Biblical Archaeology,  ByFaith News,  Christmas,  Paul Backholer,  Walk the Bible

Christmas in Bethlehem 2023, Israel, the Birthplace of Jesus

On our visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, we discovered the beauty of this holy site, but is there evidence to prove this is the place where Jesus Christ was born?

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So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them

– Luke 2:4-7

The place where Jesus was believed to be born is hidden under a church in Bethlehem, the town where Joseph and Mary travelled for a census. Christians have been coming to worship and pray at the Church of the Nativity since ancient times. The stories of Matthew and Luke tell us that Jesus was born in a humble place, where animals were kept and fed. They don’t say anything about a cave, but they say that Jesus was placed in a manger, a wooden box for hay. At that time, it was normal for caves to be used to house animals, so it is plausible that the cave location in Bethlehem is correct.

The first person who described this cave was Justin Martyr, a Christian who lived in the second century AD. He identified Jesus’ birth location as a cave in Bethlehem, and that the local Christians knew about it and kept it sacred. As these villages were small, local knowledge was passed down and sacred places remained holy for generations. People remember the biggest event to happen in a small town for centuries!

Over three hundred years after the birth of Christ, the Roman Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena, who became Christians, decided to build a beautiful church over the cave to honour Jesus and his birth. They finished the church in AD 339, and it became a famous place for pilgrims from all over the world.

The church was burned down by fire in the sixth century AD, and a new church was built by another emperor, Justinian, in the same place. The new church followed a similar pattern to the old, with a great hall, a courtyard, and a small room where the cave was. The place where Jesus was believed to be born is marked with a silver star and a manger. When we examined the area, we found the roof and sides of the original cave from the time of Jesus are still visible.

The Church of the Nativity has seen many battles, Muslim attacks, and changes over the centuries, but it is still a place of worship and pilgrimage for Christians of different churches. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a cultural heritage site. It is the oldest complete church in the Christian world and one of the most sacred places in Christianity.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life

– John 3:16

By Paul Backholer. Find out about Paul’s books here.

Sources and Notes