Jesus was NOT born in a Manger

Let me start by saying that Jesus was not born in a manager. I had that spelling error on an exam this semester. For that to have happened might have looked something like this:

Assuming, of course, that the father in the picture was some sort of manager.

But even if you get the spelling right, and write manger, Jesus still wasn’t born in one, even if the story in the Gospel of Luke was literally true.

A manger is a feeding trough. And nowhere in the story does it suggest that Mary gave birth in a feeding trough.

Historians wonder why anyone finds plausible that a pregnant woman would be dragged along needlessly on the long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. To suggest that, having been subjected to that, Mary was then forced to somehow cram herself into or balance herself over a feeding trough to give birth to Jesus in it is adding insult to injury.

Or maybe they think that the angel often depicted over the manger in nativity sets was there to hold Mary over the manger during the actual birth?

For those of you who are still unclear on this, here is what Luke 2:7 actually says:

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger…

So is that clear? This isn’t an issue of critical scholarship or liberal skepticism or whatever. The text of the Bible itself says that Jesus was born and then laid in a feeding trough – not born in one.

So, if you have ever said it in the past, please never again say “Jesus was born in a manger.”

Thank you.

  • You are a dufus.

    What you are talking about is a simple misunderstanding of the word manger. I don’t think anyone believes the baby was actually dropped from the womb into a manger.

    • Trevor Gowe

      Yeah… because most people don’t know what a manger is… they think it’s some kind of barn.

      It’s clear what the author is talking about, you’re just being obtuse.

  • http://www.tillhecomes.org/ Jeremy Myers

    I was studying this very thing earlier this week for a short ebook I am writing on Christmas. There are some who believe the word “manger” there actually refers to a “stall” in which animals were kept, not a feeding trough at all. But this is a super minority view, and not likely correct. Why did I mention it then? I don’t know. Sorry to clutter up your comments… Ha!

  • Mike
  • Justice

    I actually wasted my time with article??? Heretics should stay off the net

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      How it is heresy to claim that Jesus was not born in a manger? You think Jesus was born inside a feeding trough, as opposed to having been placed in one after he was born?!

  • Dan

    If Christians paid attention to the OT, we would know that Mary and Joseph were traveling to Jerusalem to attend the Feast of Tabernacles…. a High Sabbath. As such, they would have taken shelter in a SUKKOT. Bibles which put the Greek “spin” on it come up with mangers, caves, house, etc. The Aramaic text would Not convey anything like that.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      If you paid attention to the actual sources, you would know that none of them mentions Mary and Joseph having been traveling to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.

      What Aramaic text are you referring to? Didn’t you mean sukkah?

      • transitionstande.wordpress.com

        Thanks for this. I found it very funny. Of course he was not born in a manger, but as you say, laid in one, and it would have made quite a convenient crib. The straw would have made it reasonably comfortable in the days when there were no mattresses. It is also symbolic, as mangers are where the food was put for the animals, and Jesus is not only our Saviour (for those who put their faith in him), but also our spiritual food, the Bread of Life. I have sadly not been to the Middle East yet, but I have seen these kind of houses in rural parts of Southern Spain, and I have seen the upper room (also called Inn) for sleeping and eating, and the lower room for the animals – still in use!
        Incidentally, when my son was learning French, he asked if Salle a Manger (dining room – room to eat) was a Sales Manager.

  • Roger Lier

    Thanks, James. Its clear in the gospel of Luke that God in Jesus is reaching out to save the poor, as Yahweh is depicted in many places in the Old Testament. Not only did Jesus say that he was coming to proclaim good news to the poor, quoting Isaiah. He “became poor,” as Luke’s friend, the Apostle Paul, said. I don’t think Paul was just referring to how Jesus died, or even how he entered into an itinerant ministry, depending on gifts from those who fed him along his journeys. I think Paul was talking about the stories of how Jesus was born and soon became a refugee. Jesus was incarnated as one of the poor.

    It is important for us to remember that in the biblical nativity scene, the good new of the birth of the one who is “the Christ, who is the Lord,” to quote Luke again, came to some very humble folks: shepherds. These were not the social elite at the time of Jesus. The guys out in the fields at night were probably hired hands, the working poor.

    Jesus came to save us all, but there seems to be a priority put on reaching out to the poor, which is not surprising, given the emphasis in the Old Testament on protecting and saving the poor and needy.

    And then there is that proverb, which, if we had memorized it, might have helped us to realize what Luke is driving at in his account of the nativity scene, not to mention Jesus application of this Proverb to himself in Matthew 25:

    “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,

    and he will reward him for what he has done.” (Proverbs 19:17).

    Yahweh actually became poor in Bethlehem and the fact that a feeding trough was his first bed drives that point home very dramatically. In all the Christmas pageants I attended as a child, I never realized that Jesus was laying in a feeding trough. It wasn’t until I translated the Greek that Luke used that I realized this. I always thought that “manger” meant “barn.”

    It is a little detail, but I think our manger scenes tend to romanticize the nativity scene of Jesus a bit. Luke intends to tell us Jesus identified with the poor at this birth. I love giving gifts to my family and receiving gifts from my family on Christmas, But this Christmas it struck me that if I fail to give gifts to the poor in celebrating my Lord’s birth, I am really not honoring Jesus the way I think he taught us to do.

  • BRush

    give this some thought -if there was no room with a normal bed , could it be that both Joseph and Mary were sleeping in the area where animals would normally eat hay. That would be the softest place to lie down ( with hay ), would you possibly lay rather than on the dirt floor. And even in some places today the hay is laid out on a flat area on top of boards. Hmmm…. so speculative eh!


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