By Beth Demme
Since it’s the Christmas party season and you might find yourself at an adult party wearing your pajamas and playing Christmas Bible Trivia (hey—it happened to me!), I’m here to help you prepare.
Here are some Christmas Bible Trivia questions with answers that might surprise you.
- 1. Does the New Testament begin with Christmas?
- 2. Was Jesus born on December 25?
- 3. Did Mary travel to Bethlehem on a donkey?
- 4. True or False: The shepherds followed the star to baby Jesus.
- 5. How many wise men are in the Bible?
- 6. Where was Jesus when the wise men found him?
- 7. Were the wise men Eastern kings?
- 8. Did baby Jesus ever cry?
Want a printable version of this trivia for your own fun purposes? Click here.
Does the New Testament begin with Christmas?(Top)
The wrong answer: The Gospel of Matthew begins with the birth of Jesus and everything flows chronologically from there. That’s how history books are written.
Actually, the New Testament isn’t written chronologically. The first book of the New Testament is the Gospel of Matthew, but it begins with a genealogy. The Gospels repeat many of the same stories. Matthew and Luke both teach us something about the birth of Jesus.
Also, please don’t call the Bible a history book. It’s far more important than that.
Was Jesus born on December 25? (Top)
The wrong answer: Yes. It says so right on his birth certificate which is printed there in the Bible as part of his biography.
Sorry, but the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us the date of Jesus’ birth. The Gospels aren’t like a modern biography. You can search the entire Bible and you won’t find any references to “the 25th day of December, the first year of our Lord.” For one thing, the designation anno domini (A.D.), “the year of our Lord,” didn’t come into use until around 525.
The earliest Christians focused more on the death and resurrection of Jesus than on his birth. Different birth dates were used in the first few hundred years of Christianity, but by the 300’s, the Western church had settled on December 25 (and the Eastern church had settled on January 6). The Western church (e.g., Rome) celebrated the arrival of the wise men on January 6, twelve days after Christmas, in the celebration of Epiphany. (Click here for an excellent article about the history of the date of Christmas.)
There are two theories explaining the choice of December 25. Early church leaders believed Jesus was crucified on the anniversary of his conception, i.e. he was conceived on the same date he was later crucified. (Read more.) Using the Gospel of John, the crucifixion of Jesus was dated to March 25. Nine months later is … drumroll please … December 25.
It is also possible, but unlikely, that the church chose December 25 because it coincided with the date of a pagan celebration of the winter solstice. The first suggestion of this connection actually came up several hundred years after the church established the date of Christmas. (Read more.)
Did Mary travel to Bethlehem on a donkey? (Top)
The wrong answer: Yes, that’s why there is a donkey in my Nativity.
We aren’t sure. The Bible doesn’t tell us how Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem. (Luke 2:4-5) Many Nativity scenes include a donkey. It could be there to represent how Mary got to Bethlehem, but it could also be there for symbolic reasons.
In fact, many traditional Nativity images have a donkey and an ox. This image is from the website for the Armenian Orthodox Church:
Even though the Bible doesn’t say an ox and a donkey were present in the stable, these animals have an important metaphorical meaning in the Nativity scene. The ox is a clean animal, representing the Israelites. The donkey is an unclean animal (it has an undivided hoof; see Leviticus 11:3), representing the Gentiles (non-Jews). (Click here to read more.)
The ox and the donkey are often present in Christian images of the birth of Jesus because before his birth, Gentiles were not part of the covenant. Thru him Gentiles like me were brought into relationship with God. (Galatians 3:28) In other words, the ox and the donkey have theological significance that has nothing to do with whether they were literally present when Jesus was born.
True or False: The shepherds followed the star to baby Jesus. (Top)
False. The shepherds did not follow the star. Only the wise men followed the star. The shepherds were alerted by a group of angels. (Luke 2:15-16)
How many wise men are in the Bible? (Top)
The wrong answer: Three! There were three wise men in the Bible! Again, it’s right here in the Nativity I inherited from my Great-Great-Great-Great Somebody!
The Bible doesn’t say how many wise men there were. The Gospel of Matthew says “they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11) Because three gifts are presented, we tend to think there were three wise men. Actually, it could have been two men with three gifts.
Or, since there wasn’t a gift registry for the Savior of the World, maybe it was six men and their gifts were duplicates. How embarrassing! I’m sorry Mary. I see that the Messiah has already received myrrh. That wasn’t very wise of me, but hopefully you can use some more.
Where was Jesus when the wise men found him? (Top)
The wrong answer: The manger. Duh. Again, it’s right here in the Christmas Nativity I inherited from my Great-Great-Great-Great Somebody.
The shepherds came to the manger the night Jesus was born, but the wise men came some time later. The Gospel of Matthew says they came to a house, not a barn. Also, they met Jesus as a child, not a baby. (Matthew 2:10-11)
Were the wise men Eastern kings? (Top)
The wrong answer: Yes. That’s why we sing, “We three kings of Orient are / Bearing gifts we traverse afar.”
They were from the east, but they were “Magi,” not kings. Some translations note that magi were more like astrologers than kings. (Click here to see what I mean.)
Did baby Jesus ever cry? (Top)
The wrong answer: Nope, no way. In “Away in a Manger” it says, “no crying he makes.”
The Bible never says Jesus was silent as a baby. To the contrary, it affirms his humanity. His humanity is part of the mystery and the miracle of his incarnation. Human babies cry, including Jesus. The song is poetry, conveying a point more important than literal or Biblical historical fact.
If you already knew all of these, I hereby present you with a gold star.
If not, don’t worry. You are in good company. Plenty of faithful Christians would get the answers to these questions wrong. Our understanding of the Christmas story is partly Biblical, partly cultural, and partly the result of church history and tradition.
Want a printable version of this trivia for your own fun purposes? Want a version optimized for cell phones or Zoom? Click here.