Which Bethlehem?

Have you ever had one of those conversations when you can’t work out how both of you are finding it so difficult? I had one of those conversations with someone from Kensington, Liverpool when I thought that they were from Kensington, London.

I’d never realised that there was a such a place in Liverpool.  Since I found out, I’ve actually driven through it quite a few times.

As it turns out, similar problems may have been afflicting Christianity for 2000 years.

There are a few different accounts about the birth of Jesus in the Bible, but they all agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea.  Matthew wrote that Joseph and Mary were living in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth, later moving to Nazareth in northern Galilee.  Luke reckoned that the couple travelled more than 90 miles from their home they already had in Nazareth to Joseph’s Judean hometown of Bethlehem in order to be counted in a Roman census.

However, some people (namely Megan Sauter of Biblicalarchaeology.org) points out that Jesus was known as Jesus of Nazareth.

The thought is that there is actually another Bethlehem 100 miles north in Galilee.  Indeed, there was a smaller Bethlehem about 8 miles from Nazareth according to archaeologist Aviram Oshri from the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

He has claimed archaeological records for the northern Bethlehem match descriptions in the Bible, whereas, the same has not been found in the southern namesake.  Dr Oshri said there was a fortified wall around the Biblical Bethlehem, and no such remains have been found in the West Bank, however there are similar remains in the northern town.

That kind of makes sense.  I should imagine that the discussion between Mary and Joseph about putting a nine month pregnant lady on the back of a donkey for 3 days to cover 90 miles would not have been easy one.  I would go as far as to say that it would even be harder than my confused conversation.


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