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The Nativity Story

I saw The Nativity Story with a few friends from church on Saturday, 16 December 2006.  I trust that the creators wanted to genuinely exalt Jesus Christ.  Jesus' virgin birth was upheld, and most of the elements in the movie were true to the Text.  However, there were some departures and additions which must be mentioned.  My comments are not an exhaustive list, but simply what I remembered.

  1. We do not know how many magi there were. There were three gifts, so there may have only been three wise men. We do not know.  The movie includes three wise men.  This is a comment of clarification, not correction.

  2. The movie casts two of the magi as reluctant to travel to Judea.  One even stayed behind but decided to catch up later.  The same magi complained everyday of the journey.  In truth, this is hard to believe.  The wise men are honored in the biblical narrative as men of great resolution bearing gifts from a long journey.  It seems unfair to depict two of them as reluctant participants and one as a constant complainer.

  3. Matthew 2:12 says that the magi were "divinely warned in a dream" to "not return to Herod. . . ."  The movie portrays the wise men as coming to this conclusion by their wisdom.

  4. Matthew 2:3 says, "When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him."  The movie shows Herod as looking for the Jewish Messiah before the magi arrive.

  5. Matthew 2:1 says that "wise men from the East came to Jerusalem" "after Jesus was born in Bethlehem. . . ."  The movie shows the magi coming to Jerusalem before Jesus was born.  Overlooking this detail allowed the creators to place the magi at the manger with the shepherd on the night of Jesus' birth.  This is a definite twisting of the Text to achieve a certain manger scene that people have developed in their imagination.

  6. In the movie, Herod commanded his soldiers to screen all men traveling to Bethlehem for the purpose of apprehending the Messiah of the Jews (thinking the Messiah was a grown man).  The biblical narrative, says that Herod did not know where the Messiah was to be born until after the magi questioned Herod about the baby's location.  Then, Herod "gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born" (Mt. 2:4).

  7. The movie shows only one angel appearing to the shepherds.  Lk. 2:13 says, "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God. . . ."

  8. The magi speak of the star of Bethlehem as being the convergence of Jupiter and Venus.  In actuality, we do not know much about this celestial wonder.

  9. Joseph and Mary depart for Egypt on the night of the birth in the movie.  However, the biblical narrative teaches that "when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS. . . .  Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord" (Lk. 2:21-22). 

  10. The movie picked a predatory bird (e.g., hawk or falcon) as the heavenly symbol which appeared about seven times.  Generally, I would expect that a dove would have been a more suitable alternative (Mt. 3:16).  Predatory birds are ceremonially unclean (Lev. 11:13-19).

  11.  The movie includes several scenes designed to help the audience appreciate the perils of Joseph and Mary's travel to Bethlehem.  For example, Mary almost drowns when she falls into a swift river.  Thieves in Jerusalem attempt to steal money from their ass's saddle bag.  Mary and Joseph subsist off a small piece of bread on one night.  Granted traveling was dangerous during those days, as we see in the parable of the good Samaritan (Lk. 10:30).  However, the danger of blending the facts with fantasy is that the unlearned viewer cannot distinguish the difference.  One woman, who attended with us, was unchurched.  So, she was surprised when I told her that Mary didn't almost drown.

The Positive Side
Well, that's all the corrections that I'll offer.  If you decide to watch this movie, please read the Scripture first.  On a positive note, the movie incorporated some well documented facts into the storyline such as Herod's execution of one of his ten wives and two of his sons for plotting against his throne.  Josephus documented this about Herod which helps us to understand the man who later decreed the slaughter of the male babies of Bethlehem.  I'm glad to see films that discuss biblical topics and themes without the hostility present in The Da Vinci Code

Source Documents:  Scripture
Matthew and Luke provide the bulk of what we know of Jesus'  birth.  Some Messianic prophecies foretold of Jesus' coming and there are a few other passage in the New Testament after the openings of Matthew and Luke.  Mark and John did not provide opening comments about Jesus' birth or childhood.

What follows are the accounts from Matthew and Luke.  Please permit me to suggest that you read these verses with your children before watching the movie.

* Text enhancements (e.g., paragraph headings, italics, editorial notes) were added to aid readability.

According to Matthew

Mt. 1:1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: 

Genealogy Section I
Mt. 1:2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king.

Genealogy Section II
Mt. 1:6 David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. 8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon. 

Genealogy Section III
Mt. 1:12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ. 

Genealogical Summary
Mt. 1:17 So all the generations 

  • from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, 

  • from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and 

  • from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations. 

Joseph's Acceptance of the Scandalous Appearance
Mt. 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," [Isa. 7:14] which is translated, "God with us." 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS. 

Magi Inquire of Herod Peaking His Interest in the Jewish Royal Child
Mt. 2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 

Jewish Leaders Identify Bethlehem as the Birth Place
Mt. 2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:  6 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.' " [Mic. 5:2] 

Herod Feigns Reverence
Mt. 2:7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also." 

The Wise Men Locate and Worship the Anointed Child and Depart
Mt. 2:9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. 

Joseph Warned and Takes the Family to Egypt
Mt. 2:13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him." 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son." [Hos. 11:1] 

Herod Massacred the Baby Boys of Behtlehem
Mt. 2:16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 "A voice was heard in Ramah,Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,Rachel weeping for her children,Refusing to be comforted,Because they are no more." [Jer. 31:15]

Herod Died and the Family Returned to Israel in Nazareth
Mt. 2:19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child's life are dead." 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, "He shall be called a Nazarene." 

According to Luke

Introduction to Zacharias and Elizabeth
Lk. 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. 

Angel Visited Zacharias in the Temple
Lk. 1:8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." 18 And Zacharias said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years." 19 And the angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time." 

People Awaited and Zacharias is Mute
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless. 23 And so it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. 

Elizabeth Bares John
24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 "Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people." 

[Caption to be Added]
Lk. 1:26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" 29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." 34 Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" 35 And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible." 38 Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. 

[Caption to be Added]
Lk. 1:39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord." 

[Caption to be Added]
Lk. 1:46 And Mary said:  "My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. 49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. 54 He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever." 

[Caption to be Added]
Lk. 1:56 And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house. 
57 Now Elizabeth's full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. 58 When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. 

[Caption to be Added]
Lk. 1:59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. 60 His mother answered and said, "No; he shall be called John." 61 But they said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name." 62 So they made signs to his father--what he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, "His name is John." So they all marveled. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. 65 Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. 66 And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, "What kind of child will this be?" And the hand of the Lord was with him. 

[Caption to be Added]
Lk. 1:67 Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: 
68 "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, 69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David, 70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began, 71 That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us, 72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant, 73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: 74 To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. 

[Caption to be Added]
Lk. 1:76 "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, 77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, 78 Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; 79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace." 
80 So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel. 

[Caption to be Added]
Lk. 2:1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 

[Caption to be Added]
Lk. 2:8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 

[Caption to be Added]
Lk. 2:14 "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" 
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. 
21 And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. 
22 Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD"), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons." 

[Caption to be Added]
Lk. 2:25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: 

[Caption to be Added]
Lk. 2:29 "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, 32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel." 
33 And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." 
36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 
39 So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. 

[Caption to be Added]
Lk. 2:41 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. 43 When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; 44 but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day's journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. 46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. 48 So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously." 49 And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" 50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.

[Caption to be Added]
Lk. 2:51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. 


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