The birthplace of Jesus (Luke 2)

Bethlehem of Judah, located at modern Bethlehem, was already an ancient habitation during Old Testament times. Genesis 35:19 and 48:7 mention the site was also called Ephrathah (or Ephrath), a name preserved in the prophecy of Micah 5:2. This town is the principal setting for the book of Ruth, the great-grandmother of king David, as well as the home of David (1 Samuel 16). During David’s lifetime the city was sometimes under Philistine control (2 Samuel 23:14), although Rehoboam fortified it after the secession of the northern tribes (2 Chronicles 11:5-6).

The archaeology of Bethlehem has focused almost entirely upon historical tradition surrounding the Church of the Nativity. Justin Martyr in the second century identified a cave near the village as the place of Jesus’ birth, and the church was built over this grotto. Emperor Constantine constructed the first basilica there in approximately A.D. 326. While this building was badly damaged in a Samaritan revolt (529). the church was rebuilt by Justin (reigned 527-565). The Christian population of Bethlehem severely declined after the Muslim conquest, although the church building was restored to some of its former glory  during the Crusader period. It fell into near ruin again during the period of  Turkish rule, but repairs were made beginning in 1670. To this day the church continues to be at the centre of religious and political tensions.

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