12 Dec. Luke 2:6-7

12 Dec. Where did Mary and Joseph stay in Bethlehem?

"While they [Mary and Joseph] were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have her baby, and she gave birth to her first son."

"Because there were no rooms left in the inn, she wrapped the baby with pieces of cloth and laid him in a box where animals are fed."

          (Luke 2:6-7)

 

 

Two momentous verses today; and two verses that are often misunderstood - even by Bible translators!

Luke's account is simple - Jesus is born in Bethlehem (in 6 or 5BC). He is laid in a manger – an animal’s feeding trough – as there is no room for Mary and Joseph in the accommodation available.

But what kind of accommodation was Luke talking about?

Traditional nativity stories usually feature an innkeeper turning Mary and Joseph away with the words, ‘No room in the inn’. Yet there is no mention of an 'inn' in Luke’s account of Jesus’s birth. Luke actually tells us there was no place for them in the 'guest-room'.

The Greek word usually translated 'inn' is ‘kataluma’, but it actually means a guest-room (see Luke 2:7). It is precisely the same word that is used to describe the upper room or guest-room where Jesus and his disciples shared the Last Supper in Jerusalem on the night before Jesus was crucified (see Luke 22:11).

Many larger family houses in Jesus’s day had their family quarters on the ground floor and a guest-room (often added later) on the upper storey or on the roof. The family’s livestock would also be housed on the ground floor, or sometimes in an adjacent cave or underground cellar.

Luke records that Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem because Joseph’s family came from Bethlehem. It is highly likely, therefore, that Mary and Joseph went to stay with their relatives in Bethlehem.

While Romans and other foreign travellers often stayed in roadside hostelries or ‘inns’ (see Luke 10:30-35), Jews never stayed in 'inns'. For a start, the food wasn't kosher (it didn't meet Jewish food laws) (see Leviticus 11:1-47), and Jews were forbidden to eat with Gentiles (non-Jews) (see Acts 10:28). Instead, Jews always stayed in the homes of relatives or other Jews when travelling (see Luke 9:4 & 10:7). If you look carefully through all four gospels, you'll find that Jesus and his disciples never, ever, stayed in an inn!

Finding that there was no place for them in their family’s guest-room – maybe because Joseph’s elder brother and his wife were already there – they were probably asked to share the lower room where the animals were normally kept overnight. As a result, the new born baby Jesus’s makeshift crib was a manger – the feeding trough for the animals.

The photo shows the star marking the place where it's believed that Jesus was born. Underneath the main altar in the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem is a series of caves, one of which may have served as a makeshift guest room at the time when Jesus was born. Descending the steep steps behind the altar, visitors are greeted by the site of the manger, and by a silver star nearby bearing the Latin inscription, ‘Hic de Virgine Maria Jesus Christus natus est’ (‘Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary’).

You can read more about the Church of the Nativity @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/3-jes…/the-birth-of-jesus/


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