Going by the records of the Old Testament, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem is located in the strife-torn West Bank region of Palestine, some six miles to the south of Jerusalem. It is now the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the State of Palestine.
In the New Testament, accounts by the apostles Matthew, say that Jesus was born in a manger in the city of Bethlehem. What is a matter of debate, is if Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus were living temporarily in Bethlehem and later moved to Nazareth, or if they were in Bethlehem to be counted in the census that Caesar Augustus, the emperor of the Roman Empire, had ordered.
Micah’s prophesy too confirms the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem –
“But you, Bethlehem, Ephrata, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” – Micah 5:2
Most of the arguments that dispute Christ’s birth in Bethlehem center on the fact that Jesus has been referred to as Galilean and Nazarethian through most of the New Testament. The following accounts, however, clear up this confusion –
“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David … 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.” – Luke 2:4-7
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him’ ” – Matthew 2:1, 2
The Church of Nativity now stands in Bethlehem on the site that is traditionally considered the birth place of Jesus. Not only is it one of the oldest churches in the world, it is also considered a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Emperor Constantine is believed to have built the original church on the site in 326 CE. This was destroyed and rebuilt on various occasions throughout history. The Church of Nativity is protected by the ‘Status Quo,’ the understanding that allows various religious communities to share sacred sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
While the debate is still ongoing, much bigger dispute surrounding the birth of Jesus exists.
Jesus’ birth is celebrated on December 25th, as Christmas, analysis of biblical scriptures reveals that this may not have been an accurate estimate of his birthday.
If we are to agree that Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem to be counted in the census (Luke 2:1-4), it stands to reason that such a census would not have been conducted in the peak of winter. Luke 2:7-8 says that the shepherds were in the fields with their flocks when Jesus was born. Again, this indicates to early fall rather than winter. It has been suggested that December 25th may have been suggested as the date of Christ’s birth in order to replace the pagan festival of Yuletide.