A NEARER VIEW OF THE CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY
affairs. The horses are to be pitied, first, because they are not well cared for, and second, because their drivers are regular Jehus who drive them “furiously” up hill and down. In less than an hour we are in the marketplace of Bethlehem, in front of the Church of the Nativity.
Let us suppose we have arrived on Christmas eve, in time to wander about and to become acquainted with the little city.
Of course it has changed in appearance since the time of the birth of Christ. It is larger, and better built. Now, as then, the houses are of stone, and, as cities and customs change but little in the East, we may safely infer that modern Bethlehem houses are much like those of nineteen hundred years ago. Perhaps some of the old buildings that were in existence so long ago may still be standing. Of course the great Church of the Nativity was not then erected, nor were any of the large religious buildings we see. These are the memorials of a later date, built in honor of Him whose earthly life began here. One would have to be unmindful of his surroundings and very unimaginative not to wonder what the place was like on that night the anniversary of which we are celebrating.
We know that then, as on this December 24, it was filled with people. But those people had come for a different purpose. Augustus Caesar, the master of the then known world, had issued an imperial decree ordering a general registration of all his subjects. This was for the purpose of revising or completing the tax-lists. According to Roman law, people were to register in their own cities—that is, the city in which they lived, or to which their village or town was attached. According to Jewish methods they would register by tribes, families, and the houses of their fathers. Joseph and Mary were Jews, and conformed to the Jewish custom. It
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REMEMBER: Peoples' attitudes toward race, religion, and culture were a lot different when this was written! The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of TravelHistory.org or of Hidden Knowledge, Publishers.