3. In what building was Jesus born?
The Bible does not say in what building Jesus was born. Luke 2:7 states that he was laid in a manger because there was no room in the inn. A manger was an animal trough, indicating that Jesus must have been born in a stable. Instead of the wooden frame structures we see in modern day Nativity scenes, scholars and tradition point to a cave as a more likely First Century stable. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is built over a cave, and historical accounts indicate that it has been revered since the Second Century as the sight of Jesus’ birth.
4. In what town was Jesus born?
Both Matthew 2 and Luke 2 state that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Matthew explains that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, five miles south of Jerusalem, to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy of Micah 5:2 that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, the “city of David.” Luke 1 says that Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth at Jesus’ conception. Nazareth was 70 miles north of Bethlehem, but as the Bible later indicates, Jews did not follow a straight path from Galilee to Jerusalem because they would not cross through the land of the Samaritans, who deemed as racially inferior.
Skeptics argue that placing Jesus in Bethlehem was an invention by later writers to give Jesus a prophetical claim to being the Messiah. Luke explains that Joseph and pregnant Mary traveled to Bethlehem for the census discussed in my last column, because he was a descendant of King David who was from Bethlehem. But why would Joseph and his thousands of Davidic relatives need to travel to their ancient home? Next time, I will try to give a reasonable answer to the most puzzling question of the Christmas story.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.