BAS free e-book: The First Christmas: The Story of Jesus' Birth in History and Tradition

The Biblical history of the Christmas story according to Bible scholars and archaeologists is examined in this five chapter free e-book from the Biblical Archaeology Society. These articles explore the significance of Jesus? birth among early Christians to theories about the guiding light that led the magi to baby Jesus.

WASHINGTON, D.C. Just released: The First Christmas: The Story of Jesus? Birth in History and Tradition, a free e-book published by the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS). This free e-book explores the Biblical history of the Christmas story, examining what the story of Jesus? birth meant to the earliest Christians. Over the course of five chapters, expert Bible scholars and archaeologists offer glimpses of the first Christmas as recounted and understood by those who first told the story.

Early and modern-day Christians alike have been captivated in particular by the three magi in the Christmas story. Author Robin Jensen tells us that early Christian art contains more representations of the adoration of the magi than of the infant Jesus in the manger. What key theological message did the early Christians see in the story of the magi? Jensen uncovers the answer by tracing the magi?s numerous appearances in art and literature from the period in Chapter 1, ?Witnessing the Divine: The Magi in Art and Literature.?

Perhaps the most mystifying part of the magi?s journey is the star that guides them. Scholars and astronomers have tried for some time to identify a celestial event that corresponds with the magi?s guiding star, in part because it would also pinpoint the date of Jesus? birth. Where modern science fails to explain the mysterious star, Babylonian astronomy gives better clues in Chapter 2, ?The Magi and the Star: Babylonian Astronomy Dates Jesus? Birth? by Simo Parpola.

In contrast, author Dale C. Allison, Jr. does not look to astronomy for an explanation of the magi?s star, though he does look heavenward. In Chapter 3, ?What Was the Star that Guided the Magi,? he suggests that another sort of celestial entity was the bright light that guided the magi?s journey to pay homage to the infant Jesus.

The star, tradition tells us, led the magi to the tiny Judean town of Bethlehem. However, many New Testament scholars have come to the conclusion that Jesus was born in Nazareth. Others remain convinced that the first Christmas took place in Bethlehem. ?Where Was Jesus Born?? offers a two-part exploration of both possibilities. Chapter 4, Steve Mason?s ?O Little Town of ... Nazareth?? looks at the passages in the Biblical text that suggest Nazareth was Jesus? birthplace. However, Jerome Murphy O?Connor supports the Bethlehem tradition using archaeology, the gospels and other ancient texts in Chapter 5, ?Bethlehem ... Of Course.?

This free e-book is available for download at For more information, please visit the Biblical Archaeology Society?s Web site at, or contact Sarah Yeomans at 1.202.364.3300 ext. 221.


Contact Details

Company Name: Biblical Archaeology Soc iety
Issued By: Sarah Yeomans
Phone: 202-364-3300
Zip: 20016
Website: Visit the website

by Sarah Yeomans (few years ago!)

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