‘And it came to pass in those days…’Published 11:27am Monday, December 19, 2011
More than 2,000 years ago a boy-child was born in Bethlehem. After his death, about 33 years later, believers in this Jesus as Savior and Lord began to relate the events orally in homes and churches. The Gospel writers recorded them as history in Koine Greek, the literary language of the Roman Empire. Following a brief account by John Mark and a fuller one by Matthew, it was Luke who provided the fullest narrative (c A.D. 68).
Such coverage is not likely to have been given to a mere birth, but the final significance is his death on a hill outside Jerusalem. This, the Gospel writers attest, was the intentional sacrifice by God, who so loved the world, as a provision for the salvation of all humankind who would accept his gift.
The Roman priest Jerome translated the account into Latin in the late fourth century. John Wycliffe and William Tyndale worked from it and the original languages to give us the first English translations. Then King James I of England caused the several English versions to be revised into a new Bible, to be used commonly. As the 50-odd translators completed their individual work, they read it aloud to their colleagues. The new Bible was appointed to be read aloud in the churches, and eventually became known as the King James version. It was published in 1611, and this year is its 400th anniversary.
The story of Jesus’ birth has been read in this version each Christmas in homes and churches ever since. It is settled as a Christmas tradition. It is the version my family asks me to read each Christmas, and it is the version I love to read to them. Aloud. Following are these very words, and I invite you to read them — aloud.
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”