In one of its last print issues, Newsweek mocks Bill O’Reilly in an article titled “The War On Christmas Is Over: Christmas Won.” Christian groups are pleased that retailers have mostly gone back to using “Christmas” instead of the more neutral “Holiday” patter. Religion reporter David Sessions asked: “How did this cultural flash point slide into oblivion, with Bill O’Reilly virtually the last person continuing to fight?”
Here’s where the magazine is doubling down on stupid. This brief article appears in the December 17 issue – which features a cover story by agnostic leftist scholar Bart Ehrman titled "The Myths of Jesus." He's clearly fighting the Christmas story as un-historical.
As Christians around the world now prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, it is worth considering that much of the “common knowledge” about the babe in Bethlehem cannot be found in any scriptural authority, but is either a modern myth or based on Gospel accounts from outside the sacred bounds of Christian Scripture. Some obvious examples: nowhere does the Bible indicate what year Jesus came into the world, or that he was born on Dec. 25; it does not place an ox and an ass in his manger; it does not say that it was 3 (as opposed to 7 or 12) wise men who visited him.
Ehrman claims most of us don't rely on the Bible for out Christmas story, but from sources like the Proto-Gospel of James:
Most modern readers who are not already familiar with these stories tend to find them farfetched. That’s almost always the case with miraculous accounts that we have never heard before—they sound implausible and “obviously” made up, as legends and fabrications. Rarely do we have the same reaction to familiar stories known from childhood that are also spectacularly miraculous and that probably sound just as bizarre to outsiders who hear them for the first time. Are the stories about Jesus’ birth that are in the New Testament any less unbelievable?
Baptist theologian Albert Mohler takes on this story:
The New Testament writings "are not historically reliable descriptions of what really happened when Jesus was born," he asserts. Ehrman juxtaposes those who are "interested in affirming the narratives of Scripture" and those who are more interested in "knowing what actually happened in the past."
...Ehrman reveals his real agenda in the sentence that follows his denial of the historical truthfulness of the New Testament. He asserts, "For some Christian believers that is a problem; for others, it is a liberation, as it frees the believer from having to base faith on the uncertainties provided by the imperfect historical record and the fallible historians who study it." In Ehrman's view, liberation comes in freeing the believer from a faith based in the claims of the New Testament, or in any historical record, for that matter.
Mohler notes that Ehrman abandoned his evangelical Christian beliefs and is now agnostic, which Newsweek doesn't explicitly explain. He concludes with a bang: "So, in the waning days of Newsweek as a print magazine, the editors decided to take on the New Testament. Readers should note carefully that it is Newsweek, and not the New Testament, that is going out of print."