Most representations of Jesus’ birth show donkeys , cows , and sheep watching over the Holy Family and a camel or two arriving with the Three Kings.
Only Luke mentions a manger, shepherds and a chorus of angels. There’s no mention in either version that Mary rode into Bethlehem on a donkey . And there’s no mention of any animals in the stable — though one can assume some were present.
Luke, however, gives us an account of the long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem – and the visit of the shepherds. The first animal we might expect to meet in the Christmas story is the dutiful donkey , the faithful beast of burden carrying the pregnant Mary on its back.
The number of shepherds shown varies also, though three is typical in the West; one or more dogs may be included, as in the Taddeo Gaddi (right, with red collar).
Only One Animal Is Not Mentioned in the Bible The one and only animal, that was not mentioned in the Bible is the cat . Some people say that the cat was mentioned in the original scriptures, but then deleted by some of the early writers of the Bible because they associated the cat with the Egyptians.
The magi knelt down for the baby Jesus and “offered him gifts of gold , frankincense , and myrrh .” Their gifts are possibly an allusion to Isaiah’s vision of nations rendering tribute to Jerusalem: “A multitude of camels shall cover you.
The family living area would usually have hollows in the ground, filled with straw, in the living area, where the animals would feed.” So Jesus would not have been born in a detached stable , but in the lower floor of a peasant house, where the animals were kept.
To understand the Star of Bethlehem , we need to think like the three wise men. Motivated by this “star in the east,” they first traveled to Jerusalem and told King Herod the prophecy that a new ruler of the people of Israel would be born.
The shepherds were quietly getting on with their own business when suddenly an angel appeared to them. The angel’s words to them told them of Jesus and his amazing birth and how they could recognise him in a very crowded town.
Some apocryphal accounts state that at the time of her betrothal to Joseph, Mary was 12–14 years old . According to ancient Jewish custom, Mary could have been betrothed at about 12. Hyppolitus of Thebes says that Mary lived for 11 years after the death of her son Jesus, dying in 41 AD.
Most of the ancient commentators of the Bible interpreted it as meaning that Joseph was law abiding, and as such decided to divorce Mary in keeping with Mosaic Law when he found her pregnant by another. However, his righteousness was tempered by mercy and he thus kept the affair private.
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”. Luke 1:26–27 states that Mary originally lived in Nazareth at the time of the Annunciation, before the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
Traditional nativity scenes depict three ” Wise Men ” visiting the infant Jesus on the night of his birth, in a manger accompanied by the shepherds and angels, but this should be understood as an artistic convention allowing the two separate scenes of the Adoration of the Shepherds on the birth night and the later
Bethlehem lies 10 kilometres south of the city of Jerusalem, in the fertile limestone hill country of the Holy Land. Since at least the 2nd century AD people have believed that the place where the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem , now stands is where Jesus was born.
Matthew calls the visitors “Magi” (wise men) and they may well have been astrologers , following the sign of a special star in the sky. They probably came from Persia . The Magi could have come to visit weeks or even months after the shepherds visited , when Mary and Joseph had found accommodation in a house (verse 11).