An infant in a manger, a brilliant shining star, and adoring shepherds: All are familiar parts of the Christmas story. For many of the world’s Christians, the celebration of Jesus’ birth occurs every December. It is a time of light and joy, in which this ancient story takes center stage in churches through songs, sermons, and Nativity plays.
In the Bible, however, the traditional elements of the Christmas story are not presented in one single narrative. Nor do they appear in all the Gospels of the New Testament. The events surrounding Jesus’ birth are taken from two Gospels: Matthew and Luke. Each book was written during different times and in different locations. Although much remains mysterious about the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, historians are using clues to shape their assessment of why two of the Gospel writers told the story of Jesus’ birth in the way they did—and why the other two Gospels, Mark and John, do not mention his birth at all.