Where Was the Manger Scene?
Words of Life!
Volume 2, Number 10, December 1991
A Publication Ministry of Word of Life Baptist Church
by Fred G. Zaspel
Today the Church of the Nativity claims to be built on the site of the manger scene. Others think the true site is in a nearby cave. Can we know which opinion is right?
We know from the Biblical accounts that there was a manger. The birthplace of our Lord, then, was a stable--and not quite so cute as the scenes typically displayed today. In that day caves were often used for stables, and tradition is pretty strong in suggesting that it was indeed a cave in which Jesus was born. Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) is the earliest writer to mention this. His statement reads something like, "Since Joseph could not find a house or inn, he took up residence in a cave." Origen (A.D. 250) speaks of the cave as a place where for a long time many have gone to visit; even the enemies of the faith talk about it, he reports. Eusebius, a well-known church historian in the 300's, said the stable was in a cave. Jerome (c.400), who lived in Bethlehem, said that it was a cave but now with a shrine to the god Tammuz in it.
Then what about the Church of the Nativity? It was built by the Empress Helena in the 320's. She was very interested in relics like this. But her church building does not sit on a cave. Sorry, Helena, our vote goes with the cave.
But what matters, of course, is not the place of the original manger scene but the fact that our Lord became man many years ago in order to accomplish our redemption. We worship Him, not relics.