Not all the Stories in the Bible are in the Old Testament, First Covenant – however we like to refer to the Hebrew bible.
Luke 1 New International Version (NIV)
Luke or the author thereof set out to inform Theophilus a (Greek),whose name means [friend of God or (be)loved by God or loving God],all about Jesus. The account is to be orderly to enable Theophilus to be certain of his beliefs.
So, Christ was born in Bethlehem, in a stable laid in a manger and surrounded by Ox, Ass and at some point – sheep. From where did Luke obtain his story of Jesus’ birth? People have said that he spoke with Mary, others that he made it up since every great man has a past. – whether known or invented.
Ox and Ass ?
And the muddle of celebrating his birth on December 25th( season of Saturnalia the ancient Roman festival of Saturn in December, a period of general merrymaking and the predecessor of Christmas.) – the last day of the Roman year, making Jesus a winter baby; somehow detracts from the meaning of the actual event. Some of the Iconic records in the New Testament are clouded by our imposed perceptions of how we believe it happened, to the detriment of the his(story) its self.
O and everyone dearly wants Jesus to have been poor, the firstborn child of an impoverished family. Why? Because poverty was associated with sanctity and chastity and virginity.
Let’s see what Luke does say: firstly he offers a date for the census which took this family to Bethlehem – a date probably understood by his readers but lost to us. Or is it?
Wikipedia reads “The Census of Quirinius was a census of Judaea taken by Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, Roman governor of Syria, upon the imposition of direct Roman rule in 6 AD. The author of the Gospel of Luke uses it as the narrative means to establish the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-5), but Luke places the census within the reign of Herod the Great, who died 10 years earlier in 4 BC. No satisfactory explanation of the contradiction seems possible on the basis of present knowledge, and most scholars think that the author of the gospel made a mistake”[wiki/Quirinius]
Therefore giving a time frame of 10 years for the birth of Jesus, between 4B.C. and 6A.D. – no, Jesus first birthday was not in the year 1 A.D., perhaps the year 3B.C. or 7 A.D. – which throws both Julian and Gregorian Calendars out the window to give us what? Why bother with this, well because it fractures a nice piece of maths dividing History into before Jesus was born and the years of the Lord Jesus Christ “anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi” Meaningless when we make reference to the more politically and inoffensive Common Era and before the Common Era.
Now what about that Stable?
Some believe it to have been a cave, as a child in England I had visions of the Barns in our area, but it was a middle eastern Stable. Just what was this and because it was this way the Joseph family are suddenly revealed not to be the poverty stricken alienated people we wanted before.
Simple village homes in Palestine in the time of Christ consisted of two rooms, a Guest room, sometimes called the Prophets chamber when situated on the roof (1 Kings 17:19) and a family room. Here the entire family cooked, ate, slept and lived, at the end of this room, near the door were either a wall of heavy timbers or a sunken space a few feet lower than the rest of the floor where the animals were kept. In the morning the animals returned to the yard and the room was swept out. Each night a few sheep a cow and a donkey would be driven back there. Aha here are the Cows and the donkey, but anyone reading the scripture passage would have just have assumed that animals were present because it was a stable – a dirty smelly, small building built for animals. The animals provided heat and protection for the household, mangers for cow and ass were carved hollows cut out of the floor of the main room or those for sheep were placed down in the area itself.
Any new born baby would have been swaddled and placed in one of the stone mangers, filled with straw. This is the way middle eastern readers would have understood this passage.
Just what was full, well the Guest Room of course, Mary and Joseph had the honour of sharing the family’s own living area.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them Luke 2:7b
There was no “bed” free in the guest room for them so they were taken in by their relatives who owned this home and made a living possibly providing Accommodation for passers by. Full because it was the census.
Yes, by relatives, this was David’s town Bethlehem, Joseph’s relatives lived here, Joseph was known here and Elizabeth and Zachariah lived nearby in the Hill Country, they could have gone to them if there really was no room in the Inn.
Joseph was an artisan,(a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.) a carpenter skilled in the construction of all manner of wooden things. If he was poor it was his own fault because artisans earned money. There was no poverty here.
We have a prosperous family on their way to take part in the census who are taken in by a relative, into their special family area because all the bed spaces in the Guest Room were occupied. At some point Mary gives birth – with the assistance of the women of the house and Jesus is swaddled – a practise in England when I was born-and placed in one of the stone mangers with straw for a mattress. Nearby were the household’s beasts who sheltered with the family during the night and spent their day In the yard.