The Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday that the Christmas story of the Three Wise Men was nothing but a ‘legend’.
Dr Rowan Williams has claimed there was little evidence that the Magi even existed and there was certainly nothing to prove there were three of them or that they were kings.
He said the only reference to the wise men from the East was in Matthew’s gospel and the details were very vague.
Dr Williams said: “Matthew’s gospel says they are astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire, that’s all we’re really told. It works quite well as legend.”
The Archbishop went on to dispel other details of the Christmas story, adding that there were probably no asses or oxen in the stable.
He argued that Christmas cards which showed the Virgin Mary cradling the baby Jesus, flanked by shepherds and wise men, were misleading. As for the scenes that depicted snow falling in Bethlehem, the Archbishop said the chance of this was “very unlikely”.
In a final blow to the traditional nativity story, Dr Williams concluded that Jesus was probably not born in December at all. He said: “Christmas was when it was because it fitted well with the winter festival.”
His comments came during an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live with Simon Mayo yesterday. Later on in the show, the Archbishop was challenged by fellow guest Ricky Gervais, the comedian, about the credibility of the Christmas story.
Gervais told Dr Williams he was concerned about “brainwashing” of children who are sent to faith schools at an early age, comparing teaching that God exists to belief in Father Christmas.
Dr Williams said faith schools expose children to the full range of human experience and values and he did not believe they indoctrinated people.
Original title: Archbishop says nativity ‘a legend’
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