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December 15, 2005

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joeturner

I've been to the nativity church too. Bethlehem is a weird place. Given what the current culture in the area think about pre-marital sex (which may or may not be related to the gospel times), I'd say your analysis is very likely to be accurate.

If that happened today, Joseph and/or Mary would have a good chance of being killed by angry family members.

Dave Walker

Thanks for this Kester. Having linked to it I've heard of a few people who've found it an interesting perspective.

Wulf

What about the testimony of the Bible? Luke 2:7 seems to be the one verse that mentions the word "inn" in most translations - the Greek is "katalumati" but I'm not enough of a scholar to know the significance of that word. Young's Literal Translation suggests "guest chamber", which could fit with this "family home" theory. However, I'd like to hear if there is more evidence than theories passed on by a tour guide?

Kester

I think the "Guest Chamber" translation is a very good one. As you point out on your blog on this, it would be highly unlikely - given the culture etc. - that Joseph could return to his home town with a pregnant wife in tow and not find a place to sleep with some relatives.

It was very interesting last night at a carol service where, in one of the pieces, Mary's character announced that they had to go to Bethlehem with 'thousands of others'. Perhaps the census did demand that a lot of people had to go there, but it would have been a very small place, not the bustling minor-city that so many pictures make it out to be. Perhaps this accounts for the 'no room' theory, but still leaves big questions given the tight-knit families that existed.

You also seem skeptical about this being 'only the testimony of a Palestinian Guide.' Actually, these people are incredibly well educated, trained and thought out. It's not an easy job to get, and their knowledge of the linguistics side is extremely good. The site of the Church of the Nativity is perhaps one of the most historically accurate in Christendom - there being a temple dedicated to Christ on the 'cave' that still exists in the crypt from only a few years after Christ's death.

Arti

I've had thoughts on our traditional understanding of the Nativity story too. I've wondered why Joseph HAD to take Mary with him on the journey to Bethlehem. Surely the presence of women wasn't required to register for taxes in those male-dominated times - wouldn't it have been just the head of each household that needed to register?
If this is so, maybe Joseph needed to take Mary with him, despite her late stage of pregnancy because it would be unsafe for her to remain home alone? Those in Nazareth that would have stoned her for "unfaithfulness" could have had opportunity to take action on this if Joseph went away? Obviously I don't have any Biblical evidence for this thought - it's just a wondering of mine, but to me it would seem to fit the nature of the times quite well!

Simo

Thanks for this Kester, I found a link over at Cartoon Church and was intrigued having written piece on Christmas interpretation and the word ‘katalumati’ or ‘katalyma’ a week or so ago over at http://www.notashamed.co.uk/onmebus/2005/12/where-was-jesus-born.html. As Wulf points out this is the word used in the Greek, it is only used on two other occasions in the New Testament in Mark and again Later in Luke, both times referring to the ‘upper room’ or ‘guest room’ used for the last supper, its interesting to see how tradition and interpretation give us what we believe, although much of it is speculation and perhaps doesn’t tie in all that well with the actual text.

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