Monday, December 24th, Christian pilgrims gathered in Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Bethlehem is in area known as the West Bank. According to NPR …
…Israeli archaeologists now say there is strong evidence that Christ was born in a different Bethlehem, a small village in the Galilee. About 100 miles north of where the pilgrims gathered, shepherds still guide their flocks through green unspoiled hills, and few give notice to the tucker-away village with the odd sounding name: Bethlehem of Galilee. But archaeologists who have excavated there say there is ample evidence that this Bethlehem is the Bethlehem of Christ’s birth. … It was inhabited by Jews. I know it was Jews because we found here remnants of an industry of stone vessels, and it was used only by Jews and only in the period of Jesus. He also found artifacts which showed that a few centuries later the community had become Christians and had built a large and ornate church. He says there is significant evidence that in early Christianity this Bethlehem was celebrated as the birthplace of Jesus. The emperor Justinian boasted of building a fortification wall around the village to protect it. The ruins of that wall … still circle parts of the Galilee village today.
I think the genuine site of the nativity is here [Bethlehem in Galilee] rather than in the other Bethlehem near Jerusalem. … It makes much more sense that Mary rode on a donkey, while she was at the end of the pregnancy, from Nazareth to Bethlehem of Galilee which is only 7 kilometers rather than the other Bethlehem which is 150 kilometers.
Evidence shows that the Bethlehem of the West Bank is Judea, which was not inhabited in the 1st century when Jesus was born.
In the Old Testament, the Bethlehem of Judea [West Bank] was the City of David and prophesied where the future messiah would be born.
Bethlehem in old Hebrew means house of bread. In Arabic, it is betlahm, which means house of meat. From Sacred Scripture, two cities bear the name of Bethlehem – one in Galilee and Bethlehem of Judea. Bethlehem is mentioned in Joshua 19:15, one of the 12 cities of the tribe of Zebulon [Zabulon]. References to Bethlehem are found only in Matthews 2 and Luke 2.
Gospel of Matthew (KJV):
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. … And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, art not the least among the princes of Judea: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. … And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
In Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke, (KJV) the story is a bit difference, describing more in detail about circumstances that led Joseph and Mary to the place where Jesus was born:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David; to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. … And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
The Bethlehem of Judea is where the annual pilgrimage takes place at the Church of the Nativity within the Grotto of the Nativity. The manger, located in a stable could not have been in an underground structure, for stables were not subterranean or sub-level structures. The Church of the Nativity is an historical site and declared so by the United Nations (UNESCO); and is believed to be the oldest early Christian basilica or church in ancient history. The basilica is above the grotto that has been declared the birthplace of Jesus. According to the Christian apologist, Justin Martyr (c. 100-165 AD), in Dialogue with Trypho, that Mary and Joseph [Holy Family] took refuge in a cave outside of town, for all the stables were full. This contradicts what Matthew wrote that it was a stable because the inns were full. Origen and Eusebius attest the same location in the 3rd century.
The Times also covered the story of the archaeologists revealing that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Galilee and not the Bethlehem of Judea.
The Gospels of Mark and John are more concerned with the man Jesus, Mark beginning with identifying Jesus as the Son of God, and in 1:2 tells of the prophecy and identifying Jesus as the messenger of God and the story of Jesus meeting John the Baptist. The Gospel of John begins the introduction of John and the disciples of Jesus, who were also sons of God destined to spread the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus as the only begotten of the Father.
The two gospels that refer to the birthplace of Jesus as Bethlehem of Judea, established by the early Christian church founders, accepting that Bethlehem that was and is in Judea, today called the West Bank.
In May of 2012, Israeli archaeologists announced the discovery of a 2,700-year-old seal that has the inscription Bethlehem. It is the first time the name of the town appears other than in biblical text, written in ancient Hebrew and with pottery nearby to verify the historical period. It is the place referred to as the city where the Prophet Samuel anointed David as King of Israel, 1,000 years before Christ and why it is referred to as the City of David. This is as important as finding the battle site (2009) in the Elah Valley, the place where it was recorded that David and Goliath fought. Another important discovery was the Tomb of Queen Hatshepsut’s Vizier (High Official) at Karnak (2010), scholars believing that the queen was the princess who drew Moses from the Nile River.
Archaeology has provided links to mentioned places in sacred text of the Bible, split in two sections – Old and New Testament. Biblical text has also aided archaeologists in discovering those sites.