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BETHLEHEM


533


BETHLEHEM


" House of Breod "; to-day Beith-Lahm, " House of Flesh ". There died Rachel, Jacob's wife (Gen. , xxxv, 19) ; David was born there (I Kings, xvii, 12) , and many other Biblical personages. There was enacted the gracious idyll of Ruth and Booz. There, above all, the Saviour was born, a descendant of David, and from this fact the humble village has acquired un- paralleled glory. It was at Bethlehem, also, that in the fourth century St. Jerome, St. Paula, and St. Eustochiura fixed their residence. According to John Cassian, it was in a monastery of Bethlehem that the office of Prime was instituted. As early as the second century it was indicated by St. Justin Martyr, a native of Neapolis (Xablous), as the place of the Nativity. About a. d. 330 Constantine the Great built a basilica on this site. The present church appears to date from a later time — either the fifth or the sixth century — and has been repaired at still later periods. The Prankish kings were wont to come from Jerusalem to be crowned at BetUehem, in memory of the coronation of David by Samuel. The greater part of the church is now shared by various communions; while the choir belongs to the Greeks alone, the Grotto of the Nativity is open to the Latins, the Greeks, and the Armenians, who hold services there each in turn.

The first Bishop of Bethlehem, Arnolfo (1099- 1103), was appointed by the Crusaders. The see was not canonically erected vmtil 1109, when the title was united with that of Ascalon, till then a Greek diocese (Revue de I'Orient latin, I, 141). The Diocese of Bethlehem-Ascalon existed from 1109-1378, but since the middle of the thirteenth century its bishops resided at Clamecy in France. The Diocese of Bethlehem-CIamecy was created in 1378, and suppressed by the Concordat between Napoleon and Pius VII, in 1801. The titular Bishop- rics of Bethlehem and Ascalon, however, had existed separately from 1378 to 1603, when they were sup- pressed. From 1801 to 1840 both residential and titular sees, either of Bethlehem or Ascalon, were extinct. In 1840, Gregory XVI reunited the title of Bethlehem in perpetuum to the independent Abbey of St. Maurice d'Agaune in Switzerland. In 1867 the titular See of Ascalon was also re-established.

Bethlehem is to-day a little town with about 10,000 inhabitants, exclusive of foreigners (5,000 Latins, 100 Catholic, or Melchite, Greeks, 4,0(li» Greeks, a few Armenians and Mussulmans). The inhabitants are very active and industrious. Be- sides agriculture, they are engaged in the fabrication of wooden, mother-of-pearl, and bituminous lime- stone objects, such as beads, crosses, etc. The women are remarkably beautiful and wear a peculiar costume which is very rich and of ancient pattern. The Franciscans govern the Latin parish, a scholas- ticate, a primary school, and an asylum; the Christian Brothers have a novitiate for native young men; the Fathers of the Sacred Heart, or Betharramites, have a scholasticate for their missions in South America; the Salesians conduct an industrial school with an orphanage and an elementary school; the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition have two convents, a school, an orphanage, and an infant school; the Sisters of Charity have a hospital and an orphanage; the Carmelite nuns, a monastery. The Greek Catholic parish lately established has not yet a church. There are also Greek and Armenian monasteries, and schools conducted by Greeks, Armenians, and Protestants.

Leqoien. Or. Christ.. III. 1275-1386; Gams, 516; Eubki,, I, 138; II, 1 18; Riant, Ktiules sur Vhistoire de I'ivfcht de BethUem (Genoa, 1888). completerl by papers in Revue de lOncnt laltn, I. 140-160, 381-412, 475-524; II, 35-72, with an exhaustive biblioKraphy; Mas-Latrie, Triaar de chronologie (Pans, 1889), col. 1391-94; Gu£rin, Judee, I, 120-207; Condeh, Tenlwork in Palestine. I, 282.

S. VAILHfi.

U.— 34


Bethlehem. — The old Hebrew name bHh lehem, meaning "house of bread", has survived till the present day. In its Arabic form, however, bit lahm, it means "house of meat". Several scholars (Smith, Hist. Geog. of the Holy Land, 1906, 318. n. 2) hold that the name is connected with Lakhmu, one of the divinities in the Babylonian Creation myth and that Bethlehem was a sacred shrine of that god in ancient times. Tliis is possible, but there is no actual evi- dence in favour of the conjecture. Two cities of the name are known from Sacred Scripture: I. Beth- lehem is mentioned in Jos., xix, 1.5, as one of the twelve cities belonging to the tribe of Zabulon. It is but a small town, poorly built, and of no great importance (Bulil, Geog. des alten Palastina, 1896, 215), a little less than seven miles south-west of Sap- phoris (Saffurleh) and seven miles north-west of Nazareth, the home of Our I^ord. Critics do not agree among themselves whether the Bethlehem described in Judges, xii, 8, 10, as the home of Abesan (Ibzan), one of the minor judges, is the same as that of Jos., xix, 15, or Bethlehem of Juda. A large num- ber if not the majority of modern commentators, are in favour of Bethlehem of Zabulon. But ancient tradition (Josephus, Antiq., V, vii, 13; cf. also Moore, Judges, Int. Crit. Com.) made Abesan spring from Bethlehem of Juda and the view is ably defended by Father Lagrange in his commentary (Smith, op. cit.; Hogg, Encyc. Bib., IV, 5389). In any case


the importance of that city was never great. But the efforts of some modern critics have made it more famous. Unable to accept as historical the narratives of Our Lord's birth in Bethlehem of Juda, these scholars would place the Nativity in Bethlehem of Zabulon, referred to in the Talmud (Megilla, 70, a) as Bethlehem seHyyah, which is regarded as equiva- lent to noseryyah, i. e. Bethlehem of Nazareth (of Galilee), a certainly remarkable combination of two names so well known from the Gospels (R^ville, J&us de Nazareth, 2nd ed., Paris, 1906, I, 360).

II. Bethlehem of Judea [so the Greek text of Matt., ii, 1, erroneously corrected by St. Jerome to Bethlehem of Juda, thinking that the Evangelist had in his original text conformed to the Old Testament usage (Judges, xvii, 7, xix, 1; I Kings (Sam.), xvii, 12)], is much more celebrated than its northern namesake as the birthplace of David, and above all, of Our Lord. The city, which numbers now about 10.000 inliabi- tants, almost exclusively Christians, is situated five miles south of Jerusalem at a very short distance from the highroad from Jerusalem to Hebron, in the midst of a most teautiful cotmtry (Buhl, op. cit., 19), which contrasts favourably with the neighbourhood of