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Which Little Town Of Bethlehem Really Owns The Claim To Christ’s Birth?

Dec 28, 12 Which Little Town Of Bethlehem Really Owns The Claim To Christ’s Birth?

We all know the story, even non-Christians. One lonely night, Joseph led a donkey with his heavenly impregnated wife, Mary, to the city of Bethlehem. There the inn keeper had no rooms, but allowed the couple to stay in the, well, barn. In the stalls, Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, the Christian Messiah and God incarnate. Then the three wise men found them and came bearing gifts. This is the beginning of Christian beliefs. And it all started in Bethlehem.

But which Bethlehem?

For centuries, Christians worldwide have believed that the Judean Bethlehem, that of the city of King David, was the Bethlehem in which Jesus Christ was born. People have gathered—and likely will continue to gather—on Christmas Eve in the place where they feel Christ came to earth to save their souls. They gather to honor him and celebrate his birth. However, a recent archaeological dig has unearthed what is more likely the Bethlehem where Mary gave birth.

In an article on National Public Radio (NPR), correspondent Sheera Frenkel discusses the dig that found evidence of the new and likely correct Bethlehem. This Bethlehem is a small village in Galilee. So to avoid confusion, we will call the old city Judean Bethlehem and the new one Galileean Bethlehem. Okay, so Aviram Oshri, an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist, excavated Galileean Bethlehem and found ample evidence that the Galileean Bethlehem is the Bethlehem of Christ’s birth, not the Judean Bethlehem.

What’s the evidence you ask? Here we go:

First, the Galileean Bethlehem is only seven kilometers from Nazareth whereas the Judean Bethlehem was 150 kilometers. That is a long way for a very pregnant Mary to ride on a donkey.

Secondly, the Galileean Bethlehem was definitely inhabited by Jews as proved by the stone vessels.

Third, artifacts showed that centuries later the Galileean Bethlehem became a Christian community. They built a massive church to convert the village.

Finally, the emperor Justinian built a fortification wall around the village for protection, and there are still remnants of this wall around the newly discovered Galileean Bethlehem.

All of this provides plentiful support that the Galileean Bethlehem is the Bethlehem from the Christian Bible, the one where Christ was born.

Okay, so what does this mean? In all reality, on the faith level, all this means is that scientists have found another Bethlehem. The fact that the Judean Bethlehem has been revered for centuries as the place of Christ’s birth is far weightier than the newly discovered data that shows a different Galilee is probably the birth place of Jesus Christ.

Christians everywhere do not put their faith in a place; their faith lies in Christ, and where he was born is only significant on a minute level. Okay, so they have been gathering in a city to honor his birth that is likely not where he was born, but that does not matter because Christians worldwide gather in their own cities to honor his birth. The fact that the Judean Bethlehem brought believers together is good even if it is not where Christ came to earth.

On a scientific level, this is way cool. We have evidence of the birthplace of one of the world’s major religious figures. It helps us to better understand the time period and the struggles of the inhabitants. It gives us perspective and challenges our already conceived notions of where Jesus Christ began his life. And for non-believers, it fleshes out the history.

Isn’t discovery grand?

Image Credit: jorisvo / Shutterstock.com

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About 

Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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  • Anonymous

    You say: It gives us perspective and challenges our already conceived notions of where Jesus Christ began his life.

    The Bible says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

    It also says: And the Word (Jesus) was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

    It also says: All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

    Seems to me Jesus has been around a bit longer than you give him credit for.

    You say: We have evidence of the birthplace of one of the world’s major religious figures.

    I think what we have evidence of is the ‘Lamb of God’ that was foretold by the Jewish prophets centuries before his birth. Jesus is not a major religious figure. He is God incarnate. At least that’s what my Bible says.

    Although Jesus began his earthly life in a place called Bethlehem, his life existed long before his human birth.

    Also, Jesus was NOT a Christian. During his earthly sojourn he was a Jewish rabbi.

    He opened blind eyes (Mark 10:51; John 9:2), raised the dead (John 11:8), walked on water (John 6:25) and had power over nature (Mark 11:21; and is addressed as rabbi in Matthew 26:25, 49; Mark 9:5; 14:45; John 1:38, 49; 3:2; 4:31).

    This underscores both the Jewishness of Jesus as Messiah and the Jewish roots of the Christian faith.

    As a ‘major religious figure’ you need to keep in mind that:

    • Jesus was called rabbi, not reverend.
    • Jesus went to synagogue, not to church.
    • Jesus celebrated Passover, not Easter.
    • Jesus knew all about the story of his miraculous birth but never heard of Christmas.

    You say: And for non-believers, it fleshes out the history.

    I’m curious as to exactly what history you are referring to?

    In closing, you say: Isn’t discovery grand?

    Yes it is. My hope and prayer for you is that you will come to experience the joy of discovering the truth about Jesus. Your eternal destiny is at stake.

  • Anonymous

    I have a few more comments to make, and please understand, it is not my intent to be overly critical. However, your article presents premises, suppositions and conclusions about the newly discovered Bethlehem that leaves me shaking my head in wonder.

    For example, the conclusion you draw when you say “All of this provides plentiful support that the Galileean[sic] Bethlehem is the Bethlehem from the Christian Bible, the one where Christ was born.”

    Plentiful support?

    I fail to see how any of the evidence that you or Aviram Oshri present provides any support that the Galilean Bethlehem is the Bethlehem from the Christian Bible.

    What I do see, however, is evidence that Jews inhabited many cities and villages in Palestine at the time of Jesus’ birth, including this newly discovered Bethlehem. It also tells me that certain artifacts indicate that centuries later the Galilean Bethlehem became a Christian community and that the emperor Justinian built a fortification wall around the village for protection.

    I fail to see any evidence that supports the conclusion that this Bethlehem is the Bethlehem where Jesus was born.

    The scripture according to the gospel of Luke starting in chapter 2, states:

    “…and Joseph also went up from Galilee from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of he house and the lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.” (RSV)

    What you are positing in this article is that the scriptures are wrong. And that they are wrong simply because another ‘Bethlehem’ has been discovered in Galilee that was inhabited by Jews. And that the Joseph and or the Jews of his day did not know where the City of David was located.

    If Joseph did not know where the city of his birth was located, I fail to see how that provides support for the conclusion that the newly discovered Bethlehem is the Bethlehem where Jesus was born. Rather, I would conclude that Joseph needed a map!

    Also, I fail to see that the distance a pregnant woman had to ride a donkey as ‘plentiful’ support that the Biblical record is incorrect.

    I’m not sure what your point was in writing this article.

    However, you did say: In all reality, on the faith level, all this means is that scientists have found another Bethlehem.

    I concur!