A Last Christmas Question?

I hope to resist temptation after this and return to the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible.

But my last nativity story question is, do we know that they had ‘inns’ as such in Jesus’ time in Bethlehem?  The Greek word traditionally translated ‘inn’ in Luke 2:7 is ‘katalyma‘, and only occurs otherwise in reference to the room Jesus expected to be prepared for the last supper (Mark 14:14; Luke 22:11).  I can find 11 uses in the Septuagint (LXX), where the term can be used of places of residence that are impermanent, and might refer to God’s dwelling, i.e. the tabernacle as a non-permanent residence (2 Sam 7:6), a human lodging (Exod 4:24; Jer 40:12) or an animal lair (Jer 25:28 (Eng.)/32:38 (LXX)).  This doesn’t really help decide between ‘inn’ and ‘guest/spare room’ in Luke 2:7, but I am still wondering whether it is the guest accommodation in someone’s house in Bethlehem that was full, forcing Joseph and Mary into the final overflow accommodation, i.e. the animals’ area at the lower end of the house (see previous post on this).

Theological dictionaries have very limited information: Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich 4th ed. (1952) has a few lines, listing ‘inn’ for this reference alone.  Kittel’s Theological Dictionary 4:338 seems to settle rather meekly for this meaning too.  Brown, Dictionary of N.T. Theology, 3:189, says the word…

means generally lodging, but more particularly a guest room or dining room (Mk. 15:14; Lk. 2:7; 22:11).

Is this another case of the ‘traditional translation’, like ‘hallowed’ in the Lord’s Prayer, that has become too enshrined to touch or update?

Your comments are welcome.

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