After entering the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, walk to the area to the right of the altar and take the stone steps down to the underground grotto. There you will find the exact birthplace of Jesus, emblazoned with the metal starburst above. But is this really Jesus' birthplace?
If the Nativity Church simply claimed that the birthplace of Jesus is somewhere in the 14,000 square yards that it covers, the claim would seem more credible. But the claim that the above starburst's circle, which is only about 5 inches across and too small to even fit a baby, is the exact spot of Jesus' birth, raises the question, "How do they know that this is the exact spot where Jesus was born?"
By the time Jesus ascended, Joseph, the husband of His mother, Mary, already had died. That left only Mary as the living witness of Jesus' birth.* Did Mary take Jesus' disciples back to Bethlehem, enter the barn where she had given birth to Jesus some 30 years prior, point to a spot on the ground and declare, "There, that's the spot where Jesus came out of me"?
The precision (or the lack thereof) of Jesus birthplace aside, staring at the starburst above did lead me to think about Jesus, whose birth the spot is supposed to mark, and reminded me of the "Lord, Lunatic, Liar" argument that had forced me to revisit my once die-hard atheism:
Unlike the founders of religions who claimed to be God's messenger, Jesus actually claimed to be God.** Before jumping to a conclusion, the theoretical possibilities first had to be considered. Jesus' claim of being God could only be true or false.
If the claim is true, then Jesus is
who he claimed to be - God or LORD.
C.S. Lewis, the Englishman who reasoned as above, pointed out that the unprecedented nature of Jesus' claim precludes any other possibility. In particular, Jesus couldn't have been just a wise teacher or prophet because falsely claiming to be God isn't wise.
I tried hard to come up with a fourth option that would allow me to brush Jesus aside as just a wise teacher or prophet. Having failed, I then spent months looking for evidences in favor of Jesus having been a lunatic (it seemed the least-worst option of the three for me).
When I discovered instead are mentioned in the page on Capernaum.
* So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:3-7)
** Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:12-18). Jesus also identified Himself as, "I AM," the name that God gave Himself in the Old Testament: Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14) Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by (John 8:57-59).
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