Misconceptions About Christmas: The Journey to Bethlehem

Many have already set up their nativity scenes on mantles, tables or under the tree. Nativity scenes are beautiful. They cause us to wonder and consider what it might have been like so many years ago on the night in which our Saviour was born. Unfortunately many nativity scenes portray misconceptions about Christmas. They depict things that are not biblically supported. So also do many of the Christmas narratives and pageants at this time of year. They all tell the Christmas story, but are they correct? Is it the "Hollywood syndrome" whereby the story get "rewritten" with theatrical and poetic license?

Did You Know?

For the next three weeks, Got Questions? will focus on common misconceptions surrounding Jesus' birth. First let's address that most nativity scenes portray European or Caucasian people. We know that Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and the shepherds were all Middle-eastern Jews and that the Wise Men were from Persia, so we also know that the figures in nativity scenes should have much darker skin. Setting that aside, let’s focus on some lesser known misconceptions. This week we'll review the journey to Bethlehem and Mary and Joseph's arrival there. What do we know about this journey? What does the Bible tell us and what has been created by legend and lore?

Did Mary ride on a donkey to Bethlehem?

We don't know the answer to this question. But it is likely that she did. The Bible only tells that Mary went with Joseph to the city of David, which is Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-5). The Bible does not say that Mary rode on a donkey. However, since we know that the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was 70-80 miles, and that Mary was pregnant (Luke 2:5), it is not likely Mary would have been able to travel the full distance on foot. Other than walking, the means of travel at that time would have included donkeys, camels, horses or some type of cart drawn by a horse. Since Joseph was not believed to have been a rich man, it seems most likely that he would not have been able to get a camel, horse or cart for use in their journey. It does seem possible that he would have owned, or been able to borrow, a donkey for Mary to ride upon during the journey to Bethlehem.

[You can finish reading the rest of this article at Reasons for Hope* Jesus. Click here.]