A Thought For Your Christian Journey:
A Cave or A House
few days ago there was some discussion about the actual birth place of our Lord
Jesus Christ. Was our Lord born in
a stable or was he born in a house?
Clearly when the wise men arrived to worship the child king (Matt 2.1-12) the
Christ child resided with his family in a house.
The text is clear and the Greek language is undeniable.
However, we must remember that the indications are that our Lord was
between 1.5 and 2 years old by the time these Magi arrived in
Jerusalem and then in Bethlehem.
It would be ridiculous to suggest that Joseph would not have establish a
dwelling place for his family in that period of time.
Some suggest that a
knowledge of the culture and family relations in the times of our Lord dictate
that more than a stable account is necessary.
However, Luke is very clear that the Inn,
or the common place for guests, was full and there was no room.
The word used by Luke for Inn suggests something other that an Inn in the
contemporary sense, this would not indicate a Motel or Hotel, but instead
suggest a guest room or guest house.
Hence, the census had brought so many family back to the historical city
of origin that, as Luke writes (Luke 2.7), there was not room for Joseph, Mary,
and Jesus even among family. The
guest chambers were full. The
traditional story, which dates to about 300 AD is that Jesus was born in a less
than expected place, He was born in a cave which was usually used to house
The following are
two of the many resources I referenced in this brief study.
These two seem to give better explanations than the others and for the
sake of time only these two are attached.
The complete word
neut. noun from
katalúō (2647), to unloose. A lodging place or inn. It was so–called
because of the ancient travelers who on arrival loosened their own belts or
girdles, sandals, and the saddles or harnesses of their animals. In the ancient
Greek writings, the place of entertainment is called
where animals and burdens are loosened. See Sept.: Ex. 4:24. Guests were highly
regarded in biblical times (Judg. 19:9, 15).
also a guest chamber (Mark 14:14; Luke 2:7; 22:11), a dining room where the
guests loosened their sandals before they sat down to eat. In the East it is
(3829), a place where all are received, comparable to an inn; in Luke 10:34, a
place where beasts and cattle could also be sheltered as travelers usually used
such places for that purpose.
fem. noun. A manger or crib at which cattle are fed (Luke 2:7, 12, 16; 13:15;
Sept.: Job 39:9; Is. 1:3). In Luke 13:15 it is rendered “stall,” as the word is
also sometimes used in the Gr. writers. Some ancient writers believe that Jesus
was born in a stable formed by nature and not constructed by man. When Joseph
found no room to lodge in Bethlehem,
he lodged in a certain cave near the village. While they were there, Mary
brought forth Christ, and laid Him in a manger.
The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
. . . .T.
8, 6 (587, 24) and 5, 9 (584, 13) show that in a Palestinian farmhouse (→ 52, 15
ff.) men and animals lived in the one dwelling with beds and manger close by
each other. Thus the more gen. sense of “stall” is less common, as in the case
. . . 2. The other three instances of
are in the nativity story (Lk. 2:1–20) in the depiction of the birth (v.
7), the promise of the angel (v. 12 → VII, 231, 10 ff.) and the adoration of the
shepherds (v. 16). This surprising emphasis shows that, possibly already in the
pre-Lucan source, great importance was attached to the concept. But exposition
is difficult, since the text of Lk. 2:7 is not wholly clear43
and there are no real parallels in religious history.44
It must be stated firmly
that the meaning of
“feeding-trough”; it cannot be translated “stall.”45
The contrast between the
διότι οὐκ ἦν
αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι46
ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ47
should not be ignored.
According to Lk. the child lies outside the human dwelling in an unusual place
where there are only animals.48
From the text itself one
cannot say in detail whether the manger was in a separate stall, an enclosure in
the open.49 or the
traditional cave → 55, 4 ff.; → VI, 491, 12 ff.50
The one clear point is that the location was Bethlehem, 2:11, 15. All attempts to
reconstruct a pre-Lucan original, perhaps in Hebrew, are hypothetical.51
The crib is undoubtedly closely bound up with the shepherd setting and with Bethlehem as the
birthplace of the Davidic Messiah, and it is to be understood accordingly. The
child in a manger wrapped in swaddling bands52
is for the shepherds a sign (→ VII, 231, 10 ff.) that the Messiah is born.53
One can rule out any
connection with the rural life of Hellenism → VI, 490, 42 ff.).54
A Jewish Christian midrash has been suggested55
comparable to stories of the hidden birth of the Messiah at Bethlehem or the secret birth of Abraham in a
cave.56 For Luke
the manger expresses the contrast between the world-ruler Augustus and the
hidden and lowly birth of the world-redeemer (Lk. 2:1, 11, 14). Finally it
points forward to the way of humility and suffering which is taken by the Son of
God who “hath not where to lay his head,” Lk. 9:58.57
Early Church History.
The manger tradition and the
cave tradition are already combined for the Palestinian Justin of Neapolis,
78, 5. But Prot. Ev. Jm. 17–20 shows that they were originally separate,
for here the birth at Bethlehem is in a cave
occurs only in 22:2 as a hiding-place for the
child Jesus from the plots of Herod.58
Crib and cave are closely related in
I, 51, where a definite location is presupposed
ἡ ἐν σπηλαίῳ φάτνη
that was already known to Just.59
8, 497 (3rd cent. a.d.?) also
mentions the manger. About 330 a.d.,
following the first pilgrimage of Helena, the Church of the
Nativity was built at what is now the traditional site of the crib and the
It was only marginally that the
par. cave story came into the text of the
The late Ev. Ps.-Mt.62
solves the problem of three rival sites by telling of the birth in a cave in
13:2, putting Mary in a stall, where she lays the child in a crib, three days
later, and then telling of the entry into
six days later, 15:1. The ox and ass came into the stall on the basis of
Is. 1:3 and Hab. 3:2
LXX and patristic exegesis:
et bos et
asinus adoraverunt eum.63
They occur even earlier in the first depictions of the birth from the middle of
the 4th cent.64
Home Page -
Accept Jesus Now! -