This film combines the stories told in two different Gospels. In The Gospel According to Matthew, Joseph and Mary live in Bethlehem, but flee to avoid Herod's Massacre of the Innocents. Jesus is born, and his birth is attended by Three Wise Men. In The Gospel according to Luke, Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth, but travel to Bethlehem to register for Augustus Caesar's census. Jesus's birth is attended by Shepherds. Joseph and Mary subsequently return safely to Nazareth. Historians have taken issue with both stories. Herod's Massacre of the Innocents is not found in any other historical records. While the Romans did take censuses regularly, they differ from the census described in the Gospels in two ways: first, inhabitants were not required to return to their ancestral homelands. Secondly, men could file as heads of household, thus registering themselves, their wives, and any children they had or were expecting. Thus, it was highly unlikely that Joseph would have to travel to Bethlehem if he lived in Nazareth, much less take with him a woman so close to giving birth.
By the time New Line had agreed to finance the film, several other studios had similar nativity scripts under review, so the film was rushed to production for a Christmas 2006 release date, thereby eliminating competition.
Because it isn't specifically stated in the Bible itself, various sources have given different theories regarding which Wiseman gave Jesus which gift. In this case, Melchior is shown giving the gold, Balthasar the frankincense, and Gaspar the myrrh.