Christian author and speaker Nick Page has published a new book in which he states that Jesus was not born in a stable - and that Mary and Joseph were not turned away by a hard-hearted inn-keeper.
In 'Whatever happened to the Ark of the Covenant?', Page sets out to separate the Nativity facts from the myths.
"Every nativity play, every nativity scene, every Christmas card - they have all got it wrong," said Page.
"The actual Greek word used by Luke doesn't not refer to an inn at all, but to a guestroom. Most likely Mary and Joseph were lodging with relatives. There wasn't enough room, so they were sleeping in the place where the animals are kept.
"In peasant households of the time, animals were kept in the lower part of the house, partly so the animals wouldn't be stolen, and partly because the heat from their bodies provided a kind of rudimentary central heating."
The idea of the stable is, according to Page, just one of the things that society has gotten wrong in the traditional rendition of the Christmas story. He also argues that Mary was probably only fourteen, that Joseph was not much older and that both came from very poor backgrounds.
"The trouble is that the stable and all that tends to turn the whole thing into a kind of fairy-tale," he explained. "But the gospel writers weren't just highlighting the miraculous nature of the events, they were pointing out that the whole thing took place against a background of poverty and hardship.
"To them, the idea that Jesus was born to a peasant household and laid in an animal's feeding trough was as amazing as the star and the angelic choir."
Page stressed that the facts really do matter "if you care about the history and want to get to the reality of what actually happened".
"And I think it's good news for inn-keepers everywhere. There never was an inn and there never was a hard-hearted innkeeper. These guys have had nearly two thousand years of bad PR, all because we translate the word wrongly," he added.
'Whatever happened to the Ark of the Covenant?' tackles some of the other big questions thrown up by the Bible, including the question of the title, where did the Ark of the Covenant really end up, how tall Zaccheus was and why Judas kissed
"These are questions that have always bothered me," commented Page. "I think the answers give us a fascinating insight into the times of the Bible. Or maybe I should just get out more...."
Jesus was not born in a stable, says Christian author
Published 21 December 2007 | Jennifer Gold