For: a distorted representation of biblical events
The Nativity Story is a creatively confused and historically inaccurate portrayal of the birth of Christ, randomly mixing unfounded church traditions with edgy speculations, and conforming to the biblical account only when it feels like it. The result is a fictional, inaccurate and at times deliberately distorted representation of biblical history that flippantly rejects the authority of Scripture in favor of bad jokes and second-rate storytelling.
A Distorted Representation of Biblical Events
There are two kinds of inappropriate speculation about biblical events in The Nativity Story: the kind that simply ignores select passages in Scripture; and the kind that goes out of its way to contradict Scripture. In no instance did The Nativity Story go out of its way to conform to the biblical account, even when it would have been easy to do so.
In chronological order:
In the film, an invisible angel calls to Zechariah from within the incense, even though the Bible clearly states that the angel appeared, and did so on the right side of the altar (Luke 1:11-12).
The biblical Mary responds to the prophetic announcement of the angel with “Behold the handmaid of the Lord,” (Luke 1:38) which is deliberately omitted in the movie, replaced by a Mary who wonders why God had “asked” her to carry the Messiah.
Mary’s Song (Luke 1:46:55) is deliberately removed from its place in the biblical account and placed at the end of the movie, in order to replace the biblical Mary filled with free, joyful and mature praises to the Lord for his mercies, with a fearful, uncertain and angst-ridden teenager who would be incapable of composing the song in the time frame Scripture states that Mary did. The inclusion of the song at the end of the movie twists the passage completely out of context and makes it communicate something very different from its purpose in the biblical account.
The Bible states that Mary entered Zechariah’s house and then greeted and was greeted by Elizabeth (Luke 1:40). The Nativity Story depicts the meeting as taking place beforehand.
In Scripture, Zechariah’s neighbors make signs to him and ask his opinion at John’s circumcision and naming, Zechariah asks for a writing tablet, the neighbors are amazed before he begins speaking again, and Zechariah immediately begins blessing God (Luke 1:62-64). With hardly an element of the scene not altered from the biblical account, The Nativity Story portrays Zechariah as being ignored by everyone, getting a writing tablet himself, continuing to be ignored until he speaks, and failing to bless the Lord at all.
The angel appeared to multiple shepherds in the Bible (Luke 2:9), but to only one in The Nativity Story. The movie simply disregards the statement in Holy Scripture that “the glory of the Lord shone around [the angels]” (Luke 2:9a). It also disregards the statement that the shepherds were filled with great fear (Luke 2:9b). In The Nativity Story there is no “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,’” (Luke 2:13-14), and the omission is not due to an untimely cut to the next scene, either.
The Bible says that the shepherds came with haste (Luke 2:16); the movie shepherds come slowly. Also contrary to Scripture, they neglect to make the angel’s saying known to anyone else (Luke 2:17).
The simple but perfectly clear statement in the Bible that Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:7) is disregarded and Joseph is portrayed as the one who did this.
The Nativity Story does not even portray the shepherds as finding Jesus lying in a manger (Luke 2:16), despite the clear prophecies of Scripture and the angel in the movie.
The wise men are portrayed as arriving in Jerusalem before Jesus is born, as opposed to the biblical statement that they arrived “when” - that is, at or after the time - he was born (Matthew 2:1). The movie also incorrectly places the costly gifts of the magi immediately after Jesus’ birth, which conflicts with the biblical record that forty days after the nativity, Mary and Joseph offered birds (Luke 2:24), the sacrifice prescribed only for people who could not afford a lamb (Leviticus 12:8).
According to the Bible, the wise men “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10) In The Nativity Story, they just get sarcastic about each other’s lack of faith.
The Nativity Story does not have the wise men finding Mary and Jesus in a house (Matthew 2:11a), and they do not fall down and worship the child (Matthew 2:11b).
The movie portrays Mary, Joseph and Jesus as leaving for Egypt immediately after Jesus’ birth, skipping altogether his dedication at the temple (Leviticus 12:2-4), which would be a minor detail except for the fact that if Jesus did not fulfill the whole law, he would not qualify to be our Savior.
Lastly, the dream which according to Scripture warned the wise men not to return to Herod (Matthew 2:12) is taken out, and, for the sake of comic relief, traded for a line that places all the credit on the trio’s own instinct.