Questions Surrounding Jesus’ Birth/Part 8

By: Dr. John Ankerberg with various Scholars; ©{{{copyright}}}
But Was Jesus Really Born in Bethlehem?

Ed. note: This article is based upon the transcript from programs produced by the John Ankerberg Show. Additional material has been added for this print version.

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But Was Jesus Really Born in Bethlehem?

Dr. John Ankerberg: Now, if one follows the logic of the critics who say the events surrounding the birth of Jesus were created by the church after Christ lived and the story of Bethlehem was simply fabricated, then if this story was made up, there should also have been other competing stories that were made up about the place where Jesus was born. But that’s not the case. I asked Dr. Stephen Pfann, “In terms of Bethlehem again, were there any other spots, geographical spots, that tradition grew up around that Jesus was born there, or is it only this spot?”

Dr. Stephen Pfann:[1] There’s only one tradition concerning Jesus’ birthplace, and that’s Bethlehem.
Just as every science has to have some kind of a gradient in terms of credibility on any subject, as archaeologist we also have to create a gradient which we can use against the evidence that we have. And I’ve been working with an A B C D rating, a four-step rating for credibility. “A” would be that it’s certain, “B” is probable, “C” is plausible, and “D” is rumor or speculation. Now it all depends upon what kind of facts you have on the ground.
And only the most certain types of facts is that something is still in existence there with an inscription or something of this sort that actually helps you to understand that this is really certainly the place.
Probable means that you have all kinds of corroborative evidence from archaeology, from the literature, methographic studies, that would maintain something being probably the way that it was.
Then it goes down the line that way as the evidence becomes weaker and weaker.

Dr. John Ankerberg: In terms of Bethlehem, what grade would you give it?

Dr. Stephen Pfann: I would say that at this point, in terms of all that we know about traditional sites, that it’s probably the place where Jesus was born.

Dr. John Ankerberg: Okay, you don’t want to give it A or B?

Dr. Stephen Pfann: I would say I’d give it at least a B rating. The A rating would be reserved for if the site was still intact, but I’d say it’s somewhere between B and A at this point.

Dr. Claire Pfann:[2] The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has strong evidence to support it as being the place of the birth of Jesus. Certainly, the church lies on the heart of ancient first century Bethlehem, that small Jewish village of extended patriarchal homes. And if we look at the archaeology of that type of hillside, terraced homes with courtyards, cave basements, and sleeping units attached, we would see, if we could just lift that church off, the kind of archaeological pattern that would characterize Bethlehem in the first century. Tradition has held it as the birthplace of Jesus for all these centuries, a tradition that was probably kept alive by the Jewish Christians in the land from the time of the Resurrection of Jesus as they searched back into His origins.

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  1. Dr. Stephen Pfann: Director of the Jerusalem School for the Study of Early Christianity and of the Nazareth Village. He is well-published in the area of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Dead Sea Scroll concordance, journal of Roland DeVaux, excavator of Qumran settlement) and has been assigned the Daniel fragments from Cave 4 for translation and commentary and also is working on the mysterious Angel Scroll. He is a leading scholar in the area of Jesus and His cultural and social background in the Second Temple period.
  2. Mrs. Claire Pfann: Faculty member, Center for the Study of Early Christianity, 1988-present. Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, University of the Holy Land, 1998-present. Contributor, The Comprehensive Concordance to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Production Editor, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert XXVII . Contributor, The Illustrated Dictionary and Concordance of the Bible. Contributor, Hebrew University Bible Project: “The Alignment of the Aramaic and Greek Texts of Ezra and Daniel.” An expert on Jewish birth practices and culture of Bethlehem during the time of Jesus.

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