The Word's Christian Fellowship, Inc.
#72 Witnesses, Worshippers and Bearers of Treasures                           December 5, 2008

Matthew 2:1: 
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

The word “when” in this verse indicates to the reader that what follows describes events that occurred at the time of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Matthew 2:2-12:
2  Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
3  When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4  And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5  And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6  And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
7  Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8  And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9  When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw 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 exceeding great joy.
11  And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
12  And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
These Scriptures form the basis of the so-called Nativity Scenes which are so popular at this time of the year.  The word nativity means “the process or circumstances of being born”. 

There is another section of Scripture that is used as well in regard to these so called Nativity Scenes.  It is found in Luke 2:1-17.
1  And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8  And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15  And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17  And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

These two records from Matthew and Luke appear to be contradictory if they both concern the nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In Matthew chapter two, Herod is seeking a young child, not a pregnant woman or a baby, newly born, as in the record of Luke chapter two.  In the record in Luke chapter two, shepherds travel to a manger in a stable to find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes having just been born.  In Matthew chapter two, wise men travel to a house where they find a young child. 

Although these two records are treated at this time of the year like as if they compliment each other, in point of fact, they appear to contradict each other.  God in His Word cannot possibly contradict Himself.  When there seems to be an apparent contradiction in His Word, we must first stop and make sure that we understand what we’ve read in His Word that seems to contradict other portions of His Word.  If we clearly understand what we are reading and it still seems to contradict other portions of His Word, then there can only be one explanation and that is, that there is an error in the translation of His Word from the ancient language to the English which we have in our Bibles.

That is exactly the reason that these two sections of Scripture appear to be in contradiction.  The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, by George Ricker Berry, gives the correct translation of the first phrase in Matthew 2:1: “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea“. 

From the Stephens Greek Text, [from which the King James Version was translated] this phrase should actually be translated: “Now Jesus having been born in Bethlehem of Judea“. 

If Jesus had already been born at the time of the record in Matthew chapter two, then the events spoken of in chapter two would have occurred after he was born, not during the time of his birth.  Matthew 2:1-12 doesn’t speak of the nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the process or circumstances of his birth, as Luke 2:1-17 does.  It concerns events that transpired well after his birth in the house of Mary and Joseph when he was a young child.  There is no contradiction when we understand that Matthew and Luke are written regarding separate and distinct events.

The shepherds of Luke 2:8-16 were witnesses and gave testimony to the truth of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. 
Luke 2:17:
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

The wise men of Matthew chapter two worshipped and presented their treasures and left the country and there is no evidence in Scripture that they told anyone about the young child or where he lived.
Matthew 2:12:
And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

By the way, Matthew 2:11 says, “and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh..”  Notice it doesn’t say, “they reached in their pockets and gave samples of gold and frankincense and myrrh.”  The treasures that they brought made the Lord Jesus Christ rich and enabled Joseph and Mary to provide him with the education and circumstances befitting the only begotten son of God.

©  Stephen A. Harrison,  The Word’s Christian Fellowship, Inc.  4415 Yank Road  Wilson, NC 27893