I am here to tamper with a masterpiece, or better said, to share with you a rather different reading of Luke 2:1-7, one solidly grounded in the facts, but nowhere represented in Christmas carols and pageants. I must tell you that I have heard endless sermons on how there was "no room in the inn" and how it was typical of a cold, fallen world to cast the holy family and Jesus out into the cold, and so on, often preached with great fervor but producing no ferment at all.

We've heard it countless times before. We've all been inoculated with a slight case of Christmas, preventing us from getting the real thing, or in this case, from reading these texts in a more historical way. The problem with the Christmas-pageant version is, this is not at all likely to be what Luke intends to tell us in this much beloved and belabored Christmas tale.

When it came time for Mary to deliver the baby, the Greek of Luke's text says, "she wrapped him in cloth and laid him in a corn crib, as there was no room in the guest room." Yes, you heard me right. Luke does not say there was no room in the inn. Luke has a different Greek word for inn (pandeion), which he trots out in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The word he uses here (kataluma) is the very word he uses to describe the room in which Jesus shared the Last Supper with his disciples — the guest room of a house.

Archeology shows that houses in Bethlehem and its vicinity often had caves as the back of the house where they kept their prized ox or beast of burden, lest it be stolen. The guest room was in the front of the house, the animal shelter in the back, and Joseph and Mary had come too late to get the guest room, so the relatives did the best they could by putting them in the back of ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Current IssueOn Immigration, Welcoming the Stranger Is Only One Piece of the Puzzle
On Immigration, Welcoming the Stranger Is Only One Piece of the Puzzle Subscriber Access Only
Why Christians should support reforms that recognize both the dignity of immigrants and the rule of law.
Recommended
Is Suicide Unforgivable?Subscriber Access Only
Question: What is the biblical hope and comfort we can offer a suicide victim's family and friends? —name withheld
Read in English
TrendingWho’s In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?
Who’s In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?
The age of the Internet has birthed a crisis of authority, especially for women.
Editor's PickTogether for the Gospels
Together for the Gospels: Unprecedented Unity Among Bible Translators Transforms Giving
Lessons learned from illumiNations initiative could help other causes.
Christianity Today
No Room in the What?
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

December 2007

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.