We’ve grown up hearing the account that the “inn” in Bethlehem was full, with no “room” available, so Joseph and Mary ended up in a stable, with Jesus Christ born and laid in a manger there.
This image has been used to promote the typical Christmas nativity scene for generations. Yet a careful analysis of the biblical text reveals quite a different story!
This is important, because a more authentic cultural understanding enhances the meaning of the story, rather than diminishing it.
A typical translation of Luke 2:7 says about Mary giving birth to Jesus, “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
The New Testament was originally written in Greek, and the Greek word translated “inn” here is kataluma. It means a place of rest, usually a guest room. In fact, the same writer Luke uses this very word later where it clearly refers to a guest room and not an inn.
Furthermore, Luke elsewhere in his Gospel uses a different Greek word when he writes about an actual inn.
While Jesus was conceived of God the Father through the Holy Spirit, his was nonetheless a typical birth for the common man of his day. Though God, he truly came as one of us.
Jesus was rejected at his birth by Herod, but the Bethlehem shepherds welcomed him with great joy, as did the common people in later years. The city of David was true to its own, and the village community provided for him. He was born among them, in the natural setting of the birth of any village boy, surrounded by helping hands and encouraging women's voices.
For centuries Palestinian peasants have been born on the raised terraces of the one-room family homes. The birth of Jesus was no different. His incarnation was authentic. His birth most likely took place in the natural place for a peasant to be born; in a peasant home.
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