Nativity

The 6 Most Common Arguments Against the Christmas Story

By Phoenix Hayes

Christmas is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the Western world today. And yet, it is riddled with a confusing mishmash of religion, tradition, and fantasy. All of these combine to form the season we now celebrate as Christmas. The variety of symbols and stories associated with this time is so broad that it allows the consumer to pick and choose what elements of the holiday they feel most comfortable with, and forget the rest. For some, that means a living room filled with the legend of Santa Claus, mixed with fairy tale add-ons, such as the infamous “elf-on-the-shelf.” For others, the focus is more on the nativity story and the religious significance of the virgin birth. Finally, Winter solstice, or the pagan holiday known as ‘Yule,’ is another piece of this puzzling holiday. This is the one responsible for such traditions as decorating greenery inside the house, lighting candles, and giving gifts.

With all these pieces of the holiday puzzle in mind, I will focus on the Christian piece of celebrating the birth of Jesus, and how Christians, over 2,000 years later, still believe that this miraculous event occurred, despite six arguments to the contrary.

Objection #1: The virgin birth is simply a copy of other mythologies

This has been an ongoing accusation against Christianity from those who typically have a shallow understanding of both Christianity and the ancient mythologies in question. For starters, Christianity deals with actual people linked to verifiable, historical events, locations, and governing rulers. Mary, Jesus’ mother, is not an anonymous female used as a vessel to bring forth a superhuman, demigod character, as other ancient mythologies espouse. She is not a maiden who is seduced or raped by one of the many pantheistic gods. Mary has a prominent role throughout the gospels, a complete genealogy as listed in Luke 3:23-38, and her honor is maintained by remaining a virgin until after the birth of Jesus. There is no singular legend that both precedes the story of Christ’s birth and matches it. Instead, there are just elements from mythologies ranging from Mithra, Dionysus, and other legends, that later developed surrounding stories of Alexander the Great. There is no comparison.

Objection #2: Why would a census require people to return to the hometown?

As massively inconvenient and logistically absurd as this requirement seems to us today, the census was a normal part of ancient culture. According to a historical document cited in John McRay’s book Archaeology and the New Testament, we find another example of this practice.

“Seeing that the time has come for the house-to-house census, it is necessary to compel all those who, for any cause whatsoever, are residing out of their provinces to return to their own homes; that they may both carry out the regular order of the census and may also attend diligently to the cultivation of their allotments.[1]” – Gaius Vibius Maximus, Prefect of Egypt, 104 AD

Objection #3: Mary wasn’t a virgin

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 ESV

There is a centuries-old debate that surrounds the Hebrew word ‘almah’ used in Isaiah 7:14 to describe the woman who is to give birth to the Messiah. The reason this word is so contested is because almah can be translated as simply a young, unmarried woman of a marriageable age. Though it was assumed that all unmarried women were virgins at that time, the word itself does not explicitly mean “virgin.” The word that many scholars believe should have been used, if virginity was the intended meaning, is ‘betulah.’ It is the more common word used in ancient and modern texts for this purpose. The problem with this challenge is that although betulah is used more frequently in reference to a virgin, there are also instances where it refers to a widow or divorced woman.  In contrast, alma is never used in reference to a non-virgin. So, although the word almah does not specifically refer to the sexuality of a woman, virginity is assumed.

Objection #4: Nazareth didn’t exist

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, Come and see.” John 1:46 ESV

For many Christians, the fact that skeptics are contesting the existence of Nazareth during Jesus’ lifetime is relatively unknown. What doesn’t help the case for its existence is the lack of mention from both the Apostle Paul, the Talmud, and the ancient historian, Josephus. However, as Archeologist, Jack Finnegan writes in his book, “Lack of earlier mention, therefore, does not suggest doubt that there was a city called Nazareth in Jesus’ time but only attests the relative insignificance of the city, which may also be reflected in the disparaging comment in John 1:46.[2]” According to Dr. James Strange, archeological discoveries show that Nazareth not only existed in the first century but was approximately 60 acres, with a maximum population of 480 people[3].

Objection #5: There was no slaughter at Bethlehem

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Matthew 2:16 ESV

There is no historical documentation, outside of Matthew’s gospel, that describes the infanticide ordered by King Herod shortly after Christ’s birth. But this doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. According to Dr. John McRay, New Testament and archeology expert, this kind of bloodshed happened with such frequency during Herod’s 33-year reign, sadly, it’s unlikely anyone took notice. Bethlehem was a tiny town, of little importance, located several miles from any city of significance. So, for Herod to order the death of all boys under the age of two, though tragic, it was unlikely to amount to more than a couple of dozen children.

Objection #6: Jesusbirth is just a coincidence

Skeptics have argued that the conditions surrounding Jesus’ birth and early life amount to nothing more than coincidence when it comes to the fulfillment of messianic prophecy. Peter W. Stoner, mathematician and author of Science Speaks, points out that the odds of one man fulfilling even eight prophecies is one-chance-in-a-hundred-million-billion. To put that into perspective, Stoner calculated that if you had this number in silver dollars, it would cover the state of Texas to a depth of two feet! If you marked one silver dollar among those, and then had a blindfolded person wander the whole state and bend down to pick up just one coin, what would be the odds he’d choose the one marked? It’s the same odds that anyone in history could have fulfilled just eight of the messianic prophecies[4]. Jesus Christ, through the circumstances of his birth alone, fulfilled 11 of those prophecies. That is no coincidence!

  1. Virgin birth. (Isaiah 7:14)
  2. Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
  3. The slaughter in Bethlehem. (Jeremiah 31:15)
  4. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus escape to Egypt. (Hosea 11:1)
  5. Joseph returns to Nazareth instead of Judea. (Matthew 2:23)
  6. Jesus was from the Abrahamic line. (Genesis 12:3)
  7. Jesus was from the line of Isaac. (Gen 26:4)
  8. Jesus was from the line of Jacob. (Gen 28:14)
  9. Jesus was from the line of Judah. (Gen 49:8-12)
  10. Jesus was from the line of Jesse. (Isaiah 11:1)
  11. Jesus was from the line of David. (Isaiah 9:7)

Over 2,000 years ago, a baby was born that terrified a king. Jesus Christ had wise men and shepherds travel to meet him. He fulfilled 11 messianic prophesies in his early childhood and around 320 more by the time he ascended to heaven. He is the reason we have hope. He is the reason why in some candlelit living rooms, beside the decorated trees and colorful gifts, the sounds of Christmas carols will be heard commemorating the birth of the Savior of the world.

[1] John McRay, Archaeology and the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1991), 155

[2] Jack Finnegan, The Archeology of the New Testament: The Life of Jesus and the Beginning of the Early Church (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 43 & 46

[3] James F. Strange, “Nazareth,” ABD, 4:1050; and Richard A. Horsley, Galilee: History, Politics, People (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1995), 193

[4] Peter W. Stoner, Science Speaks (Chicago: Moody, 1969), 109

Disclaimer: All views expressed by those associated with this ministry or on our platforms do not necessarily represent the opinions of Women in Apologetics, Inc. or its individual team members.

Share this post

Categories

JOIN THE WIA TRIBE

Become a WIA volunteer and enjoy the many benefits that come with it! Check out our current needs on the volunteer page.

BECOME A KEY PARTNER

Help us in our mission to educate, equip, and encourage women in Christian apologetics.

Copyright © Women in Apologetics. All rights reserved.