Tag Archives: Luke

Bonus Post: Where Was Jesus Born?

Thomas Marberry

(Editorial Note: As a gift to our readers, we’re posting a second time this week on the theme of Christmas; Enjoy!)

Matthew and Luke both give brief discussions of Jesus’ birth. They emphasize the importance of his birth, but they manifest little interest in the circumstances. Matthew, for example, mentions only that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea during the reign of Herod the king. He offers no insight into the specific location of Jesus’ birth or the circumstances surrounding it. Luke provides a little more information, but even he focuses his attention on the significance of Jesus’ birth rather than on the situation in which Jesus was born. He notes that Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem “because he was of the house and lineage of David.” The text does not say that Jesus was born shortly after their arrival in Bethlehem, but that may be the implication of the passage. Luke states only that there was no room for them in the inn and that the baby was placed in a manger after the birth. Luke devotes no attention to the location of Jesus’ birth or how his birth affected Joseph and Mary.

In his discussion of where Jesus was born, Luke uses two significant terms. The first is kataluma which is the Greek word translated “inn” in most English translations. It is a very general word, rather similar to the words “lodging” in English or “posada” in Spanish. This word is used in various ways in the Bible and in Greek literature outside the Bible. It may describe a public inn where people rent lodging. It is used in Luke 22:11 to describe the guest room in a private home. It is used in the Septuagint to describe a public shelter where people might gather for the night.  Some commentators note that it may describe an eastern inn which often consisted of a series of rooms arranged around an open courtyard.

The second important term is phatnē which is often translated “manger.” This word was used in two primary ways. It was used to describe a stall or stable in which animals were kept. It was also used to describe a feeding pan or trough that was used to feed animals. The use of this term may indicate that Jesus was born in a stable, but it is by no means conclusive proof. It was common in first-century Palestine to keep animals at night inside the family home or in a shed attached to the family home. It is also possible that Mary and Joseph were allowed to camp out in the open area of the village inn. There is also an early Christian tradition that locates the birth of Jesus in a nearby cave that was used to stable animals.

In the mild climate of Palestine, animals often spent a good part of the year outdoors in the pasture. It is possible that Joseph and Mary were allowed the use of an area where animals were sheltered in cooler weather. Luke makes no mention of animals being present at the time Jesus was born.

The circumstances of Jesus’ birth are certainly interesting; we wish we knew more about them.  The evidence does not indicate that Jesus was born into a situation of absolute poverty; it seems that Joseph and Mary were making the best of a difficult situation. It does indicate that He was not born among the rich and powerful. He came to earth as one of the common people of the land; He came as one uniquely qualified to be our Lord and Savior.

Thomas Marberry’s “The Lucan Concept of Perseverance”: A Review

Kevin L. Hester

Dr. Thomas L. Marberry, Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Randall University, presented his paper entitled “The Lucan Concept of Perseverance” at the 2018 Theological Symposium held at Randall University in Moore, Oklahoma. The Theological Symposium is sponsored by the Commission for Theological Integrity of the National Association of Free Will Baptists.

Free Will Baptists are not strangers to theological discussions related to the perseverance of the saints and the possibility of apostasy. Theological and exegetical discussions of the topic abound, yet most of the exegetical arguments have been confined to Hebrews, II Peter, and the gospel of John. In 2013, Dr. Robert Picirilli published his book, Discipleship: The Expression of Saving Faith (Randall House), in which he outlined the importance of perseverance in faith as a necessary characteristic of a disciple. While not dependent upon this work, Marberry’s paper, focusing upon the gospel of Luke, extends some of Picirilli’s important conclusions related to the concept of discipleship in the synoptic gospels.

Marberry demonstrates that the concept of perseverance is lexically important in Acts and therefore conceptually in view in the gospel of Luke. Luke presents a number of calls to discipleship by Jesus and warnings against falling away during “trials and temptations.” Unlike Calvinist interpreters who prefer to see such warnings as either hypothetical or instrumental; or, who see such language as reflective of temporary followers who had insufficient, faulty, or false faith, Marberry concludes that Luke never makes such concessions. Instead, Luke’s understanding of faith is that “even true believers can depart from the faith and that perseverance is necessary for all who name the name of Christ.” (p. 63)[1]

Through a review of a number of Arminian and Free Will Baptist statements of faith, Marberry shows that this tradition has consistently insisted upon perseverance in faith as a necessary component of discipleship. Marberry then reviews several places in Luke’s gospel that seem to lead to the same conclusion. He discusses the Olivet Discourse (Luke 21), the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8), and the Parable of the Unfaithful Steward (Luke 12). Marberry provides important lexical analysis of key terms and compendious references to commentaries on these texts from differing theological positions. His conclusion is that Luke makes no distinction in his usage of the word faith and that attempts to read these warnings and descriptions as hypothetical or the result of false faith are driven by theological assertions unsupported by the Biblical text. Instead, Luke’s warnings indicate a real possibility for the believer’s falling away.

Marberry then briefly discusses the narrative accounts of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. He posits that both examples contribute to Luke’s understanding of perseverance. Judas turned away from his faith whereas peter repented and returned. Marberry asserts that the parallel indicates that both Judas and Peter were “true and faithful disciples of Jesus.” (p. 74) Peter, even in his failure, becomes an example of perseverance; whereas, Judas serves as a trope for apostasy.

While Marberry recognizes that “faith exists in degrees” (p. 74), the warnings of Luke’s gospel against falling away teach two important lessons. First, true believers who have true faith, can and do turn away from the truth they once received.  Second, while God’s will is “that believers endure the testings, trials, and tribulations” of this life, only those who persevere to the end shall be saved.” (p. 75)

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[1] All page numbers are derived from Symposium Digest of Papers.