Stone Manger: The Untold Story of the First Christmas
You make a donation to the folks who provide you with service over the holiday season.Please consider making a donation to Meridian through a voluntary subscription by clicking here.We are in desperate need of your assistance in order to continue to provide you with the high-quality magazine you have come to expect.There will be a serialization of Jeffrey R.Chadwick’s book The Stone Manger: The Untold Story of the First Christmas, with the first episode being published today.
If you enjoy the holiday season, I believe you will enjoy this novel as well.And it’s likely that after learning the previously unrecorded tale of Jesus’ birth, you’ll come to appreciate the holiday even more than before.It’s been dubbed ″the unsung narrative of Christmas.″ Allow me to explain why this is the case: The traditional Christmas tale does not accurately depict the events surrounding the birth of Jesus!Although we all grew up with the same tale, the events that took place did not take place in the manner in which we were taught.In no way, shape, or form.
- Please do not misinterpret what I’m saying.
- Our Christmas holiday customs are a lovely part of our heritage, and I personally enjoy them.
- Back in my childhood, when I was growing up in a normal American town many years ago, the Friday morning following Thanksgiving, which marked the official start of the holiday season, used to be something I looked forward to every November.
- I couldn’t wait for our town’s annual Christmas parade to begin on the morning of the Friday after Thanksgiving dinner.
- I adored our magnificent old “downtown” area, where we shopped for Christmas gifts in large, elegant brick buildings like J.C.
- Penney and F.W.
Woolworth.The entire downtown area was adorned for the Christmas season like a scene from a classic movie.Each light post and semaphore along the roadway was festively decked with big red and white electric light candy canes, forest green garlands, and large silver bells with red ribbon bows.I adored those winter nights each December, wandering through our town park, where a hundred huge trees were decked with hundreds of multicolored lights.Santa’s village notwithstanding, the park’s life-size manger scene was always the greatest draw in our municipal park.Night after night in December parents would stand around that crèche in the falling snow and tell their wrapped up children the tale of the Christmas Nativity.
- And I liked that Christmas narrative best of all – a poor carpenter from Galilee and his new bride; their long and laborious journey to pay the Roman tax; that first Christmas eve in a barn; and Mary’s infant asleep on the hay.
- The shepherds, the herald angels singing, the three kings, and even a drummer boy – all these constitute the classic narrative of Christmas we have grown to enjoy.
- We repeat it over and again, in books, on television, and on stages where youngsters dressed in bathrobes and towels miraculously become shepherds and wise men.
But the real first Christmas just didn’t happen that way.The scenario we represent with carved wood and ceramic figurines on our fireplace mantles is not anything like the actual life conditions which accompanied the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem more than two thousand years ago.Because, in truth, Joseph was not a carpenter.He and Mary did not have to travel to Bethlehem to pay taxes.There were not any Roman soldiers there to harass them.Nor were there any travelling kings bearing gifts.
- Of course, there wasn’t any drummer boy.
- But there also wasn’t any hay on which the baby was laid.
- And, most surprisingly, there wasn’t even a stable!
- There was, however, a manger.
- That part of the story is absolutely authentic – that manger in which the newborn Jesus was laid.
- The New Testament specifically mentions that manger three different times in telling the story of Jesus’ birth.
It even served as a sign from heaven.But that manger in Bethlehem was not the wooden feed box we have come to imagine.It was not used for hay.And it was not made of poles or planks, lashed together with cords, as so often portrayed in Christmas art.The temporary cradle in which the newborn Jesus was laid was actually a manger cut from stone!
How could we know all this, you may rightly ask?For over thirty years now I have worked in Israel as a researcher and field archaeologist, specializing in the material and cultural backgrounds of the biblical narratives.During all those years I have also taught New Testament courses at seminaries and for university religious studies programs.I’ve taught thousands of university students in Jerusalem and in the Galilee, and taken them over a hundred times for field study in every location from Nazareth to Bethlehem.Because I personally regard the New Testament gospel accounts as authentic and reliable, in my teaching I combine the biblical texts with critically valuable information provided by historical geography and contemporary archaeological research.
The result is a realistic and more authentic understanding of scripture that goes beyond mere textual studies.It is a fusion which may properly be referred to as “contextual studies.” This book is the result of all those years of teaching, research, and excavation, and uses the “contextual studies” approach in telling the real story of the first Christmas.We will explain the actual events surrounding the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem of Judea in the context of their original time and setting.This account is not at all like the traditional holiday stories.It’s better!It’s the authentic story of a young married couple’s love and faith, strength and humility, self reliance and hard work, and their determination to bring about the purposes of God.
- It’s the account one can find digging deep into the gospels of the New Testament, told in the way you would have seen it had you been there yourself.
- So sit back now, [and in the next few days on Meridian} and read the real story of the birth of Jesus – the untold story of the first Christmas.
- A Stone Manger Before beginning the untold story of the first Christmas, let’s take a moment to consider the only documented artifact connected with that now famous event – a stone manger.
- The Gospel of Luke, which records events of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem, never once mentions a stable, or cattle, or even any hay or straw.
But Luke did mention, three separate times, that manger in which the newborn baby boy was laid.The first reference was a simple statement in Luke 2:7 about Mary and her newborn child.She brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in blankets, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.The next reference occurs five verses later, in Luke 2:12, as a clue for Jewish shepherds who would come looking for the child.And this shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the baby wrapped in blankets, lying in a manger.
- Four verses further on, in Luke 2:16, those shepherds arrived at Bethlehem to conduct their midnight search.
- And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger.
- Anyone who has ever read the Christmas story in the Bible has pictured these events in their mind.
- But it comes as a big surprise to most people when they learn that the makeshift cradle in which the newborn Jesus was laid was not a feeding trough fashioned out of wood, as usually portrayed in modern paintings.
- The manger was really a water trough carved from stone.
- In modern times, most people have become used to picturing biblical events in terms of the society and material culture they know from North America or Europe, or even elsewhere.
- To a certain extent, they create the Bible stories in their own image in their mind, in their art, in their drama, in their music, and even in their literature.
- The result of that imaginative license is, in the case of the Christmas story, the familiar image of a wooden manger.
- In the ancient Landof Israel, however, animal troughs were not made of wooden planks or poles lashed together.
Limestone was much more plentiful in ancient Israel than lumber (as it also is today in modern Israel) (as it also is today in modern Israel).Everything that could be made of that limestone was made of it.Buildings, from the private house to the king’s palace, were built of the white stone.Most furniture was fashioned, in whole or part, of such stone.And as far as archaeological research has been able to determine, animal troughs were almost exclusively carved out of Israel’s abundant white limestone.Quite a few limestone animal troughs have been found by archaeologists excavating in Israel.
The stone manger pictured in photograph1 above is typical of the average design and dimensions.They were usually block-like in shape, standing between twelve and thirty inches high.The shallow basin in the top of the trough was only about six to eight inches deep, generally carved as a neat rectangular depression with a flat or slightly concave bottom.These troughs were used for watering animals.
The manger in which Jesus was laid, and which served as a sign for the shepherds to find him, was almost surely such a trough for water.This is because in ancient Israel there was no need for a feed box filled with hay.Domestic animals were able to feed on the plentiful grass that grew in the rocky hills of Judea.Grass was available all year long.From January to April the natural grasses were green and lush.
The grass became a golden color after it dried in the late spring heat, but was just as nutritious and available all summer and fall.When winter rains began in November and December, new green grasses were again generated.It snowed only rarely in most of ancient Israel, and snow generally melted within a day of falling, so grass was never covered for long.It was not necessary to grow fields of hay or straw to be stored for animals to feed on.Whether people owned donkeys, sheep, goats, or milk cows, all year long they simply grazed their animals on the plentiful grass around their towns and villages.If a limestone water trough was meant for use by sheep, it was short, around twelve to fifteen inches high.
- This allowed sheep and goats to drink without straining their necks too far up or down.
- A donkey could also reach down to drink from such a trough.
- But if a man owned no sheep or goats, the trough for his donkey might be taller, as much as twenty-four to thirty inches high, providing an easier drink for the animal.
So the basin in which the newborn Jesus was laid, and which served as a sign for the shepherds to find him, was a water trough carved from limestone, like the one pictured in photograph1.There would not have been any hay or straw in it, nor strewn round about it, for animals were not fed in that manner.In fact, other than a donkey, and perhaps a single goat, there were probably no animals present at all when Jesus was born in Bethlehem.Another thing about that manger which may come as a surprise is that it was a new trough, one that Joseph made himself.He cut and shaped the manger out of a large piece of Judean limestone right after he and Mary arrived at Bethlehem, so that his donkey could have water to drink.
- Contrary to popular tradition, Joseph was not a wood carpenter.
- He was a stone mason.
- Watch for the next installment of The Stone Manger tomorrow on Meridian.
To download Stone Manger by Jeffrey Chadwick as an ebook click here or go to www.stonemanger.com
The Sweet Gift of New Life
Warmth and sweetness, love and affection, and a profound sense of calm and immense delight are some of the sentiments that come to mind when I think of the baby in the manger, which reminds me of the feelings I had as I watched my own children sleep in their cribs: The arrival of a child is usually a joyous occasion.When new life enters the world, there is an element of hope and promise in it.I have three grandkids, and each of their births was a joyful and priceless experience for myself and my family.But there’s the waiting…Oh, the agony of waiting…
When I was expecting the birth of my first grandson, those nine months seemed to drag on for an eternity.Nothing seemed to indicate that the baby will arrive any time soon.Then there was the time spent waiting in the hospital waiting area, which was exhausting.We were three of us who were impatiently awaiting the arrival of the baby: two future grandmothers and a future uncle who kept each other company.Despite our efforts to sleep, the anticipation kept us awake.
- We spoke, we read, we browsed on our phones, and we played games on our tablets to keep ourselves occupied while waiting for the bus.
- When someone passed by the waiting room door, our hearts skipped a beat, wondering whether they were on their way to inform us that she had arrived at the hospital.
- We waited all night long.
- It had been a very long night.
- Finally, at around 4:30 a.m., my son entered the waiting area via the front entrance with a little bundle in his arms.
- She had arrived!
Little squints from the corners of their eyes.Chubby round cheeks and rosebud lips are the order of the day.Tiny small fingers and toes are snuggled up under a lovely pink blanket for warmth.She was just amazing!We had been waiting for her to emerge for a very long time.Our adorable little one had finally made his or her appearance!
- We oohed and ahhhed as we cradled her in our arms and stared at her sweet face hidden behind the pink knit cap.
- We laughed till our cheeks hurt from smiling so much.
- As if the Grinch’s grinchy tiny heart had grown three sizes in that scene, my heart filled with emotion…
I had a strong sense of affection.What a feeling of fulfillment.It’s a little strange to think that my heart could grow in such a significant way with each new grandchild, but that’s exactly what happened.Every single time.
How Long, O Lord?
Waiting is a difficult task.I’ve started the process of waiting all over again.The next couple of days will bring me two more little faces to look into for the first time, two more little beings to cherish.I’ll have two more grandkids in the spring of next year.My two daughters-in-law are both expecting children!
It’s going to be a very, very long winter.Waiting… When you’re looking forward to meeting that new tiny person, 9 months seems like an eternity.The Hebrew people had to wait a very long time – generations – for the Messiah that God had promised them in the Old Testament….while the world sighed in anticipation of finding a solution to its many problems…Many people waited and watched for the birth of this child…
- How long would they have to sit around and wait?
- God has been deafeningly quiet for a long time.
- The waiting seemed to drag on interminably.
On a Starry Night in Bethlehem…
The stillness was finally shattered one starry night when the sun came out.The waiting period had come to an end.The time has arrived for the Messiah to come.In the town of Bethlehem, a little infant was born in a barn.As his mother wrapped him in soft hay and placed him in a manger, the angels’ music heralded his arrival to the world.
As word of the baby’s arrival spread, people began to arrive at the hospital to welcome him.They all gathered around the small stable, trying to get a glimpse of what was going on.Do you have any idea what they saw when they got closer to the manger and peeked into it?Is it possible that they just saw a baby?Or did they happen to notice anything else?
What Did They See in the Manger?
What the Shepherds Saw
When a group of shepherds heard the news, they rushed to the baby’s side.It was only when they gazed in the manger that they discovered a Savior.THE SAVIOR, to be precise.An angel of the Lord appeared to them in Luke 2:8-20 and informed them that a savior had been born in Bethlehem; the one God had promised would come to redeem them; the one they had waited so long for.The shepherds bowed their heads in reverence and then continued on their way to notify everyone else that the Savior of the world had arrived.
What the Wise Men Saw
A short time later, a delegation of foreign dignitaries, including wise men from the East, arrived to welcome the newborn.They saw a king as they peered into the manger; the same king who had been predicted to be born; the king they had sought for as they followed the star in the night sky.According to Matthew 2:1-12, they brought presents for the new infant, which included gold, frankincense, and myrrh.These may appear to be weird presents for someone to deliver to a new infant…yet they are not strange gifts for a monarch.
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were common presents offered to kings and deities in the ancient world to show their respect for them.They, too, bowed their heads and worshipped him before continuing on their path.
What Mary Saw
As things began to calm down and the guests began to go, Mary was able to spend some quality time with her new baby without being interrupted.But, when she glanced into the manger where she had lay him, did she see a newborn or something more sinister?What did Mary notice when she arrived at the manger?When Mary gazed in the manger, she saw a king, just as the three wise men had seen him.She saw a vision of the king of God’s people.
But she also saw a vision of the Son of God.When Mary was visited by the angel, the angel informed her that she was about to become a mother and that the child would be extraordinarily blessed.He would be referred to as the Son of the Most High, and God would grant him the throne of David, who was his ancestor (Luke 1:26-38).Moreover, he would reign over Israel in perpetuity, and his Kingdom would never come to an end.Her boy would grow up to be a king.
- Do you want to know more about Mary’s life and work?
- Mary’s Care Package
What Joseph Saw
Joseph had been keeping a close eye on his wife, Mary, as she looked at their kid.It was with more intimacy that he glanced into the manger, where Jesus was resting.In your opinion, what do you believe Joseph saw as he peeked into the stable?When Joseph gazed at the manger, he saw a Savior, just as the shepherds had done.During the visitation of the angel to Joseph to inform him that Mary was expecting a child, the angel informed him that the child would be a boy and that he should name him Jesus because he would be the one who would deliver his people from their sin.
Joseph, on the other hand, saw something more: he saw God.The angel had also told him that people would refer to the infant as Emmanuel, which is a Hebrew word that meaning ‘God with us.’ This little newborn was God wrapped up in the form of a human being.God had come near – to mending the chasm that had developed between us.Are you interested in learning more about Joseph’s life?Joseph Package is a fictional character created by the author Joseph Package.
Seeing God in the Manger
During his stay on this planet, Jesus didn’t come out and announce, ″I’m God,″ as some might expect.Instead, he made overt allusions to his divine origin in ways that anyone who was paying attention should have picked up on immediately.When Phillip, one of the disciples, begged Jesus to show them the father, Jesus responded by saying, ″Don’t you know who I am, Philip, even after all this time I have spent among you?Anyone who has seen me has also seen the Father, and vice versa.″How can you say, ‘Show us the Father,’″ you might wonder.
8-10; John 14:8-10 When a group of men dropped their crippled buddy to the ground through a hole in the roof so that he might implore Jesus to heal him, Jesus responded by saying, ″Friend, your sins have been forgiven you.″ Luke 5:19-21 (KJV) This was deemed blasphemy by the Pharisees and other professors of the law.It was then that the Pharisees and the professors of law started to wonder aloud, ″Who is this guy?″Who else except God has the power to pardon sins?″ They realized that by claiming to be able to pardon sins, Jesus was also claiming to be God, and they reacted accordingly.
Seeing Our Advocate in the Manger
″The Word became flesh and made his abode among us,″ according to John 1:14, ″the Word became flesh and made his residence among us.″ Jesus was a real person who lived among us.He was given birth to as a human infant.He had the same needs as any other human creature, including the need to live, breathe, and grow.In every sense, Jesus had a firsthand understanding of what it is to be human.John 19:28 says that Jesus felt thirsty.
Matthew 4:2 says that when he didn’t eat, he became hungry.John 4:6 says that he became exhausted.Matthew 4 describes how Christ was tempted in the same way we were.Jesus was a witness to our anguish.According to John 11:35, Jesus even cried.
- As a result, God came to be with us.
- He was able to feel both our sorrow and our happiness.
- According to Hebrews 4:15, we now have a high priest who is able to sympathize with us since Jesus experienced all that we do in this life.
- He’s aware of it.
- He is well-versed in every subject.
- We acquired an advocate who understands what it’s like to be us in the form of this baby who was born that night in Bethlehem.
We may come to Jesus with anything, and he will understand us since he has gone through all we have gone through.
Seeing the Great “I AM” in the Manger
In addition, Jesus made seven ″I AM″ declarations.I AM the source of all nourishment.6.35; 6.48 (John 6:35; 6.48) I AM the source of all illumination.I AM the door/gate, according to John 8:12 and John 9:5.10:7 (John 10:7) I, the good shepherd, am here.
- 10:11-14 (John 10:11-14) I AM the resurrection and the life, and I AM the one who raises the dead.
- 11:25 (John 11:25) ‘I AM the way, the truth, and the life,’ I declare.
- 14:6 (John 14:6) I AM the authentic vine.
- John 15:1 and John 15:5 are two of the most important passages in the Bible.
- Anyone who was paying attention would have realized that Jesus was implicitly revealing that he was, in fact, God, by his actions.
- They would have understood the connection to Exodus 3:13-14 as being appropriate.
- At the end of Exodus 3:13-14, Moses expressed his gratitude to the Almighty by saying, ″Suppose I go to the Israelites and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they inquire, ‘What is his name?’″ ″Then what am I supposed to tell them?″ To Moses, God said, ″I AM WHO I AM.″ What you are supposed to tell the Israelites is, ″’I AM has sent me to you.’″
Who Do You See When You Look in the Manger?
We sometimes highlight the divinity of Jesus: the child Lord of the universe, born to redeem his people from their sins.We want to stress the humanity of Jesus by seeing him as a baby boy born in a barn.However, the truth is that Jesus was and continues to be both: totally human and entirely divine.It’s a contradiction, a dilemma, to put it another way.How could he be totally human while being sinless?
- How could he be completely divine while still being tempted?
- It’s a puzzle to me.
- I believe it and accept it, but I still can’t seem to get my head around it completely.
- Emmanuel: God with us, God’s Word become flesh, God’s Empathetic High Priest, the bread of life, the light of the world, the genuine vine; the way, the truth, and the life…
- His name was John and he was an adult, a carpenter, a sibling, and Mary’s younger brother.
- When you look into the manger, who do you think you’re seeing?
- I hope you see a lot more than just a baby when you go to see it.
- I hope that from now on, whenever you gaze into the manger, you will see the full picture of who Jesus is and why he came.
- The love, the life, the empathy, the reconciliation, the forgiveness, the healing, the hope, the peace, and joy that Jesus came to bring us are all things I hope you will experience.
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What did a manger look like at the time of Jesus’ birth?
According to what many investigators today believe, the stable referenced in the Bible was most likely located outside of the town of Bethlehem, rather than within it (remember the event and subsequent crowd drawn thereto).Depending on your perspective, the stable was either a natural cave or a cave hewn into a rock face, which was not an unusual technique of construction at the time.Because of this, the manger was most likely a cistern or basin-like structure hewn into the same rock, and it was most likely a monolithic construction.The shelter is simple, but it is an excellent and long-lasting one.According to common belief, the ″manger″ where Jesus was born had nothing to do with a stable where animals were housed.
- ″The queen’s home″ (named after one of Herod’s queens) was a facility where pregnant women who were not married would remain and give birth as well as nurse their illegitimate children, according to tradition.
- This structure located approximately a kilometer south of the Qumran plateau, near the Dead Sea, and was constructed of mud bricks.
- Mary, the mother of Jesus, was just betrothed to Joseph and hence was not legally married to him, and it was in this building that she gave birth to Jesus.
- The book ″Jesus the Man,″ written by Barbara Thiering, has further material (Corgi edition, originally published by Doubleday, 1992).
Bethlehem – the Manger and the Inn
Several people have inquired as to where I believe Jesus was born.According to Scripture and archaeology, the location was not a randomly selected cave in Bethlehem, but a spot that had been prepared for this purpose hundreds of years before it was used for it.According to Luke 2.1-5, Mary and Joseph were required to travel to their home city to be with their children.While nearly nine months pregnant, Mary had to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem — a 100 mile trek via the Jordan Valley – on the back of a donkey, which must have been a difficult and terrible experience.When they arrived in Bethlehem, they were unable to locate a place to stay.
- Because there was no other location for the Son of God to be born, he was born in a filthy barn that had to be shared with other animals.
- Nothing like the idyllic stable depicted on Christmas postcards, complete with smiling camels and donkeys, probably designed by artists who are unaware of how foul camels may smell or how loud the braying of donkeys can be!
- Exactly what did a stable look like during the time of Christ is unknown.
- Stables were shaped like chambers with a fenestrated wall, which was an internal or external wall with a number of small windows, according to archaeological evidence.
- Animals were kept behind this wall, and feed was stored in wooden boxes or baskets that were hung from the windows to keep them fresh.
- The remaining half of the chamber was devoted to the storage of provender sacks.
- According to tradition, Mary and Joseph were permitted to remain in this section of the stable, which is also where Jesus was born.
- Stable walls with fenestrated openings have been discovered in a variety of locations, including Capernaum and Chorazin, as seen below.
- Nonetheless, what exactly is the significance of Bethlehem, and which inn was chosen by God to be the location of His son’s birth?
When Joshua defeated Jericho, he cursed the city, causing it to become known as the ″City of Death.″ Rahab and her family were the only ones who were saved, and they were alone.She married Salmon, and their son was named Boaz, and it is likely that he settled in Bethlehem after Judah captured the land that had belonged to them.The marriage of Boaz and Ruth took place at Bethlehem, and Ruth eventually became the great-grandmother of David (Ruth 4.10).
- Gentile Ruth was, of course, one of the remarkable few women recorded in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew Ch.
- 1 who belonged to a different race.
- King David was born in Bethlehem and crowned king by Samuel the Prophet while still living there.
- David was nearing the end of his life when he was forced to escape from his son Absalom, who had revolted against his father.
- He remained with the elderly Barzilai the Gileadite, whose son Chimham accompanied David on his return journey to Jerusalem (2 Sam.
- In order to provide him with a source of income, it appears that David may have given him a portion of his own inheritance in Bethlehem in order for him to build an inn (which is mentioned in an early Jewish source, Targum Yerushalmi, Jer.
- 41.17a), which he named ″Geruth Chimham″ or ″Habitation of Chimham″) (Jer.
- Given the fact that tiny communities like Bethlehem often only had one inn, it is logical to speculate that Jesus was born in this particular inn.
- Thanks to David’s kindness toward Barzilai and his son Chimham, the preparations for Jesus’ birth were made possible.
This is another another of the beautiful geographical coincidences that run throughout the entire plot of the Bible, as is the fact that Jesus could be born in his own ancestral home as the real Son of David.
The Manger and the Inn: A Middle Eastern view of the birth story of Jesus
The traditional narrative of the birth story of Jesus in the Western world is heavily influenced by mythology.I am not referring to Santa Claus, snow, bells, or Rudolph; rather, I am talking to our comprehension of the biblical text as a textual interpretation.It’s amazing how many legendary themes have been incorporated into the Scriptures themselves throughout the course of the ages.The fact that some of beliefs are centuries old and ubiquitous means that they are implicitly accepted.Let’s say, for example, that Jesus was born the same night that the Holy Family appeared on the scene.
- What Luke 2:3 truly means is that the Holy Family ″went up″ to Bethlehem, not that they ″went up″ to Jerusalem.
- After that, in verse 6, it says, ″While they were there, her days were full…″ According to logic, this implies that the last stages of Mary’s pregnancy took place in Bethlehem (for two weeks?
- for one month?) Luke 2:1-7 is read during the Christmas season in the ordinary Western church; nonetheless, it is apparent that the birth of Jesus takes place many days after the Holy Family arrives in Bethlehem.
- The youngsters of the congregation then perform a play in which the Christ-child is born on the very night that they arrive at the church.
- Surprisingly, this obvious mismatch goes unnoticed most of the time.
- In addition, was it during the winter season?
- The shepherds of Bethlehem return to their communities at night during the winter season in Bethlehem.
- They only spend the night on the fields on rare occasions throughout the summer.
- What evidence do we have that there were three wise men?
Three types of gifts are affirmed by the scripture.There might have been a total of ten of them.The magi were from ″the East,″ as the saying goes.
- ″The East″ implies the area on the opposite side of Jordan River if the narrative was first told by someone who was living in Palestine.
- Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho, 29) claims that the ″Magi came from Arabia″ when he was writing in the second century.
- So we could carry on from there.
- The popular interpretation of the Christmas tale serves as an excellent instance of the difficulty of text and tradition in religious studies.
- ″What was the inn?″ and ″Where was the manger?″ are two queries that will be addressed in this little piece.
- In both circumstances, we are in for a pleasant surprise.
- According to our convictions, a more accurate cultural knowledge can help restore essential theological meaning to the account of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.
- THE EARLY MORNING ARRIVEMENT As a starting point, it should be noted that the account is definitely of Palestinian origin.
- All of David’s hymns are entrenched in the traditions of the Old Testament and employ Hebrew parallelism in their composition.
- The tradition of covering a newborn kid (2:7) dates back to Ezekiel 16:4 and is being practiced today.
- As a result, for the purposes of the fiction, Middle Eastern culture must be assumed.
On the basis of this information, the widely held Western premise of Bethlehem’s rejection is culturally exceedingly problematic in a Middle Eastern context.To begin with, Mary has relations ″in the hill region″ of Judea, whom she has recently seen, and she intends to continue her stay (cf.Luke1:36, 39ff).
- Mary and Elizabeth are said to be related, according to Luke.
- In a few verses before the tale of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the reader is made aware of this information.
- As a result, if the Holy Family arrives in Bethlehem and is unable to find refuge, they need not worry because Mary’s family are close by.
- They are more much welcome there.
- There’s still time to seek refuge with Zachariah and Elizabeth if necessary.
- In addition, Joseph is a descendant of the ″house and lineage of David.″ It is not uncommon for a self-respecting ″son of the village″ to return to his hometown in the Middle East to be greeted with wide arms by the residents of Bethlehem who have recently learned of his ancestors’ descent.
- Finally, as already stated, the Bible confirms that they remained in Bethlehem until ″her days were full.″ Is Joseph so hopelessly incompetent that even after a lengthy search (a week, two weeks, a month), he is unable to organize anything other than a stable?
- Because of this, conventional interpretations of the narrative cast a negative light on Joseph’s abilities and honesty.
- Is the entire hamlet of Bethlehem so cold-hearted that no one would accept a pregnant lady who is about to give birth in their home?
Indeed, the ″late-night arrival myth″ denigrates all of Bethlehem’s residents, not just the mythical innkeeper, in the process.Overall, our Western culture has created details that do not correspond to our Middle Eastern world as a true narrative about genuine people living in a true hamlet over the course of many hundred years.For some in the contemporary time, the entire collection of birth tales represents a free intervention by Luke or his sources, with little if any history at the heart of the narrative.However, as previously said, the content has a Palestinian flavor to it.
- As a result, whether there is a history of the Middle East or not, the interpreter must begin with the culture of the region.
- If a man had a pregnant wife, would it not be considered undesirable in any society for him to refuse the hospitality of his wife’s family and instead use a stable as a labor and delivery room?
- So, how are the text’s particularities to be interpreted in this case?
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE INN?In the Western world, it has long been considered that the narrative included a ″inn.″ As a result, there is no room at the inn.The term kataluma, which is rendered as ″inn″ in the Western editions of Luke 2:7, is the Greek word kataluma.But, when Luke uses the term ″inn,″ does he truly mean ″inn″?
Throughout the biblical account of the Good Samaritan, the injured man is unambiguously transported to a commercial enterprise that offers sanctuary to foreigners.However, Luke has the men arrive at a pandokheion (10:34), not a kataluma, as they did in the biblical account.Pandokheion is a popular Greek term that refers to a guesthouse.Luke is familiar with and makes use of this term.
So, if pandokheion refers to a commercial inn in Luke’s mind, what does the word kataluma refer to in his mind?There is a straightforward response accessible.″Where is the kataluma, where I am to eat the Passover with my disciples?″ the disciples are instructed in Luke 22:11, where they are instructed to follow a man carrying a jar of water and, upon arriving at his home, to inquire: ″’Where is the kataluma, where I am to eat the Passover with my disciples?’″ And he will show you a spacious top room that has been decorated.″ In this context, the term kataluma is explicitly defined — it refers to a guest room adjacent to a private residence.Consequently, Luke refers to a commercial inn as a pandokheion, and a private guest room as a kataluma (private guest room).THE MANAGING DIRECTOR At such case, ″no room for them in the inn″ should truly be translated as ″no room for them in the guest room,″ and what happens to the manger is anyone’s guess.In order to answer this issue, it is important to witness the building of Palestinian traditional one-room dwellings, which are now under construction.
- Such structures are referred to as ″split-level″ residences.
- A tiny, lower level for the animals is located at one end of the structure.
- The elevated terrace on which the family cooks, eats, and lives occupies around 80 percent of the one-room structure.
- The two floors are joined by a short flight of steps, and each night, the family’s cow, donkey, and a few sheep are carried down to the lower level for milking.
- In the morning, these animals are escorted into a courtyard, where they are cleansed and the home is prepared for the day ahead of them.
- According to Luke 13:15, this ordinary daily practice is so firmly entrenched in the village house that Jesus can presume it while conversing with the chief priest of the synagogue.
- ″Does not everyone of you on the Sabbath untie his or her ox or his or her ass from the manger and lead it away to water it?″ he questions.
- When the Western reader sees the term ″manger,″ he or she instantly believes that a stable is being discussed; but, if the animals had been kept in a stable, the head of the synagogue might have said, ″I never touch the animals on Saturday!″ He is unable to respond in this manner since there are no stables.
- Everyone in the community is also aware that all village households keep their animals in the home overnight and that it is unimaginable to leave them there during the daytime.
- Thus, Jesus could, with full assurance, confront the head of the synagogue with the above challenge, knowing that each of them had carried out this simple chore that very morning.
- A one-room home is also presupposed in Matthew 5:15, where the light of a single lamp shines on all in the house.
(In passing, we can note that the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is built over the ancient traditional site of the birth of Jesus.The location itself is a precise example of what we have described above, namely a single room with a small lower level.) This same village architecture is also assumed in the Old Testament, where the medium at Endor takes a fatted calf from within the house, kills it and offers it to Saul and his servants (1 Samuel 28:24-25).(1 Samuel 28:24-25).The tragic Jephthah pledges that if victorious he will sacrifice whatever first comes out of his house on his return (Judges 11:30f) (Judges 11:30f).The animals are in the house, and one naturally anticipates the sacrifice of an animal.
To his horror, he is greeted by his only daughter.The entire story turns on the fact that he is surprised and stunned when she appears.The reader needs to know that the animals move daily in and out of the house.Thus, in the New Testament and in the Old Testament there is clear evidence of the existence of the one-room, split-level home such as we suggest for Luke 2:7.Such one-room homes often had/have guest rooms attached to the end or built on the roof for guests.
What, then, can be said about the manger?In such traditional homes, mangers are built into the floor of the raised terrace on which the family lives.If the cow or donkey is hungry in the night it can stand and reach the feed on the floor of the upper family living space (often about four feet higher than the level for the animals) (often about four feet higher than the level for the animals).
- This is the critical piece of evidence that unlocks Luke 2:7.
- What is unknown to the Western reader is the fact that in a traditional Palestinian home, the mangers are in the living room.
- Now all the parts of the story fall into place.
- The text Luke found in the tradition was originally written for a Palestinian reader who starts with the assumptions that mangers are in the living room and guest rooms are attached to one-room homes and are used only for guests.
- With this in mind, the text provides the following: 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 reader instinctively asks, “Manger?
Oh.They are in the main family room!Why not the guest room?” The author instinctively senses the above question and replies, Because there was no place for them in the guest room.” The reader concludes, “Ah, I see.So the guest room was full.Never mind; the family room is more appropriate, anyway.” WHY IT MATTERS With these clarifications, all the cultural pieces of the Gospel story fall into place and a special theological thrust emerges from the story.
- Joseph finds shelter in a simple peasant home.
- This home has a guest room, but it is full.
- In the honored tradition of Middle Eastern hospitality, the host provides for his guests.
- He clears the one-room family living space for the Holy Family to use.
- The child is born and placed in a depression in the floor (manger) to keep it from harm.
- The shepherds are given a double sign.
- They will find the babe wrapped (an ancient village custom) and placed in a manger.
- That is, he is in a simple home like theirs; no one will say to them, “Tradesmen to the back door, please!” In his ministry, we know of Jesus that “the common people heard him gladly.” That same simple welcome is reflected in Bethlehem in the story of his birth.
- If the story is seen in this light, the “mean old innkeeper” evaporates, along with his non-existent inn.
- “No room at the inn” will no longer be adequate for the Christmas sermon.
- The cold, drafty stable becomes a warm, cozy peasant home which the shepherds find fully adequate, for they go home praising God for all that they had heard and seen (2:20).
- If they had found the family in a stable, they would have taken them at once to their own homes!
So the inn and the innkeeper evaporate.Yet much is gained.The Incarnation itself becomes more authentic — Jesus was born in and into a simple peasant home as any other village boy.The shepherds, outcasts from their society, were given a sign indicating this simplicity.They thereby discover that this Messiah comes welcoming the poor and the marginalized.
Joseph emerges as a man fully able to arrange for his family.No estrangement is subtly affirmed between his family and the family of Zachariah.No hardheartedness is attributed to Bethlehem.The wise men came “to the house” (Matthew 2:11) and no special pleading is necessary to explain the appearance of these “new” quarters.The word became flesh indeed.The birth of Jesus most likely took place in the same kind of natural setting into which every peasant is born — in a peasant home.
- And, after all, it is still possible to sing, Ox and ass before him bow, For he is in the manger now.
- Christ is born to save, Christ is born to save.
- Ken Bailey by Ken Bailey
A Manger Misconception?
Does a manger refer to a whole stall or just a feeding trough?Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S., explains.After reading Tim Chaffey’s article concerning if Jesus was born in a stable, I found his discussion to be without merit, a cause of confusion, and even deceptive in nature.The scope of his discussion has caused me to so question the true purpose of his article…No matter how Chaffey tries to slice and dice the message of the scripture found in Luke Chapter 2, the intent of Luke implies that Jesus was simply born in a manger…
- a stall meant for the shelter of animals.
- In portraying otherwise, Chaffey has caused confusion in believing God’s word.
- He refrained from discussing the central key word in Luke 2:7 which is ″manger.″ The Greek translation and use of this noun implies an animal stall, its usage later confirmed by the author Luke in 13:15!
- I ask AIG to retract the untruths found in Chaffey’s article….
- – J.B., USA Hi James, Thank you for contacting us with your concerns.
- I can assure you that the purpose of this article was not meant in any way to undermine, deceive, or confuse believers, or to “slice and dice” the Scriptures.
- The point of the article was in line with one of the major emphases of our ministry: to build our thinking on the Word of God.
- If you read any of the other articles on misconceptions about the birth of Christ, I’m sure you are aware that too many people base their beliefs on traditions, legends, song lyrics, etc., rather than the Bible.
- Concerning the manger, it was discussed briefly, but let’s take a closer look at this term.
Luke used the Greek word φατvη (phatnē) in Luke 2:7, 12, and 16.Translators of the KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, and ESV have chosen the word “manger” in each of these cases because of the context.As you pointed out, Luke used the same word (φατνης, phatnēs, the genitive form of that noun) in Luke 13:15, which the same translators (except the ESV) have rendered as “stall” (ESV uses “manger” here, too).
- Why did they use a different English word to translate the same Greek word?
- The context determines the meaning.
- Let’s take a look at each of these verses (from NKJV, emphasis and bracketed material added): And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
- (Luke 2:7) “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12) And theycame with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
- (Luke 2:16) The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite!
- Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?” (Luke 13:15) Luke 2:7 states that Mary “laid Him in a manger” because there was no room for them in the kataluma, which is later translated as “guest room” in Luke 22:11.
- Jesus was not born in a manger, but Mary laid or placed Him in one after He was born and wrapped in swaddling cloths.
- Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines manger as “a trough or open box in a stable designed to hold feed or fodder for livestock.” The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament states, “It must be stated firmly that the meaning of φατνη (phatnē) here is ‘feeding-trough’; it cannot be translated as ‘stall.’” 1 The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament states that phatnē is “a box or crib where animals feed—feed box, manger, crib (or possibly even an open feeding place under the sky).” 2 As such, it makes sense in Luke 2 to translate the word as “manger” (rather than “stall”) because a manger is a feeding trough for the animals.
- This feeding trough was likely the proper size to place a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, much like we use a crib today.
- The manger is not the entire stall, but is part of it.
- With that said, it may still be accurate to translate phatnēs as “stall” in Luke 13:15.
Perhaps this is an example of synecdoche, where a limited term is used to represent the whole (e.g., in modern English “set of wheels” can mean four tires, or it can refer to the whole vehicle).Or perhaps “manger” is still a better translation of Luke 13:15, if animals were typically tied up to it in those days (in which case the manger could be in a field or along a street and not necessarily in a barn or stable) (in which case the manger could be in a field or along a street and not necessarily in a barn or stable).I think you have raised a good point about including discussion of Luke 13:15.
- We have added a footnote to the article with some of this information.
- It is extremely important for us to rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) but not “slice and dice” it.
- At times, we may disagree with fellow believers over the interpretation of a particular passage.
- In such cases (especially when the word, phrase, or passage is not a salvation issue and can rightly be interpreted in a different manner), we must learn to extend to our fellow believers some of the kindness that God has shown us rather than making accusations about one’s motives.
- Thanks again for your concern about the article.
- Sincerely, Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S.
What Did The Nativity Really Look Like? – Jacob Wagner.us
Away in a manger, as they say.There will be no cradle for His bed.The stars in the sky looked down on where He lay as the tiny Lord Jesus laid his lovely head on the ground.The tiny Lord Jesus is sound asleep on the hay bales.The animals are in a state of lowing.
- The poor Baby is roused.
- However, little Lord Jesus He doesn’t cry at all.
- One of my favorite Christmas carols is Away in a Manger.
- It depicts a lovely image of the infant Jesus in a barn with animals.
- This is the traditional depiction of the nativity, but is this a true representation of what happened?
- ″And she gave forth her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and placed him in a manger, because there was no space for them at the inn,″ the story continues.
- (Luke 2:7).
- (Luke 2:7).
- Even that quotation, however, requires to be examined in greater depth.
The author, a first-century physician by the name of Luke, says that Joseph’s family originated in Bethlehem just a few lines earlier.A Jewish visitor during that time period, particularly one who was destitute, would nearly never stay in a public hotel.Instead, they would like to remain with family if at all possible, or otherwise at a synagogue.
- So what would it matter if there wasn’t a room available at the inn?
- Almost every Jewish home featured a separate space for guests, which was usually on the second or third level.
- In particular, this was true in the vicinity ofJerusalem, where every adult able-bodied male was compelled to visit three times each year and which is fewer than 10 miles from Bethlehem.
- When written in the Greek language, this territory was referred to as the (katalyma).
- It’s interesting to note that this is the same term that is translated as ″inn.″ Because everyone was compelled to travel to their ancestral homes by command of Caesar Augustus at the time of Jesus’ birth, it is likely that there were other visitors residing at the same house at the time of Jesus’ birth.
- But what about the nativity scene?
- Jewish families usually maintained sheep or goats for milk and wool, as well as a donkey for work, to supplement their income.
- If a household didn’t earn a career from rearing animals, they would typically just have one or two animals at most.
- Because it is not cost effective to construct and heat a stable on chilly winter nights for a small number of animals, they were frequently brought inside the family house.
- It was as a result of this tradition that homes would occasionally be constructed with a stone manger placed into one of the main rooms’ walls.
- As a result, how did the nativity scene seem like?
It was most likely at the house of a relative of Joseph’s at the time.The house was crammed since everyone in their extended family, who had been going to Bethlehem for several generations, had arrived.Due to the fact that it was most likely not the midst of winter, there would be no animals in the house.
- In order to accommodate the baby, Mary and Joseph were forced to stay in the main room with the family who owned the home because there was no room in the guest section.
- The stone manger served as an excellent bed for the infant.
- If you’re wondering, ″why does it matter whether or not Jesus was born in a stable,″ read on.
- Why does this matter?
- Because the narrative of Jesus is not a myth.
- The tale of Jesus is unlike the mythology of Hercules or Beowulf in many ways.
- Actually, the birth of this small Child took occurred about two thousand years ago at a genuine location that you may still visit today.
- Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem was prompted by a census that was recounted in other historical texts.
- Later in the book, Doctor Luke describes the rest of Jesus’ life.
How he lived a life of perfection, never deviating from the path that was set before him.As an adult, Jesus traveled across the world for around three years.He healed people, cured blindness, and even revived the dead during that time period.He gathered a large number of disciples and taught them, as well as everyone else who would listen.
- It was taught by him that both men and women commit wicked things; that we do what we feel like rather than what is good, and that as a result, we each face judgment and the everlasting wrath of God.
- At the very least, everyone of us must accept that we have lied or stolen at some point in our lives, or that we have gotten furious in the wrong way, or that we have looked at someone improperly.
- These flaws are referred to as sin in the Bible.
Only Jesus was able to deal with all of those situations without succumbing to them.Even the Roman authorities considered Him to be without flaw or flawlessness.He alone did not deserve God’s wrath, and as a result, He alone has the chance to bear God’s wrath on someone else’s behalf.Doctor Luke tells the story of how Jesus accomplished this feat.
For your sin and mine, Jesus willingly accepted the wrath of God, which was rightfully stirred up in his heart because of our wrongdoing.We are guilty and unable to pay our fine; but, He has paid it on our behalf through His suffering.In the event that you confess your fault to Jesus and believe that He has already paid the punishment for it, when you face before the court, Jesus will speak up and say, ″Your honor, the defendant is one of mine.″ ″I have already paid the fine,″ and the case will be dropped as such.Salvation is what the Bible refers to as this.
Put your confidence in Jesus’ suffering on your behalf today, rather than waiting another year or even another day.We must not allow His suffering to have been in vain.Change your perspective from one of sin to one of Him, and embrace the redemption He is providing you.After all, it was for this reason that this Baby was born and placed in a Manger.Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!A Brief History of the Wagners Jacob, Rebecca, and Gabriel are three people that have a lot in common.
The Meaning of the Manger: Six Lessons Hidden in the Unlikely Crib
As a follower of Jesus, I’ve been through 65 Advent seasons thus far.My approach through half of them was to preach to them.So, if you include Christmas sermons, there would be around 150 messages delivered during Advent.I don’t recall ever thinking to myself, ″Oh my, how am I going to say anything new this year?″ There are certain wells that never run out of water.There are certain horizons that become larger as you get closer.
- Some stories go back in time to the beginning of time, onward into eternity, down to the depths of mystery, and up to the pinnacles of majesty.
- Advent is one of those occasions.
- It has an infinite supply.
Royalty in a Trough
- Luke is the only writer in the Bible to use the word manger in the New Testament, and he is also the only writer to use it in the Old Testament. It’s enough to make us jump for pleasure to see what he can accomplish with just one word, or what God can do with just one feeding trough. It has been said that ″some stories extend back in time to infinity, ahead into eternity, down to the depths of mystery, and up to the heights of splendor.″ In Latin, the term ″manger″ means ″to chew or to consume.″ It is used to refer to a feeding trough where horses, donkeys, and cattle would graze. For example, in Luke 13:15, the author uses the phrase: ″You hypocrites!″ the Lord said in response. Every one of you does not take his or her ox or donkey out of the manger on the Sabbath and lead it somewhere else to water it?″ And, in one of the most famous Christmas passages in the Bible, Luke draws our attention to the manger on three different occasions. Because there was no room for them at the inn, she gave birth to her firstborn son in her arms, wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and put him in a manger. Luke 2:7 says, ″You will see a newborn infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.″ This will serve as a sign for you. ″They went quickly and discovered Mary and Joseph, as well as the infant, who was lying in a manger,″ says Luke 2:12. (Luke 2:16
The Manger’s Message
What is the message that Luke is conveying through the manger?
1. The manger was dirty.
Yes, we may be confident that Joseph and Mary did everything they could to clean up after themselves.They almost certainly cushioned it in some way to make it a comfortable little bed.Nonetheless, there is no possible way to romanticize this bed into anything other than an animal feeding dish for slobbering creatures.The initial bed for the Son of God did not resemble a royal cradle in any way.It was just a regular corn crib.
- Its purpose is to keep remnants of food that will be consumed later.
2. The manger was planned.
At first glance, it appears to be a stroke of good fortune — a stroke of bad luck.In light of the fact that Luke states that Mary ″put him at a manger because there was no room for them in the inn″ (Luke 2:7).That, however, will not work because of the way Luke presents the narrative.″The first bed for the Son of God was not a royal crib, as is commonly believed.″It was just a regular corn crib.″ God had hundreds of years to prepare for this momentous occasion.
- It was seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, that the prophet Micah foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
- You, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be included among the clans of Judah, will bring out for me one who will be king in Israel, and his coming forth will be from the beginning of time, from the beginning of history.
- Micah 5:2 (Micah 5:2) As a result, God had a good seven centuries (and maybe even longer!) to organize the intricacies of the incarnation and arrange for his Son to arrive in the proper place, at the appropriate time, and in the proper manner.
- For example, he could have simply arranged for a faithful virgin and a righteous man of David’s lineage to be located in Bethlehem in accordance with the prophesy if he had wanted to be creative.
- Instead, he picks Mary and Joseph, who resided in Nazareth rather than Bethlehem, as the couple to be born.
- And he intends for Mary to become pregnant while she is far away from the foretold town.
- It is possible that God could have made arrangements for Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem through some personal means, such as a family member who required their assistance urgently, or a dream, or some private legal or business matter in order to resolve that problem, which God himself had created.
- He, on the other hand, did not go about it that way.
- As an alternative, God relocated Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem through the implementation of an empire-wide census.
In other words, God orchestrated the event in which the most powerful emperor on the planet ordered everyone in the empire to travel to the place where they were born and register.You may argue that this is a case of providential excess.He’s making a point by saying, ″You think you know what I’m up to throughout the world?″ You have absolutely no idea.
- I’m putting everything in place precisely as I want it to be.
- Included among these events is the birth of my Son.″ In light of this, it is absurd to believe that a God who can move a whole kingdom to transport a single lady from Nazareth to Bethlehem cannot make arrangements for a vacant guest room.