Artifacts & Biblical History

Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?

by Steve Ray on December 17, 2018

With upon us, I thought I would post my article this Christmas season with bits of interesting information and details about Christmas, the Gospels and Epiphany. Join us in Bethlehem for Christmas this year from December 26-January 4 or any of six times in 2015. Visit www.SteveGoes.com.

Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?

 A king was born. He was born unlike most kings. There was no pomp and circumstance; there were no midwives or court attendants. There was only the bleating of sheep and the buzzing of flies. Giving birth in a cave-turned-stable was not like giving birth in a royal palace.

When a king is born proclamations ring out across the land. But no one knew about this exceptional birth. So angels felt the need to sing out. They burst from the heavens in glorious harmony declaring the royal birth to a group of shepherds sleeping on the ground protecting their sheep. The darkness of night was rent with brilliant light encompassing the terrified shepherds. The lead angel announced “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

The king’s arrival had been foretold from of old. He was the long awaited savior of the world. But why were shepherds the first to discover his birth? Possibly because this king was also the anticipated Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. So, let me ask: who are the first to learn of a lamb’s birth in the middle of the night? Shepherds of course!

But the story recounted by Luke the physician is not the only account of the miraculous birth. Another account was written by an ex-tax collector named Matthew who informs us that the Jewish shepherds were not the only ones to discover this royal birth. Gentile magi—astronomers from the East—were also informed, but not by angelic choirs. They anticipated this historical event through astronomical observations and consultation with the Jewish scriptures.

It was an unusual star that led them to the infant Jewish king. They traveled at great risk for many for months, arriving from lands historically hostile to Israel. How amazing! The magi brought gifts and fell on their faces before a helpless child in an enemy land. It is often assumed there were only three magi because three gifts were presented (frankincense, gold and myrrh), but the number of distant travelers or the size of their entourage is unknown.

King Herod was in Jerusalem enjoying his palatial pleasures when the wise men arrived looking for the new king. Herod was worried. No one could help the magi. The star led them the last four miles to Bethlehem where they found the Child and fell prostrate. They presented gifts appropriate to royalty.

 Luke and Matthew were not alone in writing accounts of the Christ. An old man named John, chosen by Jesus while still a young fisherman, wrote a personal account of his three years with the king. And Mark, who was Peter’s “secretary” recorded Peter’s recollections of his years with Jesus. Four witnesses wrote four accounts called the Gospels. They recount the one historical event from four different perspectives, just as in a courtroom four witnesses might testify about one case with four differing yet truthful accounts. Each Gospel writer had his own material, audience, emphasis and style.

For example, each author deals with the genealogy and birth of Jesus in very different and fascinating ways. Each account is true, non-contradictory, and essential to understand the whole story. Matthew was a Jew writing to Jews. He adeptly demonstrated that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah and King with royal pedigree through the lineage of King David to Abraham the patriarch of Israel and the father of the Jewish nation.

Mark, on the other hand, penned Peter’s gospel from Rome and presents Jesus to the Romans as a servant with no genealogy. A key verse in Mark summarizes the whole Gospel, “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). A servant’s genealogy is irrelevant. Mark’s gospel begins with Jesus working. King and servant: no polar opposites could be more extreme.

 Luke, probably a Greek and the only non-Jewish author in the Bible, writes in part to fellow gentiles portraying Jesus as the ideal of humanity with a genealogy going back to the first man Adam. Jesus Christ is revealed as the perfect Man to a Hellenistic audience steeped in Greek philosophy and struggling for human perfection and meaning in the aftermath of their failed “glory days”.

Lastly, John reveals a very different beginning or “genealogy.” He fleshes out the full mystery of the eternal king starting with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:1, 14). Jesus has no beginning—he is the beginning. John doesn’t write to an exclusive ethnic group; rather, he writes for the whole world and proclaims that Jesus is divine—by his very nature, God. And as God he is eternal and therefore has no genealogy. No science fiction has ever reached such heights. Truth is stranger than fiction?God has become Man. As St. Augustine said, “[Jesus was] the Revealer of His Father, Creator of His mother; Son of God from His Father without a mother, the Son of Man through his mother without a father.”

So the four gospels present Jesus Christ as both king and servant, as both God and man. Matthew and Luke tell the story of his birth, Mark and John do not. The four gospels differ in other aspects as well. But such differing stories with such carefully selected details do not imply contradiction. Rather, it gives them diversity, beauty, and depth. Like a diamond, the many facets must be viewed and appreciated to glimpse the elegance of the whole.

It seems that Matthew may be telling the nativity story from Joseph’s perspective whereas Luke tells Mary’s story. Matthew alone records the angel’s appearance to Joseph four times, whereas in Luke only Mary is visited by an angel. In Matthew Mary’s virginity and honor are defended, something done by a loyal and loving husband. Though no words of Joseph are recorded in Matthew it does tell us his thoughts and his quick submission and obedience to the will of God. Mary’s submission and obedience to God is not mentioned in Matthew, but is clearly recorded in Luke where it is her words and thoughts that are expressed.

One could easily conclude that Luke spent a considerable time with Mary, interviewing her about the miraculous birth and surrounding events. He relays many details that Mary had “treasured and pondered in her heart”, things only Mary would have known. It is Luke who records the words of the angel, Mary’s response, and the glorious Magnificat. He even begins the story with an account of Elizabeth, Mary’s relative. And whereas the genealogy provided by Matthew relates to Joseph’s ancestry, some have considered the genealogy recorded in Luke to be Mary’s family tree.

But despite the variety of information provided, these texts inspired by the Holy Spirit of God himself clearly proclaim the birth of Christ as a miraculous watershed event in human history. He is the Son of Man and Son of God miraculously born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit in a cave-stable in Bethlehem and cared for by his legal, adoptive father Joseph.

 But we still haven’t answered the question: did the wise men meet the shepherds? The tyrant King Herod died in 4 b.c. and he was alive at both the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the magi, so the magi’s visit had to take place after the birth of Jesus and before the flight to Egypt since Herod died before the return of the Holy Family.

Since “the East” probably meant modern day Iraq or Iran, the journey up the fertile crescent and down through modern day Syria and Israel would have taken a long time. They must have calculated the time of birth pretty accurately, arriving shortly after the birth but before the Holy Family fled to Egypt. So, the time frame certainly allowed for them to meet the shepherds. If I had been one of the wise men, I hope I’d have been wise enough to cross one more field to find the shepherds and get the full story—which is exactly what the Gospels have provided for us.

The truth of the Gospel account is not compromised because the Evangelists report the Lord’s words and deeds in different order. Nor is it hurt because they report His words, not literally but in a variety of ways, while retaining the same meaning. As St. Augustine says: “It is quite probable that each Evangelist felt duty-bound to narrate his particular account in the order which God suggested to his memory. At least this would seem to hold true for those items in which order of treatment would not affect the authority or truth of the Gospel. After all, the Holy Spirit distributes His gifts to each as He chooses (The Historicity of the Gospels [Sancta Mater Ecclesia], April 21, 1964, Instruction of the Pontifical Biblical Commission)

Come with us to see all this for yourself in the Holy Land. We still have seats open in September and December. Other four are already sold out. 

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BD6E80DD-DA5E-4B2E-AD0E-AD24CF89595EMy new book is available today. My friend Dennis Walters and I have been working on it for a while and we hope you enjoy it. You can see and order it here. You can buy it now as a Christmas bundle with free shipping and other of my new items.

 

Topics include: How popes are elected, the great popes, are popes above criticism, the pope and Islam, list of all the popes, why is a pope necessary and much more.

This is not a book about Pope Francis or any particular pope. It is more like a “job description” of what the papacy is and what the job of the pope is. One can evaluate any pope based on how he lives up to the “job description” that Jesus provided and that the Church has held for 2,000 years.

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How Big was Noah’s Ark

by Steve Ray on December 5, 2018

It was a big boat at a time when big boats did not exist. It was a feat of genius ingenuity. You can read the instructions for building in Genesis 6:14-22.

We are also told that the ark is a picture of the Church and salvation. In the ark Noah passed through the waters which is a type of baptism.

St. Peter writes, “God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now” (1 Pet 3:20–21).

Jesus says we are born again by water and Spirit which fulfills the prefiguration of Noah and saves us (John 3:3-5).

With all those animals in the ark I wonder who was in charge of cleaning up the mess. I grew up on a small farm and it was my job to use the pitch fork to scoop up the nasty straw and spread it on the garden every day.

The sons of Noah must of had a monumental task every morning and the smell must have been nauseating.

But sometimes it is worth wading through nasty stuff – I mean piles of poop to get to heaven. We too live in a world full of sin, suffering and abuse, but we persevere and the reward is salvation (Matt 24:13).

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Flint Knives at the Heart of the Gospel

November 14, 2018

Ah, excuse me? What do flint knives have to do with the Gospel? A whole lot! Abraham believed God against all odds and as a reward he was given the special sign of the Covenant with God. And what was that wonderful sign between them? In Genesis 17:10-11 God announces this sign to Abraham: “This […]

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What Does the Word Catholic Mean? A History of the Word “Catholic”

October 29, 2018

As a Protestant, I went to an Evangelical church that changed an important and historical word in the  Apostles Creed. Instead of the “holy, catholic Church,” we were the “holy, Christian church.” At the time, I thought nothing of it. There was certainly no evil intent, just a loathing of the Catholic Church and a […]

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The Sign of the Cross: It’s History, Meaning and Biblical Basis

October 28, 2018

SIGN OF THE CROSS By Steve Ray The Sign of the Cross is a ritual gesture by which we confess two important mysteries: the Trinity and the centrality of the Cross. It is the most common and visible means by which we confess our faith. The Sign of the Cross is made by touching the […]

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St. Paul and the Cretans

October 25, 2018

Today we are touring the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. St. Paul was here at least twice that we know of. He did not have a very flattering impression of the Cretans. This is what he wrote to Titus.

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St. Paul Walks Passed the Brothal

October 23, 2018

Every time I visit Ephesus I show my tour group my favorite things in this ancient city. We are here today with 80 pilgrims. We filmed here for our Paul and Mary DVDs and have brought groups here on numerous occasions. One of my favorite things to show people in Ephesus is the Billboard for […]

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Free Timeline of the 1st Century

October 22, 2018

The past is shrouded in a fog for most people. What was really going on in the 1st century during and after the live of Christ and the birth of the Catholic Church? Here is a simple Timeline of First Century Christianity. I created this to give you an overview on one page. I created the […]

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Stones Cry Out: Does Archaeology Support the Bible?

October 21, 2018

Today we are in Corinth where St. Paul lived for 18 months. Every time I come here with my groups I give one of my favorite short talks on the truth of Scripture and the Catholic Faith. You can watch my 10-minute talk below. Recently I did an interview I did with Tim Staples which you […]

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Free St. Paul Timeline – We are in Ephesus today

October 19, 2018

Since we are starting our St. Paul Mediterranean Cruise today, I thought I would share here a copy of my Timeline on St. Paul’s life and writings. Enjoy! Please print and share. Also get a copy of my DVD Paul, Contending for the Faith below filmed in 6 countries. Full study guide included.

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My Thoughts While Waiting In Line for Confession

September 2, 2018

My wife and I went to confession yesterday. The line was pretty long (which was good to see, though I hate lines :-)  As I sat and waited it struck me again that the Church is not just a loose association of like-minded followers of Jesus. It is not just “Jesus and me” as we […]

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Cut off His Head! John the Baptist

August 29, 2018

 Beheading of John the Baptist August 29 He was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New. He was the first to proclaim the news that Jesus was the Messiah, the Lamb of God. He was 100% from the lineage of Aaron the High Priest. He is the prophesied “Elijah […]

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Last Days of Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome

June 29, 2018

Happy Feast Day of Sts. Peter and Paul…. When I take my pilgrims to Rome one of my main objectives is to introduce them to the saints – especially Peter and Paul. We meditate on the last days of the lives, imprisonments, martyrdoms and burials of these two Princes of the Apostles: Peter and Paul. Both of […]

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Bloody Martyrdoms in Lyons – Feast Day of St. Irenaeus

June 28, 2018

In honor of the feast day of St. Irenaeus today I have reposted a blog from several years ago when we were filming our documentary on Apostolic Fathers, Handing on the Faith. Here is the story… “We finished getting all our work done in Lyon for St. Irenaeus. It was very cold and windy — with snow hampering […]

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The Pain of Stolen Honey – John the Baptist was a Manly Man who Teaches us Many Things

June 24, 2018

A painful price is paid when one reaches his hand into a swarm of bees to swipe some of their honey. Stingers fly and welts flare. I raised hives of bees as a boy and once I was stung 35 times in one day. Wild honey is not collected from wild bees without burning pain […]

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