Forgive me for weakening, but inspired by talk of Christmas, I have to get something off my chest.
And this is just as I understand it…
They didn’t have barns in Israel in Jesus’ time. So I’m not sure why we picture Jesus as born in one. Something derived from a European Christmas past, I think.
Luke says in 2:7 that Jesus was laid in a manger, or feed trough. No complaints there. When the wise men (more on this soon) visit Jesus in the account in Matthew, the family is in a house (Matt. 2:11). And there is nothing stopping it from having been a house all along, because that’s where people kept their animals, not in a separate building. But it was a lower part of the house, a kind of split-level arrangement where the animals got the lower part, and stayed inside at night in winter. That’s my understanding. For Jesus and family, it was second-rate digs, the smelly overflow room. But not a barn.
If you don’t believe me, and you probably mostly shouldn’t, I’ll tell you my most recent source, though it may not help you. I read it in an article in a German Christian popular-level magazine called Bibel Faszination, in a really good article on this issue: “Jesus kam zur Welt: – aber nicht im Stall,” by Ulrich Wendel, who I think is the editor. I think you get the sense of the title even without a translation.
I’m sorry that it’s not in English. I’m sure someone has written the same thing in English, but I can’t chase it up just now. But I’d encourage you to look into this further. It frustrates me that we wheel out the same Christmas story year after year, but never take the time to ask whether we even understand it properly. It’s so much richer when we do.
Tune in soon for part II on the wise men!