The mystery of Christmas is unfolded in various ways in the New Testament. In one account it is the story of poor visitors in Bethlehem who give birth to a child "destined to cause the fall and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed," with a warning to the mother that "a sword will pierce your own soul too" (Lk 2:34-35). In another account the infant Jesus is threatened by Herod the Great and taken to Egypt by his parents when Herod "gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under" (Mt 2:16).
The third story, less well known, is a kind of transformation of the second. A pregnant woman is threatened by a great dragon that intends to "devour her child the moment it was born." But when she gives birth, the male child is "snatched up to God and to his throne," while the woman flees to the desert to "a place prepared for her by God" (Rev 12:4-6). Wherever we look, the mystery of Christmas is linked to danger and to the ancient conflict between good and evil. This particular expression of the conflict has the look of certain myths that were current in several cultures in John's time and before (see Yarbro Collins 1976). For our purposes, however, the point at issue is not the origin of the imagery, but the uses to which the imagery is put in John's vision and in the testimony he bears to the seven churches in Asia Minor.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your free trial.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your subscription.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate of $3.99/month, click the button below.
For the best Bible Gateway experience, consider an upgrade to Bible Gateway Plus. For less than the cost of a latte each month, you'll get reduced banner ads and a huge digital Bible study library. Try it free for 30 days!