No room in the kataluma

In ancient farm households in many parts of the world, animals are kept under the house in the winter or at night. The advantages are that it keeps them safe, and that they provide heat for the family above.

Sheep kept under the house in a modern small farm

In the ancient Greek world, the upstairs living and dining area was called the ‘kataluma‘. This is the word used in the story of Jesus’ birth in the Gospels, but commonly translated into English as ‘inn’.

When Joseph went to visit his family in Bethlehem towards the end of Mary’s pregnancy, there was ‘no room in the kataluma‘ – and no privacy for childbirth either – so naturally Mary had the baby downstairs and put him in a manger. Again, the manger was a logical choice: off the ground, and away from the animals that were out in the fields with the shepherds (and angels…) It wasn’t winter, or the sheep would have been inside; it was the spring lambing season, or the shepherds wouldn’t have been so attentive.

A fairly substantial traditional farming house: kataluma upstairs, manger in a room underneath

And if anyone has better pictures of a kataluma, please share!

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3 comments on “No room in the kataluma

  1. Daniel Duarte says:

    Soy un creyente de pocos años, vengo de la iglesia catolica y siempre pense que el relato de Jose y Maria pidiendo alojamiento de acuerdo a la interpretacion del pesebre viviente de San Francisco de Asis, hacia parecer a Dios Padre como un tanto irresponsable, siempre crei que debia haber algomas algo que tenia escrito y pasaron por alto los escritores y traductores biblicos, hasta que en 2003, me tope con un estudio comentado por un obispo chileno que me dio una serie de pistas que he venido investigando desde entonces y cualquier aporte que necuentre grande o pequeño me ayuda a entender como ocurrio el hecho historico mas trascendente e importante de todos los tiempos, el nacimiento del Mesias, gracias a Dios porque sigue usando a sus ciervos, para revelarnos las verdades ue debemos conocer para hacernos libres.

  2. (“I am a believer a few years, I come from the Catholic Church and always thought that the story of Joseph and Mary asking for accommodation according to the interpretation of the living manger of St. Francis of Assisi, to look to God the Father as a bit irresponsible, always believed that ought to have something more, something written that overlooked the biblical writers and translators, until in 2003, I came across a study discussed by a Chilean bishop gave me a number of tracks that I have been investigating since then and any contribution I encounter large or small helps me to understand how the most important and significant historical event of all time occurred, the birth of the Messiah, thank God that continues to use his deer hat to reveal the truths we must know to make us free.”)

    Note: I have corrected a couple of minor errors in phrasing and translation, but I’m leaving Google’s “deer hat” for “ciervos” because, if someone is going to say everything in a single breath, they are entitled to a bit of silliness. Intentional or unintentional.

    Daniel, good luck in your studies of the Bible. Personally, I recommend http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/ for a good thought-provoking analysis of it.

    • Gil says:

      Robin, reading your interesting article, I have realized something. I will do a correction in your translation of Daniel’s comment. Daniel Duarte uses not correctly the word “ciervos”; the right word is “siervos”, servants. God bless both you.

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