He was clothed with rags. There was no place or people group with that name. The family living area would usually have hollows in the ground, filled with hay, in the living area, where the animals would feed. It’s a reconstruction that assumes a lot but I think it is broadly plausible. For me, the answer is the ordinariness of the first witnesses, to whom the angel choirs sang and who were given the privilege of being the first witnesses. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. If we call these ‘Judaean’ houses, it suggests something unique to this province. The term has only very recently been politicised. Jesus) was born. The answer is “both.” He was born in a cave that was a stable. But the message of the incarnation is that Jesus is one of us. It comes from kataluo meaning to unloose or untie, that is, to unsaddle one’s horses and untie one’s pack. I am glad also that you spoke up for the women of Bethlehem, assisting (as all women around the world do) a woman in childbirth. “But Jesus wasn’t born in a stable, and, curiously, the New Testament hardly even hints that this might have been the case.”. Interesting. That is for the article! Most historians and scholars say, "Not so much." Kenneth Bailey’s very interesting (and to my mind persuasive) exposition of the parable of the prodigal son to answer the Muslim assertion that the cross is not referred to in that parable is an extended case in point. France continues: The problem with the stable is that it distances Jesus from the rest of us. Hi Brian, that sounds interesting. As a priest, Z knows about angels appearing and perhaps something can be sorted out with Joseph but anyway it would be safer. And if they did indeed travel with family (which seems likely), and went to stay with relatives in Bethlehem, it is hard to imagine that the reality behind the pregnancy wasn’t the subject of conversation upon their arrival. 3) The betrothal ceremony takes place in Nazareth and Joseph returns to Bethlehem to prepare a place for them as an annex to Joseph’s parents house. That fact that the shepherds were not quite the lowest of the low as many make them out to be, does not rule out the point that they are also slightly surprising heralds of the birth of Jesus, at least on the face of it. It added a real depth and understanding to the story. ‘Palestine’ was used from the 5thC BC, as a Greek translation of the term found in the Hebrew Bible. They decide Mary should visit Elizabeth. That’s interesting—I hadn’t noticed that. The prior Roman name Provincia Iudaea was derived from the smaller tetrachy of Judea, which in turn was from the Herodian Kingdom of Judea (37 BC – AD 6), which comprised all the land, and was the successor of the Hasmonaean Kingdom of Judea (154 – 37BC), which also included Samaria and Galilee. That is why we cannot describe these things as ‘Jewish’ culture. After Jesus is born, they then return together to set up home near Mary’s family. hem. The Philistines themselves, from whom the name Palestine was derived, had apparently ceased to be a people before 586 BC. But in one sense that makes it the more surprising that Luke doesn’t mention it, and it is clear that he doesn’t offer it as any part of the reason for Jesus being born where he is. I am still not convinced that the idea of a ‘stable’ has no merit. It does not detract from the fact Jesus came, died and rose again for us all; and that’s the important news. What were the early Christian communities like. I find this disappointing but understandable.  The term is rarely used in the Septuagint, which used a transliteration Land of Phylistieim (Γῆ τῶν Φυλιστιείμ) different from the contemporary Greek place name Palaistínē (Παλαιστίνη).’. In fact, no-one knows who the person on whom the biblical character of Jesus was based even was. Thanks for this discussion. If you want to press that point, you will need to offer something more systematic. With your name as author of course and with the original link. I’d suggest an apology. Perhaps there is a marketing opportunity here…, It’s a JUDEAN house. I Google searched “Jesus wasn’t born in a stable” and here i found your writing. And who knows? Matthew : “she was found to be pregnant..”. Carlson’s contribution inspired me to try and put together a new narrative. I think preachers can use them as an example of the surprising ways in which God in Christ draws people to himself and uses them, in much the same way that the visit of the Magi is surprising, because of who chooses to worship (Gentiles) and who refuses (Herod). Watch out for snipers. Can you? These details help us to draw other conclusions. My point there was that in the Persian, Seleucid, Hasmonean and Roman period prior to AD 135 the land was not designated “Palestina” by the inhabitants or rulers. Ian’s response was a mere ‘That’s an interesting question…’ But when Brian posted on December 4th, Ian responded in an engaging way that drew out the conversation. It further suggests to me that Jesus’ birth was in a peasant’s setting very unlike our own. He was laid in a feeding trough. Just like to point out that a woman menstruates every 4 weeks or so. And could that be a reason why there was ‘no room’ for them? Ian’s motives are entirety honourable. “This should fundamentally change our approach to enacting and preaching on the nativity.”. The shame motif in Matthew is found only in Matt 1.19. Persian “Yehud” from Hebrew “Yehudah” gave rise to the name of the Roman Province of Iudaea. How poor and how marginal? To make a one-off or repeat donation to support the blog, use PayPal with the button below: Does it matter that Jesus wasn't born in a stable? That is because of your modern eyes seeing what you want to see. Narratively, Jesus being rejected at some level even at birth is perfectly in line with his reception by Israel—they did not know the hour of their visitation. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0230043. If they wouldn’t let her up there due to shame, why even let her in the house? All family records — births, marriages, deaths — are recorded in this family registry. Thank you for writing this article, Ian. Secondly, it is easy to underestimate how powerful a hold tradition has on our reading of Scripture. The main character of the play was an innkeeper. Broadly speaking, because of Roman use, ‘Palestine’ has been used for the culture of the area, even by Jews. Kenneth Bailey, who is renowned for his studies of first-century Palestinian culture, comments: Even if he has never been there before he can appear suddenly at the home of a distant cousin, recite his genealogy, and he is among friends. For those saying they wouldn’t let them stay in the katamula because of shame- the text clearly states that there was NO ROOM. Alongside putting up the Christmas decorations (usually far too early), finding a Christmas tree, preparing for carol services and planning where to buy your turkey, one of the annual routines at Christmas is my posting the argument that Jesus was not born in a stable. Make the most charitable construal of the views of others and seek to learn from their perspectives. To call first century Iudaea/Judea “Palestine” would be as anachronistic as referring to “Roman England”. Once more: Jesus was not born in a stable. Rather, he is in the midst of the family, and all the visiting relations, right in the thick of it and demanding our attention. I think it is hard to overstate the shame that out of wedlock pregnancies would have engendered in the time of Jesus. For 2,000 years, mankind has just assumed His birthplace was a stable and that the cattle were mooing, the sheep were bleating and the donkeys were braying. However, there are a number of alternate possibilities of the location of Yeshua's birth: The point on the shepherds is well taken, and I wonder if the real problem here is one of exaggeration. They were non-religious cultural habits.”. He came to be what we are, and it fits well with that theology that his birth in fact took place in a normal, crowded, warm, welcoming Palestinian home, just like many another Jewish boy of his time. So Luke is definitely trying to tell us that Jesus’ birth was extraordinarily humble (laid in a manger) because of a ‘lack of room’. You are quite right to highlight the scarcity of wood, which we easily forget. Hope that makes sense and helps a little. After reading these comments it seems to me that the stable is but one manifestation of the grand theological error made by the Latin church, which continues to pervade all the Western church traditions… this desire to turn Jesus into a personal emotional release catharsis for individual shame, rather than God’s redemptive plan for humanity and the world. In Luke though, my only pushback on your argument is that rejection of Jesus the guest is an extremely important theme throughout the gospel. Is thee a female Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett or Sam Harris out there? The shepherds seem to me to be in the “ordinary” group – but I don’t think we can be dogmatic about their actual economic and social status, and we need to be wary about using modern categories for what was a very different culture and class-structure. I wish I had the benefit of all of these thoughtful reflections and intriguing questions back then! I remembering noticing the place for cattle underneath the family home in houses in Switzerland. There are several comments that contain this caricatured demonization of ancient Jewish culture by assuming that they MUST have been rejected in an honor/shame society. It talks of women ‘being silencing’ but that is not really what is happening. However, the term appears to be a corruption of Pelishti, or Philistines, so there was a double insult in using the name of Israel’s historic foe to name the land. At the very least I would like to see some of this teaching inserted into a normal Service in order to enrich the understanding and theology of the congregants. Maybe the old word “Levantine” conveys the regional-cultural meaning best. The Stable. Our problem is constantly imposing modern estimations of value on the ancient context. As a toponym for the British mandate, Palestine designated both Israel and Transjordan, a very large area. The three wise men, along with their caravan, and angels gather around the child. I think this part of the story is a bit ambivalent—it’s unclear whether Jesus was shown proper hospitality in part because Luke doesn’t go into much detail about his reception (in contrast to most other hospitality encounters). It would be reasonable that he was in Nazareth working on the nearby rebuilding of Sephoras. A similar question on the out of wedlock theme had occurred to me on reading your post (though I have been persuaded by KB’s case for some time). Misconception: Jesus was born among the animals in the stable because there was no room for Joseph and Mary at the inn. Maybe it points to the involvement of some of the family? Worth also noting that the Jewish newspaper based in Jerusalem was called the Palestine Times, reflecting the pre-1948 use of the term in cultural, rather than political terms. (AV). [ii] Approximately a century later, Aristotle used a similar definition for the region in Meteorology, in which he included the Dead Sea. However, to this day, Lebanon, for example, has this “ancestral home” bit where people are technically registered and from which they pay taxes and vote in elections. Tradition! The birth of Christ may be the most famous Bible story of all, reprised annually in nativity scenes across the world each Christmas: Jesus was born in … I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this. Older versions translate this as ‘inn’: 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 typical nativity scene features the holy family in a stable that looks like a barn, separate from the Inn, where there was no room. They took refuge in a barn or stable where Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Here’s where the English language … Thanks for this. In reading the comments I saw the debate about the shame aspect. I’m okay with that being a part of the Christmas story. “mou” isn’t used in Luke 22.11, according to most texts. Follow me on Twitter @psephizo. Tradition places Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, a small town a few miles south of Jerusalem. Keep going Katie!!! If he were, that would obviously count against my reasoning and in favour of yours! Thank you. I wonder how it was found out … and, primarily, does this refer to Joseph “finding out”? I don’t engage with all comments, and I sometimes offer one line and at others comment at length. ‘I am still not convinced that the idea of a ‘stable’ has no merit.’ I wouldn’t strongly disagree here. A question was asked as to why more women aren’t commenting on this blog. At least, not in the traditional sense. Joseph was a tekton, which I believe is the sort of carpenter who erects wooden frames for houses rather than the type who makes tables and chairs. Yes of course—but the things we are referring to here (such as hospitality, the importance of family connections, the keeping of animals) were not distinctively *Jewish* practices, but part of the wider culture of that part of the world. Decades of research have shown that men and women often behave differently in situations involving risk taking [34–37]. Happy to be pointed to it and change my mind. When you visit Bethlehem you are shown the cave of the birth, marked with a silver star under the church of the Nativity. He argues that the shame that Mary’s out of wedlock pregnancy would bring on Joseph’s family explains why nobody would accept the couple in their guest rooms. This scene from the Arena (Scrovegni) Chapel in Padua by the Italian artist Giotto shows Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the Bethlehem stable. The third issue relates to our understanding, or rather ignorance, of (you guessed it) the historical and social context of the story. It means that many, like Joseph and Mary, have travelled to Bethlehem, and the family guest room is already full, probably with other relatives who arrived earlier. I think you are right about the connection between the two katalumai, but I still don’t see the theme of rejection in the Lukan birth narrative. There is circumstantial evidence linking Hadrian with the name change, but the precise date is not certain and the assertion of some scholars that the name change was intended “to complete the dissociation with Judaea” is disputed. , The term is generally accepted to be a translation of the Biblical name Peleshet (פלשת Pəlésheth, usually transliterated as Philistia). It seems to me that having a baby (Jesus) “out of wedlock” would only be shameful if it were actually true. 1) Mary’s family regularly stay with Zechariah & Elizabeth during their regular visits to Jerusalem for the major festivals. Why make a big issue of this? Well, I am glad too!  Later Greek writers such as Polemon and Pausanias also used the term to refer to the same region, which was followed by Roman writers such as Ovid, Tibullus, Pomponius Mela, Pliny the Elder, Dio Chrysostom, Statius, Plutarch as well as Roman Judean writers Philo of Alexandria and Josephus. And in Luke’s account of Jesus healing a woman on the sabbath (Luke 13.10–17), Jesus comments: Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the manger [same word as Luke 2.7] and lead it out to give it water? Instead, Jesus was most likely born in a house. The site includes the view we had from the roof!). Reformed pastor from Transylvania, Romania. The problem though is that if you use the word ‘stable’ in a modern western setting, people will automatically think of a separate wooden building away from the living space. To make a big issue of it to earn some attention has become a way to make money now-a-days. I am more puzzled by the shepherds. 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