Thursday, December 25
Look closely. There is no innkeeper in the Christmas story. Technically there isn't even really an "inn" -- at least as we think of it.
The traditional English rendering of Luke 2:7b is "...and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (KJV)
However, that's probably not exactly what's going on in Luke 2:7. While the word here (κατάλυμα -- kataluma) can sometimes mean a public inn, from the context and from what we now know about first century Bethlehem, in Luke 2:7 it probably just means "lodging" or "guest-room" in a general sense. The only other time that kataluma is used in the New Testament (Mark 14:14-15) it is used in reference to a guest-room in a house.
That is, baby Jesus was most likely not born in the stable outside EconoLodge -- but in the animal room in one of Joseph's relatives home. (And it is speculation based on culture to say that it was a relative's home. Nor does the text actually say that Jesus was born in the animal area -- only that he was put in a manger.)
Like many homes at Christmas the relatives had packed the house out and so some were sleeping in make-shift space -- in this situation in the animal room -- which wasn't actually a bad spot since animals often slept somewhat indoors in a room under the room where the people slept.
I noticed this evening that the New Living Translation has shifted in their translation of the passage. In the original NLT (1996) it says, "She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn."
However, the second edition (2004) renders it, probably more accurately, "She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them."
The TNIV is perhaps even better, "She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them."
IOW, we can probably drop the hard-hearted innkeeper from the Christmas play.