Birth of Jesus
|1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Mary and Joseph had returned to Bethlehem to register for the Roman tax because it was the homeland of their families, traced back to David of the tribe of Judah. Although they had settled in Galilee, their tribal roots remained in Bethlehem. Recent research has suggested that a group of Judeans had returned from Babylon about 100 B.C., establishing such towns as Nazareth, following the Maccabean reclamation of that region. With many relatives living in Bethlehem, it would have been unthinkable for Mary and Joseph to seek a public inn, if indeed one existed there. In that small village, family members would not have expected or accepted such a rejection of their hospitality especially in view of the imminent birth of a firstborn child.
When Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, they found the guest room in a family member’s home already occupied, perhaps by other relatives who had returned to their ancestral town to register for the census. Arrangements were then made for Mary to give birth to Jesus in another part of the house, presumably the “family room.” Luke probably mentioned this detail to account for the availability of the manger when the shepherds arrived, rather than to suggest inadequacy in the conditions of Jesus’ birth.
Some misconceptions concerning the circumstances of His birth result from a mistranslation of kataluma that means “guest room,” not “inn.” They also reflect a Western rather than a Middle Eastern understanding of the cultural factors involved. When he referred to the inn where the Samaritan brought the wounded Jewish traveler, Luke used this term pandocheion (Luke 10:34).