Ask the Experts: Christmas Questions

At the Religion News Service:

… we’re starting a new feature here at RNS called “Ask the Experts.”

The idea is, readers like you send in questions about theology, history, literature, or any topic related to religion, and we’ll contact scholars to find out the answers.

In honor of Christmas, our first edition of Ask the Experts tackles questions about the events and traditions surrounding the holy day.

The questions include:

  • Why do some Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7th?
  • Why do we repeatedly hear about the “three wise men,” when biblical scholars tell us there were in fact many magi who attended Jesus after his birth?
  • Why did Mary and Joseph have to go to Bethlehem? How did civil authorities determine which town people had to report to at census-taking time?
  • Is it true that the word translated “inn” – kataluma – could also mean guest room? In other words, could Mary and Joseph been seeking shelter in relative’s guest rooms, rather than at the inn?
  • How was the birth of Christ celebrated before Constantine?
  • Is it true that most Christian churches did not celebrate Christmas in significant way until about a hundred years ago?
  • Is it true that department stores were the ones that started many of the traditions that we celebrate today?

Answers here.




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