Dissecting the Christmas Story: Part 1

In reading the Gospels I have become increasingly fascinated with the names, places, dates, and history of the world surrounding Jesus. While I am by no means a historian or a scholar, for Christmas this year I wanted to put forth some interesting facts (a dissecting of the Gospel accounts) surrounding the birth of Christ.

Luke's Gospel is the best place to start for he says that, "having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first," he is writing "an orderly account." That is, Luke was painstakingly accurate -- down to the most minute detail, as one scholar says.

Adam Clark's Commentary says this of Luke's accuracy:
Having accurately traced up-entered into the very spirit of the work, and examined every thing to the bottom; in consequence of which investigation, I am completely convinced of the truth of the whole. Though God gives his Holy Spirit to all them who ask him, yet this gift was never designed to set aside the use of those faculties with which he has already endued the soul, and which are as truly his gifts as the Holy Spirit itself is. The nature of inspiration, in the case of St. Luke, we at once discover: he set himself, by impartial inquiry and diligent investigation, to find the whole truth, and to relate nothing but the truth; and the Spirit of God presided over and directed his inquiries, so that he discovered the whole truth, and was preserved from every particle of error.
For this reason, he includes many details not mentioned by the other Gospel authors that fill in the blanks to the story they convey collectively, especially concerning the birth of Jesus Christ.

He begins his account -- which is actually a letter to Theophilus containing a documented account of Jesus' life -- in this way:
Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

Who was Theophilus?

While seemingly inconsequential to the story of Christ's birth, Theophilus was at least living at a time in close proximity to the life of Christ (if he were not a contemporary), and he must have been an important figure, because Luke refers to him as "most excellent." Most commentators think he was a Greek or Roman official since Paul used the title when referring to Festus (Acts 26:25) and Felix (Acts 23:26; Acts 24:3) in Acts. Others say he was a Gentile convert. One explanation is "that Theophilus was a wealthy and influential man in the city of Antioch. There are second-century references to a man named Theophilus who was 'a great lord' and a leader in the city of Antioch during the time of Luke. Such a man would fit the description, as many scholars believe that Theophilus could have been a wealthy benefactor who supported Paul and Luke on their missionary journeys. That would account for Luke’s wanting to provide an orderly and detailed account of what had happened." Another source agrees:

In Luke's time it was not uncommon to address one's literary work to a person of prestige, either the patron who funded the enterprise or a civil official, accompanied by a short introduction explaining why the work was composed. We find similar prefaces in 2 Maccabees (2:19-31), Josephus' Antiquities (1. proem. 1-4) and Against Apion (1.1 1-5), Epistle to Aristeas (1-8), and Lucian's How to Write History (9, 39-40, 53-55).
By introducing his two books in this fashion, Luke consciously attempts to place his literary achievement with the framework of ancient literature. Accordingly, some scholars characterise Luke as writing "apologetic historiography" – i.e., that he is writing an apologia for Christianity destined for a wider audience.... Luke 1:3–4 suggest that Theophilus had received some instruction. Indeed, the whole rationale Luke supplies for writing his Gospel and Acts seems to suggest that Theophilus is a Christian believer who needed reassurance (1:4).
The best explanation which seems to fit the Biblical account, is the following:    
While I don't consider wikipedia to always be accurate, in listing several theories put forth as to who Theophilus was, it states,
A growing belief points to Theophilus ben Ananus, High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem from 37-41. In this tradition Theophilus would have been both a kohen and a Sadducee. That would make him the son of Annas and brother-in-law of Caiaphas, raised in the Jewish Temple. Adherents claim that Luke's Gospel was targeted at Sadducee readers. This might explain a few features of Luke. He begins the story with an account of Zacharias the righteous priest who had a Temple vision of an angel (1:5-25). Luke quickly moves to account Mary's purification (niddah), Jesus' Temple redemption (pidyon ha-ben) rituals (2:21-39), and then to Jesus' pilgrimage to the Temple when he was twelve (2:46), possibly implying his bar mitzvah. He makes no mention of Caiaphas' role in Jesus' crucifixion and emphasizes Jesus' literal resurrection (24:39), including an ascension into heaven as a realm of spiritual existence (24:52; Acts 1:1). Luke also seems to stress Jesus' arguments with the Sadducees on points like legal grounds for divorce, the existence of angels, spirits, and an afterlife (Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead). If this was the case then Luke is trying to use Jesus' rebuttals and teachings to break down Theophilus' Sadducean philosophy, maybe with the hope that Theophilus would use his influence to get the Sadducees to cease their persecution of the Christians.... Most, if not all, of the commentaries on the Gospel of Luke say the "Question about the Resurrection" pericope presented in Lk. 20:27-40 is the only account in Luke of Jesus confronting the Sadducees. It is true that Luke only mentions the Sadducees by name once but it is not true that this pericope is the only one concerning the Sadducees. The Parables about the Good Samaritan, the Unjust Steward, the Rich Man and Lazarus and the Wicked Tenants are directed to the Sadducees who controlled the temple establishment.... All of the New Testament passages concerning alms and almsgiving, except one in Matthew, are in Luke-Acts. Therefore, these parables may be about alms, almsgiving and the proper use of the wealth controlled by the temple authorities. Luke’s criticism focuses on the use of these temple resources by the religious aristocracy for their own selfish purposes. This means that the religious authorities controlled tremendous wealth that had been in times past properly distributed to the people as part of the institutional form of almsgiving. The priests in these parables are unfaithful, dishonest and disobedient because, inter alia, they have not invited the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind to the banquet table. Once the office of the High Priest became non-hereditary, and available to the highest bidder, the institutional role of almsgiving was abandoned or reduced as the purchaser had to recoup his purchase price. A minority view identifies Theophilus as a later high priest: Mattathias ben Theophilus who served from 65-66. Note that Luke refers to high priest Joseph ben Caiaphas simply as "Caiaphas". Thus, the reasoning goes, Luke used this pattern when addressing Theophilus. 

 Genealogy of Yohahanah’s family depicted by Barag and Flusser

On another page, it states most specifically who Theophilus was:
Theophilus was the High Priest in the Second Temple in Jerusalem from AD 37 to 41 according to Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews. He was a member of one of the wealthiest and most influential Jewish families in Iudaea Province during the 1st century. A growing but still uncommon belief points to this person as the person to whom the Gospel of Luke is addressed, but Theophilus is a common enough name that there are many other possibilities for the addressee of Luke's Gospel and Acts. 
Theophilus was the son of Annas and the brother of Eleazar, Jonathan, Matthias and Ananus, all of whom served as High Priests. He was also the brother-in-law of Joseph Caiaphas, the High Priest before whom Jesus appeared. In addition, his son Matthias served as the next to the last High Priest before the destruction of the Temple by the Romans.
Archeological evidence confirming the existence of Theophilus, as an ossuary has been discovered bearing the inscription, "Johanna granddaughter of Theophilus, the High Priest". The details of this ossuary have been published in the Israel Exploration Journal. Therefore Theophilus had at least one other son named Jonathan, father to Johanna. The name Johanna appears twice in the New Testament in the Gospel of Luke. First as one of women healed by Jesus who travels with Jesus and the disciples to Jerusalem. Her second appearance also in the Gospel of Luke is on Easter Sunday when she and other women visits the empty tomb. It is uncertain, however, whether the Johanna in the Gospel of Luke is the same Johanna as the one mentioned on the ossuary. According to Richard Bauckham, Johanna was "the fifth most popular woman's name in Jewish Palestine," and the Johanna of the Gospel of Luke was likely from Galilee, not from Jerusalem.
(Note: although wikipedia states that Johanna was probably not the same one mentioned in Luke, ther is some pretty good evidence in favor of her being so and still being related to Theophilus at this website.)

Photo Credit:  Antiquities.org. "Aramaic inscription: Yehohana/Yehohana daughter of Yehohanan/ son of Thophlos, the high priest. It's possible that Yehohana was the granddaughter of the high priest Theophilos (ca. 37-41 CE)."

Now that we know who Theophilus is lets move on to the story of Jesus birth.

Luke 1:5 "There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth."

Luke sets up his account as happening "in the days of Herod, the king of Judea." Matthew  2:1-3 confirms this point: "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.' When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him."

Which Herod was this and what was his concern with the "King of the Jews"?
According to Clark, "This was HEROD, improperly denominated the GREAT, the son of Antipater, an Idumean: he reigned 37 years in Judea, reckoning from the-time he was created-king of that country by the Romans. Our blessed Lord was born in the last year of his reign; and, at this time, the sceptre had literally departed from Judah, a foreigner being now upon the throne....." This is the same Herod who history reports killed many of his family members out of paranoa that they might have been plotting against him... it is no surprise, then, that he would also plot to kill Jesus as a baby.

The wise men who came to Herod called Jesus the "King of the Jews." In Matthew 1, Joseph's ancestry is given; in order to show Jesus' relation to his ancestor David, it points to "David the king," suggesting a kingly lineage. Thus, although Jesus did not label Himself the king of the Jews, He was a king. (When Pilate asked Him if He was the king of the Jews, He acknowledged that He was a king, but not "The King of the Jews," when He said, "You say that I am a king"... He was rightly one -- the "King of Kings and Lord of Lords.") Zechariah 9:9 contains a prophecy that was fulfilled near the end of Jesus life when He rode into Jerusalem: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey." As a king, Jesus was a threat to Herod the Great. This explains why he was so admant to destroy any child that might have been born in Bethlehem that could possibly take over the thrown. 1 Timothy 6:13-16 alludes to this when it says, "I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen."

Matthew 2 also mentions the "Star in the east"; While it is beyond the scope of this post to point out the origins of this star, it is interesting to compare this phrase to several prophecies concerning Jesus. The first is found in Balaam's blessing over Israel (Numbers 24:17): "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult." This coincides with Jacob's blessing over his son Judah in Genesis 49:10 "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people." Also, Jesus says concerning Himself in Revelation 22:16 "'I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.'" Zacharias may have also been referring to this when he prophesied and said that his son John would go the way before Jesus "To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; by which the Dayspring [Literally: a rising of light, i.e. dawn (figuratively); by implication, the east] from on high has visited us..." (Luke 1:77-78)

But returning to before Jesus' birth, to the scene of Zachariah in Luke 1, we see that Zachariah's division was Abijah.

What was Abijah's division?
Abijah was one of Eliezer's sons -- who was a son of Aaron, making Abijah Aaron's grandson. According to 1 Chronicles 24:8, Abijah's was the 8th of 24 divisions and "This was the schedule of their service for coming into the house of the LORD according to their ordinance by the hand of Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him."

Also of note is that Elizabeth was "of the daughters of Aaron"; Adam Clark's Commentary states: "Of the daughters of Aaron: That is, she was of one of the sacerdotal families. This shows that John was most nobly descended: his father was a priest and his mother the daughter of a priest; and thus, both by father and mother, he descended from the family of Amram, of whom came Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, the most illustrious characters in the whole Jewish history."

Luke 1:8-10, 21 - "So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.... And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple."

We've already established what Abijah's division was, so what is the "hour of incense"? Most commentators agree that the hour of incense coincides with the "hour of prayer" mentioned in Acts 3:1 "Now Peter and John went up to the temple at the hour of prayer." This is why verse 10 says, "And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense." The fact that they began to wonder what was taking him so long, suggests that Zachariah was in the temple for over an hour conversing with the angel and performing his duties. (According to Leviticus 16:17, while the priest was offering incense, no one else was allowed inside the temple.) Revelation 8:3-4 also makes the connection between incense and prayer: "Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand."

Luke 1:23 "And so it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house."

Commentators and scholars agree that, based upon 2 Kings 11:7; 2 Chronicles 23:8, each course ran for one week, from Sabbath to Sabbath.

In The Chronology of the Old Testament, Floyde Nolen Jones examines the course of Abijah in determining Jesus' birthdate. He says that not only did the course run for a week at a time, but it was also biannually. Therefore, the logical conclusion would be to figure out when the course of Abijah would have been officiating in the temple. While it is much to detailed to explain here, Jones (using computer calculations, the 4 B.C birthdate of Jesus, and counting backwards) comes up with two possible options for this course to have been officiating: either in "the Fall around the time of the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement" or "The 8th course would have fallen between Chisleu (modern = Kislev) 1-8 which is December 10-17 (Gregorian calendar) in the year BC 6." (While it is not the purpose of this essay to say whether or not Christ was born in December, I encourage you to read Jones' book; it has fascinating information in it regarding this and other issues!)

Two commentators bring out an interesting fact here which took place after Zachariah's encounter with the angel in the temple:

  • Barnes: "As soon as he had fulfilled the duties of the week. It might have been supposed that the extraordinary occurrence in the temple, together with his own calamity, would have induced him at once to leave this place and return home; but his duty was in the temple. His piety prompted him to remain there in the service of God. He was not unfitted for burning incense by his dumbness, and it was not proper for him to leave his post." 
  • The Fourfold Gospel: "They are said to have lasted from the evening of one Sabbath (Friday at sundown) to the morning of the next. Though doubtless chagrined at the punishment which had come upon him, the old priest remained at his post, and dwelt in the temple until his week was finished."

Luke 1:26-17 "Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary."

The six month refers to Elizabeth's sixth month of pregnancy. This can be seen when Mary asks "How can these things be...?" "And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.'"
Additionally, there are a few Messianic prophecies concerning this that are worth mentioning: Isaiah 9:6 says, "For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 7:14 states, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel."

Luke 1:46-49 "And Mary said: 'My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.... He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.' And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house. Now Elizabeth's full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son."

Mary obviously viewed her conception as a fulfillment of prophecy, as evidenced by the line "He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever." She was joyful in the midst of a customarily trying situation. The Jewish view is that Mary committed adultery with another man during her betrothal to Joseph (betrothal lasted longer than our modern engagement); and Jesus was considered an illegitimate child (see John 8:41; "we were not born of fornication" was a derogatory remark toward's Jesus' virgin birth). The Talmud demonstrates this Jewish view when it uses such phrases concerning Mary as "played the harlot with carpenters" (This view holds that Joseph was Jesus' biological father), and "As they say... 'this one strayed from her husband.'" [Source: The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p 125, quoting the Talmud] Even Joseph thought this initially as evidenced by Matthew's account of the story (1:18-25): "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her
husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.' So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, "God with us." Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS." However, to dispel the notion that Jesus was born of fornication, let's take a quick look at Genesis 3:15. This passage describes a prophecy given to Adam concerning Jesus, that "the seed of the woman" would crush the head of the serpent. Notice that it doesn't say, "the seed of man," indicating a virgin birth. "Virgin" as it is used in Luke's Gospel, specifically refers to an unmarried woman who had not known a man -- exactly what Mary told the angel she was. For Mary to be considered a virgin and be with child according to the prophecies concerning Jesus, she would have to be pure. (Concerning Psalm 68:25, which uses the same Hebrew word for virgin that Luke uses to describe Mary, Richard Niessen states that the maidens "are certainly not harlots or impure women, but are chaste servants of God; hence they would be virgins.") This also coincides with Isaiah 7:14.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth until just before John's birth and then returned home. By this time, she would have been (noticably) 3 months pregnant. Yet Mary's prayer is interesting because it conveys one who is not bemoaning the reproach of man that she would certainly bear, but one who was thankful to God for choosing her -- as part of a fulfillment of prophecy -- for such an awesome task of giving birth to and raising the Son of God.

Luke 2:1-3 "In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city."

Who was Quirinius? See this post for a a small treatment on who Quirinius was as well as when the census occurred. (You'll also find a few things mentioned there that would not fit into this post.)

Luke 2:4-7 "And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."

"The time came for her to be delivered" indicates that it was 6 months after Mary's visit to Elizabeth that the census occurred.

The inn is most often pictured as a cave or stable with animals; however, Luke's uses the word 'Kataluma,' or guest-chamber here. When Luke tells Jesus' parable about the good Samaritan, he says that the man "brought him to an inn, and took care of him"; here, the word "inn" means "an all-receptive public lodging house". If Luke had meant that Joseph went to an inn along the way, he would have used the word for "public lodging," instead. (Interestingly, Jesus had His last Passover meal in a guest-chamber; see Matthew 14:14.) This suggests that in most houses of that time, the animals owned by the family were kept downstairs and a guestroom was upstairs. Joseph went to relatives in Bethlehem (who were of the house and lineage of David) during the census, but there was no room in the guestroom, so he went to the place where the animals were kept. One explanation is that Joseph's relatives may have shunned Mary because of her pregnancy, but this is uncertain since we know that Joseph was already married to Mary at this time (per Matthew's account) and we don't know how closely Joseph was related to the relatives at whose house he stayed. Another more probable explanation is found in Leviticus 12, which would have made Mary unclean, hence the need to stay in the animal's home downstairs.

In a post in The Guardian, Rev Paul, theologian and former Dean of Studies at St John’s theological college, Nottingham, states,
"The actual design of Palestinian homes (even to the present day) makes sense of the whole story," Paul writes. "Most families would live in a single-room house, with a lower compartment for animals to be brought in at night, and either a room at the back for visitors, or space on the roof. The family living area would usually have hollows in the ground, filled with straw, in the living area, where the animals would feed."
So Jesus would not have been born in a detached stable, but in the lower floor of a peasant house, where the animals were kept.
"This interpretation is hardly new. The earliest scholar to put it forward was the Spaniard Francisco Sánchez de las Brozas, in 1584. He was denounced to the inquisition for his pains and reprimanded by them, though not actually burned, tortured or imprisoned as might have happened to heretics."
There are a few interesting passages in Scripture in the Old Testament that demonstrate this fact:
The fact that the animals lived in the house is seen in 1 Samuel 28:24, when King Saul was housed in the guest room of the witch of Endor. It says, “the woman had a fattened calf in the house, and she quickly slaughtered it” to feed her guest. She did not need to find the calf out in the field or even outside the house.
In another story Jephthah made his rash vow to sacrifice the first thing that “comes out of the doors of my house to meet me” (Judges 11:31). He expected an animal to be released in the early morning as usual, but tragically, his daughter came out first (vs. 34).

To give you an idea of what it would have looked like, below are a few artists' conception drawings based on this:

                                              Photo credit: Rit Meyer Archaeological Design; the "stable" is on the left

                                                           Photo credit: God's Kingdom Ministries    

                               And this gives you an idea of what the manger would look like:

Photo Credit: an actual stone manger (discovered in Megiddo) from page 1074 of the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary

 Biblical Archeology agrees:
However, in the one-room peasant homes of Palestine and Lebanon, the manger is built into the floor of the house. The standard one-room village home consists of a living area for the family (Arabic mastaba), mangers built into the floor for feeding the animals (mostly at night), and a small area approximately four feet lower than the living area into which the family cow or donkey is brought at night (Arabic ka’al-bayt). The text of the New Testament itself alludes to the one-room peasant home in Matthew 5:15 where it states that a lamp is put on a lampstand so that it “gives light to all who are in the house.” Obviously, the house must have one room if a single lamp shines on everyone in it. Furthermore, the one-room house with a lower end for the animals is presupposed in Luke 13:10–17. The family ox and/or donkey was brought into the house at night and taken out early each morning. Thus, everyone knew that every family with any animals carried out this simple domestic chore at the start of each new day. To leave the animals in the house during the day was socially and culturally unthinkable. All of this is presupposed by the text. Jesus knew the head of the synagogue had untied his animals that very morning and led them out of the house. With calm assurance Jesus could announce to his face that he did, in fact, lead his animals out that very morning, confident there would be no reply. Were animals kept in a separate stable, the head of the synagogue could have saved face by asserting firmly, “I never touch the animals on the Sabbath.” But if he tried to claim that he leaves the animals in the house all day, the people in the synagogue would ridicule him with laughter! In short, no one would believe him. Thus the debate ends simply, “As he said this, all his adversaries were put to shame” (v.17). Thus, in the case of Luke 2:7, any Palestinian reading the phrase, “She laid him in a manger,” would immediately assume that the birth took place in a private home, because he knows that mangers are built into the floor of the raised terrace of the peasant home....
'"No room in the inn"? It appears that it would be more accurate to translate Luke 2:7 as, "No room in the guest room."' - Gene Fackler
Bishop writes, “If kataluma means guest room in Mark and Luke at the end of the Lord’s life why not at the start in Bethlehem?
... if we assume the perspective of a Palestinian reader, the present form of the verse makes good sense. The author records, “And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger.” The (Palestinian) reader instinctively thinks, “Manger—oh—they are in the main family room. Why not the guest room?” The author instinctively replies, “Because there was no place for them in the guest room.” The reader concludes, “Ah, yes—well, the family room is more appropriate anyway.” Thus, with the translation “guest room,” all of the cultural, historical and linguistic pieces fall into place.
Either way, it was a humble place for Jesus to be born, to be in God and yet take on the from of man for our sake's so that we could be His!

"...who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:6-8).
"Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest,And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!' So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.' And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them" (Luke 2:8:20).

At a later time I plan to tackle the Star of Bethlehem as well as the aspect of Shepherds in the birth of Christ. For now, since this post has become quite long, I will end it here. Have a very Merry Christmas!


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