One part of the classic (and incorrect) views of the Christmas Story is that of a very pregnant Mary on a donkey and Joseph being turned away from an inn - the ancient equivalent of Motel 6 and instead being shown to the stable out back. This image is at least slightly wrong.

The word used in Luke 2:7 that is most often translated as 'inn' is that of kataluma which fails to capture the proper idea of the word. A better translation for this would be 'guest room' (as is used Luke 22:11 and Mark 14:14) or lodging and dining room. The idea of a commercial 'inn' is used in Luke 10:34 as part of the parable of the Good Samaritan where the word pandokheion is used and properly translated as 'inn' and extends to the idea of a public house for the reception of strangers.

If Joseph had stayed at a pandokheion it would have been an insult to his family for he was no stranger there. Even then, there is questions if Bethlehem was a large enough town to support a pandokheion.

To many this only adds confusion about what a manger is doing in a house. In the days before central heating the houses of the middle east had two levels (or a raised area for people). The first level was populated by animals and kept the house warm in the winter. Furthermore, animals make an excellent burglar alarm. Adjacent to this was the guest room (kataluma).

Thus, Jesus was born in the heart of a peasants house - in the warmest area of it. Yes, he was born into poverty and cows and sheep were in the same area. The statement of "There is no room in the inn" that is told to us as part of the Christmas Story should instead be read as "Joseph finds shelter in Bethlehem with a family, however the guest room is full. And so Joseph and Mary are accommodated in the house and a spare bed is made from a manger."

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