Jesus was NOT born in a Manger

Jesus was NOT born in a Manger December 14, 2012

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.

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  • Kyana McCoy

    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.

    • Cream Of Weber

      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.

    • SWM

      He is an Emergent. Which is the outcome of the postmodernization of the Mainline and Evangelical traditions.

  • 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

    • 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.

    • 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?


        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!

  • steve

    it’s just a summary phrase; sheesh whats up with the parsing dog?

  • sheckyshabaz

    Jesus was actually born in Migdal Edar (Micah 4:8). Migdal Edar is called the “tower of the flock” that was in Bethlehem and it sat out in the field where the shepherds would watch their sheep. There was a room under the tower where the rabbinical priests would keep the lambs awaiting sacrifice at the temple. The room was rabbinically clean according to Jewish Law. Yes, the “manger” was an actual stone feeding trough and there is a TON of significance to the field this took place at and the trough.

    • Evidence, please…

      • sheckyshabaz

        1. Jesus born in Migdal Eder = “And you, O tower of the flock, The stronghold of the daughter of Zion, To you shall it come, Even the former dominion shall come, The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.”” – Micah 4:8. The word for “O tower of the flock” in Hebrew is “Migdal Eder”. Micah was prophesying the birth of Jesus.

        2. Location of Migda; Eder = “So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), And Jacob set a pillar on her grave, which is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day, Then Israel journeyed and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder.” – Genesis 35:19-21. Rachel dies in Bethlehem which, in the field was the tower of Eder. The Hebrew word for “Tower of Eder” is “Migdal Eder”.

        3. Shepherds would watch their sheep from the tower = “This Migdal Eder was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheep ground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. A passage in the Mishnah leads to the conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined forTemple-sacrifices, and, accordingly, that the shepherds, who watched over them, were not ordinary shepherds. The latter were under the ban of Rabbinism, on account of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances, and their manner of life, which rendered strict legal observance unlikely, if not absolutely impossible. The same Mishnaic passage also leads us to infer, that these flocks lay out all the year round, since they are spoken of as in the fields thirty days before the Passover—that is, in the month of February, when in Palestine the average rainfall is nearly greatest. Thus, Jewish tradition in some dim
        manner apprehended the first revelation of the Messiah from that
        Migdal Eder, where shepherds watched the Temple-flocks all the year
        round. Of the deep symbolic significance of such a coincidence, it is
        needless to speak. ~Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the
        Messiah, pp. 186-87.

        “Rabbi Mike Short, writes, “We know that Migdal Eder was the watchtower
        that guarded the Temple flocks-those who were being raised to serve as
        sacrificial animals in the Temple. These were not just any flock and
        herd. The shepherds who kept them were men who were specifically trained
        for this royal task. They were educated in what an animal that was to
        be sacrificed had to be and it was their job to make sure that none of
        the animals were hurt, damaged, or blemished.” (Migdal Eder, Rabbi Mike
        L. Short, Beth El Messianic Congregation, Glendale, AZ).” –

        “They wrapped the newborn lambs in swaddling ‘cloths’ to protect the body
        of the lambs which would be offered as sacrifice at the Temple. Wrapped
        in swaddling cloths to keep the new lambs without spot or blemish, they
        would be laid in a manger until they had calmed down.” –

        4. Room underneath the tower = “But as we pass from the sacred gloom of the cave [i.e., he was just
        talking about the birth of Jesus in a cave] out into the night, its sky
        all aglow with starry brightness, its loneliness is peopled, and its
        silence made vocal from heaven” – Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, pp. 186-87.

        5. “Cattle found all the way from Jerusalem to Migdal Eder, and in the same
        vicinity in all directions, are considered, if male, as whole-offerings,
        and if female as peace-offerings.” – Rodkinson, Michael L. Babylonian Talmud – Chapter 7, 1918,

        6. Rabinically clean = Obviously it had to be if they were used as sacrifices. That just takes a little thought.

        7. Stone Trough = Well in Luke it says Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes which is what the rabbinical priests would use to wrap the newborn lambs in to calm them down. You have to know Hebrew culture and history to know this. Check also Luke 2:7-12 when the angel appears.

        There is a connection to Boaz, David, and Rebekah and Migdal Eder as well.

        • Wordplay involving Micah is not evidence for where’s the historical figure of Jesus was born. I was asking for that kind of evidence, not typological use of the Hebrew Bible.

          • sheckyshabaz

            1. It’s not wordplay it’s the actual Hebrew language. 2. I’ve taught Hebrew and world history for 30 years. 3. The prophecies of the bible specifically tell you where he was to be born and where he actually was born. 4. If you can’t handle the facts than that’s your own problem.

            Read the talmud and the Mishnah.

            The Hebrew word used in Micah 4:8 for “O tower” is מִגְדָּל
            and it means “Migdal”. Look it up yourself.

            The Hebrew word in Micah 4:8 for “of the flock” is עֵדֶר
            and it means “Eder”

            This is why ignorant people need to ask questions and learn from those who actually know what they are talking about, but you choose to remain blinded by ignorance. That’s your own choice, but it won’t change the facts. Deal with it.

            The irony is you don’t even look at this site because they have articles up saying exactly what i said.

          • You seem to have misunderstood what constitutes historical evidence. For instance, the messianic text related to the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem may, in the view of many historians and other scholars, have motivated early Christians to assert that Jesus of Nazareth must somehow have been born there. Far from provoding evidence that he actually was, the opposite is the case. The issue is not whether the language in Micah could denote an actual place. The issue is that it does not constitute historical evidence about anything related to a person born some 7 centuries later.

          • sheckyshabaz

            You don’t understand historical evidence because you are assuming that everything was recorded in the ancient days the way it’s recorded in 2017. The biblical records have already been proven to be accurate by legal standards so these testimonies can be treated as factual evidence. The only available evidence would be written evidence which we have and which has been to proven to be true. I’m not sure what rock you have lived under you pompous douche, but I’m not going to provide you the attention you’re craving.

            The facts are there, if you chose to ignore them and live in a fantasy world then that’s your choice, but regardless of what bubble you pretend to live in, the truth is the truth. Deal with it.

          • This is a hilariously perfect example of what many on the internet mistakenly imagine that an academic argument might look like, never having read or engaged with one themselves. You may be astonished to learn this, but academics do not crave attention from random internet trolls. Quite the contrary…