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bethlehem

Bethlehem is located in the modern day West Bank area Palestinian town, which is about 6 miles south of Jerusalem.  It currently has a population of approximately 30,000.  Bethlehem was well known as the birthplace and home of King David.  Several hundred years after David, the prophet Micah predicted that the Jewish Messiah would be born in a small town near Jerusalem called Bethlehem.  In Micah 5:2-3 he said, “2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.”

In Bethlehem, there is a place called the Church of the Nativity.  It claims to be the birth site of the Jewish Messiah Jesus.  It was originally built by Roman Emperor Constantine around 330 CE. 

A star was born: The Emperor Hadrian (117–138CE) had profaned the grotto to worship idol Adonis in order to eliminate the memory of Jesus and his birth place. Because he did this, there is more reason to consider that this may be the place of Jesus’ birth.  In the time of Constantine, around 330CE, the grotto was restored, and a silver star was placed to signify the location of Jesus’ birth.

A Short History of Medieval Christianity by G.R. Evans: Parts of the original structure of the Church of the Nativity still exist after earthquakes, rebellions and invasions.  This church marks one of the oldest churches in the world.  In 2012, the Church of the Nativity was listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

bethlehem downtown

The Manger Square in Bethlehem downtown can be captured in one panorama.  The left-hand side of this photo is the Church of the Nativity.  The meaning of Bethlehem in Hebrew is the house of bread בֵּית לֶחֶם‎ Bet Lechem. 

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Entrance View

This is the front view of the Church of the Nativity. 

*Photo was contributed by Dr. Rasmussen.

Bell tower

At the right-hand side of the Church, you can see a bell tower which belongs to the Armenian monastery.

Entrance Door

Why is the entrance of the Church of the Nativity so small?  This small entrance was built in Ottoman times to prevent looters from entering with their horses and carts. Since the door is so small, every visitor needs to bend their knees to enter.

Main Hall

This is the nave – the central part of the Church of the Nativity.  A mass was going on when this picture was taken.

Upper level grotto

The lower level of this part of the nave is the grotto, the traditional site where Jesus was born.

Grotto

800 years after Micah’s prophecy, the Jewish Messiah was born in Bethlehem.  This grotto actually was a cave which surprises modern visitors.  In fact, Jesus’ birthplace was a cave which was a common place to store goods and to shelter animals in biblical times.  In about 150 CE, an extra-biblical source mentions that Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary, were staying in a cave on the night of Jesus’ birth.  Therefore Luke 2:7 mentioned that Jesus was wrapped in bands of cloth, and was laid in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

*Photo was contributed by Dr. Rasmussen.

residential area

While walking around the residential area in Bethlehem, once again Matthew 2:1-6 reminds us about the Jewish Messiah:

1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
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