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The real truth of the Nativity

Features | January 2018

Christ’s birth is filled with mysteries. Christopher Howse investigates the date Jesus was born, the languages he spoke and the food he ate

We could start with the star. The Magi saw it and set off from the east. These Magi were not three kings. Their names Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar (the black one on Christmas cards) were invented later, though not by England’s own historian St Bede, as is often said. Herodotus (born in the Persian Empire, around 484BC, though we don’t know exactly when) mentions magi interpreting a dream of the King of the Medes. It’s interesting that the Gospel of St Matthew narrates the search of these pagans for the King of the Jews. There are a surprising number of pagans mixed up in the Christmas history. But then, the Jewish scriptures (Numbers 24:17) record a prophecy by the pagan Baalam: ‘I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a star out of Jacob.’ If we could identify for sure the...

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