Jesus was not born in a stable—and it really matters!

What do you find most irritating about this time of year? The drawing in of dark and cold nights? The hideous adoption of that consumerist import ‘Black Friday’? People putting up Christmas trees when we have only just started Advent? Being urged to spend more money by means of schmaltzy human interest mini-dramas?

For me, it is the repeated but ill-founded claim that Jesus was born in a stable, alone and isolated, with his family ostracised by the community—despite the complete lack of evidence for this reconstruction. It will be repeated in pulpits, real and virtual, up and down the land, so I do not apologise for reposting once more this annual feature.

Besides, my reposting this article has now become part of our annual celebrations…!

Picture Jesus’ nativity. Bethlehem town sits still beneath the moonlight, totally unaware that the son of God has been born in one of its poor and lowly outbuildings. In an anonymous backstreet, tucked away out of sight, we find a draughty stable. Inside, warm with the heat of the animals, a family sits quietly. Lit by a warm glow, a donkey, cow and an ox lie serene at the side of the scene. The cow breathes out a gentle moo and the baby in the straw filled manger stirs. Kneeling close by Mary, Joseph and a small lamb sit in silent adoration of the child. All is calm, all is not quite right.

I am sorry to spoil the scene, but Jesus wasn’t born in a stable, and, curiously, the New Testament hardly even hints that this might have been the case. This might shatter the Christmas card scenes and cut out a few characters from the children’s nativity line-up, but it’s worth paying attention to.

This long-held idea demonstrates just how much we read Scripture through the lens of our own assumptions, culture, and traditions, and how hard it can be to read well-known texts carefully, attending to what they actually say. It also highlights the power of traditions, and how resistant they are to change. And, specifically, the belief that Jesus was lonely and dejected, cast out amongst the animals and side-lined at his birth, loses sight of the way in which Jesus and his birth are a powerfully disruptive force, bursting in on the middle of ordinary life and offering the possibility of its transformation.

So where has the idea come from? I would track the source to three things: traditional elaboration; issues of grammar and meaning;and unfamiliarity with first-century Palestinian culture.

The traditional elaboration has come about from reading the story through a ‘messianic’ understanding of Is 1.3:

The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.

The mention of a ‘manger’ in Luke’s nativity story, suggesting animals, led mediaeval illustrators to depict the ox and the ass recognising the baby Jesus, so the natural setting was a stable—after all, isn’t that where animals are kept? (Answer: not necessarily!)

The issue of grammar and meaning, and perhaps the heart of the matter, is the translation of the Greek word kataluma in Luke 2.7. Older versions translate this as ‘inn’:

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (AV).

There is some reason for doing this; the word is used in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint, LXX) to translate a term for a public place of hospitality (eg in Ex 4.24 and 1 Samuel 9.22). And the etymology of the word is quite general. It comes from kataluo meaning to unloose or untie, that is, to unsaddle one’s horses and untie one’s pack. But some fairly decisive evidence in the opposite direction comes from its use elsewhere. It is the term for the private ‘upper’ room where Jesus and the disciples eat the ‘last supper’ (Mark 14.14 and Luke 22.11; Matthew does not mention the room). This is clearly a reception room in a private home. And when Luke does mention an ‘inn’, in the parable of the man who fell among thieves (Luke 10.34), he uses the more general term pandocheion, meaning a place in which all (travellers) are received, a caravanserai.

The difference is made clear in this pair of definitions:

Kataluma (Gr.) – “the spare or upper room in a private house or in a village […] where travelers received hospitality and where no payment was expected” (ISBE 2004). A private lodging which is distinct from that in a public inn, i.e. caravanserai, or khan.

Pandocheionpandokeionpandokian (Gr.) – (i) In 5th C. BC Greece an inn used for the shelter of strangers (pandokian=’all receiving’). The pandokeion had a common refectory and dormitory, with no separate rooms allotted to individual travelers (Firebaugh 1928).

41VBVURHyMLThe third issue relates to our understanding, or rather ignorance, of (you guessed it) the historical and social context of the story. In the first place, it would be unthinkable that Joseph, returning to his place of ancestral origins, would not have been received by family members, even if they were not close relatives. Kenneth Bailey, who is renowned for his studies of first-century Palestinian culture, comments:

Even if he has never been there before he can appear suddenly at the home of a distant cousin, recite his genealogy, and he is among friends. Joseph had only to say, “I am Joseph, son of Jacob, son of Matthan, son of Eleazar, the son of Eliud,” and the immediate response must have been, “You are welcome. What can we do for you?” If Joseph did have some member of the extended family resident in the village, he was honor-bound to seek them out. Furthermore, if he did not have family or friends in the village, as a member of the famous house of David, for the “sake of David,” he would still be welcomed into almost any village home.

P1130012Moreover, the actual design of Palestinian homes (even to the present day) makes sense of the whole story. As Bailey explores in his Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes, most families would live in a single-room house, with a lower compartment for animals to be brought in at night, and either a room at the back for visitors, or space on the roof. The family living area would usually have hollows in the ground, filled with hay, in the living area, where the animals would feed.

This kind of one-room living with animals in the house at night is evident in a couple of places in the gospels. In Matt 5.15, Jesus comments:

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

This makes no sense unless everyone lives in the one room! And in Luke’s account of Jesus healing a woman on the sabbath (Luke 13.10–17), Jesus comments:

Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the manger [same word as Luke 2.7] and lead it out to give it water?

Interestingly, none of Jesus’ critics respond, ‘No I don’t touch animals on the Sabbath’ because they all would have had to lead their animals from the house. In fact, one late manuscript variant reads ‘lead it out from the house and give it water.’

What, then, does it mean for the kataluma to have ‘no space’? It means that many, like Joseph and Mary, have travelled to Bethlehem, and the family guest room is already full, probably with other relatives who arrived earlier. So Joseph and Mary must stay with the family itself, in the main room of the house, and there Mary gives birth. The most natural place to lay the baby is in the hay-filled depressions at the lower end of the house where the animals are fed. The idea that they were in a stable, away from others, alone and outcast, is grammatically and culturally implausible. In fact, it is hard to be alone at all in such contexts. Bailey amusingly cites an early researcher:

Anyone who has lodged with Palestinian peasants knows that notwithstanding their hospitality the lack of privacy is unspeakably painful. One cannot have a room to oneself, and one is never alone by day or by night. I myself often fled into the open country simply in order to be able to think

In the Christmas story, Jesus is not sad and lonely, some distance away in the stable, needing our sympathy.

Rather, he is in the midst of the family, and all the visiting relations, right in the thick of it and demanding our attention.

This should fundamentally change our approach to enacting and preaching on the nativity.

But one last question remains. This, informed and persuasive, understanding of the story has been around, even in Western scholarship, for a long, long time. Bailey cites William Thomson, a Presbyterian missionary to Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, who wrote in 1857:

It is my impression that the birth actually took place in an ordinary house of some common peasant, and that the baby was laid in one of the mangers, such as are still found in the dwellings of farmers in this region.

And Bailey notes that Alfred Plummer, in his influential ICC commentary, originally published in the late nineteenth century, agreed with this. So why has the wrong, traditional interpretation persisted for so long?

51VQRBMa1VLI think there are two main causes. In the first place, we find it very difficult to read the story in its own cultural terms, and constantly impose our own assumptions about life. Where do you keep animals? Well, if you live in the West, especially in an urban context, away from the family of course! So that is where Jesus must have been—despite the experience of many who live in rural settings. I remembering noticing the place for cattle underneath the family home in houses in Switzerland.

Secondly, it is easy to underestimate how powerful a hold tradition has on our reading of Scripture. Dick France explores this issue alongside other aspects of preaching on the infancy narratives in in his excellent chapter in We Proclaim the Word of LifeHe relates his own experience of the effect of this:

[T]o advocate this understanding is to pull the rug from under not only many familiar carols (‘a lowly cattle shed’; ‘a draughty stable with an open door’) but also a favourite theme of Christmas preachers: the ostracism of the Son of God from human society, Jesus the refugee. This is subversive stuff. When I first started advocating Bailey’s interpretation, it was picked up by a Sunday newspaper and then reported in various radio programmes as a typical example of theological wrecking, on a par with that then notorious debunking of the actuality of the resurrection by the Bishop of Durham!

So is it worth challenging people’s assumptions? Yes, it is, if you think that what people need to hear is the actual story of Scripture, rather than the tradition of a children’s play. France continues:

The problem with the stable is that it distances Jesus from the rest of us. It puts even his birth in a unique setting, in some ways as remote from life as if he had been born in Caesar’s Palace. But the message of the incarnation is that Jesus is one of us. He came to be what we are, and it fits well with that theology that his birth in fact took place in a normal, crowded, warm, welcoming Palestinian home, just like many another Jewish boy of his time.

And who knows? People might even start asking questions about how we read the Bible and understand it for ourselves!

If you would like to see how it might be possible to re-write the Christmas story for all ages in a way which is faithful to this, see this excellent example from Stephen Kuhrt.

I preached on this theme at a Carol Service, and you can read my sermon here.

Additional note

I am grateful to Mark Goodacre for drawing my attention to an excellent paper on this by Stephen Carlson, then one of his colleagues at Duke. The paper was published in NTS in 2010, but is available on Carlson’s blog for free. Carlson presses the argument even further by arguing three points:

1. He looks widely at the use of kataluma and in particular notes that in the Septuagint (LXX, the Greek translation of the OT from Hebrew in the second century BC) it translates a wide variety of Hebrew terms for ‘places to stay.’ He thus goes further than Bailey, agreeing that it does not mean inn, but instead that it refers to any place that was used as lodgings.

2. He looks in detail at the phrase often translated ‘there was no room for them in the kataluma‘ and argues that the Greek phrase ouch en autois topos does not mean ‘there was no room for them’ but ‘they had no room.’ In other words, he thinks that they did stay in the kataluma, but that it was not big enough for Mary to give birth to Jesus in, so she moved to the main room for the birth, assisted by relatives.

3. He believes that Bethlehem was not Joseph’s ancestral home, but his actual family home, for two reasons. Firstly, we have no record of any Roman census requiring people return to their ancestral home. Secondly, he argues that the phrase in Luke 2.39 ‘to a town of their own, Nazareth’ doesn’t imply that they were returning to their home town, but that they then made this their home. We already know this is Mary’s home town, and it would be usual for the woman to travel to the man’s home town (Joseph’s Bethlehem) to complete the betrothal ceremonies. After Jesus is born, they then return together to set up home near Mary’s family.

The kataluma was therefore in all likelihood the extra accommodation, possibly just a single room, perhaps built on the roof of Joseph’s family’s home for the new couple. Having read this, I realised that I had stayed in just such a roof-room, jerry-built on the roof of a hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem, in the lee of the Jaffa Gate, in 1981. It was small, and there was certainly no room to give birth in it!

(You can stay there too, by booking here. The site includes the view we had from the roof!)

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55 thoughts on “Jesus was not born in a stable—and it really matters!”

  1. The peaceful , domestic scene you describe is such a contrast to the flight to Egypt and the massacre of the innocents. These two halves should always accompany each other?

  2. “And all went to be enrolled, EACH TO HIS OWN CITY”. Luke could not be clearer that Joseph actually lives in Bethlehem. OK, he spends a lot of his year away in the Galilee both because Mary lives there and because there is work available for a ‘tektoon’ in the ‘new town’ of Sepphoris – but to register in the census he ‘goes home’. We often rightly get rude about the stupidity of bureaucrats – but it is hard to believe any would be so stupid as to send a man to register not where he lived but in a place to which he had only an ancestral connection and no actual property….

    Note too that they clearly stay some time in Bethlehem – a minimum of a few weeks to present Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem, possibly quite a bit longer before the Magi unwittingly set Herod on them, after which a return to Bethlehem would be dangerous for a long time.

    The kind of house you describe didn’t only exist in the Middle East – essentially smilar houses were found in medieval England where they were known as ‘bastle’ houses.

    Oh – also note that people like Stephen Fry have noticed the absurdity of the usual presentation and use it to attack the veracity of the Bible; we surely don’t want to help them with that, do we…??

  3. To my mind this doesn’t do justice to the ideas that
    a) the comment in Luke 2:7 seems to imply that in normal circumstances you would expect to find them in a guest room.
    b) that it is clearly unusual/remarkable for the child to be laid in a manger. (Needs to be explained why you would do that v.7, Repeated in v.12 as part of a divine sign so presumably not your run of the mill place to find a newborn?)

    Seems to me that there are at least some grounds within the text to think this is not a business-as-normal birth. Equally not all that difficult to imagine why the situation around Mary’s pregnancy might have meant the normal family hospitality might not have been extended to them.

    Those are just my rough thoughts, what do other think?

    • Presumably the fact he was laid in the manger was still unusual. The Magi had been told that would be how they would find him, so for them it was a sign to look for. I would assume that most people giving birth would have done so in their won homes rather than relatives. So I think this was an unusual sign for the Magi.

      Regarding your first point, if Ian is right then it simply means there was no room in the guest room where visitors would normally have stayed so the only area that had some room was at the other end, near the animals.

      If you take Luke and Matthew together, the Magi followed the star/comet until its tail was hanging over Bethlehem, even seemingly pointing down towards a particular area of the town as they travelled towards it, then they found the house and when welcomed in, lo and behold they saw the baby lying in the manger area instead of the usual family/guest room area. So they knew this was it!


      • Matthew does not say that the Magi found the baby in a manger: “going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother” (Matt 2:11). I suppose if Jesus was still lying in the manger, that puts paid to the stable.

        However, we do not know how long it was after Jesus’ birth that the Magi appeared. The narrative suggests that it could be up to a year later, or even two.

        • yea youre right, I was confusing the shepherds with the Magi. The manger sign was for the shepherds not long after he was born, the star/comet was the sign for the Magi some time later.

      • The only way a heavenly body could identify a particular house, or even a street, from a viewpoint at ground level, is if that body were hovering at low altitude, – at “helicopter height” or less.

  4. You have heard Christ was born in a stable,
    This, it must be said, is just a fable.
    There is truth here more wonderful for those
    With ears to hear and eyes they will not close.
    In Scripture, things are more than what they seem,
    We must search to know what they really mean:
    The house is a picture of you and me,
    A house of God if we would have it be.
    The guest room (‘inn’) had no space for Jesus,
    More is required by the One who made us,
    To be a guest is never His intent
    He stays as a permanent resident.
    At the heart of the house the manger lay,
    The only place fit for the Lord to stay.
    And so when He comes He must have the heart,
    He must fill the house, have the greatest part.
    He must have it all or He will have none,
    He cannot share the house with anyone.
    The King of kings stands knocking at your door,
    And there is nothing He desires more
    Than to come in and eat with you today.
    If you hear his voice, and sincerely pray:
    “Lord Jesus, come in, stay forevermore,
    Make your home with me”, you’ve opened the door.

  5. … Some years ago…

    The deputy church warden would out the nativity scene out weeks ahead of Christmas every year… Baby, Joseph, Mary, shepherds but no “wise men”.

    “Where are they?”
    “Too early.”

    A premature baby apparently OK.

    Happy Advent…

  6. I think you might attribute the stable to Francis of Assisi who possibly made the first living nativity scene and thus introduced the livestock to show all creatures glorifying God.

  7. Luke said there was no place for Joseph and Mary at Bethlehem in the kataluma, most likely the guest quarters in Joseph’s relatives’ home. The Last Supper was in a kataluma in a private home (Luke 22:11), and for an inn Luke (10:34) uses the word ‘pandocheion’ in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Why was the kataluma full? Two reasons are likely. One is relatives arriving for the census, for which people had to register in their ancestral town (Luke 2:1-3). This requirement is also in a papyrus edict of the Roman governor of Egypt Gaius Vibius Maximus in AD104. Roman officials would not have been present on the same day in all places as small as Bethlehem; presumably they moved around, and people had to register when the officials came through. In that case the kataluma was already full of other relatives registering. (A midwinter nativity would then be unlikely, as travel was hard in winter with muddy roads; census officials probably moved at other times of year.) Alternatively the kataluma was full because Jesus was born at one of the three annual pilgrimage festivals: Passover, Weeks, Tabernacles (which Joseph was required to attend). These festivals filled Jerusalem, and Bethlehem is only five miles away. Luke is not clear about the interval between Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem and Jesus’ birth, but Mary travelled even when pregnant, to be with the one man who trusted her; in Nazareth, she would have had no protector from derision for being pregnant. A pregnant woman and her husband would have stayed in the kataluma, and sought privacy when in labour.

    • Regarding your last point, I always got the impression that Joseph married Mary pretty quickly after being told she was pregnant, so Im not sure others would have worked out she got pregnant before they married.

      But perhaps that’s an assumption on my part.


      • In Mark 6:1-3 the people in Jesus’s hometown synagogue referred to him as “… the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?” (NIV)

        Calling him ‘Mary’s son’ is a clear indication that he was regarded as illegitimate, as in the patriarchal society of the time, if his birth was legitimate he would have been referred to as ‘Joseph’s son’.

    • Why do you think that relatives had to travel to “their ancestral town”? The text says clearly that each had to travel “to his own town”. In Luke 2:39, “they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.”

      If previously, at the time of Luke 2:1-5, Nazareth was Joseph’s ‘own town’, then why is he going to Bethlehem. If ‘own town’ is Joseph’s “ancestral town”, then why does Luke describe Nazareth as “their own town”?

      Matthew tells us why Joseph’s “own town” changed, in Matt 2:21-23.

      In addition, Luke is careful to describe Mary as Joseph’s “betrothed”. In that culture, I doubt if a man and his fiancee could travel together, unless it was the journey to the bridegroom’s home to complete the nuptuals.

      To add another element to a careful reading of the narrative, Luke 2:6 starts with egeneto, which can be used to start a new section in the narrative. This can place a time gap between their arrival in Bethlehem and the actual birth.

  8. Look forward to this post every year.

    Does this necessarily conflict with the early tradition of Jesus’ birth in a cave? Could the house have been built atop or in front of a cave, and the cave used as a crawl space/basement where the animals were kept?

  9. If Bethlehem was Joseph’s hometown, then wouldn’t he be taking Mary there for the main marriage ceremony, and wouldn’t her “condition” cause a scandal, that could lead to her and Joseph being ostracised, despite familial ties?

    • That’s a good question—but there is not even the slightest hint of that in the text. Nowhere does it say she is visibly pregnant when they arrive—or that they are unmarried at the time.

      • I thought that the Jewish practice/tradition, was that after a set time, (which could be up to a year) after betrothal/engagement, for the man to collect his “bride” and take her back to his father’s house, where the final marriage ceremony would take place.
        If Joseph’s home town was Bethlehem, that would be where he took her for this ceremony.
        We don’t know how long it was from the annunciation to the arrival in Bethlehem, though we do know that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months. Whether she was showing the pregnancy or not on arrival, if they were married there, everyone would know that 9 months hadn’t passed from marriage to birth. Hence my first point, they might have been ostracised by Joseph’s relatives.
        Of course, if Joseph’s home town was Nazareth, then they would have been married there, and no one in Bethlehem need know about the dates and times.

  10. Absolutely, and that’s what Open the Book will be presenting in schools:
    Joseph and Mary arrive at the house of Joseph’s cousin. “The room where guests normally stay is already full,” he explained, “But the other room, where we keep the animals overnight, is still available. Would you be willing to stay there?”

  11. Kenneth Bailey actually wrote a nativity play, ‘Open hearts in Bethlehem’ based on his understanding of Jesus birth. Unfortunately I’ve never seen it and having moved 350 miles, I’m not sure I’m ever going to be in a position of influence to get it produced but that would certainly challenge some of the myths round the nativity.
    One great resource for children that I have used is the book Bethlehem Town by Lost Sheep who are based in Australia. It’s quite fun but challenges the idea of Jesus being born in a stable.

  12. I’m thoroughly persuaded by this argumentation (as I am when I read it each year!). But am I the only one who is a little disturbed by the idea of getting the congregation to sing ‘Little Donkey’ (for example) and then telling them they got it all wrong? Is there not a pastorally more gentle way of setting the record straight?

  13. Why do you persist in referring to “first-century Palestinian culture”, when the Romans only invented Palestine (Syria Palaestina) after the bar Kokhba revolt in 135? At the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was in the province of Judea.

    Given the depths of revisionism in the C of E, we need to contend for the truth everywhere, not just over SS blessings.

    • Dear John,
      I suspect the incorporation of “Palestine” is based on similar premises to the recent creation of an Advent calendar which, its author claims, “opens a door to the real Christmas”. She elaborates her position by declaring that ” the infant Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three(?) wise men —are all depicted with dark skin as they are of *middle Eastern heritage*- Why is this the case? Her reply? “For this is *the most biblically accurate depiction*.”
      No doubt, the author, as a member of the C of E, is following the lead of Justin Welby who in 2020 declaimed that ” in the churches around the world images of Jesus reflect local populations: a black Jesus, a Chinese Jesus, – *a Middle Eastern Jesus- which of course is the most accurate*.”
      Galatians 4:4 proclaims:” But when the time had fully come,God sent His Son, *born of (a) woman*, *born under the law* to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Referring to the two expressions highlighted with asterisks, John Stott in his commentary “Only One Way ” says “He was born of a Jewish mother, into the Jewish nation.”
      Why does a large section of the Christian Church seem incapable of affirming what Scripture actually says? Why does it seek to uphold (as John indicates) a revisionistic mindset. When it comes to the comprehensive Biblical material, not only do we discover that “the Word has become flesh”, but that God has appointed and empowered His Son Jesus Christ in relation to a particular people , at a particular time in history not only to overcome and destroy the powers of evil, but to raise a fallen, sinful, hate-filled humanity into the glorious riches of His heavenly kingdom.
      But we choose to equivocate with the truth by embracing ambiguous terminology. Why? In the present debacle in the Middle East , words like “Jew! and “Israel” are for so many are only worthy of contempt and opprobrium. The air is full of hate and loathing!
      In such an environment, isn’t is easier, not only to talk about, but to preach a “Palestinian Jesus” or a “Middle Eastern Jesus” than a Jewish Jesus. After all, doesn’t Jesus leave it all behind ? Hasn’t he become universalised – loving everyone , giving himself totally , overlooking the differences that divide. and since his ethnic roots no longer matter since Israel (ethnic) has become Israel ( spiritual) then if it isn’t ‘problem solved’ , then it is a move in the ‘right’ direction – *culture cancelled”, *history abandoned* ,*Scripture nullified!

      • I suspect quite a few Jews today dont realise that Jesus was Jewish, so not really surprising others dont refer to him as such. It seems rabbis really dont like talking about him.

        There seems to have been hatred towards Jews from day one. As a non-history buff, I was surprised to see the anti-Jewish feeling shown in the drama series Paris Police 1900. Assuming the writers got their research right, there were high levels of anti-Jewish sentiment in France, and presumably in many European countries long before WW2. There was even an openly anti-Jewish newspaper/magazine being widely circulated in Paris! I always assumed that sort of feeling was largely limited to what became nazi Germany, but clearly it was festering for decades throughout Europe. No surprise many Jewish people wanted a homeland to flee to, especially from Europe and Russia.

          • One of the factors helping to propel Herzl and the Zionist movement c. 1900. Germany itself was a relatively benign place to be a Jew at the start of the 20th century and many Jews served in WWI.

        • “I always assumed that sort of feeling was largely limited to what became nazi Germany, but clearly it was festering for decades throughout Europe.”
          Most European Jews didn’t live in Germany but in Poland, the Baltic states, and Soviet Ukraine. The Germans couldn’t have done their work with such efficiency without the willing help of the local people. Think of Babi Yar.

          • Zionism was indeed given a huge boost by the pogroms of 1881-4 and 1903-6. The Orthodox churches have a lot to answer for.

          • Anton writes: “Zionism was indeed given a huge boost by the pogroms of 1881-4 and 1903-6. The Orthodox churches have a lot to answer for.”

            Indeed, one of the reasons that led to the growth of the Jewish communities in Britain and the US in the 1880s, and the directions that US politics would take. Although US Jews are among the wealthiest of communities there, they are largely descended from poor, socialist-sympathising immigrants from eastern Europe and they haven’t broken the Democrat-voting habit.

          • Yes James, it is worth pointing out that Arthur Balfour (the Foreign Secretary who made the Balfour Declaration in 1917) had enacted anti-immigration measures when he had been Prime Minister, aimed at Jews fleeing the 1903-6 pogroms.

            Those Jews were quite supportive of socialism because socialism is communism via the ballot box rather than by violent revolution, and (1) communism was the only significant movment against the Tsarist regime whose religion was at ease with pogroms; (2) communism didn’t care whether you were Jewish or not.

            Today nearly half of world Jewry is in the USA, and in particular New York.

          • Anton: Balfour is interesting not just as the author of the (in)famous Balfour Declaration and as onetime Prime Minister but also a Christian philosopher-king (or PM) who gave the Gifford Lectures on Natural Theology, in which he argued that undirected evolution gave no satisfactory explanation in itself of the origin and trustworthiness of thought and reason (or reasons for believing in reason). C. S. Lewis popularised this idea in his ‘Miracles’ (1947) and Alvin Plantinga took it further in his critique of naturalism (the naturalistic explanation for the origin of thought gives no reason to believe that it is gives us a truthful account of the world outside our brains).

          • I knew that Balfour was regarded as a thinker but didn’t know he gave the Gifford lectures (twice) – thank you!

            The tale of CS Lewis rewriting part of ‘Miracles’ afer a clash with Elizabeth Anscombe is interesting.

    • Agreed – we don’t talk about ‘Roman England’ but ‘Roman Britain’. Part of the problem is that under the Romans ‘Judea’ denoted the southern part of the land while Galilee was the client state of Antipas in the north. ‘Palestine’ was not used to designate the land until about a hundred years after Jesus.

  14. Fascinating piece every year. But I’m still puzzled as to why the manger (feeding trough) is in the family living room and not the stable. How do you and/or Bailey account for that?

  15. Yes, there is the question of grammar, but it is the *grammar* of the Gospel of God the Son, that is an historical and scriptural and spiritual, irreducibly central necessity.

  16. Your post, being written in the Spirit of unity, helps in its own way to mend the rift of separation that plagues humanity. Thank you.

  17. It’s beginning to look a lot like Advent
    Here on Pse-phi-zo.
    Take a look at the season’s column –
    He’s at it once again
    With scholarship and arguments that flow.

    It’s beginning to sound a lot like Advent:
    See the Vicar’s look,
    When he says: “Away with the Nativity Play!
    We’ll do it by the Book!”

    – with apologies to Perry Como

    • In a hurry
      Even the best people get born into
      a taxi
      a policeman’s hat
      an aeroplane
      a manger

      Of the 2nd coming, even Jesus didn’t know the time.
      Of his first coming, asked about stables, oxnasses etc
      He probably replied “ask my mother, I don’t remember”

  18. I was hoping to read some comment from the liberal members of this parish but there has been none.
    I thought: ‘Don’t liberal clergy put up crib displays in their churches, and if they have any children, stage nativity plays with a compassionate innkeeper welcoming refugees to sleep in his barn?’
    Then it struck me that even the historical reconstruction offered above by Kenneth Bailey and Ian is more than most modern liberals believe.
    Not only do most liberals reject the virginal conception of Jesus but also the journey to and birth in Bethlehem as myth-making midrash.
    I would be happy to be contradicted on this.

    • I think you are absolutely right on that observation.

      There is a lot about traditional christianity, which of course in itself needs defining, that I challenge and think differently about. In many liberal approaches (which again, needs defining), I find that the foundation they are working from is problematic.

  19. Sadly the world is awash in the false doctrine of man. More than the world thinks or even understands, like a veil that obstructs the fullness of that which is behind it. The house built upon the foundation of sand, and how great the fall of it will be in the day of it’s affliction.

    The very thing Paul lamented over in his day and night teachings for three years, often crying. The very same that our Lord spoke of when He so said, “And then I will profess to them; I never knew you … depart from me, you workers of iniquity”. Again, the same spoken of in Revelation, the what and the who that Mystery Babylon has dominion, and rules over it.

    To wit, when The Word became flash and tabernacled among us wasn’t in December either, but another topic for another day. My suggestion would be to instead search for the terms “Migdal Eder” and “Tower of the Flock”. Yet before you do, ask yourself this:

    How is “a babe in swaddling clothes” a “sign” to the shepherds that the messenger angel Gabriel spoke with and gave to them in the field that evening?

    It is the place in/near Bethlehem where Rachel died and the place your heart is seeking,. The same place where she is weeping, for her children were not. Then, as spoken of for both Joseph and Mary, “put this thing away in your heart and ponder upon it”. May our God, the Father of us all, be with you all and bless you with the eye to see and the ear to hear, to know and perceive the spirit the truth of such things.

    I leave with the greatest one of all, the very key to the Kingdom even; Matthew 27:52-53, and three questions to ask yourself:

    Who were they?
    Where did they come from?
    And where did they go?

    Amen, amen, I say to you, it’s right in front of every eye, and sounding in every ear, over and over and over again, in both the Scriptures and the Gospel, but is neither seen nor heard throughout the entire world for the last two thousand years …

    May the words of this servant, and the meditation of all the hearts that may ponder upon them, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord; our Foundation and our Redeemer. Amen.

  20. Try again good sir, neither the Hebrew Tanakh nor the Apostolic Gospel were written in English.

    my words were “that your heart is seeking”. i.e. that which is written upon the fleshly tablet of your heart and always at the front of your mind. It has nothing to do with me or my words. He said; You take heed that no man deceive you. I say unto you good sir, not even the very man writing these words. What am I, but a lone voice crying out in the wilderness. Only the Highest Power can bring such things into being.

    It’s just as our Lord Christ reveals in both John 3 and 4. The world sees the words before them with fleshly eyes, and they hear the words being read sounding within their fleshly ears, but their fleshly mind neither knows nor perceives the spirit the truth of those words.

    Only the Lord can gift a soul with an eye to see, and an ear to hear, the spirit the truth of any matter. One of the reasons things are hidden despite being right out in the open is because the people who interpreted them were unable to fully understand that which they were beholding. To only then pen the words down in the worldly convention of their own fleshly minds.

    Christ’s own words; You do err, neither fully comprehending the scriptures nor the power of God. Again He says (in personal summary); Think that I came to depose the law? I came not to depose, but to fulfill every jot and tittle of the law and the prophets. Those words he spoke in the flesh. After the resurrection His words were; the law (Torah), the prophets (Nevi’im), and the psalms (Tehillim).

    Amen, amen, I say unto you that it is there; in the law, in the prophets, and in the psalms, is every answer to every question you may have about Him. It was always there, just as He is from the beginning, but has gone mostly unseen and unheard by the many. The people of this age no more hear the prophets today than the people did then back in their own day.

    What do the wolves in sheep’s clothing of this day and age have to say about such things? They say that it was all nailed to the cross. Yes, the flesh and blood of those things was nailed to the cross, just as the flesh and blood of our Lord was nailed to the cross. Yet just as the spirit the truth of our Lord lives to this day and the age of the ages, so too the spirit the truth of all these things still yet to become into being.

    They would even paint me with a brush of deceit for saying such a thing, but what did Paul say? Neither Jew nor Greek, neither bondman nor free, neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. That is to say, those “we” who are in Him, and He in them.

    As per John 4; Be ye the true worshipper, for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is a spirit being, and those who worship Him, they *must* worship Him *in spirit in truth*.

    To such, all things are revealed; bringing forth their fruit in their due season (Psalm 1), be it His Will.

    Will thou Lord? Will thou gift these with the eye to see and the ear to hear, not the words of this; thy servant, but the One, True, and Faithful Word of God? I pray that it be so, but not of my will, or the will of any man, either the will of the world, but Your, and only Your Will, O Lord. Amen.

      • your words are well spoken brother; you did neither see nor hear, and as such neither did the heart search further to study and rightly divide the matter as was called to you in the original reply.

        Michah 4:8


        yet the most important point of all, brother; the exact day and place of His birth is a worldly thing, the here today and the gone tomorrow, and as such of no real importance.

        The importance is just as expressed by the man who wrote the article, that these replies are in response to, suggests; to know and perceive that the cultural doctrine of fleshly men; those spiritual wolves in sheep’s clothing, is full of deceit and devouring lies. For all men are liars, the untruth that goes unseen in the darkness, upon which the many stumble over. Perhaps even “the inherited lies of the gentiles/nations” as spoken of by the great prophet Jeremiah in Chapter 16.

        There’s no christmas in the bible. Neither was it ever taught by the apostles at the beginning. As spoken of in 2 Peter 2:1, the destructive heresies denying the husband who bought/redeemed them. I never understood the meaning of it until this description; to restore, to buy back, to ransom, to redeem, that which was lost or destroyed. Who are the “them” that he bought back/redeemed, understanding that it’s past tense; it had already happened before the words were written.

        I’ll tell you straight out; it’s the same “them” spoken of in Micah 5:2-3 linked above. The same as spoken of by Jeremiah 31:15-17. The same as spoken of in Ezekiel 37:1-13. The same them spoken of in Zechariah 11, the flock of the slaughter. The same as in Luke 2:13 the vision of them; the heavenly host, given to the shepherds in the field by the messenger angel Gabriel. The same them as when Paul in his appeal to king Agrppa “if the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised” and again “believest thou the prophets king Agrippa, I know thou believest”. For the prophets all knew who the “them” was, as did the apostles.

        That which was at the beginning, but is now unseen and unheard, hidden in the darkness by the doctrine of worldly men for the last 2000 years. The same mystery Paul lamented over day and night for three years, crying, it having been revealed to him that it would be lost from the beginning until this time. The mystery of Christ you see; the Head and the Body, that the world believes it knows with all it’s heart, all it’s soul, and all it’s might, yet it does not. For how can a soul say that He; the Head and the Body, is in them, and they are in him, if they don’t know the Body?

        For the true image of Him is the true Head and the true Body. Anything else is then a false image. Even if you worship the true Head, without the true Body, then your worship is to the false image. Who then is the true Body? It’s “them”, yet most of the world for the last 2000 years has no idea who they are. Even you, the one reading these words is without the truth of who the “them” are.

        They are the children Rachel was weeping over, for they were not (living). As spoken of in Luke 2:23, as applied to Matthew 27:52-53; on that 3rd day, the womb of the earth opened wide and came forth the new male, holy before God, the 2nd Adam, the Son of God, in spirit and in truth. And in the proper birth of the child, does not the head come forth first and then the body? And there it is before every fleshly eye and the words having been read have rung in every fleshy ear, yet for the last 2000 years, the spirit the truth of it, was neither known nor perceived in the darkness of fleshly minds. They, those holy saints, they are “them”, the true Body.

        Therefore, do you know who they are, where they came from, and where they went? As per the references noted earlier, of which there are many more, the prophets all knew, and Christ’s chosen apostles as well. It already happened and the world perceived it not, the light shining in the darkness. Here it is; Jesus did not cone to this world alone, and he didn’t go back to the Father alone, and when Jesus returns to this earth, He’s not coming back alone. Just as he was not resurrected alone, that mystery, yet He; the Head, was first, and they, the Body, followed. As it was said, “they follow the Lamb wherever He goes”. Where would that be? As it also says, “they serve God day and night”. Is the reader of these words beginning to perceive the light in the darkness yet? Yet the part you will still be unable to comprehend yet is this, “they sing the song that no man sings”. Yet it’is the same song that the Christ also sings. For this is the common bond that the Head and the Body shares and binds them all together.

        Who are they, the “them”? They are the fulfillment if the first covenant, as God promised Abraham. They’re the children/sons of the 12 tribes of Israel, the commonwealth of Israel, the firstfruits of Israel. They’re the 12 stones in Joshua 4:9; where without any explanation or reason give, Joshua went forth to collect and them in a column/pillar where the Levite priests stood with the ark of the covenant, only to then be covered/hidden under the earth(ly river),. The very same stones that Jesus said would cry out in Luke 19:40.

        They’re the 1/3 of the stars cast down from Heaven in Revelation 12. The same stars that God told Abraham to lift up his eyes and count, as such were to be his seed. Yet also in the same chapter; they are the flood that the earth swallowed, to save the woman and child represented therein. It’s them in Revelation 6; the 5th seal being broken, under the alter in heaven crying out “how long” for their vengeance. The very same stones; them, that Jesus said would cry out in the previous reference. Again, the heresies, the doctrine of the world has all this hidden in the darkness. You don’t even recognize that next verses about the sixth seal has already occurred. That’s a direct reference to Matthew 27 for the Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection that followed.

        The four horseman of the apocalypse etc., that’s all in the past. Only the seventh seal remains to be opened. Again, all these things hidden in the darkness by the doctrine of worldly men for the last 2000 years. And where does that doctrine come from? Can you handle the truth of it? Does it not come from the churches of the world? You don’t even know or perceive the very words of it, that they are the churches of “the world”. He’s not coming for the world, He’s coming for his Ecclesia, His called out. What are they being called out of? Mystery Babylon. By and large, they are the Mystery Babylon spoken of in Revelation. Before you cast out doubt and disbelief, hear your Lord’s own words.

        Why did Jesus say, “and then I will profess to them, I never knew you, depart from me, ye who work iniquity”, and who is it he’s aying it to? The ones saying Lord Lord, prophesying in His name, and in His name casting out demons, and in His name doing great dunamis works? Well who do you think that is? Also Jesus warned of the many that would come in His name deceiving many. The words there entirely misperceived and twisted away from the true intention. Not thst they’re coming to say they are the Christ, but are coming to profess the false image lacking the true Body, that it, it is the Christ. Yet it is not.

        Even as it also says, we war not against the flesh and blood iniquity of this world, but the spiritual iniquity of wickedness and darkness. And as such, the wolves in sheep’s clothing are not perceived by the the many. For their understanding is based on the fleshly wolf in sheep’s clothing; that he knows he’x a wolf, and that he’s in sheep’s clothing, for the very intentional purpose to deceive and devour. They have no idea what the spiritual wolf in sheep’s clothing is.

        It’s the spiritual wolf that both Christ and Paul sought to warn us of, as is spoken on in Jeremiah 23, “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord.”. And what is the spiritual wolf in sheep’s clothing? This is the one; he doesn’t know he’s a wolf, and he doesn’t know he’s in sheep’s clothing. Unbeknown to himself, he doesn’t have the full truth, about his self, or The Word Of God. Yet with all his heart, and all his soul, and all his might, he believes that he does. Yet he does not. Therein is the great power of his deception; the sincerity of that false belief. And as the Lord did say, “the blind leading the blind, and into the ditch/pit they all go”. For they will be held accountable for all the sheep they misled and are still misleading to this day.

        They all believe it’s someone else being the many, walking through the wide gate, on the broad path to their destruction. Yet I call upon all those with an eye to see and an ear to hear; how many do you know and perceive to be passing through the afflicted gate, on the narrow path, that all these words being written are leading to?

        You have to go to Matthew 28; the eyewitnesses to the events of Matthew 27; the 5th and 6th scrolls that were opened, they were paid great money to hide and cover it all up. The very thing Paul was also doing when he was on the road to Damascus. Then back further to Matthew 2, when the magi came to Jerusalem seeking the king of the jews, and the entire city is in an uproar. When Herod; the butcher spoken of in Hezekiah 9, heard, and also himself an Edomite; the children of Esau from whom the blessing was lost, what did he do? He called all his cronies together, wanting to keep the kingdom for their selves.

        They were all in cahoots on it together from the beginning. While the eldest of them might have passed away, 30 or so years later, many of the pharisees, sadducee’s, and scribes were the very same. Still trying to stay in power and keep their rule. All those children who were slain, the innocent who died by their attempt to kill Christ from the beginning, it didn’t happen without their knowledge and approval. They wanted the inheritance for their own, their not being of the Levitical order, that having been lost when the south and north kingdoms were defeated and taken away captive.

        Again as spoken of in Hezekiah 9, the shepherds who suffered not for the flock being butchered, but had gain from it. Being the very same from the parable of our Lord, of the hireling shepherd who flees when the wolf comes, not laying down their life for the sheep. So here it is in the fullness of the light; it is they, the children that Herod and those religious leaders massacred. They are the holy saints , the true Body of Christ. It’s them, they are the 144,000 that were already resurrected with our Lord. It’s already done and completed. Again, they follow the lamb wherever he goes and they’ve been serving God day and night ever since. The children Rachel was weeping for in Jeremiah 31:15. And as stated in verse 16, on that 3rd day they returned to the border of their enemy; the land being under the authority of the Romans. And still yet to come in verse 17, our hope and promise thereof is for them to return to their own border; the true Head and His true Body.

        They may have died as children, but as it does say, God gave them a new body. Christ’s own words, “you do err, neither fully comprehending the scripture, nor the power of God”, And also as was said, He came not to depose, but fulfill every jot and tiddle of the law and prophets. He spoke those words several times in the flesh, but after the resurrection the words he spoke were the law, the prophets, and the psalms. Therein within the law, the prophets, and the psalms is every answer to any question or any understanding that you may have about Him.

        Those feasts of the Lord; the Passover – the slaying of the lamb, the Unleaven Bread – the innocent children who were slaughtered, and Firstfruits – they are the firstfruits. Where it speaks of Christ the firstfruit, it’s the Head and the Body. And what is the law of firstfruits; the early barley harvest that comes from the former and latter rains? They have to be put away in the barn until the high priest comes to waive the sheave of the finest firstfruits. Only then can they be released for consumption i.e to eat His body. Of course Christ is the first firstfruit, but then who was the priest that waived him? No, He is the High Priest of the order of Melchizedek. It’s them, the true Body, that was waived and blessed before God.

        and there’s so much more, it cannot be covered in one sitting any more than the bible can be read in one sitting either. Regardless, it is them. They are the first love that has been left, as in Revelation 2, for the last 2000 years. These are the first works, the works that no man can boast of, that each person must must repent and return to. Or else your candlestick will be removed. For those who are gifted to see, to hear, to come to this light, those are the names written down in the Book of Life.

        May God be for you. Amen

  21. 1 Peter 3-5
    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you (THEM; they serve God day and night), 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (When THEM returns to their own border of Jetemiah 31:17 as also referenced in Luke 2, Rachel weeping. They are the hope and promise of us spoken of by Paul over and over again. THEM; they are the root of the natural olive tree that the wild olive branches will be grafted on to, as adopted sons and daughters. That is to those of us who come to see, hear, and know this truth. They are the firstfruits of Israel, and those who will be grafted to them will be the firstfruits of the Spirit.)

    Yet nobody sees and nobody hears. Even now, they just moved on with the world as they always have. The day is coming though and grows ever near, when everything will come to a stop, and then it will be too late.


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