Pope Shenouda III series
Name of the book: Questions about The Nativity
Author: His Holiness Pope Shenouda III
Press: Amba Rueiss, (Offset), The Cathedral, Abbassia
Deposition number at "The Library":
All rights reserved to the author
His Holiness Pope Shenouda III
Pope and Patriarch of the See of
In the Name of
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
the One God,
In this booklet we present to you some answers which are related to certain questions about the Nativity, of which there are:
The sequence of the genealogy, and the mention of some sinful women in it; and the difference between the two gospels of Matthew and Luke as regards the names, and as regards the ascending order and the descending order in that sequence.
number of genealogies, is it
Elizabeth your relative.
The son of
The difference in the celebration of the day of the Nativity.
The wise men (the Magi) and the nature of the star of the wise men.
The difference between the (Magi) wise men and the shepherds.
Pope Shenouda III
Some people ask many questions about the subject of The Nativity of Christ, and they need answers. I undertook to answer from the sayings of the Saint Fathers, which I had translated, or which I had taken from some manuscripts.
I relied in that, on many books, the most important of which are:
There are other questions about the virginal nativity and the virginity of the Holy Virgin, to which I answered in our book "The Comparative Theology", to which it can be referred.
But now, I congratulate you for the Nativity of the Lord Christ.
Many happy returns.
The sinful women in the genealogy sequence
Why did the evangelist neglect the names of some saint women like Sara, Rebecca, and others, in the sequence of genealogies, while he mentioned adulterous women like Tamar, Rahab, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and Ruth who is a woman of a foreign race?
wanted to annihilate the haughtiness of the Jews who boast about their
grandfathers. He showed to them how their grandfathers had sinned.
Even if their grandfathers were virtuous men, the virtue of their granfathers would not have been profitable to them; because the deeds of a person, not the deeds of his sons, are those which determine his destiny at the last day.
"The Lord Christ did not come to run away form our disgraceful actions, but to obliterate them. He is not ashamed of any of our defects. And just as those grandfathers had taken adulterous women, in the same way our Lord and God has bethrothed for Himself our nature that had committed adultery.
The Church is like Tamar:
She was at once delivered from her wicked actions, and then she followed Him.
The condition of Ruth resembles our conditions:
was a foreigner to
Our Lord mortified them with these matters, and made them realize how not to be haughty.
When the evangelist registered the genealogy of Christ, he mentioned those sinful women; because it is impossible for any of us to be virtuous by the virtue of his grandfathers, or to be wicked by the vice of his grandfathers. I rather say that the person whose grandfathers were not virtuous and became virtuous himself, then the honor of that person's virtue would have been great.
Let no one boast about his grandfathers, and be puffed because of them,
when he thinks about the grandfathers of our Lord; and let him look at his own
deeds, and even let him not boast about his virtues; because it is through such
boasting that the
Do not then falsify your pains by vain
talk. Do not loose all your effort after having covered a long distance;
because your Lord knows the virtues
which you have attained, better than you, because if you give a glass of cold
water, God will not neglect that, and will not forget it. (Matt.
Ascent & descent
the genealogical sequence
There are three differences in the sequence of genealogy, between what the evangelist Matthew registered, and what the evangelist Luke registered. They are:
Is there an interpretation for all these differences?
I. The difference in names.
As a matter of fact, saint Matthew mentions the natural genealogy of the Lord Christ, while saint Luke mentions the legal or official genealogy. To explain this, we say:
of Moses specifies that if a man dies without posterity, the brother of the
dead man must take the widow of his brother, and marry her, and engender a
posterity for his brother from her. (Deut.
Hence such a son would have two fathers: a natural father who has engendered him, and a legal father who is his uncle who died without posterity.
If this dead man without posterity has no brother, the nearest relative to him will take his wife and engender a posterity to him;
because the son who is born is counted a son to this dead man, according to the law. If the nearest relative does not want to take the wife of the dead man according to what he has been charged of, the next relative must necessarily accept this marriage, because the law is eager to raise a posterity to that dead man who has not engendered a son.
That kind of marriage is called "redemption". A clear example of this is mentioned in the story of Ruth with Boaz.
In his interpretation of this, saint Severus of Antioch said:
In this manner,
since Heli took a wife and died without
posterity, Jacob, who was the nearest relative to him, married his wife in
order to engender a posterity to him from her according to the commandment of
the law. When he engendered
From his part, saint Matthew mentioned the natural fathers of
Luke went on with the genealogical legal sequence until Nathan son of
the genealogy of Christ is confirmed, from the natural and from the legal point
of view,.........that He is the son of
and the relation between this and the baptism.
Matthew began his gospel by saying: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus
Christ, the Son of
Thus after having explained the corruption and the death through which all these generations had passed, he arrived at the pure birth of the Lord Christ from the Holy Spirit and from the Virgin saint Mary.
As for saint Luke, he narrated the Annunciation, the birth of the Baptist, the Nativity of Christ, and gradually reached the baptism of Christ at the age of thirty; and then he mentioned the legal genealogy.
Saint Severus of
"Luke explained the legal genealogy, that reminds us of Him who died without posterity, then his name was raised after his death, by a son who is attributed to him, in a way that has some similarity to the adoption and to the resurrection.
He mentioned this genealogy after having narrated the story of the Nativity; because baptism gives the true heavenly adoption, in manifesting us as sons of God. Therefore he mentioned the legal genealogy which gives the adoption; in order to show that this representation has been truly confirmed, and that the sickly condition of the people has been returned to health by means of grace.
It is for this reason that he ascended with the genealogy from down upwards, till it arrived to God, in order to show that grace which comes from baptism raises us up and elevates us to the divine relationship, making us sons to God.
Exactly just as the union of marriage which happened after the disobedience of the commandment by Adam and Eve, and the engendering of sons, which resulted from that, made us descend downwards. And to complete this image he descended with the natural genealogy downwards ..........
goes down with the genealogy, pointing to our Lord Jesus Christ who descended
to bear our sins. Because in the posterity of Abraham "all the families of
the earth shall be blessed" (Gen.
The number of generations
Saint Matthew says: "So
all the generations from Abraham to
The reason is that Jeconiah was counted twice, because he is like the angle stone, an intermediate between two generations, and so he was counted with each of the two.
And from Jecohiah, they went up to the generation of Christ who has emancipated them.
Jeconiah was in that matter, a symbol of Christ, who was described as "the stone which was rejected by the builders, which has become the chief cornerstone".
The son of
Why did the apostle Matthew say in the genealogy sequence: "Jesus
Christ, the son of
they said: "Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed
called Him the son of Abraham, but they called Him the son of
said to Solomon: "Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake
of your father
We note also what the angel said in his annunciation to the Holy Virgin of the birth of Christ:
"He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and
the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father
Elizabeth your relative
The angel of the Annunciation said to the
Holy Virgin : "Now indeed,
Elizabeth your relative has also conceived in her old age" (Luke ). How can this be, since the
Holy Virgin St. Mary is from the tribe of Judah from the posterity of
It is true that it was said in the book of Numbers:
"So the inheritance of the children of
Nevertheless there are some who interpret the word "your
relative" in a general meaning, or that she is like one from the daughters
"For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my
brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom
pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants....." (
But saint Severus, Patriarch of
matter of fact, the book of the Exode was written before the commandment that
forbids taking a wife from another tribe. Aaron, the first chief priest
according to the law, took a wife from the daughters of
the very wise management of the Holy Spirit, who ordained that the wife of
Zacharias, the mother of the Baptist and the relative of St. Mary the mother of
God, was called
Why the registration by genealogy from
This question was asked by saint
"How is it declared that Christ is from the posterity of
mentioned in the gospel that "the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city
If you say: "What is it if he had disobeyed the law in that matter? I reply to you that the gospel testified to him that he was "a just man" (Matt. ).
If you say: Why is it according to the genealogy from
"It was not a custom among the Jews, to count the genealogy from women.
Therefore he was silent about the mention of her grandfathers, and he counted
the genealogy of
Also it was because he did not want to manifest before the time, to the Jews, that Christ was born of a Virgin.........since in that, there is a deliverance of the Virgin from a malignant accusation...... lest the Jews would have lapidated the Virgin with stones.
after numerous miracles, they called Him the son of
THE "WISE MEN" (THE MAGI)
Who are the wise men? Why did the star appear to them? How did they overcome the Jews? Was the star a natural star? Or was it a heavenly power in the form of a star? What are the symbols which the story of the wise men bear, and what are their relationships with the Gentiles and the Jews?
wise men came from the East, probably from the countries of
"[My brothers, we urgently need long watching and many prayers in order to be able to answer these questions, and to know who are those wise men? and where did they come from?
Because Satan suggested to the enemies of the truth to say: "When Christ was born, His star appeared: Is this not a sign which proves that astrology is a true industry? If He was born in this manner, why did He eradicate astrology, fortune-telling, and magic, and did he render the devils to silence?!
Let us then examine what was that star: was it one of the numerous stars? Or was it an alien to them, from another nature than their nature? Or was it that only the person who looked at it, that thought it was a star? If we know the answer to these questions, we shall know the other matters with greater facility.
That star was not one of the numerous stars; and it is more convenient to say, according to what I think, that it was not a star. But it was one of the invisible powers, and was transformed to that aspect.
The evidence is clear:
from the way of its movement: Because there is no star which can
possibly move in that manner. If you consider the other stars, you will find
that their movement is from West to East. But this star went in its course from
the North to the South, because that is the direction from the countries of
Secondly: as regards the time of its appearance: because it did not
appear by night, but rather in the daytime when the sun has risen. And this appearance is neither due to the strength of a star, nor to the strength of the moon, nor was it due to all these astral bodies which hide and set down when the sun rays appear. But this star had overcome the sun rays by the abundance of its brilliancy, and was more visible and more glittering than all of them.
Thirdly: this truth becomes obvious from that the star appeared for some time and then disappeared for some other time.
Because it appeared in order to show them the way to
Fourthly: by its descending downwards:
The meditator must in an obvious manner, necessarily find out another characteristic from the guidance of the wise men by the star. Because it was not possible to show them the way while it was high over them, but it achieved that action by coming downwards. Because while it was high over them, it could not determine precisely a narrow place like a hut where a small baby is lying down. We can know this from the example of the moon, which appears greater than many stars, and how it appears to all the inhabitants of the world in all its vastness, and everyone thinks that the moon is near to him.
Tell me how would the star have shown them a small place like a hut and a manger, if it had not left this high place, and gone downwards till it stopped over the head of the child.
is what the evangelist indicated saying: "and behold, the star which they
had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the
young Child was." (Matt.
When the star recognized the Child, it stopped, and its stopping there, while it was descending downwards, is a great testimony.
It had a great influence upon the wise men and guided them to the worship of the Child. They did not worship Him as an ordinary human being. That is obvious from the gifts which they presented to Him, and which are not convenient for a small child in its swaddling clothes.....
Did you see with what arguments, it has been shown that this star was not one of the ordinary stars?......]
Why did the star appear?
If you ask why did the star appear?
I shall answer you saying that its appearance symbolizes the end of the choice of the Jews; destroying all their arguments of self-sufficiency, and calling all the world to His worship.
Thus He opened the door to the Gentiles from the principle of the coming
of the Lord, willing to educate His people through the foreigners. Because if He had sent to
them many prophets who explained to them His coming, and nevertheless they did
not listen to them, therefore He let the foreigners (the Persians) come from a
distant land asking for the vision of the way. Let the Jews learn from the
words of the inhabitants of
What have they to say, they who have refused to accept the Christ in spite of His having sent to them the prophets, while the wise men accepted the Lord and worshipped Him, merely because they had seen a single star?
He convicted them with His acceptance by the wise men, He also convicted them
with the faith of the pagan inhabitants of
Why did He attract the wise men in this manner?
Perhaps someone would ask: "Why did He attract the wise men by means of a star? We answer that it was not possible for such people to listen to a prophet if He had sent to them one of the prophets. And it was not convenient for them that He would have talked to them from above or by sending an angel. Therefore He called them by the means to which they were used, condescending to their great weekness; and He showed them a great and strange star, in order to amaze them by its beautiful aspect, and to lead them by its way of marching.
apostle saint Paul followed this method, when he mentioned a testimony from the
poets (Acts ).
He argued with everyone with the style to which he was used (
this with the wise men. He permitted to call them with a star which they saw,
in order to render them more discerning and more perceptive than they were.
When He led them to the manger, and when they saw the new-born, and became in
their spiritualities, better than they were,
then He did not let them go back to their countries by means of a star,
but He "divinely warned" them "in a dream" (Matt.
Why did He manifest Himself to those wise men, and not to others?
someone would ask: "How did they reach such a great zeal? Who had incited
them to such a long journey from their country?" According to my opinion,
what they did was not merely to be guided by a star, but it was God who had
awakened their souls; just as He had done
with the king Cyrus, when He
incited him to build the house of God. (Ezra
Perhaps it would be said: "Why did He not unveil this manifestation to all the wise men?"
answer: Because He was not expecting that all of them would believe Him. But He
unveiled the matter to those who were more ready to accept Him. Many nations
had perished, but the prophet Jonah was not sent but to the people of
It is astonishing that these wise men come from distant countries to see the Christ! What good things did they expect?.....Did they come to a king?
Nevertheless they did not see a king, but a child in swaddling clothes. Did they treat Him as a king, considering what would be happening? No, because afterwards He did not surround Himself with any kingly appearance, He did not possess neither horses nor slaves, and He was accompanied only by twelve unknown poor men.
They did not expect him to be a king over them, but a king over an opposing country, which was very distant from their country. Undoubtedly they realized the dangers which surrounded them in meeting Him.
They had seen how king Herod trembled, and how the whole congregation was troubled, when they heard the words of the wise men. So they were heading for a king over a country over which there reigned another king ...... What kinds of deaths were then awaiting for them?! And what did they expect from that king to whom they were directed?
What good thing did they hope to take, when they saw before them a hut, and a manger, and a child in his swaddling clothes, and a poor mother. What then was their aim in worshipping Him and in giving Him presents?
Did they expect good things from Him, when he would become a king in the future? And how could they know that this child would, when he would be grown up, remember what they did, so long as he was in His swaddling clothes?!
How marvelous is the virtue of those who had thrown themselves into many dangers, leaving their country and their people, without any apparent aim but that they obeyed what the Lord had placed in their hearts; then they believed, came, worshipped, and gave presents.
We see the virtue of these wise men, not only in their mere coming, but
also in their publicly saying: "we have seen His star in the East, and
have come to worship Him" (Matt.
Hence, I believe that these wise men became the teachers of their coutrymen in their lands.......especially that they had known from the Jews, that this one whose star they had seen, is the one whom the prophets had announced long ages ago.
The shepherds and the wise men are symbols of the Jews and the Gentiles:
Saint Augustin explains this point saying:
men from the Gentiles, were the first to
believe in the Lord Christ. It is evident that the first fruit of the belief in
Christ, was the belief of the shepherds. The shepherds came to Him from a near
place, and they saw Him on the same day, because the news had come to them by
means of angels. But the wise men came to Him from a distant place, and by
means of a star. Nevertheless both of them met at the corner stone, "who
has made both one" ........... those "who were afar off and ...those
who were near" (Eph. -
The shepherds came from a near place to see, and the wise men came from a distant place to worship.
reached the shepherds before the wise men, but these last were more humble.
This is the humility that rendered the wild olive tree deserving to be grafted
into a cultivated olive tree (Rom. ).
The Holy Bible glorifies this humility more in the Gentiles, than in the Jews. Examples of this are what
has been said about the centurion (Matt.
The Jews manifested to the Gentiles the Christ whom they did not themselves want to worship.
We note as regards the wise men, that in not returning through the same way, they symbolize the change in life; since those who arrive at Christ, do not return again to their first way.
"Let the Jews be ashamed, because they had seen wise men and
ignorant people preceding them, while they did not come to Him, not even after these.
That which had happened at that time was a token of what happened later: that the Gentiles preceded
the Jews ....... Thus those who were from the
The Jews should have worshipped with the wise men, and should have glorified their God, but they trembled and were troubled.
"Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared", desiring to kill the new-born.
Between Herod and the wise men:
Herod did not care for all that had happened. He was not persuaded, neither by the prophecies of the prophets which he had heard, nor by the story of the extraordinary star, nor by the coming of the wise men from distant countries to worship the new-born.
It is clear that he was in a strange position. Whether he had believed the prophecy which had been said, it is evident that he acted contrarily. And whether he had denied it and had not expected that what was said in it would be realized, why then was he afraid and terrified?
Among the matters which demonstrate his lack of understanding, is his delusion that the wise men would prefer him to the new-born whose star they had seen, and for whom they suffered the pains of that long journey!
astonishing thing is that "he had secretly called the wise men", and said to them: "Go and search
carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to
me, that I may come and worship Him also" (Matt.
And we ask him: "If you truthfully say that, why then do you ask the people secretly? And if you want to kill Him, do you think that the wise men had no doubts about you, because or your trouble and your calling them secretly? ....... But when the malignity of a person traps him, he becomes less intelligent than everybody......
Beware of becoming like Herod who said: "that I may come and worship Him also", while his heart was not sincere to Him, but he wanted to kill Him. Because those who worthlessly take part in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist , resemble Herod.
The wise men, before their sight of the Child, were hammered by tribulations and fears from every part. But after their worship, He filled them with peace, and they became His priests through their worship, because they presented gifts and offerings to Him.....
But perhaps you would ask: "Why did the wise men run away from Herod's face? And why did the Child Jesus run away too?
We answer that it was not convenient to show His miracles in that early age, lest people would not have felt that He was a human being......
There is another meaning, which is that we must expect difficulties and pains since the beginning of the way.
Jesus who, while He was still in His swaddling clothes, was chased by Herod,
and ran away. And His mother who had not committed any evil, who had not gone
away from her house for a long distance at any time, she was alienated and
suffered the pains of a long journey.....and
That happened so that, when you hear these events, and you become prepared to serve a spiritual service, and then you meet calamities and hardships, you do not tremble a little and do not say: "I should have been crowned because I have accomplished the service of my Lord."
When the wise men had been divinely warned not to return to Herod, they "departed for their own country another way" They did not doubt, but they promptly obeyed, and they did not think in themselves: "If this Child is greatly powerful, and possesses such wonders, what need have we to run away and to depart secretly!"
LIkewise the just
And he did not say to him: "You said before, that He will save His people, and behold, He did not save Himself, but we are in need of journeying and running away. What happened to us is the contrary of what He had promised us......."
He did not pronounce any of these expressions, because he was believing. And he did not ask about the time of his return from there, although the angel did not specify it, not even by saying "until I bring you word".......
THE DIFFERENCE IN THE
FEAST OF THE NATIVITY
Why do we celebrate the feast of the Nativity on the
It is not a doctrinal or a theological difference, but it is a scientific difference.
known that the year is
the gregorian western calendar, it has been said that the year is
If this difference of eleven minutes every year, is multiplied during
those centuries since the birth of Christ until now, it will result into a
difference of approximately thirteen days which is the difference between the
confidence in our Coptic calendar,
because of the great excellence of the
But the question in not a question of faith and doctrine, nevertheless it can be exploited to impress the simple, when the date is changed.
|| The Orthodox Faith (Dogma) || Family and Youth || Sermons || Bible Study || Devotional || Spirituals || Fasts & Feasts || Coptics || Religious Education || Monasticism || Seasons || Missiology || Ethics || Ecumenical Relations || Church Music || Pentecost || Miscellaneous || Saints || Church History || Pope Shenouda || Patrology || Canon Law || Lent || Pastoral Theology || Father Matta || Bibles || Iconography || Liturgics || Orthodox Biblical topics || Orthodox articles || St Chrysostom |||| Bible Study || Biblical topics || Bibles || Orthodox Bible Study || Coptic Bible Study || King James Version || New King James Version || Scripture Nuggets || Index of the Parables and Metaphors of Jesus || Index of the Miracles of Jesus || Index of Doctrines || Index of Charts || Index of Maps || Index of Topical Essays || Index of Word Studies || Colored Maps || Index of Biblical names Notes || Old Testament activities for Sunday School kids || New Testament activities for Sunday School kids || Bible Illustrations || Bible short notes
|| Prayer of the First Hour || Third Hour || Sixth Hour || Ninth Hour || Vespers (Eleventh Hour) || Compline (Twelfth Hour) || The First Watch of the midnight prayers || The Second Watch of the midnight prayers || The Third Watch of the midnight prayers || The Prayer of the Veil || Various Prayers from the Agbia || Synaxarium