When I think about what the night was like when Jesus was born, it is far from what we see on TV and Christmas cards. We have commercialized the birth of Christ. I decided to go check out how things were done back then. Things can change with translation, but history proves itself. Here are some of the things I found out about what it was like during the time of Jesus’s birth.
Jesus is born
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)
Now, lets logically take a look at this passage.
In the month of Tishri was the Feast of Tabernacles. It lasted for 8 days. (Lev 23:33-36) And every male from all over Israel was supposed to come to Jerusalem for it. (Deut 16:16) Bethlehem was like a suburb of Jerusalem, only a few miles away. So it would have been packed with people staying there. As a side note about the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, there is no mention of a donkey used in the trip. So, no donkey for Mary to ride. Maybe there was one. Maybe there wasn’t.
- The Greek word (kataluma) that is usually translated as “inn” in English is probably not properly translated. The only other situation that it is used is in the New Testament it was translated “guest room” or “upper room” in describing the place where the Last Supper took place
- Also, notice that there is no mention of a stable. What!? No stable!? Right. No stable is mentioned. And no animals are mentioned either. And no hay. A manger is mentioned. A manger is an animal’s feeding trough.
- What has been found archaeologically in that area of the world is stone mangers in the lower floors of homes. Apparently they would sometimes keep animals in a lower room where there was a manger made out of stone. These rooms were often almost like caves instead of what we would think of as a room. (In today’s terms think of a basement/garage combo that some people have in their homes. It’s not exactly inside and not exactly outside. You might bring a pet or an injured or pregnant animal in there to be warm.) Sometimes the manger was free-standing and sometimes built into a wall. Then they could also use that room as a guest-room for people to sleep when necessary. However, it is possible that if the family that they were staying with was rich (unlikely), then there could have been a free-standing building for their animals. Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible translates Luke 2:7 as “she brought forth her son — the first-born, and wrapped him up, and laid him down in the manger, because there was not for them a place in the guest-chamber”. What we have is Jesus being born in a house that was apparently packed with people. Maybe there was a guest room upstairs that was so full that they ended up down below where the animals were.
- They gathered up some cloths and swaddled him with them. Babies loved to be swaddled. It keeps them warm and calm. The climate in the area of Jerusalem and Bethlehem is fairly warm anyway. Swaddling was and is the normal thing to do with babies in many parts of the world even today.