Dissecting “Away in a Manger” Quiz

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to their own town to register.

  • Luke 2:1-3

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.

  • Matthew 2:1

“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle ’til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.”

  • Traditional Carol, Anonymous

Caroling was such an important part of Christmas.  I was probably caroling before I could read.  I remember walking from house to house with other members of the youth group and even before I was old enough for youth group.  No one invited us in for cocoa and cookies.  All of that was waiting back at the church.

I had a stern, harsh mother, who was a stickler for details.  She was also the church’s choir director, organist, etc.  She announced in my high school years that the only carol that was Biblically correct was “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”  Read the words sometime.  The lyrics talk about the deity of Jesus, but they give no details.  Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche once wrote, in German, “The devil is in the details.”  Odd, Nietzsche is the next philosopher to discuss next Tuesday.  But when we apply this saying to my mother’s favorite carol, there are none.  Yet, Away in a Manger has so many details, are they Biblical?

I hope you like this quiz.  I plan to follow it with two other carols, one each over the next two Saturdays.

Consider the columns to be “buckets.”  Place the “details” of the carol into one of three buckets.  I will be lenient in my assessment, but to be technically correct, I will use an asterisk(*) if not precise.  All answers will be based on the NIV.  The three buckets are: 1) This detail is in at least one of the Christmas stories, Matthew or Luke or in Old Testament prophecy. 2) This detail, or word, is in the Bible, but not related to the Christmas story. And 3) This detail is not in the Bible at all.

There will be no Bible Reference Section.  The Bible Verses will be placed in the correct “bucket” in the answer section, unless the word is not in the Bible at all

The Questions:

?Word from the LyricsChristmasSomewhere ElseNowhere
1Manger   
2Crib   
3Stars   
4Hay   
5Cattle   
6Wakes   
7Crying   
8Be near me, Lord Jesus   

This carol is beautiful in that in the middle of the second verse, it no longer mentions the details of the birth of Jesus, true, false, or myth.  It focuses on Jesus looking down from heaven and staying by our side.  It is not the Baby Jesus, but the resurrected Jesus who does so, the One who was crucified, died, buried, and risen from the grave.  But half the carol focuses, in a simplistic way that children can understand, on the risen Christ who sits at the right hand of God and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guiding us.

I would definitely not throw out this carol for mentioning a few things that may not be Biblical, yet are widely accepted in the Christian mythology.

And one note here, I have a couple of words that have the word “no” before them in the lyrics.  It may be a bit technical in not including that in the Biblical story, but did the subject even get addressed at all?

   …

   …

   …

The Answers:

?Word from the LyricsChristmasSomewhere ElseNowhere
1MangerLuke 2:7, 12, 16  
2Crib  No mention
3Stars*Matthew 2:2, 7, 9, 1055 times in the NIV from Genesis to Revelation 
4Hay Proverbs 27:25 and 1 Corinthians 3:12 
5Cattle 77 times in the NIV from Genesis to Revelation 
6Wakes 16 times with Jesus once telling Lazarus to wake up (John 11). 
7Crying 19 times, with Jesus weeping (John 11). 
8Be near me, Lord JesusActs 23:11 and many more 

The reason that I placed an asterisk(*) on “stars”, and many carols speak of the stars, Matthew only talks about one star, never in the plural. Of course, if you can see one star, you can use conjecture to think of a night sky filled with stars, but there was only one star that the Maji followed, only one that mattered, only one that led to Jesus.

I put the last one under part of the Christmas story, because that is what the incarnation is all about. You could put it in the elsewhere bucket if you like.

As for the only thing in the last bucket, the word “crib” does not appear in the Bible.  Does that mean that the carol was wrong?  No, it states that there was no crib, and they used a manger instead.  A lot of the things brought up in this carol, and many others, simply come from conjecture based on one word, “manger.”

Someone might complain that I am nitpicking here.  If there are mangers, there must be hay and cattle.  All babies sleep and wake up.

But the crying?  I have been enthralled by sermons on that one line of the carol.  When did Jesus become aware of His divinity?  When did Jesus start talking?  If Jesus did not talk at birth, which would have scared the poor shepherds to death, and Jesus did not cry, how could He let Mary know that He was hungry? Oh, what questions to ponder.  He had to have known early on of His divinity, or He might have sinned, unfit to take our sins upon Himself on the cross.

In this video by Mark Lowry, Mary and Jesus, Mark Lowry brings up the point about when Jesus knew of His divinity, in his usual humorous way.  He doesn’t answer the question, but he brings it up.  So, was Jesus really faking all those diaper changes?  The video is about nine and a half minutes, and he never gets around to singing Mary Did You Know.  But Mark Lowry asks a lot of the same questions that I have asked, and maybe you have too.  It is well worth exploring Mark Lowry’s mind on the subject.

This carol has been set to more than one tune.  For one tune, let’s listen to Pentatonix, Away in a Manger.

For a different tune, let’s listen to King’s College Choir, Away in a Manger.

If you like these Saturday morning Bible quizzes, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Saturday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

2 Comments

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  1. This was a fun quiz.

    Liked by 1 person

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