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Old 23 December 2009, 03:53 PM
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Icon97 The innkeeper: Still no room at the inn

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There's no actual reference to an innkeeper in the nativity stories found in Luke and Matthew.

The mention of an inn has over time, however, led some apocryphal texts to conjecture that there must have been an innkeeper – either a callous chap who turfed a poor carpenter and a very pregnant woman riding a donkey out into the night, forcing them to seek refuge in a shelter intended for animals; or a more accommodating sort who made the most of a bad situation and cleared a little room for the couple in the one free space he had left, the barn.

Because it's a Christmas story and we tend to give people the benefit of the doubt at this time of year, the more charitable assessment has won out over time.
http://www.thestar.com/living/christ...oom-at-the-inn
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Old 23 December 2009, 05:42 PM
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I remember hearing somewhere that since Joseph and Mary were from the northern part of Isael they would've been discriminated against in Bethlehem. It would've been almost like a black person trying to find a room in the American South in the '50's. Places might've said they were full even if they weren't and what could be found in a small town would be pretty lousy.

Also it doesn't seem like the donkey would have anything to do with it. Animals were the mode of transportation then. For an inn to not have a barn would be like a motel today not having a parking lot or garage.
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Old 18 January 2010, 10:59 PM
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Putting aside for a moment the fact that this is a really dubious attempt on the part of the author of Luke to get Mary to Bethlehem to deliver Jesus, if the Romans did do something ridiculous like conduct a census that required men to travel long distances to the hometown of a randomly chosen ancestor (descent from King David would mean nothing to the Romans) born 1,000 years earlier, and bring their wives, even if they were pregnant, we could expect that there would be a large influx of travelers into a small town like Bethlehem. The logistics of most of the residents of Bethlehem leaving to go to the cities of their ancestors, while strangers came into Bethlehem, needing places to stay is just one reason the Romans would never do such a thing, but anyway, we can assume that it wasn't a simple matter of every room at the inn being checked into, but people lining the halls, shoulder to shoulder.

Heck, if I went into labor in a situation like that, I might choose the stable, with more elbow room, fewer sweaty travelers bumping up against, and some bales of hay to lie on. Not to mention it was probably quieter.

I mean, once you accept the initial improbablities of the trip to Bethlehem and the reason for it in the first place, the delivery in the stable is small potatos.
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Old 18 January 2010, 11:04 PM
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Originally Posted by RivkahChaya View Post
The logistics of most of the residents of Bethlehem leaving to go to the cities of their ancestors, while strangers came into Bethlehem, needing places to stay is just one reason the Romans would never do such a thing, but anyway, we can assume that it wasn't a simple matter of every room at the inn being checked into, but people lining the halls, shoulder to shoulder.
But ... but ... the songs says it was a "silent night." Obviously it wouldn't have been silent if all those people were cramming their way into town.
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Old 18 January 2010, 11:13 PM
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But ... but ... the songs says it was a "silent night." Obviously it wouldn't have been silent if all those people were cramming their way into town.
Well, maybe it was, in the stable. What it was like inside the inn is an entirely different thing. We'll note that the song takes place after the birth, too, lest anyone think Mary was a scientologist, prior to her conversion to Christianity.
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  #6  
Old 20 January 2010, 11:15 AM
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"No Room in the Inn"

"Most know that there is no innkeeper mentioned in the Bible, but fewer are aware that there is not even an inn described. The view that Joseph and Mary simply arrived late to Bethlehem and accommodations at the local hotel were full is incorrect."

David
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Old 20 January 2010, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by RivkahChaya View Post
if the Romans did do something ridiculous like conduct a census that required men to travel long distances to the hometown of a randomly chosen ancestor (descent from King David would mean nothing to the Romans) born 1,000 years earlier, and bring their wives, even if they were pregnant, we could expect that there would be a large influx of travelers into a small town like Bethlehem.
From what I understand, men were simply asked to return to their hometown for the census, and Bethlehem was Joseph's hometown. Since most people already lived in their hometown, there probably weren't that many people traveling.

And chances are that wives weren't required to travel, but Mary chose to go along because she didn't want to be alone when she gave birth.

David
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Old 20 January 2010, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by KingDavid8 View Post
From what I understand, men were simply asked to return to their hometown for the census, and Bethlehem was Joseph's hometown. Since most people already lived in their hometown, there probably weren't that many people traveling.

And chances are that wives weren't required to travel, but Mary chose to go along because she didn't want to be alone when she gave birth.

David
I doubt she would have been alone just because Joseph wasn't there. One assumes she had friends and family in the area, and that there was at least one midwife.
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Old 20 January 2010, 11:31 AM
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I half recall a documentary (speculation - mentary?) which said in dwellings of the era it was common for domesticated animals to share the same buildings as their owners. In which case the barn was at the same time a human dwelling. I'm not sure where they got this from though.
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Old 20 January 2010, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by KingDavid8 View Post
From what I understand, men were simply asked to return to their hometown for the census, and Bethlehem was Joseph's hometown. Since most people already lived in their hometown, there probably weren't that many people traveling.

And chances are that wives weren't required to travel, but Mary chose to go along because she didn't want to be alone when she gave birth.

David
According to the American Standard Version online, this is what Luke says:
Quote:
2:1 Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled. 2:2 This was the first enrolment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 2:3 And all went to enrol themselves, every one to his own city. 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David;
So, it sounds like Joseph had to go to Bethlehem because he was descended from David, not because he was originally from Bethlehem.

It still sounds fishy, because the reason the Romans would conduct a census would be for tax purposes, so they would want to know how much land a person had, how many rooms their house had, how their business was doing, something difficult to assess away from their homes.
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Old 20 January 2010, 11:46 AM
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I suppose if the census relied on self reporting (as all do to this day) and it wasn't as easy as popping a form in the post, and the Romans didn't want to have the governing bodies and armies in their remote outposts incumberanced by collecting census data and passing it on they might have requested the citizens of remote occupied territories to report to a central location to answer the questions. Still sounds ridiculous though if it's for tax purposes.

So how much land have you got?

20 square cubits. Honest govn'r.

Any prenatal messiahs in your group?

No of course not.

Okay, half a denarii. Next...
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Old 20 January 2010, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Eddylizard View Post
Okay, half a denarii. Next...
You forgot to add “Out of the door, line on the left, one cross each.”

did “Wewease Bwian!” dy
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Old 20 January 2010, 01:43 PM
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I don't really get the "all those people were cramming their way into town" scenario. Did the whole census happen on Christmas Day only? I would think it would be over the course of weeks or months, esp. if it was going to cause trouble.

Luke mentions the census again in Acts: "After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered." [Acts 5:37].

Judas the Galilean is described in the Jewish Encyclopedia as "Leader of a popular revolt against the Romans at the time when the first census was taken in Judea, in which revolt he perished and his followers were dispersed..." ref
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Old 20 January 2010, 01:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Eddylizard View Post
I half recall a documentary (speculation - mentary?) which said in dwellings of the era it was common for domesticated animals to share the same buildings as their owners. In which case the barn was at the same time a human dwelling. I'm not sure where they got this from though.
In eastern Christian traditions, (including iconography and hymnography) the Nativity scene was in a cave, rather than a stable-looking structure.

One of the earliest Christian apologists, Justin Martyr (100–165) writes:

Quote:
But when the Child was born in Bethlehem, since Joseph could not find a lodging in that village, he took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, ...

cite

See also this article.

Nick
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Old 20 January 2010, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by hoitoider View Post
I don't really get the "all those people were cramming their way into town" scenario. Did the whole census happen on Christmas Day only?
Well, perhaps, but aren't Jews famously bored to death on Christmas anyway because everything is closed? Not only was everyone all up in the census, but all the Chinese restaurants were *jammed* in Bethlehem. It was a bit of a scene.
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Old 20 January 2010, 11:46 PM
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Originally Posted by RivkahChaya View Post
According to the American Standard Version online, this is what Luke says:

Quote:
2:1 Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled. 2:2 This was the first enrolment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 2:3 And all went to enrol themselves, every one to his own city. 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David;
So, it sounds like Joseph had to go to Bethlehem because he was descended from David, not because he was originally from Bethlehem
It says "every one to his own city", which I think most people would take to mean they had to go to their hometowns. I think what Luke was saying at the end was that Joseph, being a descendant of David, lived in Bethlehem, so that's where he went. I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that everyone in Rome had to go to the town of a randomly-chosen ancestor.

David
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Old 21 January 2010, 12:26 AM
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Isaac Asimov makes a similar point in his Guide to the New Testament: this simply wasn't how the Romans did their census. Everyone would have been recorded where they lived and worked, reporting to a local headman, who would report to the local nobles, who would eventually tell the Romans. The notion of everyone having to go back to their ancestral towns would have been thoroughly unworkable: everyone would be registered somewhere other than where they live and work!

Herod's slaughter of the innocents also probably didn't happen: far lesser offenses of Herod's are documented in detail, but this one only appears in the gospels, nowhere else.

What is going on, quite obviously, is the gospel writers' stretching points in order to match events up to writings of Old Testament prophets, even when those ancient writings had nothing whatever to do with the arrival of the Messiah. Thus, just as one example, the effort to say that Jesus' bones were not broken, so that it would match up with an OT verse about someone else's bones not being broken.

The only point of the journey to Bethlehem is to produce credibility for the idea that Joseph was descended from David. One is reminded of the contortions some American politicians go through to claim descent from the Revolution or the Mayflower.

Silas (descended from Revolutionary War General Rufus Putnam, actually, who, by the way, was part of the vote -- which passed by a majority of one -- that kept slavery out of Ohio.)
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Old 21 January 2010, 12:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Theodorakis View Post
In eastern Christian traditions, (including iconography and hymnography) the Nativity scene was in a cave, rather than a stable-looking structure.
Saw a documentary recently that purported to reconcile many of the conflicting traditions. IIRC:

1. Joseph was born in Bethlehem (where generations of his family had been born and where many still lived), which is why he had to go there for the census.
2. Mary and Joseph were staying with friends/extended family, not at an inn/motel.
3. The stable/storage room was a cave or cellar beneath/beside the family dwelling.
4. Mary gave birth there because, with a house full of relatives, it was the only place that had any privacy.

Four (descended from Lindley Coates, first president of the American Anti-Slavery Society until he became ill and turned over the reins to that upstart William Lloyd Garrison) Kitties
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Old 21 January 2010, 05:21 PM
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The notion of everyone having to go back to their ancestral towns would have been thoroughly unworkable: everyone would be registered somewhere other than where they live and work!
As I was saying in my discussion with Rivkah, Luke said that people must register "in their own towns", which is, let's face it, where most people live and work. Bethlehem appears to be Joseph's hometown, so that's where he went. For the vast majority of people, going to their hometowns simply means staying where they are.

Quote:
Herod's slaughter of the innocents also probably didn't happen: far lesser offenses of Herod's are documented in detail, but this one only appears in the gospels, nowhere else.
How many of those "far lesser offenses" are documented in more than one source? I'm not finding it sensible to say that just because something is documented in a single source, it probably didn't happen. I don't think historians work that way.

David
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Old 21 January 2010, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by KingDavid8 View Post
. . . I'm not finding it sensible to say that just because something is documented in a single source, it probably didn't happen. I don't think historians work that way. . . .
Well, that isn't quite what I meant. It's more like supposing we stumble on, say, an old copy of National Lampoon, where it shows Nixon killing and eating a baby... Nobody else mentions it -- but, more importantly, lots and lots and lots of people talk in detail about Watergate, a far lesser crime. Why would all of them have written so much about Watergate, but never mentioned the baby?

Silas
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