It’s Christmas, but not as you know it: a new book released this week by Pope Benedict XVI looks at the early life of Jesus — and debunks several myths about how the Nativity unfolded.
In “Jesus of Nazareth — The Infancy Narratives,” the pope says the Christian calendar is actually based on a blunder by a sixth century monk, who Benedict says was several years off in his calculation of Jesus’ birth date.
According to the pope’s research, there is also no evidence in the Gospels that the cattle and other animals traditionally pictured gathered around the manger were actually present.
He also debunks the claim that angels sang at the birth, a staple theme of Christmas carols.
The book, which is being published in multiple languages in time for Christmas, is the third in a series by the pontiff. The previous two volumes dealt with Jesus’ adult life and his public ministry.
Alessandro Speciale, Vatican correspondent for the Religion News Service, told CNN the pope was not so much aiming to debunk myths as trying to show that the Jesus depicted in the Gospels is a real historical figure, who walked on earth and talked to people like anyone else.
The pope also looks at scholarly studies of the Bible, some of which have indicated for decades that the traditionally accepted birth date for Jesus is wrong, Speciale said.
But while the book points out that the Gospels do not support the presence of animals at Jesus’ birth — a detail apparently added in later centuries — the pope does not suggest they should be thrown out of the Nativity scene, Speciale said.
How do you feel about the book? Does it change your view of traditional Christmas beliefs?