Herod the Great. Magi from the east came to Herod and asked him where they would find the King of the Jews, because they had seen his star. Advised by the chief priests and teachers, Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem, where they worshiped the child and gave him gifts. When they had departed, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him to take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, for Herod intended to kill him. The Holy Family remained in Egypt until Herod died, when Joseph took them to Nazareth in Galilee for fear of Herod's son who now ruled in Jerusalem.

Gospel of Luke

Angel Gabriel's Annunciation to Mary, by Murillo, c. 1655 Bartolome Esteban Perez Murillo 023.jpg
Angel Gabriel's Annunciation to Mary, by Murillo, c. 1655

In the days 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 and 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. So it came to pass that Jesus was born in Bethlehem; and 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. There "the child grew and became strong, and was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him." Each year his parents went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and when Jesus was twelve years old they found him in the Temple listening to the teachers and asking questions so that "all who heard him were amazed". His mother rebuked him for causing them anxiety, because his family had not known where he was, but he answered that he was in his Father's house. "Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them, but his mother treasured all these things in her heart, and Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man."

Themes and analogies

Thematic analysis

Gospel of Matthew from an Ethiopian Bible, 1700 Matthew's Gospel - British Library Add. MS 59874 Ethiopian Bible.jpg
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, according to Koester, while shepherds were regarded negatively by Jews in Jesus's 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 the Book of Genesis ( chapter 27–43 ). [30] 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. [31] 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. [32]

Mainstream scholars interpret Matthew's nativity as depicting Jesus as a new Moses with a genealogy going back to Abraham, [33] [34] 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. [35] 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) [36]

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. [37] In this view, the account in Matthew is based on an earlier narrative patterned on traditions about the birth of Moses. Moses's 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. [33] [37]

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) is reminiscent of the biblical accounts of the births of Ishmael (Genesis 16:11, Genesis 17), Isaac (Genesis 21:1), and Samson (Judges 13:3, Judges 13:5), and it 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." [35]

Old Testament parallels

A page from the Codex Sinaiticus, 4th century Codex of Sinay.jpg
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". [38] 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." [39] Raymond E. Brown states that the 3rd century BCE translators of the Septuagint may have understood the Hebrew word "almah" to mean virgin in this context. [39]

The statement in Matthew 2:23 "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. [40] Barbara Aland and other scholars consider the Greek "Ναζωραίος" (Nazoréos) used for Nazarene of uncertain etymology and meaning, [41] but M. J. J. Menken states that it is a demonym that refers to an "inhabitant of Nazareth". [42] Menken also states that it may be referring to Judges 13:5, 7. [43] Gary Smith states that Nazirite may mean one consecrated to God, i.e. an ascetic; or may refer to Isaiah 11:1. [44] The Oxford Bible Commentary states that it may be word-play on the use of "nazirite," "Holy One of God," in Isaiah 4:3, meant to identify Jesus with the Nazarenes, a Jewish sect who differed from the Pharisees only in regarding Jesus as the Messiah. [37] The Swiss theologian Ulrich Luz, who locates the Matthean community in Syria, has noted that Syrian Christians also called themselves Nazarenes. [45]

Christian theology

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. [46] [47] [48] 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 Geertgen tot Sint Jans, The Nativity at Night, c 1490.jpg
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. [49] [50] [51] [52]

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. [53] 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. [53]

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. [54]

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. [53] [55] [56] 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. [23]

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." [47] [48]

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 Virgin 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. [57]

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 Saint 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. [58]

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 (i.e. happy fall) and was intertwined with the popular teachings on the fall from grace of Adam and Eve. [59] Augustine was fond of a statement on Nativity by Saint Gregory of Nyssa and he quoted it five times: "Venerate the Nativity, through which you are freed from the bonds of an earthly nativity". [60] And he liked to quote: "Just as in Adam all of us died, so too in Christ all of us will be brought to life". [60] [61]

The theology persisted into the Protestant Reformation, and second Adam was one of the six modes of atonement discussed by John Calvin. [62] 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. [46]


In Summa Theologiae, (1471 copy shown here) Thomas Aquinas addressed many of the open Christological questions regarding the Nativity of Jesus. SummaTheologiae.jpg
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. [63] [64]

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. [65] [66] [67] [68]

The salvific emphasis of Matthew 1:21 later impacted the theological issues and the devotions to the Holy Name of Jesus. [69] [70] [71] 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. [72] 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. [72] [73] 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. [74]

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). [75] [76] 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. [77] [78] [79] [80]

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. [81] 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. [65]

In the 13th century Saint Thomas Aquinas addressed the Christologocal attribution of the nativity: Should it 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. [82] To deal with this issue, Aquinas distinguishes between the person born and the nature in which the birth takes place. [83] 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". [83]

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. [84]

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. Advent Wreath (Broadway United Methodist Church).jpg
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. [85] This is not a disagreement over the date of Christmas as such, but rather a preference of which calendar 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", thus giving significance to both the Western and Eastern dates of Christmas. [86] [87] [88] [89] [90] The liturgical season of Advent precedes, and is used to prepare for the celebration of Christmas. [91] Customs of the Christmas season include completing an Advent daily devotional and Advent wreath, [92] carol singing, [93] gift giving, [94] seeing Nativity plays, [95] attending church services, [96] and eating special food, such as Christmas cake. [97] In many countries, such as Sweden, people start to set up their Advent and Christmas decorations on the first day of Advent. [98] [99] Liturgically, this is done in some parishes through a hanging of the greens ceremony. [100]

History of feasts and liturgical elements

Nativity scene in Baumkirchen, Austria Dorfkrippe Baumkirchen.jpg
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. [101] 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. [102] 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. [103]

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. [104] 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. [105] 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. [105]

Christmas Eve Nativity at Resurrection Lutheran Church, Fredericksburg, Virginia NativityofJesus.jpg
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, Saint John Chrysostom provides specific information about the feast there, stating that the feast had existed for about 10 years. [105] 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. [105]

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. [106] In the 6th century, Emperor Justinian declared Christmas to be a legal holiday. [107]

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. [108]

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. [109]

Transforming the image of Jesus

Paper on wood Nativity scene from 1750, Milan, presenting a tender image of Jesus 8452 - Milano - S. Marco - Londonio - Presepe (ca 1750) - Foto G. Dall'Orto - 14-Apr-2007.jpg
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. [110] The use of the word Kyrios in the Septuagint Bible also assigned to Jesus the Old Testament attributes of an omnipotent God. [110] The use of the term Kyrios, and hence the Lordship of Jesus, pre-dated the Pauline epistles, but Saint Paul expanded and elaborated on that topic. [110]

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 εἰκώνeikōn) 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. [111] 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. [112]

The lordship attributes associated with the Kyrios image of Jesus also implied his power over all creation. [113] [114] 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. [115] 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. [114]

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 Saint 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. [5] 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. [6] 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. [7]

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. [7] 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. [7] 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. [116] [117]

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. [118] [119]

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. [120] These "Gospel canticles" are now an integral part of the Christian liturgical tradition. [121] 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. [122]

The Magnificat, in Luke 1:46–55 , is spoken by Mary and is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns, perhaps the earliest Marian hymn. [123] The Benedictus, in Luke 1:68–79 , is spoken by Zechariah, while the Nunc dimittis, in Luke 2:29–32 , is spoken by Simeon. [124] The traditional Gloria in Excelsis is longer than the opening line presented in Luke 2:14 , and is often called the "Song of the Angels" given that it was uttered by the angels in the Annunciation to the Shepherds. [125]

The three canticles Benedictus, Nunc Dimittis and the Magnificat, if not originating with Luke himself, may have their roots in the earliest Christian liturgical services in Jerusalem, but their exact origins remain unknown. [126]

Visual arts

Annunciation by Nesterov, 19th century, Russia Annunciation nesterov.jpg
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 Saint Francis of Assisi [127] [128] who was described as creating such a display at Greccio, Italy, in 1223 [127] [129] [130] as related by St. Bonaventure in his Life of Saint Francis of Assisi written around 1260. [131]

Before the manger scene tradition 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. [132]

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. [133]

In the Eastern Church icons of 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." [134] 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. [134]

Hymns, music and performances

The Nativity depicted in an English liturgical manuscript, c. 1310-1320 Nativity 01.jpg
The Nativity depicted in an English liturgical manuscript, c. 1310–1320
A Christmas carol card, Boston, 1880 1880 Christmas Osgood.png
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 Saint Ambrose in 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. [132] The Magnificat , one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn, is based on the Annunciation. [123] [124]

Saint 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. [135] Re-enactments of Nativity which are now called Nativity plays were part of the troparion hymns in the liturgy of Byzantine Rite Churches, from St. Sophronius in the 7th century. [136] By the 13th century, the Franciscans had encouraged a strong tradition of popular Christmas songs in the native languages. [137] Christmas carols in English first appear in a 1426 work of John Awdlay, a Shropshire chaplain, who lists twenty-five "caroles of Cristemas". [138]

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. The Christmas carols have come to be viewed as a cultural-signature of the Nativity of Jesus. [139]

Most musical Nativity narrations are not biblical and did not come about until church music assimilated opera in the 17th century. But thereafter there was a torrent of new music, e.g., 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. And Lisz's Christus , Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ (1850), Camille Saint-Saëns's Christmas Oratorio (1858), etc. [139] John Milton's classic 1629 poem Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity was used by John McEwan in 1901. [139]

Historical analysis

Traditional views

Beginning of a Byzantine copy of the Gospel of Luke, 1020 Byzantinischer Maler um 1020 003.jpg
Beginning of a Byzantine copy of the Gospel of Luke, 1020

According to Christian fundamentalism, the two accounts are historically accurate and do not contradict each other, [140] 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. [141] [142] 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. [143] [144] [145] [146] [147]

Neither Luke nor Matthew claims their birth narratives are based on direct testimony. [148] 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. [149]

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. [150] [151] [152]

Critical analysis

Many modern scholars consider the birth narratives unhistorical because they are laced with theology and present two different accounts. [153] [154] 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. [155]

Comparison between the Lukan and Matthean Nativity narratives
Gospel according to LukeGospel according to Matthew
Nativity of Jesus map - Gospel of Luke.png

1. Annunciation to Mary in Nazareth
2. Census of Quirinius (6–7 CE)
3. Joseph and Mary travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem
4. Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
5. Annunciation to the shepherds in the fields
6. Adoration of the shepherds in Bethlehem
7. Presentation of Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem

8. Joseph, Mary and Jesus return home to Nazareth

Nativity of Jesus map - Gospel of Matthew.png

1. Annunciation to Joseph

2. Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
3. Magi visit Herod in Jerusalem
4. Adoration of the Magi in Bethlehem

5. Joseph, Mary and Jesus' Flight into Egypt
6. Massacre of the Innocents in Bethlehem
7. Death of Herod (4 BCE)
8. Joseph, Mary and Jesus return to Israel
9. Joseph, Mary and Jesus relocate to Nazareth

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 M source for Matthew and L source for Luke, which were added later. [156]

Scholars consider the accounts in Luke and Matthew as explaining the birth in Bethlehem in different ways, giving separate genealogies of Jesus and probably not historical. [153] [157] [158] [159] [160] 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. [161] [162] [163] 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 other have hypothesized locations as far away as Chorazin. [164] 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. [165] [166] 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. [167]

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. [158]

Many scholars do not see the Luke and Matthew nativity stories as historically factual. [157] [158] [168] Many view the discussion of historicity as secondary, given that gospels were primarily written as theological documents rather than chronological timelines. [169] [170] [171] [172]

For instance, Matthew pays far more attention to the name of the child and its theological implications than the actual birth event itself. [173] According to Karl Rahner the evangelists show little interest in synchronizing the episodes of the birth or subsequent life of Jesus with the secular history of the age. [174] As a result, modern scholars do not use much of the birth narratives for historical information. [153] [159] Nevertheless, they are considered to contain some useful biographical information: Jesus being born near the end of Herod's reign and his father being named Joseph are considered historically plausible. [153] [175]

See also

Related Research Articles

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The Acts of the Apostles, often referred to simply as Acts, or formally the Book of Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; it tells of the founding of the Christian church and the spread of its message to the Roman Empire.

Gospel of Mark Book of the New Testament

The Gospel according to Mark, also called the Gospel of Mark, or simply Mark, is the second of the four canonical gospels and of the three synoptic gospels. It tells of the ministry of Jesus from his baptism by John the Baptist to his death and burial and the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb. There is no miraculous birth or doctrine of divine pre-existence, nor, in the original ending, any post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. It portrays Jesus as a heroic man of action, an exorcist, a healer, and a miracle worker. He is also the Son of God, but keeps his messianic nature secret, with even his disciples failing to understand him. All this is in keeping with prophecy, which foretold the fate of the messiah as suffering servant. The gospel ends, in its original version, with the discovery of the empty tomb, a promise to meet again in Galilee, and an unheeded instruction to spread the good news of the resurrection.

Gospel of Luke Book of the New Testament

The Gospel according to Luke, also called the Gospel of Luke, or simply Luke, tells of the origins, birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Together with the Acts of the Apostles it makes up a two-volume work which scholars call Luke–Acts; together they account for 27.5% of the New Testament. The combined work divides the history of first-century Christianity into three stages, with the gospel making up the first two of these – the arrival among men of Jesus the Messiah, from his birth to the beginning of his earthly mission in the meeting with John the Baptist followed by his earthly ministry, Passion, death, and resurrection.

Gospel of Matthew Book of the New Testament

The Gospel according to Matthew, also called the Gospel of Matthew, or simply Matthew, is the first book of the New Testament and one of the three synoptic Gospels. It tells how Israel's Messiah, rejected and executed in Israel, pronounces judgement on Israel and its leaders and becomes the salvation of the gentiles. The gospel reflects the struggles and conflicts between the evangelist's community and the other Jews, particularly with its sharp criticism of the scribes and Pharisees: before the Crucifixion they are referred to as Israelites, the honorific title of God's chosen people; after it, they are called simply Ioudaioi ("Jews"), a sign that through their rejection of the Christ the "Kingdom of Heaven" has been taken away from them and given instead to the church.

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Gospel Books which describe the life and teachings of Jesus

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Matthew the Apostle Christian evangelist and apostle

Matthew the Apostle, also known as Saint Matthew and as Levi, was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. According to Christian tradition, he was also one of the four Evangelists and thus is also known as Matthew the Evangelist.

Virgin birth of Jesus Belief that Jesus was conceived without the agency of a human father and born while Mary was still a virgin

The virgin birth of Jesus is the doctrine that Jesus was conceived and born by his mother Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit and without sexual intercourse with her husband Joseph. The Orthodox churches accept it as authoritative by reason of its inclusion in the Nicene Creed, the Catholic church likewise holds it authoritative for faith through the Apostles' Creed as well as the Nicene, and Protestants regard it as an explanation of the mixture of the human and divine natures of Jesus; but although it has clear scriptural backing in two gospels, the consensus of modern scholars is that its historical foundations are very flimsy.

Transfiguration of Jesus Episode in the life of Jesus

The transfiguration of Jesus is a story told in the New Testament when Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant in glory upon a mountain. The Synoptic Gospels describe it, and the Second Epistle of Peter also refers to it. It has also been hypothesized that the first chapter of the Gospel of John alludes to it John 1:14).

Jesus in Christianity Jesus in Christianity

In Christianity, Jesus is the Son of God and in many mainstream Christian denominations he is God the Son, the second Person in the Trinity. He is believed to be the Jewish messiah who is prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, which is called the Old Testament in Christianity. It is believed that through his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, God offered humans salvation and eternal life, that Jesus died to atone for sin to make humanity right with God.

Perpetual virginity of Mary Doctrine that Mary was "always a virgin, before, during and after the birth of Christ"

The perpetual virginity of Mary is the doctrine that Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, was a virgin ante partum, in partu, et post partum - before, during and after the birth of Christ. It is one of the four Marian dogmas of the Catholic Church, and is held also by the Eastern Orthodox Churches in Eastern Christianity and by some Lutherans and Anglicans in Western Christianity.

Legion (demons) Demon or group of demons

Legion is a demon or group of demons, particularly those in two of three versions of the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, an account in the New Testament of an incident in which Jesus performs an exorcism.

Jesus in comparative mythology

The study of Jesus in comparative mythology is the examination of the narratives of the life of Jesus in the Christian gospels, traditions and theology, as they relate to Christianity and other religions. Although the vast majority of New Testament scholars and historians of the ancient Near East agree that Jesus existed as a historical figure, most secular historians also agree that the gospels contain large quantities of ahistorical legendary details mixed in with historical information about Jesus's life. The Synoptic Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke are heavily shaped by Jewish tradition, with the Gospel of Matthew deliberately portraying Jesus as a "new Moses". Although it is highly unlikely that the authors of the Synoptic Gospels directly based any of their stories on pagan mythology, it is possible that they may have subtly shaped their accounts of Jesus's healing miracles to resemble familiar Greek stories about miracles associated with Asclepius, the god of healing and medicine. The birth narratives of Matthew and Luke are usually seen by secular historians as legends designed to fulfill Jewish expectations about the Messiah.

The Census of Quirinius was a census of Judea taken by Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, Roman governor of Syria, upon the imposition of direct Roman rule in 6 CE. The Gospel of Luke uses it as the narrative means to establish the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, but Luke places the birth within the reign of Herod the Great, who died 9 years earlier. No satisfactory explanation of the contradiction seems possible, and most scholars think that the author of the gospel made an error.

Crucifixion darkness An episode in three of the gospels in which the sky becomes dark in daytime during the crucifixion of Jesus.

The crucifixion darkness is an episode in three of the canonical gospels in which the sky becomes dark in daytime during the crucifixion of Jesus.

Authorship of the Bible

Table I gives an overview of the periods and dates ascribed to the various books of the Bible. Tables II, III and IV outline the conclusions of the majority of contemporary scholars on the composition of the Hebrew Bible, the deuterocanonical works, and the New Testament.

Jewish–Christian gospels Gospels of a Jewish Christian character

The Jewish–Christian Gospels were gospels of a Jewish Christian character quoted by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius, Jerome and probably Didymus the Blind. Most modern scholars have concluded that there was one gospel in Aramaic/Hebrew and at least two in Greek, although a minority argue that there were only two, Aramaic/Hebrew and Greek.

The historical reliability of the Gospels refers to the reliability and historic character of the four New Testament gospels as historical documents. While all four canonical gospels contain some sayings and events which may meet one or more of the five criteria for historical reliability used in biblical studies, the assessment and evaluation of these elements is a matter of ongoing debate. Almost all scholars of antiquity agree that a human Jesus existed, but scholars differ on the historicity of specific episodes described in the Biblical accounts of Jesus, and the only two events subject to "almost universal assent" are that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate. Elements whose historical authenticity is disputed include the two accounts of the Nativity of Jesus, the miraculous events including the resurrection, and certain details about the crucifixion.

Oral gospel traditions

Oral gospel traditions, cultural information passed on from one generation to the next by word of mouth, were the first stage in the formation of the written gospels. These oral traditions included different types of stories about Jesus. For example, people told anecdotes about Jesus healing the sick and debating with his opponents. The traditions also included sayings attributed to Jesus, such as parables and teachings on various subjects which, along with other sayings, formed the oral gospel tradition.

The date of birth of Jesus is not stated in the gospels or in any historical reference, but most theologians assume a year of birth between 6 and 4 BC. The historical evidence is too incomplete to allow a definitive dating, but the year is estimated through three different approaches: (A) by analyzing references to known historical events mentioned in the nativity accounts in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, (B) by working backward from the estimation of the start of the ministry of Jesus, and (C) astrological or astronomical alignments. The day or season has been estimated by various methods, including the description of shepherds watching over their sheep.



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  69. All the Doctrines of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer 1988 ISBN   0-310-28051-6 p. 159
  70. Matthew 1–13 by Manlio Simonetti 2001 ISBN   0-8308-1486-8 p. 17
  71. Matthew 1-2/ Luke 1–2 by Louise Perrotta 2004 ISBN   0-8294-1541-6 p. 19
  72. 1 2 Matthew's Emmanuel by David D. Kupp 1997 ISBN   0-521-57007-7 pp. 220–224
  73. 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
  74. The theology of the Gospel of Matthew by Ulrich Luz 1995 ISBN   0-521-43576-5 p. 31
  75. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, Vol XIV p. 207, translated edition by H.R. Percival.
  76. 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
  77. The acts of the Council of Chalcedon by Council of Chalcedon, Richard Price, Michael Gaddis 2006 ISBN   0-85323-039-0 pp. 1–5
  78. The creed: the apostolic faith in contemporary theology by Berard L. Marthaler 2007 ISBN   0-89622-537-2 p. 114
  79. Essential theological terms by Justo L. González 2005 ISBN   0-664-22810-0 p. 120
  80. Doctrine and practice in the early church by Stuart George Hall 1992 ISBN   0-8028-0629-5 pp. 211–218
  81. Leo the Great by Pope Leo I, Bronwen Neil 2009 ISBN   0-415-39480-5 pp. 61–62
  82. Summa Theologica, Volume 4 (Part III, First Section) by St. Thomas Aquinas 207 Cosimo Classics ISBN   1-60206-560-8 pp. 2197–2211
  83. 1 2 Aquinas on doctrine: a critical introduction by Thomas Gerard Weinandy, John Yocum 2004 ISBN   0-567-08411-6 p. 98
  84. Calvin's Catholic Christology by E. David Willis 1966 Published by E.J. Brill, Netherlands, p. 83
  85. Inc, World Book (1987). Christmas in the Holy Land. World Book Encyclopedia. p. 58. ISBN   9780716608875.
  86. 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.
  87. 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.
  88. 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.
  89. 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.
  90. 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.
  91. The Church of England Magazine, Volume 49. J. Burns. 1860. p. 369.
  92. 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.
  93. 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.
  94. 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.
  95. Collins, Ace (2010). Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. Zondervan. pp. 139–141. ISBN   9780310873884.
  96. 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...
  97. 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.
  98. 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.
  99. 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.
  100. 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.
  101. An introductory dictionary of theology and religious studies by Orlando O. Espín, James B. Nickoloff 2007 ISBN   0-8146-5856-3 p. 237
  102. The journey of the Magi: meanings in history of a Christian story by Richard C. Trexler 1997 ISBN   0-691-01126-5 p. 9
  103. Christian worship in Reformed Churches past and present by Lukas Vischer 2002 ISBN   0-8028-0520-5 pp. 400–401
  104. 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.
  105. 1 2 3 4 Aspects of the liturgical year in Cappadocia (325–430) by Jill Burnett Comings 2005 ISBN   0-8204-7464-9 pp. 61–71
  106. Sacred Christmas Music by Ronald M. Clancy 2008 ISBN   1-4027-5811-1 pp. 15–19
  107. The Feast of Christmas by Joseph F. Kelly 2010 ISBN   0-8146-3325-0 pp. 331–391
  108. Pastor and laity in the theology of Jean Gerson by Dorothy Catherine Brown 1987 ISBN   0-521-33029-7 p. 32
  109. The Feast of Christmas by Joseph F. Kelly 2010 ISBN   0-8146-3325-0 pp. 112–114
  110. 1 2 3 Mercer dictionary of the Bible by Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard 1998 ISBN   0-86554-373-9 pp. 520–525
  111. Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity by Larry W. Hurtado 2005 ISBN   0-8028-3167-2 pp. 113 and 179
  112. II Corinthians: a commentary by Frank J. Matera 2003 ISBN   0-664-22117-3 pp. 11–13
  113. Philippians 2:10
  114. 1 2 Christology: Biblical And Historical by Mini S. Johnson, 2005 ISBN   81-8324-007-0 pp. 74–76
  115. Christology: Biblical And Historical by Mini S. Johnson ISBN p. 211
  116. La vida sacra: contemporary Hispanic sacramental theology by James L. Empereur, Eduardo Fernández 2006 ISBN   0-7425-5157-1 pp. 3–5
  117. Philippines by Lily Rose R. Tope, Detch P. Nonan-Mercado 2005 ISBN   0-7614-1475-4 p. 109
  118. Christology: Key Readings in Christian Thought by Jeff Astley, David Brown, Ann Loades 2009 ISBN   0-664-23269-8 p. 106
  119. Williams, Rowan Ponder these things 2002 ISBN   1-85311-362-X p. 7
  120. An Introduction to the Bible by Robert Kugler, Patrick Hartin ISBN   0-8028-4636-X p. 394
  121. Mercer dictionary of the Bible by Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard 1998 ISBN   0-86554-373-9 p. 396
  122. 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
  123. 1 2 The History and Use of Hymns and Hymn-Tunes by David R Breed 2009 ISBN   1-110-47186-6 p. 17
  124. 1 2 Favourite Hymns by Marjorie Reeves 2006 ISBN   0-8264-8097-7 pp. 3–5
  125. All the music of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer 2004 ISBN   1-56563-531-0 p. 120
  126. 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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  128. Thomas, George F.. Vitality of the Christian Tradition. Ayer Co. Publishing, 1944.
  129. Johnson, Kevin Orlin. Why Do Catholics Do That? Random House, Inc., 1994.
  130. Mazar, Peter and Evelyn Grala. To Crown the Year: Decorating the Church Through the Year. Liturgy Training, 1995. ISBN   1-56854-041-8
  131. St. Bonaventure. "The Life of St. Francis of Assisi". e-Catholic 2000. Archived from the original on 14 June 2014. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
  132. 1 2 The Feast of Christmas by Joseph F. Kelly 2010 ISBN   0-8146-3325-0 pp. 22–31
  133. The mystical language of icons by Solrunn Nes 2005 ISBN   0-8028-2916-3 p. 43
  134. 1 2 The meaning of icons by Leonide Ouspensky, Vladimir Lossky 1999 ISBN   0-913836-77-X p. 157
  135. Church Fathers and Teachers: From Saint Leo the Great to Peter Lombard by Pope Benedict XVI 2010 ISBN   1-58617-317-0 p. 32
  136. Wellesz, Egon (1947). "The Nativity Drama of the Byzantine Church". Journal of Roman Studies. 37 (1–2): 145–151. doi:10.2307/298465. JSTOR   298465.
  137. Miles, Clement, Christmas customs and traditions, Dover 1976, ISBN   0-486-23354-5, pp. 31–37
  138. Miles, Clement, Christmas customs and traditions, Dover 1976, ISBN   0-486-23354-5, pp. 47–48
  139. 1 2 3 Jesus in history, thought, and culture: an encyclopedia, Volume 1 by James Leslie Houlden 2003 ISBN   1-57607-856-6 pp. 631–635
  140. Mark D. Roberts Can We Trust the Gospels?: Investigating the Reliability of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John Good News Publishers, 2007 p. 102
  141. The Origins of the Gospel According to St. Matthew by George Dunbar Kilpatrick 2007 ISBN   0-86516-667-6 p. 54
  142. The Gospel according to Luke by Michael Patella 2005 ISBN   0-8146-2862-1 pp. 9–10
  143. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia by Geoffrey W. Bromiley 1988 ISBN   0-8028-3785-9 p. 685
  144. John Bernard Orchard, 1983 Synopsis of the Four Gospels ISBN   0-567-09331-X pp. 4–12
  145. The horizontal line synopsis of the Gospels by Reuben J. Swanson 1984 ISBN   0-87808-744-3 page xix
  146. Gospel Parallels by Burton H. Throckmorton 1992 ISBN   0-8407-7484-2 pp. 2–7
  147. Steven L. Cox, Kendell H. Easley, 2007 Harmony of the Gospels ISBN   0-8054-9444-8 pp. 289–290
  148. Lord Jesus Christ by Larry W. Hurtado 2005 ISBN   0-8028-3167-2 p. 322
  149. Lincoln 2013, p. 144.
  150. McKenzie, John L. (1995). Dictionary of the Bible. Touchstone.
  151. Brown, Raymond Edward (1977). The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. ISBN   978-0-385-05907-7.
  152. Daniel J. Harrington 1991 The Gospel of Matthew ISBN   0-8146-5803-2 pp. 45–49
  153. 1 2 3 4 The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible: Volume 3 Abingdon Press, 2008. pp. 42, 269–70.
  154. Brown, Raymond Edward (1999-05-18). The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library). Yale University Press. p. 36. ISBN   978-0-300-14008-8.
  155. 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.
  156. 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.
  157. 1 2 Vermes, Géza (2006-11-02). The Nativity: History and Legend. Penguin Books Ltd. p. 64. ISBN   978-0-14-102446-2.
  158. 1 2 3 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.
  159. 1 2 Jeremy Corley New Perspectives on the Nativity Continuum International Publishing Group, 2009 p. 22.
  160. Wright, Tom (March 2004). Luke for Everyone. London: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 39. ISBN   978-0-664-22784-5.
  161. Vermes, Géza (2006-11-02). The Nativity: History and Legend. Penguin Books Ltd. p. 22. ISBN   978-0-14-102446-2.
  162. Sanders, Ed Parish (1993). The Historical Figure of Jesus. London: Allen Lane. p. 85. ISBN   978-0-7139-9059-1.
  163. 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.
  164. The birth of the Messiah by Raymond Brown 1993 ISBN   0-385-47202-1 p. 513
  165. Oshri, Aviram (November–December 2005). "Where was Jesus Born?". Archaeology . 58 (6). Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  166. Chilton, Bruce (2006), "Recovering Jesus' Mamzerut", in Charlesworth, James H. (ed.), Jesus and Archaeology, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, pp. 95–96, ISBN   9780802848802
  167. Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus edited by Tom Holmen and Stanley E. Porter (Jan 12, 2011) ISBN   9004163727 pages 3411–3412
  168. 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."
  169. Interpreting Gospel Narratives: Scenes, People, and Theology by Timothy Wiarda 2010 ISBN   0-8054-4843-8 pp. 75–78
  170. Jesus, the Christ: Contemporary Perspectives by Brennan R. Hill 2004 ISBN   1-58595-303-2 p. 89
  171. The Gospel of Luke by Timothy Johnson 1992 ISBN   0-8146-5805-9 p. 72
  172. Recovering Jesus: the witness of the New Testament Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld 2007 ISBN   1-58743-202-1 p. 111
  173. Matthew by Thomas G. Long 1997 ISBN   0-664-25257-5 pp. 14–15
  174. Encyclopedia of theology: a concise Sacramentum mundi by Karl Rahner 2004 ISBN   0-86012-006-6 p. 731
  175. Bruce M. Metzger, Michael D. Coogan, The Oxford Guide to People & Places of the Bible. Oxford University Press US, 2004. p. 137


Nativity of Jesus
Preceded by
Mary visits Elizabeth
New Testament
Succeeded by
Annunciation to the shepherds