Was Jesus born in a cave?

Often around Christmas, I hear or read of Mary having Jesus in a cave. Huh? I grew up learning that he was born in a stable and laid in a manger because there was no room at the inn. Was the stable IN a cave?



The Bible actually says very little about where Mary gave birth to Jesus.

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. - Matthew 2:24-25

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. - Luke 2:6-7

On a pure textual basis the Gospels don’t say exactly where Mary gave birth. Luke’s description that Mary laid him in a manger gives us the usual idea that Mary gave birth in a manger but that is not what it literally says, literally it merely states that he was laid in the manger *after *Mary had given birth.

Some early Christians believed that the manger was a cave that was used to house animals during colder weather. Justin Martyr, Origen of Alexandria, and some of the apocryphal Gospels describe Jesus as being born in a cave. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which was built over the place that locals traditionally believed Jesus to have been born, was built over a cave.

Whether Jesus was born in a cave, a side room, or a stable is an open question.

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