The Christian gospels of Luke and Matthew have long described how Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem in Judea. However, we have no way of knowing for sure whether he was born in a house, an inn, a stable, or a cave? Why all the confusion? How can we come to an agreement on what really happened?
If we turn to the Gospels for clues, Luke 2:7 states that Mary “placed him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.” I wonder how generations have interpreted this line. For example, is it logical to assume that the nursery will be located in a stable or barn? When I was young, I was told stories about how Mary and Joseph, who were rounded up by an innkeeper, took refuge in the barn where Jesus was born and laid in the manger. Countless depictions of paintings, mosaics, and displays of the Nativity support this suggestion, showing Mary and Jesus in a barn or stable, often in the middle of nowhere, with the Star of Bethlehem perched above it.
This nativity scene, like many others, depicts Jesus under the roof of a stable in the middle of a field..
This nativity scene by an unknown artist depicts Jesus and Mary in a stable near the city walls of Bethlehem, circa 1490.
The Gospels of Luke or Matthew don’t tell us where the manger was, so as I said, we’re left to make our own guess about it. Could this manger be just a home stable attached to the inn Luke mentions? Given that so much has been written and talked about the birth of Christ over the centuries, it is possible that Jesus could have been born on the grounds of Joseph’s ancestral home. When Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem for the census, they could easily stop at his ancestral home to take refuge. However, as we already know, when he arrived in search of a place to sleep, Joseph and Mary were rejected by relatives because the “inn” or house was already full of senior members of Joseph’s extended family. As a result, Joseph moved the pregnant Mary to the ancestral stables, which, most likely, were attached to the house. Wait, didn’t the innkeeper and Joseph’s relatives reject them? Remember that Luke doesn’t mention the innkeeper at all. Our assessment of the biblical story related to the birth and birth of Jesus is subjective and open to interpretation. It would be logical to assume that the inn has an innkeeper.
Assuming that Jesus was born in a guest room or quarters (inn) outside the main ancestral home, what was that place? Often there were caves near or below the main living quarters of houses in Palestine, where the animals were regularly kept at night, protected from harsh weather and thieves. In caves, people and animals often shared this space for various reasons, with sleeping quarters located on the upper floors of the main house. Therefore, the idea of a cave being the birthplace of Jesus deserves attention.
Altar Duccio (Majesty) 13th century, there is this wonderful nativity scene, which seems to be a compromise stall in a cave.
In another version, nThis interesting Byzantine fresco from Mystra shows Jesus lying in a manger with Mary sleeping next to him in a cave.
Renaissance artist Giorgione’s painting of the Nativity depicts Jesus adorned with shepherds in this cave.
Traditionally, the identification of the cave as the birthplace of Jesus has been celebrated in stories and writing for almost two thousand years, beginning in the middle of the first century. In the writings of Justin Martyr of the second century (about 100-165), it is also interesting to describe how Joseph found a certain cave and brought Mary there so that she would give birth to their son Jesus, putting him in a manger. We shouldn’t rely on this message as fact, but can’t we also despise it as pure fiction?
Legend has it that early Christians, perhaps on the advice of Justin Martyr, began to commemorate a place in Bethlehem with a sunken cave or grotto. However, rumors spread and Emperor Hadrian was not too pleased. In an attempt to desecrate this place, he built a temple in honor of Adonis and planted a grove of trees over it. In a sense, the temple has become a reference point for all Christians in the hope that in the future they will be able to once again pay tribute to the birthplace of Jesus. Two hundred years later, under the care of the mother of Emperor Constantine, Elena, The Church of the Nativity was built around the same grotto, which, according to the first Christians, was the birthplace of Jesus. In 339 AD the first Church of the Nativity was consecrated, followed by Emperor Justinian in 530 AD. replaced it with a larger church. This church has survived intact, modified and completed over the centuries as a symbol of the birthplace of Jesus. Interestingly, today, under the altar in the Grotto of the Nativity lies a fourteen-pointed silver star, which traditionally marks the place believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.
I’m guessing that whether the fourteen-pointed star below the altar on the floor of the Nativity is the actual location marking Jesus’ birthplace is debatable. However, it has a symbolic meaning for millions of Christians. This fundamentally links Christians to the tradition that Jesus was born in a cave. Looking at it from a “glass half full” perspective, there is no real reason why we should completely ignore it. The fact remains that according to the scriptures, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Luke does not specify where this happened, perhaps it was not important. In my opinion, he meant that Jesus was born in humble circumstances in a manger.