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BETHLEHEM


534


BETHLEHEMITES


Jerusalem. At an altitude of 2,350 feet it spreads out between the Wadi el Hrobbe in the North and the Wadi er-Riihib in the south; the land of Moab is visible in the south-east, a detail to be remembered in reading the beautiful storv of Ruth the Moabitess, the scene of which is Bethlehem (Smith, op. cit.). The main resources of Bethlehem are agriculture and the sale of religious articles; the city is also the market-place of the peasants and bedouins of the neighbourhood.

According to Gen., xxxv, 16, 19; xlviii, 7, Bethle- hem was associated with the patriarchal history. The sepulchre of Rachel, or Qubbet Rahll (Rachel's dome) as it is called now, about one mile north of Bethlehem, still sho%\Ti to the pilgrim and venerated by Christians, Mohammedans, and Jews, is referred to again in I Kings (Sam.), x, 2, and Matt., ii, 16-18; cf. Jer., xxxi, 15. As an examination of these pas- sages show-s, the tradition presents some obscurities, and critics question the correctness of the gloss (Gen., xxxv, 19) which identifies Ephrata with Bethlehem, supposing it the result of a confusion between Betlilehera-Ephrata [Ruth, iv, 11; Mich., v, 2 (1)], i. e. oiu- Bethlehem, and another Eplirata in the north, otherwise unknown, or assume two differ- ent traditions regarding Rachel's sepulchre. (Cf. commentaries: Driver in Hast., "Diet, of the Bible", IV, 19.3, a; Buhl, op. cit., 156, 159; Badeker-Benzin- ger, "Palastina und Syrien", 1904, 91.) Bethlehem is mentioned also in Judges as the home of the young Levite who went to Michas (xvii, 7 sqq.) and of the young woman (xix, 1 sqq.) whose death caused the expedition against the tribe of Benjamin. In the Old Testament, however it is connected especially with the great King David (I Kings, xvi, 1 and jxissim), whose name is given to the three cisterns (Bi 'ar Da 'ud), found north-west of the town, not far from the tomb of Rachel. A tradition not older than the end of the fifteenth century, according to Badeker-Benzinger (p. 91), sees therein the cistern referred to in II Kings, xxiii, 14 sqq. and I Par. (Chron.), xi, 16 sqq. Later the city was fortified by Roboani (II Par., xi, 6), and I Esd. (Ezrah), ii, 21 sqq. [cf. II Esd. (Nehem.), vii, 26] informs us of the return of 123 Bethleheuiites from the Captivity.

In the New Testament, we have, with the exception of John, vii, 42, references to Bethlehem only in Matt., ii, and Luke, ii, whose narratives of the birth of the Saviour in the city of David have rendered it most dear to Christians. Many modern critics, how- ever, are making Bethlehem again "little among the thousands of Judah" (Schmidt, The Prophet of Nazareth, 1905, 246) by attacking the historical value of the Gospel narratives. Some place Our Lord's birth at Nazareth, called His iraTpls in the Gospels (Mark, vi,l, and parall.; cf. i,9; i, 24, etc.); this is done by almost all those who deny the historicity of the Infancy, endeavouring to explain our narra- tives as a legend arisen from tne Jewish tradition that the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem, occasioned by -Micheas, v, 2 (1). (Cf. Targum; also John, vii, 42; Strauss. Life of Christ, tr. Eliot, from the 4th Germ, edit., 1S40, § 32, end, § 39; Usener in "Encyc. Bib.", Ill, 3346-47; Schmidt, op. cit., 243, 246; Weiss in •■Die Schriften des N. T.", Gottingen, 1906, I, 1, pp. 46, 221-223, 393-395.) Others more seldom give tlie explanation already mentioned.

This question, which is part of the larger problems connected with cc. i-ii of Matt, and Luke, cannot be discussed here. [See besides the lives of Jesus and commentaries; Ramsay, "Was Christ born at Beth- lehem?", 1898, and Qdirinius, Census of.] Suffice it to remark here that if the second explanation re- moves some difficulties, it requires us to go entirely Ix'hind the narratives of botli Matt, and Luke, who most clearly mean only Bethlehem of Juda (see Knowling, "Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels",


New York, 1906, I, 204). Against the first explana- tion it may be noted with many critics that Matt, and Luke agree independently in placing the birth at Bethlehem without, in St. Luke's case, any sign of influence of Micheas' prophecy (Knowling, op. cit.; Nichol, "Dictionary of Christ", I. 195, a; Jacquier, "Hist, des livres du N. T.", Paris, 1905, II, 209). We must not, however, exaggerate the value of that argument. (Cf. Revue d'histoire et de litterature religieuses, Jan.-Feb., 1906, 62 sqq.) These diffi- culties were unknown to the ancient 'WTiters, who reproduce simply the Gospel narrati\-es with addi- tions, in some eases possibly historical. About 150 we find St. Jtistin Martyr referring (Cial., Ixxviii) to the Saviour's birth as having taken place in a cave near the village of Bethlehem; such cave stables are not rare in Palestine. (Cf. Massie in Hast., Diet, of the Bible, III, 234; Expository- Times, May, 1903, 384; Bonaccorsi, "II Natale", "Rome, 1903, 16-20.) The tradition of the birth in a cave was widely ac- cepted, as we sec from Origen's words about a century later: "In Bethlehem the cave is pointed out where He was born, and the manger in the cave where He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, and the rumour is in tho.se places and among foreigners of the Faith that indeed Jesus was born in this cave". (Contra Celsum, I, Ii.) It is reproduced also in the apocry- phal gospels (Pseudo-Matt., xiii, ap. Bonaccorsi, op. cit., 159-163; Protevang. of James, xvii sqq., Bonaccorsi, 155-159; Gospel of the Infancy, II-IV, Bonaccorsi, 163-164). Over the traditional spot of the Nativity stands a church (St. Mary of the Na- tivity), surrounded on the north-west and south- west by the convents of the Latins (Franciscans), Greeks, and Armenians, respectivel}\ The building is, apart from additions and modifications made by Justinian (527-565), substantially the work of Con- stantine (about 330). L^nderneath that most ancient and venerable monument of Christianity, a favourite resort of pilgrims throughout the centuries, is the grotto of the Nativity. The Nativity chapel, run- ning in the same general direction as the church (east to west), is situated under the choir; at the eastern end is a silver star with the inscription: Hie dc Virgine Maria Jesus Christiis nalus est, and near the chapel of the Crib (see Bonaccorsi, op. cit., 77- 113). Other grottoes to the north and north-west connected with that of the Nativity are associated, mostly by recent traditions (c. fifteenth century), with the narratives of Matt., ii, mainly, and with the memory of the great scholar St. Jerome and his company of pious and learned friends (Sanders, Etudes sur S. Jerome, Paris, 1903, 29 sqq.).

Edwabd Arbez.

Bethlehem, an architectural term used in the Ethiopic Church for the oven or bakehouse for baking the Korban or Eucharistic bread. It is a usual at- tachment to Coptic churches and is generally situated somewhere within the enclosure of the church. It is shown in the plan of Mari Mina and the adjoining church of Mari Banai. The four walls of Dair Abu Makar enclose one principal and one or two smaller court-yards around which stand the cells of the monks, domestic buildings, such as the milkroom, the oven (Bethlehem), the refectory and the Uke.

Butler, The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, I, 4S.

Thom.\s H. Poole. Bethlehem, Councils of. See Jerusalem, Synod

OF.

Bethlehemites. — I. Militarj' order; II. Hospi- talers. I. There were two military orders dedicated to Our Lady of Bethlehem and 'known under the name of Bethlehemites. Matthew Paris calls atten- tion to the former in his "Grande Chronique" (tr. Huillard-Br^holles, Paris, 1840, 8vo, III, 300) where he mentions that Henry III of England