Section 11

Praise of the angels and witness of the shepherds

Fields near Bethlehem

Luke 2:8-20
8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.


Jesus’ Birth

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).



Fields near Bethlehem