A little more than two years ago we wrote about Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus here. We will follow the example of Paul, Peter and Jude to remind our readers of some things we already know (Romans 15;15; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Timothy 2:14; 2 Peter 1:12; Jude 1:5; et al.).
- During the Patriarchal period the town we know as Bethlehem was called Ephrath (Genesis 48:7; 35:9-27).
- Later, as part of the territory allotted to the tribe of Judah, it was the home of Ruth and Boaz and became the birthplace and early home of David (1 Samuel 17:12, 15).
- The town was sometimes called the “city of David” (Luke 2:4, 11), but is most famous as the birthplace of Jesus (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4-15; Matthew 2:1-16).
When one visits the Bible lands today he must realize that 2,000 years of history, involving both repeated building and the destruction of what has been built, has left nothing to remind one of the original place where Jesus was born. Justin Martyr (ca. A.D. 160) said Joseph “took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village.” Origen (mid-third century) said the cave where Jesus was born was being shown and even the enemies of the faith were talking of it. Jerome, a resident of Bethlehem (A.D. 386-420), tells how the birthplace of Jesus and other places associated with the ministry of Jesus were defiled from the time of Hadrian to the reign of Constantine. The Church of the Nativity now stands at this spot.
This photo shows the exterior of the Church of the Nativity.
My wife saved a portion of our local paper for me last Sunday. The headline says, “Peace swells Bethlehem tourism.” All of the town’s hotel rooms are booked solid for Christmas. Last year 70,000 visited Bethlehem for Christmas, but the number is expected to be “up strongly” this year.