Correction and Meeting
In my blog “Jesus Was Born in Humble Circumstances,” I proposed that there was only one inn in Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth. During our Sunday School class last Sunday, it was pointed out that in the Joseph Smith Translation he says, “in the inns.” I stand corrected. I love to learn through correction. I once had a Theoretical Developmental Biology teacher at Penn who said that if we’re going to get into the theoretical realm, i.e. thinking outside the box, you need to expect to be wrong half the time. That’s one of the best ways to learn.
That experience last Sunday caused me to think of the town where I grew up: Malta, Idaho. Although Malta’s population was only 200, there were two motels in town. Back when I lived there, in the 1950s and 1960s, Interstate 84 (which now bypasses Malta by eight miles) had not yet been built, so US Highway 30 was the main highway from central Idaho into Utah. As a result, Malta, an island in the middle of a desert, had two motels and three or four gas stations.
Although Bethlehem is in the “hill country,” it is not “out of the way,” but is on the main road south of Jerusalem toward Hebron and Beersheba. Therefore, even though the town had maybe only 2000 inhabitants when Christ was born, it likely had more than one inn. The area also is “…dotted with numerous caves made from the light limestone of the region.” (livingpassages.com/bethlehem-christmas-cave-nativity)
Never-the-less, I still think it is possible that the traditional site of Jesus’ birth place in a specific cave in Bethlehem may be correct because the Roman emperor Hadrian tried to obliterate Christ’s memory by planting a grove above the cave and converting it into a shrine to Adonis as early as around 136 AD – thus inadvertently preserving the very site he was trying to erase from memory. Even though that event happened around 100 years after Christ’s death and resurrection, I think its location may have been correctly identified by the local inhabitants. When my family first moved to Malta sixty five years ago, we stayed in the Sunset Inn motel for a while until we could find a house to buy. Sixty five years later, I know precisely where that specific motel, of the two motels in Malta, was located. Even though the scriptures tell us nothing about Bethlehem after Christ’s birth, and we have no idea if he visited there during his ministry, the wise men came to the “house” presumably in Bethlehem where he was living with his parents as much as two years later. Furthermore, being the ancestral home of Joseph’s family, they may have retained close ties with the town, even after Christ’s death. After all, he was survived by his mother and probably by his brothers and sisters.
Concerning the Meeting:
The first meeting last Thursday of my “Where Science Meets Religion” series of lectures went very well. I will continue this series every Thursday night at the Century Ward meeting house (at 4th and Fredregill) as long as anyone is attending. The “lecture” portion should run from 6:00 to 7:00 PM and then I will stay as long as anyone wants to continue discussions. You don’t have to be a member of the Church to attend. Everyone is welcome – as evidenced last week by my good friend and colleague in the biology department at ISU, Dr. Curt Anderson, who contributed a lot of great material to our conversation.
Trent D. Stephens, PhD