The Birth of Jesus (Historical Fiction)

Excerpt from Chapter 16 of Beyond Shallow Faith, copyright 2018, 2019

What we were taught as children about the birth of Jesus is probably not exactly the way it happened. I do not mean that the Bible story is wrong. However, that story has been misinterpreted, and sometimes interpolated, so that the Christmas story we so often see in church or on television is seriously flawed.

What follows is a fictional account crafted to be consistent with what scholars believe truly happened, given what we know about first century Israel and what the Gospels actually say. For example:

Time of Year. Although somewhat controversial, most scholars believe Jesus was born sometime in the fall, not in December.

“No room at the inn.” Luke 2:7 uses the Greek word, kataluma, which means “guest room.” Inns—as in Luke 10:34—were usually along trading routes and located in large towns. Bethlehem was neither. In addition, Eastern hospitality traditions would have precluded turning away a relative, or even a stranger, and especially one with a pregnant wife. Since Joseph’s ancestors were from Bethlehem, he and Mary probably stayed with relatives there, at least until sometime after Jesus’ birth.

Timing of the birth. Luke 2:6 implies that Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem at least a few days before Jesus was born: “While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.” (emphasis added)

Born in a Stable? The Bible does not actually say Jesus was born in a stable. It merely says he was laid in a manger, which is a feeding trough for animals. In first century Israel people often brought animals inside their homes at night for the safety of the animals and for the added warmth from their body heat. Thus, many first century Jewish homes had mangers inside.

The Birth of Jesus

A drop of sweat rolled down Hannah’s forehead as she finished cleaning the animal pen that occupied one-quarter of the lower floor of her tiny house. The pen protected the most vulnerable of her animals at night, and they in turn provided needed heat on cold nights. During these warm Autumn days, Hannah normally cleaned the pen in the cool early morning hours. But today her duties toward her seven houseguests had kept her busy until almost mid-morning.

With the job at last finished, she sat down to rest, only to be disturbed by a loud knocking. Muttering, she dragged herself up and opened the door. A tall man with a dark beard filled the doorway. He wore a brown cloak over a beige wool tunic. A cloth held in place by a leather cord covered his head. She recognized him immediately.

“Joseph!” . . .

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