Nativity of Jesus
|Part of a series on|
The nativity of Jesus or birth of Jesus is described in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. The two accounts agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the time of Herod the Great, that his mother Mary was married to Joseph, who was of Davidic descent and was not his biological father, and that his birth was effected by divine intervention, but the two gospels agree on little else. Matthew does not mention the census, annunciation to the shepherds or presentation in the Temple, and does not give the name of the angel that appeared to Joseph to foretell the birth. In Luke there is no mention of Magi, no flight into Egypt, or Massacre of the Innocents, and the angel who announces the coming birth to Mary is named (as Gabriel).
The consensus of scholars is that both gospels were written about AD 75-85, and while it is possible that Matthew's account might be based on Luke, or Luke's on Matthew, the majority conclusion is that the two are independent of each other.
In Christian theology the nativity marks the birth of Jesus in fulfillment of the divine will of God, to save the world from sin. The artistic depiction of the nativity has been an important subject for Christian artists since the 4th century. Since the 13th century, the nativity scene has emphasized the humility of Jesus and promoted a more tender image of him, as a major turning point from the early "Lord and Master" image, mirroring changes in the common approaches taken by Christian pastoral ministry.
The nativity plays a major role in the Christian liturgical year. Christian congregations of the Western tradition (including the Catholic Church, the Western Rite Orthodox, the Anglican Communion, and many Protestants) begin observing the season of Advent four Sundays before Christmas, the traditional feast-day of his birth, which falls on December 25.
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 coptic calendar) as a result of their churches continuing to follow the Julian calendar, rather than the modern day Gregorian calendar.
Date of birth
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 of birth between 6 BC and 4 BC. The historical evidence is too ambiguous to allow a definitive dating, but the date is estimated through two different approaches — one by analyzing references to known historical events mentioned in the Nativity accounts in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, and the second by working backwards from the estimation of the start of the ministry of Jesus.
Place of birth
The Gospels of both Matthew and Luke place the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Although Matthew does not explicitly state Joseph's place of origin or where he lived prior to the birth of Jesus, the account implies that the family lived in Bethlehem, and explains that they later settled in Nazareth. However, Luke 1:26–27 clearly states that Mary lived in Nazareth before the birth of Jesus, at the time of the Annunciation.
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", but does not say exactly where Jesus was born. 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.
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. 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. In Contra Celsum 1.51, Origen, who from around 215 travelled throughout Palestine, wrote of the "manger of Jesus".
New Testament narratives
Gospel of Matthew
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.
Chapter 1 of Matthew's Gospel recounts Jesus' birth and naming and the beginning of chapter 2 reveals 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
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 the Roman Emperor commanded a census of all the world, and Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem, the city of David, as he was of the House of David. So it came to pass that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and as there was no room in the town the infant was laid in a manger while angels announced his birth and shepherds worshiped him as Messiah and Lord.
In accordance with the Jewish law his parents presented the infant Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem, where the righteous 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 they 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
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. In particular, according to Koester, while shepherds were regarded negatively by Jews in Jesus' 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". C. T. Ruddick, Jr. writes that Luke's birth narratives of Jesus and John were modeled on passages from Genesis: 27–43. Regardless, Luke's nativity depicts Jesus as a savior for all people. His genealogy goes back to Adam, demonstrating his common humanity, as do 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. 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 God, and of Abraham. Luke's prelude is much longer, emphasizing the age of the Holy Spirit and the arrival of a savior for all people, Jew and Gentile.
Mainstream scholars interpret Matthew's nativity as depicting Jesus as a new Moses with a genealogy going back to Abraham, 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. 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 (2:18)
Scholars who see 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. In this view, the account in Matthew is based on an earlier narrative patterned on traditions about the birth of Moses. Moses' 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.
According to Ulrich Luz, the beginning of the narrative of Matthew is similar to earlier biblical stories, e.g., the Annunciation of Jesus' birth (1:18–25) is reminiscent of the biblical accounts of the births of Ishmael, Isaac and Samson (Genesis 16:11, 17;19; Judges 13:3,5), 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."
Old Testament parallels
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 fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet" but some 5–6th-century manuscripts of Matthew, such as Codex Bezae, read "Isaiah the prophet". 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 uses the Hebrew almah, which may mean "maiden," "young woman," or "virgin." 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.
The statement in Matthew 2:23 "he will be called a Nazorean" does not mention a specific passage in the Old Testament, and there are multiple scholarly interpretations as to what it may refer to. Barbara Aland and other scholars consider the Greek Ναζωραιος used for Nazorean of uncertain etymology and meaning, but M. J. J. Menken states that it is a demonym that refers to an "inhabitant of Nazareth". Menken also states that it may be referring to Judges 13:5, 7. Gary Smith states that Nazirite may mean one consecrated to God, i.e. an ascetic; or may refer to Isaiah 11:1. 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 Nazoreans, a Jewish sect who differed from the Pharisees only in regarding Jesus as the Messiah. The Swiss theologian Ulrich Luz, who locates the Matthean community in Syria, has noted that Syrian Christians also called themselves Nazarenes.
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. 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
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.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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."
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.
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.
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. 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". 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".
The theology persisted into the Protestant Reformation, and second Adam was one of the six modes of atonement discussed by John Calvin. 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.
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.
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.
The salvific emphasis of Matthew 1:21 later impacted the theological issues and the devotions to Holy Name of Jesus. 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. 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. 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.
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). The 451 Council of Chalcedon was highly influential and marked a key turning point in the Christological debates that broke apart 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.
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. 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.
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, e.g.: "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. To deal with this issue, Aquinas distinguishes between the person born and the nature in which the birth takes place. 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".
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 has been blemishless before the fall of Adam.
Impact on Christianity
Feasts and liturgical elements
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. The earliest suggestions of a fast of 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.
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. 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.
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. In the 6th century, Emperor Justinian declared Christmas to be a legal holiday.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, the theological importance of the Nativity of Jesus, was coupled with an emphasis on the loving nature of 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.
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.
Transforming the 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. The use of the word Kyrios in the Septuagint Bible also assigned to Jesus the Old Testament attributes of an omnipotent God. 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.
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 εἰκών eikōn) 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. 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.
The lordship attributes associated with the Kyrios image of Jesus also implied his power over all creation. 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. 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.
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. As the Black Death raged in Medieval Europe, 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. 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.
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 were ushered in, with wide-ranging cultural impacts for centuries thereafter. 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. 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.
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.
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. These "Gospel canticles" are now an integral part of the Christian liturgical tradition. 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.
The Magnificat, in Luke 1:46–55, is spoken by Mary and is one of the 8 most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn. The Benedictus, in Luke 1:68–79, is spoken by Zechariah, while the Nunc dimittis, in Luke 2:29–32 is spoken by Simeon. 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.
The three canticles Benedictus, Nuc 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.
The earliest artistic depictions of Nativity of Jesus 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.
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.
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...." 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.
Hymns, music and performances
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. The Magnificat, one of the 8 most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn is based on the Annunciation.
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. 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. By the 13th century, the Franciscans had encouraged a strong tradition of popular Christmas songs in the native languages. Christmas carols in English first appear in a 1426 work of John Awdlay, a Shropshire chaplain, who lists twenty-five "caroles of Cristemas".
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.
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 Schutz's 1660 The Christmas Story and Bach's Christmas Oratorio in the 18th century. And Lisz's Christus, etc. John Milton's classic 1629 poem Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity was used by John McEwan in 1901.
Many historical scholars maintain the traditional view that the two accounts are historically accurate and do not contradict each other, pointing to the similarities between the two accounts, such as the birthplace of Bethlehem and the virgin birth. George Kilpatrick and, separately, 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.
Neither Luke nor Matthew claims their birth narratives are based on direct testimony. James Hastings and, separately, Thomas Neufeld have expressed the view that the circumstances of Jesus' birth were deliberately kept restricted to a small group of early Christians, and were kept as a secret for many years after his death, thus explaining the variations in the accounts in Luke and Matthew.
Daniel J. Harrington expresses 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.
A number of biblical scholars, such as Thomas Muller, 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.
Many modern scholars consider the birth narratives unhistorical because they are laced with theology and present two different accounts. 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.
|Gospel according to Luke||Gospel according to Matthew|
1. Annunciation to Mary in Nazareth
1. Annunciation to Joseph in Bethlehem
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.
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. 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. 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. Bruce Chilton and archaeologist Aviram Oshri have proposed a birth at Bethlehem of Galilee, a site located seven miles from Nazareth at which remains dating to the time of Herod the Great have been excavated. 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.
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.
Many scholars do not see the Luke and Matthew nativity stories as historically factual. Many view the discussion of historicity as secondary, given that gospels were primarily written as theological documents rather than chronological timelines.
For instance, Matthew pays far more attention to the name of the child and its theological implications than the actual birth event itself. 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. As a result, modern scholars do not use much of the birth narratives for historical information. 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.
Massacre of the Innocents
According to Paul L Maier, most modern biographies of Herod do not believe the massacre took place. Steve Mason argues that if the massacre had taken place as described in Matthew, it would have been strange for Josephus not to mention it, and that the massacre may hence be non-historical. E. P. Sanders characterizes Josephus' writing as dwelling on Herod's cruelty, thus suggesting that Josephus would probably have included the event if it had occurred. Sanders states that faced with little historical information, Matthew's account is apparently based on the story in which an infant Moses is endangered by the Pharaoh in order to kill infant Hebrews and that such use of scripture for telling the story of Jesus' birth was considered legitimate by contemporary standards. Dunn seconds this theory and sees the episode as an attempt to present Jesus as the new Moses by refreshing the Jewish memories of the slaughter of Hebrew newborns in Egypt.
There are writers who defend the historicity of the massacre. R. T. France states that the massacre was a low magnitude event of a nature that would not have demanded the attention of Josephus but was in line with Herod's character. Paul L. Maier argues that Bethlehem was small, and the massacre would have been too small for Josephus to have heard of it given that it allegedly took place over 40 years before his own birth. Paul Barnett and, separately, Craig L. Blomberg also state that Bethlehem was a very small village with few inhabitants, and the massacre would have involved too few children to have been recorded by historians in general.
- Robinson 2009, p. 111.
- Lincoln 2013, p. 40.
- The image of St Francis by Rosalind B. Brooke 2006 ISBN 0-521-78291-0 pp. 183–184
- The tradition of Catholic prayer by Christian Raab, Harry Hagan, St. Meinrad Archabbey 2007 ISBN 0-8146-3184-3 pp. 86–87
- The vitality of the Christian tradition by George Finger Thomas 1944 ISBN 0-8369-2378-2 pp. 110–112
- Dunn, James DG (2003). "Jesus Remembered". Eerdmans Publishing: 324.
- Doggett 1992, p579: "Although scholars generally believe that Christ was born some years before AD 1, the historical evidence is too sketchy to allow a definitive dating".
- Paul L. Maier "The Date of the Nativity and Chronology of Jesus And Virgin Mary." in Chronos, kairos, Christos: nativity and chronological studies by Jerry Vardaman, Edwin M. Yamauchi 1989 ISBN 0-931464-50-1 pp. 113–129
- New Testament History by Richard L. Niswonger 1992 IBN 0-310-31201-9 pp. 121–124
- Matthew 2:1.
- Luke 2:4.
- Virgin Birth of Chris by J Gresham Machen 1987 ISBN 0-227-67630-0 p. 193
- Matthew by David L. Turner (Apr 15, 2008) ISBN 0801026849 page 98
- Joseph F. Kelly (2008). The Birth of Jesus According to the Gospels. Liturgical Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-8146-2948-2.
- Brown, Raymond Edward (1977). The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. p. 401. ISBN 0-385-05907-8.
- Migdal Eder and the Lord's first coming in the Book of Micah. This teaching by Rabbi Mike L Short.
- Taylor, Joan E. (1993). Christians and the Holy Places: The Myth of Jewish-Christian Origins. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 99–102. ISBN 0-19-814785-6.
- Protoevangelium 18; Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho; cf. Origen, Contra Celsum 1.2.
- Taylor, Joan E. (1993). Christians and the Holy Places: The Myth of Jewish-Christian Origins. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 99–100. ISBN 0-19-814785-6.
- Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible 2000 ISBN 90-5356-503-5 p. 173
- The Everything Jesus Book by Jon Kennedy 2006 ISBN 1-59337-712-6 p. 20
- What You Need to Know about Islam and Muslims by George W. Braswell 2000 ISBN 0-8054-1829-6 p. 108
- Islam and the destiny of man by Gai Eaton 1986 ISBN 0-88706-163-X p. 108
- Matthew 1:18-24
- Helmut Köster, "Ancient Christian gospels: their history and development", Continuum International Publishing Group, (2004). pp. 307–308
- C. T. Ruddick, Jr. (1970) "Birth Narratives in Genesis and Luke" Novum Testamentum 12(4):343–348.
- Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "Luke" pp. 297–301
- "Jesus Christ." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
- Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "Matthew" pp. 272–285
- Brown, Raymond Edward (1977). The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. pp. 104–121. ISBN 0-385-05907-8.
- Ulrich Luz, The Theology of the Gospel of Matthew, ISBN 0-521-43576-5 p. 24/25
- Ulrich Luz, Theology of the Gospel of Matthew, ISBN 0-521-43576-5 p. 28
- and Muddiman, John, "The Oxford Bible Commentary", (Oxford University Press, 2001) p. 850
- See Aland, op.cit., p. 3.
- Brown, Raymond E.; Achtemeier, Paul J. (1978). Mary in the New Testament: A Collaborative Assessment by Protestant and Roman Catholic Scholars. Paulist Press. p. 92. ISBN 0-8091-2168-9.
- Matthew's Bible: the Old Testament text of the evangelist by M. J. J. Menken 2004 ISBN 90-429-1419-X p. 161
- Aland, Barbara; Aland, Kurt; Martini, Carlo M.; Karavidopoulos, Johannes; Metzger, Bruce M. (December 1983). Novum Testamentum Graece Et Latine—Greek/Latin New Testament. American Bible Society. p. 5. ISBN 3-438-05401-9.
- Matthew's Bible: the Old Testament text of the evangelist by M. J. J. Menken 2004 ISBN 90-429-1419-X p. 164
- Menken, Maarten J. J. "The Sources of the Old Testament Quotation in Matthew 2:23" Journal of Biblical Literature120:3 (451–68), 467–8.
- Smith, Gary (2007-08-30). The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1–33, Vol. 15A (New American Commentary). B&H Publishing Group. p. 268. ISBN 0-8054-0115-6.
- Ulrich Luz, the Theology of the Gospel of Matthew, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-43576-5 p. 18
- Church dogmatics, Volume 4, Part 1 by Karl Barth, Geoffrey William Bromiley, Thomas Forsyth Torrance 2004 ISBN 0-567-05129-3 pp. 256–259
- An introduction to the early history of Christian doctrine by James Franklin Bethune-Baker 2005 ISBN 1-4021-5770-3 p. 334
- A History of the Christian Church by Williston Walker 2010 ISBN 1-4400-4446-5 pp. 65–66
- The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia by Geoffrey W. Bromiley 1988 ISBN 0-8028-3785-9 page 308
- An introductory dictionary of theology and religious studies by Orlando O. Espín, James B. Nickoloff 2007 ISBN 0-8146-5856-3 p. 238
- Mercer dictionary of the Bible by Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard 1998 ISBN 0-86554-373-9 p. 712
- Basic Theology: by Charles Caldwell Ryrie 1999 ISBN 0-8024-2734-0 p. 275
- Systematic Theology, Volume 2 by Wolfhart Pannenberg 2004 ISBN 0567084663, pp. 297–303
- An exposition of the epistle of Saint Paul to the Philippians by Jean Daille 1995 ISBN 0-8028-2511-7 pp. 194–195
- Christ in Christian Tradition: From the Apostolic Age to Chalcedon by Aloys Grillmeier, John Bowden 1975 ISBN 0-664-22301-X pp. 15–19
- The Witness of Jesus, Paul and John: An Exploration in Biblical Theology by Larry R. Helyer 2008 ISBN 0-8308-2888-5 p. 282
- Encyclopedia of theology: a concise Sacramentum mundi by Karl Rahner 2004 ISBN 0-86012-006-6 pp. 474 and 1434
- Burke, Raymond L.; et al. (2008). Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons ISBN 978-1-57918-355-4 pp. 613–614
- The Early Christian World, Volumes 1–2 by Philip Francis Esler 2004 ISBN 0-415-33312-1 p. 452
- Handbook to life in the medieval world, Volume 1 by Madeleine Pelner Cosman, Linda Gale Jones 2008 ISBN 0-8160-4887-8 p. 329
- Orthodox readings of Augustine by George E. Demacopoulos, Aristotle Papanikolaou 2008 ISBN 0-88141-327-5 pp. 92–96
- 1Corinthians 15:22
- The theology of John Calvin by Charles Partee 2008 ISBN 0-664-23119-5 p. 159
- Theology of the New Testament by Georg Strecker 2000 ISBN 0-664-22336-2 pp. 401–403
- Matthew by Grant R. Osborne 2010 ISBN 0-310-32370-3 lxxix
- Toward the origins of Christmas by Susan K. Roll 1995 ISBN 90-390-0531-1 pp. 208–211
- McGrath, Alister E. (2007), Christian theology: an introduction, Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, p. 282, ISBN 1-4051-5360-1
- Ehrman, Bart D. (1993), The Orthodox corruption of scripture: the effect of early Christological controversies on the text of the New Testament, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-510279-6
- Mary and the Saints by James P. Campbell 2005 0829417257 pp. 17–20
- All the Doctrines of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer 1988 ISBN 0-310-28051-6 p. 159
- Matthew 1–13 by Manlio Simonetti 2001 ISBN 0-8308-1486-8 p. 17
- Matthew 1-2/ Luke 1–2 by Louise Perrotta 2004 ISBN 0-8294-1541-6 p. 19
- Matthew's Emmanuel by David D. Kupp 1997 ISBN 0-521-57007-7 pp. 220–224
- 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
- The theology of the Gospel of Matthew by Ulrich Luz 1995 ISBN 0-521-43576-5 p. 31
- Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, Vol XIV p. 207, translated edition by H.R. Percival. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/ephesus.html
- 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
- The acts of the Council of Chalcedon by Council of Chalcedon, Richard Price, Michael Gaddis 2006 ISBN 0-85323-039-0 pp. 1–5
- The creed: the apostolic faith in contemporary theology by Berard L. Marthaler 2007 ISBN 0-89622-537-2 p. 114
- Essential theological terms by Justo L. González 2005 ISBN 0-664-22810-0 p. 120
- Doctrine and practice in the early church by Stuart George Hall 1992 ISBN 0-8028-0629-5 pp. 211–218
- Leo the Great by Pope Leo I, Bronwen Neil 2009 ISBN 0-415-39480-5 pp. 61–62
- Summa Theologica, Volume 4 (Part III, First Section) by St. Thomas Aquinas 207 Cosimo Classics ISBN 1-60206-560-8 pp. 2197–2211
- Aquinas on doctrine: a critical introduction by Thomas Gerard Weinandy, John Yocum 2004 ISBN 0-567-08411-6 p. 98
- Calvin's Catholic Christology by E. David Willis 1966 Published by E.J. Brill, Netherlands, p. 83
- An introductory dictionary of theology and religious studies by Orlando O. Espín, James B. Nickoloff 2007 ISBN 0-8146-5856-3 p. 237
- The journey of the Magi: meanings in history of a Christian story by Richard C. Trexler 1997 ISBN 0-691-01126-5 p. 9
- Christian worship in Reformed Churches past and present by Lukas Vischer 2002 ISBN 0-8028-0520-5 pp. 400–401
- Mills, Watson E.; Edgar V. McKnight; Roger Aubrey Bullard (1990). Mercer Dictionary of the Bible. Mercer University Press. p. 142. ISBN 0-86554-373-9. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
- Aspects of the liturgical year in Cappadocia (325–430) by Jill Burnett Comings 2005 ISBN 0-8204-7464-9 pp. 61–71
- Sacred Christmas Music by Ronald M. Clancy 2008 ISBN 1-4027-5811-1 pp. 15–19
- The Feast of Christmas by Joseph F. Kelly 2010 ISBN 0-8146-3325-0 pp. 331–391
- Pastor and laity in the theology of Jean Gerson by Dorothy Catherine Brown 1987 ISBN 0-521-33029-7 p. 32
- The Feast of Christmas by Joseph F. Kelly 2010 ISBN 0-8146-3325-0 pp. 112–114
- Mercer dictionary of the Bible by Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard 1998 ISBN 0-86554-373-9 pp. 520–525
- Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity by Larry W. Hurtado 2005 ISBN 0-8028-3167-2 pp. 113 and 179
- II Corinthians: a commentary by Frank J. Matera 2003 ISBN 0-664-22117-3 pp. 11–13
- Philippians 2:10
- Christology: Biblical And Historical by Mini S. Johnson, 2005 ISBN 81-8324-007-0 pp. 74–76
- Christology: Biblical And Historical by Mini S. Johnson ISBN p. 211
- La vida sacra: contemporary Hispanic sacramental theology by James L. Empereur, Eduardo Fernández 2006 ISBN 0-7425-5157-1 pp. 3–5
- Philippines by Lily Rose R. Tope, Detch P. Nonan-Mercado 2005 ISBN 0-7614-1475-4 p. 109
- Christology: Key Readings in Christian Thought by Jeff Astley, David Brown, Ann Loades 2009 ISBN 0-664-23269-8 p. 106
- Williams, Rowan Ponder these things 2002 ISBN 1-85311-362-X p. 7
- An Introduction to the Bible by Robert Kugler, Patrick Hartin ISBN 0-8028-4636-X p. 394
- Mercer dictionary of the Bible by Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard 1998 ISBN 0-86554-373-9 p. 396
- 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
- The History and Use of Hymns and Hymn-Tunes by David R Breed 2009 ISBN 1-110-47186-6 p. 17
- Favourite Hymns by Marjorie Reeves 2006 ISBN 0-8264-8097-7 pp. 3–5
- All the music of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer 2004 ISBN 1-56563-531-0 p. 120
- Music of the Middle Ages, Volume 1 by Giulio Cattin, F. Alberto Gallo 1985 ISBN 0-521-28489-9 p. 2
- The Feast of Christmas by Joseph F. Kelly 2010 ISBN 0-8146-3325-0 pp. 22–31
- The mystical language of icons by Solrunn Nes 2005 ISBN 0-8028-2916-3 p. 43
- The meaning of icons by Leonide Ouspensky, Vladimir Lossky 1999 ISBN 0-913836-77-X p. 157
- Church Fathers and Teachers: From Saint Leo the Great to Peter Lombard by Pope Benedict XVI 2010 ISBN 1-58617-317-0 p. 32
- Wellesz, Egon (1947). "The Nativity Drama of the Byzantine Church". Journal of Roman Studies. Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. 37: 145–151. doi:10.2307/298465. JSTOR 298465.
- Miles, Clement, Christmas customs and traditions, Dover 1976, ISBN 0-486-23354-5, pp. 31–37
- Miles, Clement, Christmas customs and traditions, Dover 1976, ISBN 0-486-23354-5, pp. 47–48
- Jesus in history, thought, and culture: an encyclopedia, Volume 1 by James Leslie Houlden 2003 ISBN 1-57607-856-6 pp. 631–635
- Mark D. Roberts Can We Trust the Gospels?: Investigating the Reliability of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John Good News Publishers, 2007 p. 102
- The Origins of the Gospel According to St. Matthew by George Dunbar Kilpatrick 2007 ISBN 0-86516-667-6 p. 54
- The Gospel according to Luke by Michael Patella 2005 ISBN 0-8146-2862-1 pp. 9–10
- Lord Jesus Christ by Larry W. Hurtado 2005 ISBN 0-8028-3167-2 p. 322
- A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels: Volume II by James Hastings 2004 ISBN 1-4102-1788-4 p. 805
- Recovering Jesus: the witness of the New Testament Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld 2007 ISBN 1-58743-202-1 pp. 116–123
- Daniel J. Harrington 1991 The Gospel of Matthew ISBN 0-8146-5803-2 pp. 45–49
- The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia by Geoffrey W. Bromiley 1988 ISBN 0-8028-3785-9 p. 685
- John Bernard Orchard, 1983 Synopsis of the Four GospelsISBN 0-567-09331-X pp. 4–12
- The horizontal line synopsis of the Gospels by Reuben J. Swanson 1984 ISBN 0-87808-744-3 page xix
- Gospel Parallels by Burton H. Throckmorton 1992 ISBN 0-8407-7484-2 pp. 2–7
- Steven L. Cox, Kendell H. Easley, 2007 Harmony of the Gospels ISBN 0-8054-9444-8 pp. 289–290
- The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible: Volume 3 Abingdon Press, 2008. pp. 42, 269–70.
- 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 0-300-14008-8.
- 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 0-664-25842-5.
- 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.
- Vermes, Géza (2006-11-02). The Nativity: History and Legend. Penguin Books Ltd. p. 64. ISBN 0-14-102446-1.
- 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.
- Jeremy Corley New Perspectives on the Nativity Continuum International Publishing Group, 2009 p. 22.
- Wright, Tom (March 2004). Luke for Everyone. London: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 39. ISBN 0-664-22784-8.
- Vermes, Géza (2006-11-02). The Nativity: History and Legend. Penguin Books Ltd. p. 22. ISBN 0-14-102446-1.
- Sanders, Ed Parish (1993). The Historical Figure of Jesus. London: Allen Lane. p. 85. ISBN 0-7139-9059-7.
- Hurtado, Larry W. (June 2003). Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans. pp. 319–320. ISBN 0-8028-6070-2.
- The birth of the Messiah by Raymond Brown 1993 ISBN 0-385-47202-1 p. 513
- Oshri, Aviram (November–December 2005). "Where was Jesus Born?". Archaeology. Archaeological Institute of America. 58 (6). Retrieved 24 November 2012.
- Chilton, Bruce (2006), "Recovering Jesus' Mamzerut", in Charlesworth, James H., Jesus and Archaeology, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, pp. 95–96, ISBN 9780802848802
- Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus edited by Tom Holmen and Stanley E. Porter (Jan 12, 2011) ISBN 9004163727 pages 3411–3412
- 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."
- Interpreting Gospel Narratives: Scenes, People, and Theology by Timothy Wiarda 2010 ISBN 0-8054-4843-8 pp. 75–78
- Jesus, the Christ: Contemporary Perspectives by Brennan R. Hill 2004 ISBN 1-58595-303-2 p. 89
- The Gospel of Luke by Timothy Johnson 1992 ISBN 0-8146-5805-9 p. 72
- Recovering Jesus: the witness of the New Testament Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld 2007 ISBN 1-58743-202-1 p. 111
- Matthew by Thomas G. Long 1997 ISBN 0-664-25257-5 pp. 14–15
- Encyclopedia of theology: a concise Sacramentum mundi by Karl Rahner 2004 ISBN 0-86012-006-6 p. 731
- Bruce M. Metzger, Michael D. Coogan, The Oxford Guide to People & Places of the Bible. Oxford University Press US, 2004. p. 137
- "most recent biographies of Herod the Great deny it entirely." Paul L. Maier, "Herod and the Infants of Bethlehem", in Chronos, Kairos, Christos II, Mercer University Press (1998), p. 170
- Josephus and the New Testament by Steve Mason 2003 ISBN 1-56563-795-X p. 160
- Robert B. Stewart; Gary R. Habermas (1 July 2010). Memories of Jesus. B&H Publishing Group. pp. 181–. ISBN 978-1-4336-7219-4.
- The Gospel of Matthew by R. T. France 2007 ISBN 0-8028-2501-X pp. 43 and 83
- Paul L. Maier, Herod and the Infants of Bethlehem in "Chronos, Kairos, Christos 2" by Ray Summers, Jerry Vardaman ISBN 0-86554-582-0 pp. 169–179
- Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times by Paul Barnett 2002 ISBN 0-8308-2699-8 p. 85
- Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey by Craig L. Blomberg 2009 ISBN 0-8054-4482-3 p. 244
- Allen, O. Wesley, Jr. (2009). "Luke". In Petersen, David L.; O'Day, Gail R. Theological Bible Commentary. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9781611640304.
- Aune, David E., ed. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew in current study. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-4673-0.
- Aune, David E. (1988). The New Testament in its literary environment. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0-664-25018-8.
- Balch, David L. (2003). "Luke". In Dunn, James D. G.; Rogerson, John William. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802837110.
- Beaton, Richard C. (2005). "How Matthew Writes". In Bockmuehl, Markus; Hagner, Donald A. The Written Gospel. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-83285-4.
- Boring, M. Eugene (2012). An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9780664255923.
- Buckwalter, Douglas (1996). The Character and Purpose of Luke's Christology. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521561808.
- Burkett, Delbert (2002). An introduction to the New Testament and the origins of Christianity. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-00720-7.
- Carroll, John T. (2012). Luke: A Commentary. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9780664221065.
- Casey, Maurice (2010). Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian's Account of His Life and Teaching. Continuum. ISBN 978-0-567-64517-3.
- Charlesworth, James H. (2008). The Historical Jesus: An Essential Guide. Abingdon Press. ISBN 9781426724756.
- Clarke, Howard W. (2003). The Gospel of Matthew and Its Readers. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34235-5.
- Collins, Adela Yarbro (2000). Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apocalypticism. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-11927-7.
- Davies, W.D.; Allison, D.C. (2004). Matthew 1–7. T&T Clark. ISBN 978-0-567-08355-5.
- Davies, W.D.; Allison, D.C. (1991). Matthew 8–18. T&T Clark. ISBN 978-0-567-08365-4.
- Davies, W.D.; Allison, D.C. (1997). Matthew 19–28. T&T Clark. ISBN 978-0-567-08375-3.
- Duling, Dennis C. (2010). "The Gospel of Matthew". In Aune, David E. The Blackwell Companion to the New Testament. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-0825-6.
- Dunn, James D.G. (2003). Jesus Remembered. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-3931-2.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (1999). Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-512474-3.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (2012). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-220460-8.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (1996). The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture : The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-510279-6.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (1999). Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford University Press.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (2005). Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. Oxford University Press.
- Ellis, E. Earl (2003). The Gospel of Luke. Wipf and Stock Publishers.
- Evans, Craig A. (2011). Luke. Baker Books.
- Fuller, Reginald H. (2001). "Biblical Theology". In Metzger, Bruce M.; Coogan, Michael D. The Oxford Guide to Ideas & Issues of the Bible. Oxford University Press.
- France, R.T (2007). The Gospel of Matthew. Eerdmans. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-8028-2501-8.
- Gamble, Harry Y. (1995). Books and Readers in the Early Church: A History of Early Christian Texts. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-06918-1.
- Green, Joel (1995). The Theology of the Gospel of Luke. Cambridge University Press.
- Green, Joel (1997). The Gospel of Luke. Eerdmans.
- Hagner, D.A. (1986). "Matthew, Gospel According to". In Bromiley, Geoffrey W. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3: K-P. Wm. B. Eerdmans. pp. 280–8. ISBN 978-0-8028-8163-2.
- Harrington, Daniel J. (1991). The Gospel of Matthew. Liturgical Press. ISBN 9780814658031.
- Holladay, Carl R. (2011). A Critical Introduction to the New Testament: Interpreting the Message and Meaning of Jesus Christ. Abingdon Press.
- Hurtado, Larry W. (2005). Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-3167-5.
- Johnson, Luke Timothy (2010). The New Testament: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.
- Kowalczyk, A. (2008). The influence of typology and texts of the Old Testament on the redaction of Matthew’s Gospel. Bernardinum. ISBN 978-83-7380-625-2.
- Kupp, David D. (1996). Matthew's Emmanuel: Divine Presence and God's People in the First Gospel. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-57007-7.
- Keener, Craig S. (1999). A commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-3821-6.
- Levine, Amy-Jill (2001). "Visions of kingdoms: From Pompey to the first Jewish revolt". In Coogan, Michael D. The Oxford History of the Biblical World. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-513937-2.
- Levison, J.; Pope-Levison, P. (2009). "Christology". In Dyrness, William A.; Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti. Global Dictionary of Theology. InterVarsity Press. ISBN 9780830878116.
- Lincoln, Andrew (2013). Born of a Virgin?: Reconceiving Jesus in the Bible, Tradition, and Theology. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802869258.
- Lössl, Josef (2010). The Early Church: History and Memory. Continuum. ISBN 978-0-567-16561-9.
- Luz, Ulrich (2005). Studies in Matthew. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-3964-0.
- Luz, Ulrich (1995). The Theology of the Gospel of Matthew. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-43576-5.
- Luz, Ulrich (1992). Matthew 1–7: a commentary. Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0-8006-9600-9.
- Luz, Ulrich (2001). Matthew 8–20: a commentary. Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0-8006-6034-5.
- Luz, Ulrich (2005). Matthew 21–28: a commentary. Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0-8006-3770-5.
- McDonald, Patricia M. (2009). "Resemblances Between Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2". In Corley, Jeremy. New Perspectives on the Nativity. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9780567613790.
- McMahon, Christopher (2008). "Introduction to the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles". In Ruff, Jerry. Understanding the Bible: A Guide to Reading the Scriptures. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780884898528.
- Miller, Philip M. (2011). "The Least Orthodox Reading is to be Preferred". In Wallace, Daniel B. Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament. Kregel Academic. ISBN 9780825489068.
- Morris, Leon (1990). New Testament Theology. Zondervan. ISBN 978-0-310-45571-4.
- Morris, Leon (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-85111-338-8.
- Nolland, John (2005). The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Eerdmans. ISBN 0802823890.
- Peppard, Michael (2011). The Son of God in the Roman World: Divine Sonship in Its Social and Political Context. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199753703.
- Perkins, Pheme (1998). "The Synoptic Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles: Telling the Christian Story". In Barton, John. The Cambridge companion to biblical interpretation. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0-521-48593-7.
- Perkins, Pheme (2009). Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-6553-3.
- Powell, Mark Allan (1998). Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-664-25703-3.
- Powell, Mark Allan (1989). What Are They Saying About Luke?. Paulist Press.
- Robinson, Bernard P. (2009). "Matthew's Nativity Stories: Historical and Theological Questions for Today's Readers". In Corley, Jeremy. New Perspectives on the Nativity. Bloomsbury.
- Ryken, Leland; Wilhoit, James C.; Longman, Tremper (2010). "Birth stories". Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. InterVarsity Press.
- Strelan, Rick (2013). Luke the Priest - the Authority of the Author of the Third Gospel. Ashgate Publishing.
- Theissen, Gerd; Merz, Annette (1998). The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Eerdmans.
- Thompson, Richard P. (2010). "Luke-Acts: The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles". In Aune, David E. The Blackwell Companion to The New Testament. Wiley–Blackwell. p. 319.
- Tremmel, Robert (2011). The Four Gospels. Xlibris.
- Saldarini, Anthony (2003). "Matthew". Eerdmans commentary on the Bible. ISBN 0802837115., in Dunn, James D.G.; Rogerson, John William (2003). Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-3711-0.
- Saldarini, Anthony (1994). Matthew's Christian-Jewish Community. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-73421-7.
- Sanford, Christopher B. (2005). Matthew: Christian Rabbi. Author House.
- Scholtz, Donald (2009). Jesus in the Gospels and Acts: Introducing the New Testament. Saint Mary's Press.
- Senior, Donald (2001). "Directions in Matthean Studies". The Gospel of Matthew in Current Study: Studies in Memory of William G. Thompson, S.J. ISBN 0802846734., in Aune, David E., ed. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew in current study. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-4673-0.
- Senior, Donald (1996). What are they saying about Matthew?. PaulistPress. ISBN 978-0-8091-3624-7.
- Stanton, Graham (1993). A gospel for a new people: studies in Matthew. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0-664-25499-5.
- Strecker, Georg (2000). Theology of the New Testament. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-0-664-22336-6.
- Tuckett, Christopher Mark (2001). Christology and the New Testament: Jesus and His Earliest Followers. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9780664224318.
- Turner, David L. (2008). Matthew. Baker. ISBN 978-0-8010-2684-3.
- Twelftree, Graham H. (1999). Jesus the miracle worker: a historical & theological study. InterVarsity Press. ISBN 978-0-8308-1596-8.
- Van de Sandt, H.W.M. (2005). "Introduction". Matthew and the Didache: Two Documents from the Same Jewish-Christian Milieu ?. ISBN 9023240774., in Van de Sandt, H.W.M, ed. (2005). Matthew and the Didache. Royal Van Gorcum&Fortress Press. ISBN 978-90-232-4077-8.
- Vermes, Geza (2006). The meaning of the Dead Sea scrolls: Their significance for understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity. Penguin UK. ISBN 9780141912615.
- Wansbrough, Henry (2009). "The Infancy Stories of the Gospels Since Raymond E. Brown". In Corley, Jeremy. New Perspectives on the Nativity. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9780567613790.
- Weren, Wim (2005). "The History and Social Setting of the Matthean Community". Matthew and the Didache: Two Documents from the Same Jewish-Christian Milieu ?. ISBN 9789023240778., in Van de Sandt, H.W.M., ed. (2005). Matthew and the Didache. Royal Van Gorcum&Fortress Press. ISBN 978-90-232-4077-8.
- Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. London: G. Chapman, 1977.
- Calkins, Robert G. Illuminated Books of the Middle Ages. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1983.
- Carter, Warren. Matthew and Empire. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2001.
- France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
- Ghose, Tia (December 22, 2014). "A Christmas Tale: How Much of the Nativity Story is True?". LiveScience.
- Gundry, Robert H. Matthew a Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982.
- Gundry, Robert H. "Salvation in Matthew." Society of Biblical Literature – 2000 Seminar Papers. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000.
- Hill, David. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981
- Jones, Alexander. The Gospel According to St. Matthew. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1965.
- Levine, Amy-Jill. "Matthew." Women's Bible Commentary. Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe, eds. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998.
- Schaberg, Jane. Illegitimacy of Jesus: A Feminist Theological Interpretation of the Infancy Narratives (Biblical Seminar Series, No 28) Sheffield Academic Press (March 1995) ISBN 1-85075-533-7
- Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975
- Vermes, Geza The Nativity: History and Legend. Penguin (2006) ISBN 0-14-102446-1
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to:|
Nativity of Jesus
Mary visits Elizabeth
| New Testament
Annunciation to the Shepherds