Shrines. Throughout the lands where Bible events transpired church buildings have been erected over this or that “sacred spot.” These buildings, whether in Jerusalem, Nazareth or Bethlehem are little more than show places. Tourists stream through them at a steady rate observing the ancient ornamentation.
In Bethlehem the traditional place where Jesus was born, now covered by the Basilica of the Nativity, would hardly remind one of anything he reads in the New Testament. The visitor now finds a building which reveals “a succession of slow decay and hasty repairs” The Middle East, 1966 ed., 622). In this building he sees mosaics with gold backgrounds dating from the 12th century, and art of the middle ages. The ruins of the large buildings erected by Justinian in the 6th century simply serve to cover the 4th century building by Constantine. The student of church history never forgets that all of this was the activity of an apostate church and does not reflect New Testament Christianity.
Their value. The shrines do serve a useful purpose. We have no record to indicate that the earliest Christians built any shrines at the sites associated with the ministry of Jesus. One can imagine, however, that fathers would tell their sons and that residents would tell visitors where certain events happened. If this information was faithfully transmitted from the first to the fourth century when the first shrines were erected, then the shrine has kept alive the memory till now.
The shrines have preserved sites, which if left in the open would have eroded or been damaged or built over so that the memory would be lost.
This photo shows the interior of the Greek Orthodox Church that is said to be built over the birthplace of Jesus.
Our study about Bethlehem brings to our mind the reality of the earthly ministry of Jesus. In Bethlehem we see the expression of the love of God who sent His own son to the earth.
The next photo shows the Armenian chapel in the Church of the Nativity. It stands between the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.