Was Jesus Born in a Manger?
WAS JESUS BORN IN A MANGER?
There is nothing in the Bible to justify the popular belief that Jesus was actually born in a manger. Allusions to the place of the nativity of Jesus are few and obscure in the Scriptures. Matt. 2:11 says that when the wise men “were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him.” Manger is used three times in Luke. In Chapter 2, Verse 7, we read: “And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” According to Luke 2:12 the angel said to the shepherds: “Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:16 says: “And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.” A manger, properly speaking, is a trough or box from which domestic animals eat. The Greek word rendered manger in the passages quoted above is derived from a verb meaning “to eat” and literally means “feeding-place.” Some authorities suppose that the manger in which Mary laid her child was in the court of an inn or caravansary. The typical Near Eastern inn of that day consisted of a rude, unfurnished shelter surrounding a court in which the camels, horses, and other beasts of burden were picketed. It should be noted that the Bible nowhere mentions a stable in this connection. Pictures representing the wise men worshiping Jesus in a stable surrounded by cattle and horses are not based on Scripture. A local tradition dating back at least to the 2nd century places the manger and nativity in a grotto or cave near Bethlehem. In 165 A.D. St Justin wrote: “Having failed to find any lodging in the town, Joseph sought shelter in a neighboring cavern of Bethlehem.” About half a century later the celebrated ecclesiastical writer Origen declared that “at Bethlehem is shown the grotto where he first saw the light.” This grotto, it is supposed, was used as a shelter by the shepherds and their flocks. St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, identified a grotto near Bethlehem as the birth-place of Jesus and had it converted into a chapel. Later a basilica was erected over the grotto.