In fact only two of the four accounts of the life of Christ in the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew, tell of his birth. These Infancy Gospels, as they are known, both agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and today pilgrims and tourists mill in their thousands around the Church of the Nativity built upon the supposed site of Christ’s entry into the world, just as they have for centuries. But only Luke mentions the Census and the journey from Nazareth. Neither mentions the ox or the ass. The visitors from the east are nowhere referred to as Kings and nor is it mentioned that there are three of them.
Both Gospels mention King Herod, but his dates do not correspond with the dates of a possible Roman census under the Governor Quirinus mentioned in Luke, which came ten years after Herod the Great’s death. And what census, then or now, would take you away from your main residence to be counted in a town which you or your ancestors have long since left?
We reveal that even though we assume that Joseph is present at the birth of Christ, this is not mentioned in any of the gospels. In fact according to purification laws outlined in the Temple Scroll and in the book of Leviticus, under Jewish law the only people that may have been present at the birth would in fact have been women.
With help from leading academics, archaeologists and Jewish and Christian theologians, we visit many of the locations mentioned in the Gospels to place the birth of Christ in its historical, cultural and Jewish and early Christian contexts and piece together the real story of The Nativity.
Dr Helen Bond - Author and read Biblical Studies at the Universities of St Andrew
Helen read Biblical Studies at the Universities of St Andrews (Scotland), Tübingen (Germany) and Durham (England), where she wrote a PhD thesis on Pontius Pilate under the supervision of Prof J.D.G. Dunn. She taught a range of New Testament courses at Northern College in Manchester (1993-6), the University of Aberdeen (1996-2000) and the University of Edinburgh (2000 to the present), where she now holds the post of Senior Lecturer. Her research interests centre around the social and historical world of the first century, the theology and rhetoric of the texts associated with that period, and biblical archaeology. She specialises in the gospels, historical Jesus, Judaean politics, women in the first century, and Josephus. Her books include: Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation (CUP, 1998), Caiaphas: Friend of Rome and Judge of Jesus? (WJK, 2004) and Israel’s God and Rebecca’s Children: Christology and Community in Early Judaism and Christianity (Baylor, 2007; edited with David B. Capes, April D. Deconick, and Troy A. Miller). She is currently writing two books. One is on the Historical Jesus (part of Continuum's Guides for the Perplexed series); the other is an on-going project on Josephus and Herod's harem. Helen is the author of a number of articles and studies, and has appeared several times on TV documentaries.
James H. Charlesworth - Princeton Seminary’s George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature
James H. Charlesworth is Princeton Seminary’s George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature. He specializes in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the OId and New Testaments, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, Jesus Research, and the Gospel of John. As director of the Seminary‘s Dead Sea Scrolls Project, he has worked on the computer-enhanced photographing and translating of the Qumran scrolls in order to make available, in cooperation with fifty international specialists, for the first time both an accurate text, English translation, and introduction to these documents. He has excavated at Migdal, Bethsaida, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Qumran, and elsewhere. He has written more than 65 books and 400 articles or reviews, being awarded the following Biblical Archaeology Society Publications Awards. Charlesworth has been honored in more than sixteen countries. An ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, he serves as advisor to the denomination‘s World Missionary Council. He preaches and lectures throughout the world.
Prof Geza Vermes - Writer on Jewish and Early Christian history
Is a British scholar of Jewish Hungarian origin and writer on religious history, particularly Jewish and Christian. He is a noted authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient works in Aramaic, and on the life and religion of Jesus. He has been described as the greatest Jesus scholar of his time. Vermes' written work on Jesus focuses principally on Jesus the Jew, as seen in the broader context of the narrative scope of Jewish history and theology, while questioning the basis of some Christian teachings on Jesus.
After the Second World War, he became a priest, studied first in Budapest and then at the College St Albert and the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, where he read Oriental history and languages and in 1953 obtained a doctorate in theology with a dissertation on the historical framework of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He left the Catholic Church in 1957. In 1965 he joined the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University, rising to become the first professor of Jewish Studies before his retirement in 1991.
Prof Shimon Gibson - Archaeologist
Is an Archaeologist working in Jerusalem, where he is currently a Senior Associate Fellow at the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research. He was recently appointed adjunct Professor of Archaeology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He undertook his academic studies at the Institute of Archaeology, University College, London, where he also completed his PhD on Landscape Archaeology in the southern Levant. During the past twenty years he has conducted numerous excavations and field surveys in different parts of Israel.
He is the co-author of two scientific monographs on the antiquities of Jerusalem (on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and on the Temple Mount), and has edited the "Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land" (New York, 2000) and "The Illustrated Dictionary and Concordance of the Bible" (New York 2005). A book on his archaeological work in the Cave of John the Baptist was published by Random House and Doubleday in 2004. His book entitled "Flights into Biblical Archaeology" (Albatross, 2007) was published with the Israel Antiquities Authority. His recent book on the archaeology of first century Jerusalem "The Final Days of Jesus: The Archaeological Evidence" has just appeared published by HarperCollins
Saint Joseph is a figure in the Gospels narried to Mary mother of Jesus.
Mark the Evangelist is the traditional author of the Gospel of Mark. He is one of the Seventy Disciples of Christ, and the founder of the Church of Alexandria, one of the original four main sees of Christianity.
Matthew the Evangelist was, according to the Bible, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus and one of the four Evangelists.
Mother of Jesus.
The birth of Jesus was recorded by the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus a man born in A.D 37. Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was (the) Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those who loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day (Antiquities, XVIII, III)
Within the New Testament there are 27 separate documents that were written in the first century A.D. by eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.
None of the four Gospel accounts gives exact details about the birth.
It is popularly conceived that three kings were present at the birth of Jesus Christ. However, the bible does not mention this. It writes that there were ‘magi’ present at the birth but does not denote how many there were. It does note that three gifts were given to Jesus; those being gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The Bible does not note that any Angles were present at the Birth of Jesus although it is logical to assume there were.