[B-Greek] Luke 2:7

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Tue Nov 25 00:20:39 EST 2008

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carl Conrad" <cwconrad2 at mac.com>
To: "Alan Terlep" <atterlep at gmail.com>
Cc: <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: 25. november 2008 05:28
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Luke 2:7

> On Nov 24, 2008, at 7:50 PM, Alan Terlep wrote:
>> In Luke 2:7, 'm wondering if OUK HN AUTOIS TOPOS could mean "there
>> was no
>> place _for them_" in the sense, "they were not given a place?"  As a
>> preacher, I'd really like to be able to ask whether there is "a
>> place" for a
>> teenage mother and her illegitimate child in my church, but I want
>> to be
>> responsible about interpreting the text even more.
> I think that the text, OUK HN AUTOIS TOPOS means in its context, "they
> had no room" or "there was no room for them." The context does not
> indicate that there was space/room which was denied them; the
> indication is simply that the KATALUMA did not have room for them,
> that it was filled to capacity. I don't think more can be read out of
> the text than it supplies.
> Carl W. Conrad

Since Alan is a preacher, he may be interested in some additional background.

The word KATALUMA is used in the NT to refer to an upstairs guestroom, not an inn or public lodging. 
It was common in larger houses to have such a guestroom. Luke uses the same word to refer to the 
upstairs, large guestroom where Jesus had his final Passover meal with the disciples. (Luke 22:11, 
cf. Mark 14:14).
Luke does refer to a public inn or lodging place for travelers in 10:34 and calls it a PANDOCEION 
with an inn-keeper - PANDOCEUS.

Joseph is bound to have had relatives in Bethlehem, and the culture would dictate that he and Mary 
should stay with them rather than in a public inn, if there was one in Bethlehem, which is very 
doubtful. However, other relatives had already taken up the guestroom space so they were given the 
downstairs open space where animals were sheltered during cold nights in winter time. Jesus was not 
born in winter time, so the sheep were out in the grazing fields at night (with the shepherds).

So, apart from the Greek text itself (with its word order and emphasis), the context makes it clear 
that it is not a matter of being "shown the door" from a public inn. They were welcomed into the 
home of a relative, but had to make do with the downstairs place for animals rather than the normal, 
upstairs guestroom. Is there a place for a teenage mother and her child to be born plus an (oldish?) 
"father" in a church member's home? (I don't want to compare Jesus to an illegitimate child, since 
his situation is absolutely unique).

Iver Larsen

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