by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
As Christians around the world now prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, it is worth considering that much of the “common knowledge” about the babe in Bethlehem cannot be found in any scriptural authority, but is either a modern myth or based on Gospel accounts from outside the sacred bounds of Christian Scripture. Some obvious examples: nowhere does the Bible indicate what year Jesus came into the world, or that he was born on Dec. 25; it does not place an ox and an ass in his manger; it does not say that it was 3 (as opposed to 7 or 12) wise men who visited him.
For many centuries, most Christians garnered their information about the birth of Jesus not from the New Testament but from popular writings that were not officially considered Scripture. One of the best known of these books is called the “Proto-Gospel of James,” composed probably in the late second century, a century after the canonical Gospels, and accordingly, far less likely that they contain anything like historically accurate information. But Christians throughout the Middle Ages were rarely interested in historical accuracy; they loved stories and reveled in their meaning, especially stories having anything to do with the appearance of the Son of God in the world.
Regular Locker Room readers might remember that Ehrman won the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy’s first Spirit of Inquiry award in 2008.