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.
Mary takes the donkey in and names him Bo, and reveals to Joseph that she is pregnant, with Joseph accepting Mary’s situation after praying to God.
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).
The birth of Christ may be the most famous Bible story of all, reprised annually in nativity scenes across the world each Christmas: Jesus was born in a stable , because there was no room at the inn.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Myrrh being commonly used as an anointing oil, frankincense as a perfume, and gold as a valuable. The three gifts had a spiritual meaning: gold as a symbol of kingship on earth, frankincense (an incense) as a symbol of deity, and myrrh (an embalming oil) as a symbol of death.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Mary and Joseph seem to already live in Bethlehem, and Jesus is born in a house. Mary did not ride to Bethlehem on a donkey . Nowhere in any Gospel does it say that Mary did anything but walk.
They had to travel 90 miles to the city of Joseph’s ancestors: south along the flatlands of the Jordan River, then west over the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and on into Bethlehem . “It was a fairly grueling trip,” said Strange, who annually leads an excavation team at the ancient city of Sepphoris, near Nazareth .
As the Christmas season approaches, the image of Jesus ‘ birth in the manger — complete with Mary and Joseph kneeling over the infant, the three wise men, an angel and the animals looking on — will be seen everywhere. But research reveals that there was most likely someone else in the background. A midwife.
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.
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).