Christmas Bible Quiz: the Answers

At the level of demonstrable factual accuracy, every single one is False, i.e., NOT true according to the Bible. It’s possible that one or two are actually true, but the bible gives no information from which one can conclude that. See below for some explanations.

1. Mary’s Immaculate Conception. ‘The Immaculate Conception’ is the absurd Roman Catholic dogma that Mary herself was conceived in a state of eternally perpetual grace, so that the efficacy of the cross did not need to be applied to her in (or after) her lifetime on earth. It’s not necessarily quite the same as saying she was sinless, or that she was born without original sin (though some think thus); rather, it states that Mary was born without the stain of original sin, that she was born with the effects of grace already applied. Some people mistakenly think that the ‘Immaculate Conception’ is another term for the virgin conception of Jesus – not so.

2. Mary rode into Bethlehem on a donkey. No donkey mentioned, I’m afraid.

3. Jesus was born in a stable. There is no stable mentioned in the biblical text. The Greek word kataluma should perhaps not be translated inn in Luke 2:7 (in Luke 10:34 inn is a different Greek word), but upper room, or guest room (kataluma is the Greek word for guest room or upper room where Jesus eats the last supper with his disciples in Mark 14:14 and Luke 22:11), and that consequently the manger could well have been situated at the animals’ end of the main ground floor living area of a typical peasant’s dwelling – perhaps the home of a relative. If this suggestion is true, then it would mean that Joseph and Mary went to a relative’s home in Bethlehem, where of course they would have been welcomed with typical ancient near-eastern hospitality – not to have been, if there were indeed relatives in the town, would have been unthinkable in their culture – but the upper room on the roof, the guest room, being already occupied by other guests, Joseph and Mary joined the family in their main downstairs living area, where there was, of course, a manger. There is no archaeological evidence that stables ever existed as such in the ancient near east. There is, though, some archaeological evidence that the main family shared the downstairs area with their own animals – see answer to 18 below.

4. It was a bleak mid-winter when Jesus was born, with much snow lying round about, and the frosty wind was making much moan. Beware – do not believe everything you read in the carols! See answer to 9 below and 2 above.

5. Three kings from the East visited the baby Jesus in the manger. The bible does not say kings (it says magi or wise men, who were perhaps astrologers in some sense), and does not say three; further, it’s not stated in the bible that the infant Jesus was still in the manger when the magi visited – in fact it’s quite likely that they came several months after his birth.

6. These visitors were called Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar … . The bible does not name them, and does not ascribe to them nationality, race or home city(!); this could be anywhere from Iraq to China.

7. One of these visitors brought Gold to give Jesus, another Frankincense and the third Myrrh. The bible does not assign their three gifts separately to individual magi (quite apart from the fact that the bible does not say there were three.)

8. John alone of the four gospels omits the birth/infancy narratives, and John replaces them with a prologue describing Jesus’ eternal pre-existence. Mark also has no birth/infancy narrative.

9. The baby Jesus never cried. Who says?! Verse 2 of ‘Away in a manger’ says (no crying he makes), but NOT the bible – it’s an absurd notion that the baby or child Jesus never cried. We know from the bible that the adult Jesus certainly cried; remember, we truly do believe in the full humanity of Jesus. He’ll have needed burping, too! And his nappies changed. Remember, don’t believe everything you read in the carols!

10. One of the stories of Jesus as a little boy relates how he once threw a handful of stones into the air, whereupon they turned into birds and flew away. There is such a story of the boyhood of Jesus, but it is preposterous, and is to be found in one of the apocryphal gospels.

11. After the nativity/infancy narratives (i.e. after the return to Nazareth) there are in fact three or four stories of the boy Jesus, the best known of which describes Jesus being left behind in the temple by his family. Not as many as three or four. Just the one!

12. Jesus was born on 25th December (before dawn, of course!). There are no explicit seasonal markers for the birth of Christ in the bible text. Such clues as there are in the bible (such as the shepherds being in the fields) point to Autumn or Spring as the most likely seasons. Certainly not the deep mid-winter!

13. Although Joseph was a descendant of David, on account of the virginity of Mary one of the two (very different) genealogies in the gospels traces Jesus’ descent from David via Mary rather than via Joseph. The two genealogies do differ substantially, but not in this respect – they are both via Joseph, but both in their own way avoid the implication that Joseph was the biological father.

14. Mary remained a virgin throughout her entire life, so that Jesus’ brothers were not younger brothers, but older, being step-brothers from Joseph’s previous marriage. The ‘Perpetual Virginity of Mary’ is a Roman Catholic dogma based on the very un-Hebrew and indeed unbiblical notion that sex and childbirth is somehow ‘dirty’ and not becoming for the mother of Jesus (i.e., it supposes that Mary never had sex in her life, and only gave birth the once). But in the bible text Joseph takes Mary home ‘as his wife’, and there is no notion of a sexless marriage in the bible.

15. The name Jesus means Lord or anointed one. It means Saviour, as the angel clearly states. Christ means anointed. Lord in the NT is the Greek word for master.

16. It was his insistence on the name Jesus that led Zechariah to regain his sight. Zechariah was the father of John, not Jesus! Zechariah became dumb, not blind, during his encounter in the holy of holies, and it was on his insistence on the name John that he regained his speech. Remember, John means God is gracious.

17. Jesus was born in 0 AD (not 0 BC). There was never a 0 AD or 0 BC known as such, but almost certainly the year of Jesus’ birth was neither 1 AD nor the year before, 1 BC. Actual year is unknown, possibly 6 BC. The bible gives no clue.

18. Sheep, and possibly goats and asses (but certainly not cows!), were present at the manger-side and worshipped Jesus. No animals are mentioned in the bible, despite modern crib scenes, though family animals would be likely – perhaps one or two, an ass and a goat, maybe, in a lower area of the ground floor adjacent to the manger. Note also that of the visitors to Jesus, only the wise men are said to have worshipped him – the shepherds ‘saw’ Jesus, and ‘spread the word’ about the child.

19. To one’s great surprise holly, ivy and mistletoe are mentioned in the bible, albeit not in the nativity narratives. Regret none of these anywhere in the bible.

20. The bible tells us nothing at all about what Jesus looked like at any stage of his life, not even the slightest hint or suggestion anywhere. There is one slight hint, albeit in negative terms, in Isaiah 53:2b.

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