I was deeply disappointed to read Colman McCarthy's column "In Every Age, a Different Jesus" {op-ed, Dec. 26} because it contained some horrible errors of fact concerning the Bible. The accounts of Christ's birth and early life in Matthew and Luke do not conflict in any way, and I am writing to correct McCarthy's erroneous conclusion that they do.

Most of his misstatements can be traced to this vital fact: The account in Matthew of the Magi occurs a considerable time after the birth of Christ, perhaps several months. It is a myth that the "three wise men" were there in the stable to see the baby Jesus. They came later, to the house where the family was staying, to see "the child" with his mother, Mary.

McCarthy is wrong when he says that in Luke, Christ "is born in a stable, not a house as in Matthew." Matthew never says that the baby was born in a house; in fact, it never says where He was born. Because McCarthy assumed incorrectly that both accounts dealt with the time of Christ's birth, he also was wrong when he wrote: "Matthew presents Jesus who is persecuted at birth." The edict from Herod came after the visit of the Magi, which was long after Christ's birth. Also wrong was this statement: "Christianity's founder was no more than newly born when the state wanted him executed."

Likewise, McCarthy was wrong to imply an error when he wrote: "Gift-bearing wise men from the East don't come, only shepherds." In the Luke account, shepherds and angels attend Christ's birth; that scene is not dealt with in Matthew.

Also, the Luke account does not say that the family left peacefully; it says only that they left.

People who delight in pointing out supposed contradictions while comparing Gospel accounts of the same episode fail to realize that these four men often told different details of a story. Mark, for example, does not even deal with the birth of Christ; should we assume that Mark was trying to tell us that the birth never occurred? No, of course not. In a less obvious way, the fact that Matthew leaves out the manger scene, or that Luke did not include the Magi or the death order from Herod, indicates only that we are getting different pieces of the story from two writers, not that they are contradicting each other.

What I have related to you is not a matter of Biblical interpretation; it is a matter of fact. The Luke story clearly says the birth of Christ occurred in a manger; Matthew just as clearly passes over that portion of the story and goes on to when the family was in a house.

McCarthy should set the record straight. If it weren't for the common misconception that he fell victim to, we wouldn't have cre`ches with three wise men. He can help educate people as to the facts of the story; that is his obligation after helping to perpetuate the myth.

Doug Waters