We send our kids to Sunday school so they can learn more about God and strengthen their faith in Him. However, in some cases, stories from Sunday School are slightly twisted. Perhaps for the children's benefit -- so they can understand the message of God's Word.
Here are some of what I call "Bible Myths" that are often taught to the kids in Sunday School.
Myth #1: Three Kings
Matthew records the visit of the magi from the east in his gospel; he also states that they brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt 2:1, 11). He does not, however, state how many magi were there. While there were at least three gifts, he only lists “magi” in its plural form (Gk, magoi), indicating at least two.
So, where do people get three wise men? Well, it’s from the three gifts. However, two men could bring three gifts just as easily as three men or even thirty men. Scripture, however, does not say how many magi came to see Jesus, yet the mythical three-magi team continues to be taught.
Regarding the issue of “three kings,” that comes from the popular carol, “We Three Kings.” However, Scripture calls them “magi,” which means astrologers or magicians, not kings.
Myth #2: Saul-Paul Conversion
I remember being taught about the “Saul-Paul conversion.” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard people say that Saul changed his name (or that God changed his name) following his conversion. This, like the number of magi, doesn’t withstand biblical scrutiny, or even a casual reading of the book of Acts.
Paul’s conversion is recorded in Acts 9. Interestingly, Paul is called “Saul” for quite a while after his conversion. In Acts 11 when Barnabas seeks out Saul. In Acts 12:26, Luke states that “Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem.”
In Acts 13, God called the missionary “Saul” when he instructs the believers to “set apart for me Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 13:2).
As one reads Luke’s second work, one notices that the apostle is called “Saul” when the audience is primarily Jewish, and he is called “Paul” when the audience is Gentile. Why? Because Saul is his Hebrew name while Paul is his Greek name.
There was no name change related to Paul’s conversion. Nevertheless, Christians continue to talk about the Saul-Paul conversion and teach about the non-existent name change.
Myth #3: Doubting Thomas
Speaking of misunderstanding an apostle, Thomas is also often mischaracterized. Many people are familiar with the “doubting Thomas” metaphor based on Jesus’ apostle. Why? Because it’s know that Thomas was the doubter of the bunch, right? Yes and no.
As it’s taught, many are either told that Thomas was the disciple who doubted, or that is strongly inferred. Regardless, people are left with the belief that, of the twelve, Thomas was the lone doubter.
Did Thomas doubt Jesus’ physical resurrection? Yes (John 20:24-25). But so did the rest of them.
Luke records that the women, when they saw the empty tomb, were “perplexed” or “at a loss for words” (Luke 24:4). They didn’t believe Jesus rose from the dead as he has already prophesied would happen. Rather, according to John, Mary Magdalene reported to Peter and John that someone stole the body (John 20:2).
Luke further records that, after delivering the angels’ message of Jesus’ resurrection to the disciples, their message “appeared to them [the disciples] as nonsense, and they would not believe them” (Luke 24:11).
Nevertheless, Thomas was the doubter of the group despite Scripture teaching that they all doubted.
Some might say that Thomas was the one that had to see Jesus’ physical body. However, John records that when Jesus appeared to the disciples who were in hiding, “He showed the both His hands and His feet. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (John 20:19, emphasis added).
Did Thomas doubt? Yes. Was he the only doubter? No, because they all doubted. Thomas was the only openly honest doubter, willing to verbally express his resistance to believe. Despite this, many people still teach about Thomas the doubting disciple rather than Thomas a doubter among a bunch of doubters.
Minor issues like this doesn't really affect the true message of the gospel. However, it is important for me as a parent to spread the Word of God as accurately and faithfully as possible.