The Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:1-7)

Dr. Andrew Jackson

During the ninth month of the pregnancy of Mary, the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus gave an order that a population census must be taken of the entire Roman Empire. He commanded that all people travel to their home towns to register their names. So Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea to register, for he belonged to the lineage of David.

Caesar Augustus, Octavian, was Rome’s first emperor. He ruled from 27 BC to AD 14.

While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to her first baby, a son. Mary wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, an animal’s feeding trough, for there was no place for them in the guest room.

Jesus was born around 6 BC or 5 BC, one or two years before the death of Herod the Great. Bethlehem was located about six miles (9 km) south of Jerusalem.

Although the Church of Nativity was built in the 300s over a cave in Bethlehem, it is unlikely that Jesus was born in a cave or a public shelter (a caravansary) where travelers would stay for a night. Jesus’ birth probably took place in a lower-level room for animals that was attached to the living quarters of a private house. Based on the hospitality of the first-century, this private house probably belonged to one of Joseph’s relatives.