Psst. There’s something you should know about Christmas. The Christmas carols, we’re afraid, might have it wrong: Jesus, many New Testament scholars believe, was not born in Bethlehem but Nazareth.
Among scholars this view is no secret. But for some reason, the story is not often recounted outside the ivy-covered walls. Which is why we asked two experts to go public and explain both sides of the issue. We invited Steve Mason of Toronto’s York University to lay out the little-known but more widely accepted (there’s an oxymoron for you!) view that Jesus was born in Nazareth. Mason offers a fascinating lesson of the way scholars search for history in the biblical text (see “O Little Town of…Nazareth?”).
Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française in Jerusalem, takes a different tack in “Bethlehem…Of Course,” delving into the archaeological, extrabiblical and gospel evidence in support of the long-cherished Bethlehem tradition.
In the end, we leave you to fill in the blank: “O little town of ________.” Write and let us know where you believe Jesus was born—or whether you are now decidedly undecided—and why. Send letters to BR, Editorial Department, 4710 41st St., NW, Washington, DC 20016; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.