Bible Review 16:1, February 2000
Where Was Jesus Born?

Bethlehem…Of Course

By Jerome Murphy-O’Connor

Steve Mason has probably made the best case possible that we should adopt an “agnostic” position regarding the birthplace of Jesus. But although Mason has examined the literary data with exemplary care, he has failed to demolish the Gospels’ conviction that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the days of Herod the king. He has not even succeeded in bringing it into doubt.

Mason begins by saying that all the available evidence relating to the place of Jesus’ birth must be taken into consideration before any location can be identified. I could not agree more. But the way Mason applies this principle does not inspire confidence. The archaeological evidence he presents is inadequate and dismissed far too quickly: “There is none,” Mason claims. The Church of the Nativity, which still stands in Bethlehem, is irrelevant to Mason, who claims that Constantine probably selected the site of the church on the basis of the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke. But this is certainly wrong: We do have archaeological evidence from the Church of the Nativity.

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