29 December 2014

Review: The Innkeeper of Bethlehem by Scott Roloff

I hope you are all enjoying the Christmas season and your summer (or winter) holidays, and I hope you're spending time with family rather than online. For that reason, I've chosen this week to bury the reviews of the books I haven't enjoyed this year, but still feel morally obliged to review because I said I would. 

Annoying Mix of Stories

The Innkeeper of Bethlehem is described as “the true story of Santa Claus”, a story you will share with your family and create a new holiday tradition.

Uh, no.

First, Jesus is shown to be disobedient as a child. That contradicts the Bible, which makes clear Jesus was without sin. It mixes historical fact with supposition and plain fiction. For example, the book has the innkeeper’s wife helping Mary as she gave birth to Jesus—it’s possible, although we don’t even know from the biblical account if the innkeeper even had a wife. The innkeeper and his wife then go to Egypt with Jesus and his family (unlikely), and the families are lifelong friends, with the innkeeper teaching Jesus about wisdom (Jesus showed his Father’s wisdom from an early age. Why did He need to learn from an ex-innkeeper?).

The end of the story gets even more unbelievable. From the Amazon book description (which now summarises the whole story, although it didn’t when I agreed to read and review the book):
The book concludes with Shai and Adi following the Lord’s Star to the North Pole, where angels have built a palace. Jesus wants Shai and Adi to raise the baby angels there until they reach adulthood. The baby angels, or elves as the grown angels derogatively refer to them, are a mischievous lot. Shai becomes known as Santa Claus when a baby angel mispronounces “Shai, Uncle of Jesus,” claus being the angelic word for uncle.

Jesus also wants to give a present to each boy and girl on his birthday, Christmas Day, a tradition that he began during his life when he gave presents to his family. As part of their training, once a baby angel sprouts wings he or she is assigned to watch children and make toys for them. On Christmas Eve, Santa flies the sleigh to heaven to present the new adult angels to God, and then flies around the globe delivering Jesus’s presents to the children of the world.
As an adult, I think that’s ridiculous, but I could see it appealing to small children who don’t know anything of the truth of Jesus or Santa Claus. But I can't see why any Christian parent would want to teach this to their children.

And I don’t understand why the author has found a need to invent a background for Santa Claus when he’s based on a real historical figure who was known for his anonymous generosity. That’s right, St Nicolas (Santa = Saint, and Claus is a contraction of Nicolas). If you want to know more about Santa (aka St Nick, Kris Kringle etc), read this excellent blog post from author Roseanna White on the origins of Santa Claus.

My biggest concern with The Innkeeper of Bethlehem is that mixing up the stories of Jesus and Santa Claus will teach children that neither is real when they grow old enough to learn the truth about Santa Claus. Parents, teach your children the truth, not half-truths that will confuse them.

I can’t recommend this to any Christian reader except perhaps as an object lesson for teens or adults as to how we can dilute the gospel by misusing words and misrepresenting truth.

The author provided a free copy of the ebook in order for me to give an honest review. He may well wish he hadn’t.

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