In a previous post, I pointed out some of the inaccuracies in our Christmas nativity scenes. One that I did not mention, but that is probably the most inaccurate feature of all, is where Jesus was born. Our nativities, songs, and other depictions of Jesus’ birth have him in some type of stable or barn. It probably just did not happen that way.
Yes, there was a manger (an animal feeding trough) in which the newborn Jesus was placed. However, while we relate feeding troughs to barns in our modern thinking, this was not the reality of 1st Century Israel. The diagram below from Logos Bible Software gives us a better understanding of a typical Jewish home at the time of Christ’s birth.
The upper area was the place where Jewish families lived and slept. The lower area was a place where more of the day-to-day work of the house was done and where animals that needed a little extra protection were kept. It is in this lower area that Jesus was likely born. When we read that there was “no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7), we often think of a hotel or similar. However, the greek word behind the word translated as “inn” is katalyma, which simply means “lodging place, resting place, or guest room”. This likely refers to the upper living area. Therefore, Mary and Joseph were forced to stay in the lower living area, where animals were often kept, which is why there is a manger present.
I hope this is helpful and gives us all a better understanding of what happened on that wonderful night when our Savior was born.
We studied this very topic in Suday school two weeks ago. I shared similar evidence (but not this nice diagram). A lot of the adults I teach seemed resistant to give up their vision of a shed or barn.
I think this resistnace stems from our desire to see Jesus in the most humble of surroundings. But whether in a barn or the Ritz Carlton, compared to heaven, any earthly birthplace was more humble than we could ever imagine.
It is interesting to notice that none of the authors of the New Testament make an issue of where Jesus was born. In fact, Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5-11 that the great “humility” that Christ experienced and modeled was in the act of him becoming a man (even though he was God). He mentions nothing of his birthplace or circumstances.
So, not a cave? That was another idea I’ve seen proposed.
Through much of history, the animals have lived right with people in the house or shelter (haven’t they?)…unless people needed to live with the animals, as with sheep. And even today, how many people have dogs or cats that sleep right in the beds with their owners? However, you will not see me sleeping with the hogs any time soon!
Yes, this is totally *rabbit trail* but this blog needs a little activity (even if trivial).;-)
The idea that Jesus may have been in a part of the house that was reserved for livestock in no way takes away from the Nativity. Of course, hogs weren’t present, but possibly, cattle, sheep and donkeys were along with the filth that accompanies these animals. He was born where livestock were kept and feed was stored? To me that would classify it as a barn with living quarters upstairs. Nonetheless, a pitiful surrounding for any girl to give birth in and for any baby to have as his birthplace, much less the Son of God!