Did Mary ride on a donkey?
Perhaps, but it isn't mentioned in the Bible. The Bible simply says that she went to Bethlehem with Joseph, but it doesn't say how she got there.
There are various other possibilities. It was very common in those days, that people rode on donkeys, but also on camels and occasionally even on horses. Another possibility is that they used a cart drawn by an animal to travel the 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
Fact is, we don't know how Mary and Joseph got to Bethlehem, but it's possible that she rode on a donkey. In my opinion this misconception isn't dangerous for christianity, unlike other more serious misconceptions. A picture or a children's story where Mary rides a donkey isn't something believers should worry about.
Was baby Jesus sorrounded by a donkey (ass) and an ox?
We don't know, because it isn't mentioned in the Bible. The ox and the donkey (ass in most references) are frequently shown surrounding Jesus in nativity scenes. Artwork dating back as early as the fourth century depict the donkey and ox together with a sleeping baby Jesus. Surprisingly, these early depictions often neglect all the other seemingly important characters, such as Mary, Joseph and the shepherds. There' s a reason for the inclusion of these two particular animals. Christians believe that there is deep symbolism surrounding this imagery.
The ox is a ritually clean animal, while the
donkey is not. These animals represent the
two nations: the ox symbolizes the Jews
and the donkey symbolizes the Gentiles.
The imagery is attempting to paint a clear
picture of unification.
Fact is, this depiction of the nativity scene
might not be biblical, but there's a reason
why these two specific animals are included
in most christmas stories.
17th December 2015, Kristopher Tribe (CEO/founder, Th Creation Guy)