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tv   The Nativity Facts Fictions and Faith  FOX News  December 24, 2015 8:00pm-9:01pm PST

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our forefathers. i'm jon scott. >> i'm jenna lee, and thank you for watching. >> christmas eve in manger square at the church of the nativity in bethlehem -- the birth of jesus christ has been celebrated here for nearly 2,00 years. the tradition continues today and is celebrated with grand processions, joyful music, and thoughtful prayer. for christians around the world, this is when god became man, and a simple message of peace and love changed the world forever. [ choir vocalizing ] "hark, the herald angels sing, 'glory to the newborn king.'" every year, christians around the world celebrate the birth of
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their savior with songs of joy and prayers of thanksgiving. hello, everyone. i'm lauren green. and welcome to our special, "the nativity: facts, fictions & faith." 2,000 years after jesus walked the earth, how much do we really know about the nativity story? is it a complete and true history? is some of it tradition? is any of it myth? we take you to israel and palestine to trace the remarkable story of jesus' birth. you'll see the spot in nazareth where word of a virgin birth first came to a teenage girl and a jaw-dropping view of this palace fortress of king herod, the demonic ruler who wanted to kill the newborn king. plus -- the road to bethlehem was long and dangerous for mary and joseph. but to understand who jesus is, we start where his life began. claire, where are we right now? >> well, we're standing in the little town of bethlehem, and you can already that the little town of bethlehem is now
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actually a vibrant and a thriving city. and we're at the heart of this city, which is where the city of jesus' day -- or actually the jewish village from jesus' time -- centered itself right here at manger square. >> this is so different from the song -- "oh, little town of bethlehem, how still we see thee lie." biblical scholar claire pfann takes us through the church of the nativity, the site where the gospels tell us jesus was born. >> the wonderful thing about the church of the nativity is that this tradition goes back to the second century, when the local people remembered where the families lived. >> bethlehem is located on the edge of the judaean desert, just 6 miles south of jerusalem and 80 miles from nazareth. a church has been on this site since the fourth century. this is really quite impressive. the columns -- the first thing you see right here are the columns. explain them. >> the columns are actually from local stone. many people thought that they
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were marble and imported, but they were quarried nearby bethlehem, and they're from our local rose-colored granite that polishes to a very high sheen and gloss. most of the columns are from the original constantinian church. that means they go back to the fourth century. >> after the roman emperor constantine converted to christianity in 313, he sent his mother, helena, to build chapels here at the birth site and in jerusalem, where jesus was crucified. the four new testament gospels are the "good news" accounts of jesus' life, ministry, death, and resurrection, but the birth stories are only found in the gospel according to saint matthew and the gospel according to saint luke. >> the christmas story occupies a few verses in matthew, a few more verses in luke, not at all in mark, and only is hinted at very obliquely in john. >> n.t. wright is a former bishop of the anglican church in england. >> and so there's a sense of awe
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and wonder as you go back to those birth stories that you can hardly bring yourself to say it, but this was actually how the living god became human. >> they emphasize different aspects of the events to bring out a different theological point. >> roman catholic priest father pablo gadenz is a professor of biblical studies. >> but nonetheless, all of these gospels present us the honest truth. they faithfully tell us what jesus actually said and did. >> scripture's not something to be "eaten" quickly. it's not fast food. it's a luxurious banquet, and you should take your time with it. >> greek orthodox priest father mark arey is a translator of the bible. >> it's not supposed to be a videotape that we can play, like, on the history channel and watch. what it is, is it is an account through a specific lens, with a specific purpose to invite us into the life in god, into the life in christ, into the life of the church. >> god sent forth his son, born of a woman, and what was the
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reason for that? we could not find salvation on our own. we could not be freed from our sins on our own. and so god enters into our world. >> for people who have not visited bethlehem, entered the church of the nativity, or descended into the grotto, it may be surprising to learn that jesus was born here in a cave, not in a stable. >> so, as we are standing in a natural cave that is made in the soft limestone here, we see first the grotto of the birth, the nativity, and the star marks the place where traditionally mary gave birth to jesus. so, as we step over to the left, we have the manger, the altar of the manger, which served as jesus' crib, according to luke chapter two, and then the altar of the magi, the wise men who came to visit. >> the languages of the bible writers were hebrew, aramaic, and greek, and translations can shape meaning. >> now, why did they go down into a cave to have a baby? well, luke tells us that they
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laid him in a manger because there was no room in the inn. now, this word "inn" is what trips us up every time. the greek word is kataluma. it's a very simple word -- k-a-t-a-l-u-m-a -- and it means the "guest room" or the "upper room." it means that the house is full and there's no privacy. and rather than being able to give birth in the guest room, they take her down into the basement cave where things are quiet, where there aren't a bunch of children running around, where they can have some warmth, and she gives birth there. but clearly she's in a family setting. >> and -- [ speaking greek ] which means, "he was born in the cave and laid in the manger." a manger is a trough where animals feed from. that's where they put him for like a bed. the swaddling clothes are grave clothes, and the cave in which he's born is reminiscent of the cave in which he was buried. because as orthodox christians, we understand his birth is a sign of his humility and so is
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his death. they are bookends to a life that is transformed in resurrection and that transforms our life. >> the old testament prophesied the coming of a jewish messiah, a triumphant king who would throw out the oppressors and reclaim jerusalem. but the setting of jesus' birth in a cave is not nearly as important as the prediction that he would be a descendant of the royal house of david, the beloved king of israel, and the birth would be in bethlehem. >> we have to try to remember the history leading up to the birth of christ and a great sense of unease among the jewish people because the monarchy under king david had seemingly come to an end. for centuries, then, five centuries, the jewish people didn't have their own king. they were under the babylonians and then under the persians and then under the greeks and then under the romans. >> people asking the question, "when is our god actually going to do what he said he would do?
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when is he going to act to transform our situation, to bring justice and peace to the world?" >> regardless of the facts, fictions, and faith, the nativity stories become much more meaningful when we know the history of the first century in the holy land. >> most christians today think of christmas just as a cute family festival with presents and christmas trees and so on. it's actually the most powerful and subversive thing that we could be celebrating. it's about the entire overthrow of the way the world is and its replacement with a different sort of world altogether. instead of power being about the big boys bullying everybody into submission, this is, as jesus himself said, about someone who "didn't come to be served, but to serve," and to give his life as a ransom for many. that is spiritually powerful. it is also politically dynamite. >> we'll return to bethlehem for a tour of the church of the nativity, but first we travel north to galilee, where jesus lived and
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conducted his ministry. in nazareth, we will see evidence of a first-century house. now, we can't say that jesus grew up in it, but we can be fairly certain he walked by. get fast-acting, long-lasting relief from heartburn with it neutralizes stomach acid and is the only product that forms a protective barrier that helps keep stomach acid in the stomach where it belongs. for fast-acting, long-lasting relief. try gaviscon®.
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stop taking tamiflu and call your doctor immediately. children and adolescents in particular may be at an increased risk of seizures, confusion, or abnormal behavior. the most common side effects are mild to moderate nausea and vomiting. anti-flu? go antiviral with tamiflu. >> when jesus began his ministry and first met those who'd become his disciples, a man from galilee asked, "can anything good come from nazareth?" the bad reputation was attached to jesus' hometown because, as a backward peasant village, it was known for its lack of culture. turns out this modest place would have a much richer history than originally thought. nazareth, located north of jerusalem in the galilee region, is today a bustling arab community, one third of whom are christian. 2,000 years ago, it was a very small jewish village with only a few hundred people. village life in jesus' time is reenacted today in this open-air
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museum located on a patch of farmland in modern nazareth. archaeology and early histories tell us it was a relatively new town when jesus grew up here. scripture says, "jesus of nazareth," but then the scripture also says jesus was born in bethlehem. jesus of nazareth, jesus of bethlehem -- let's bring those two together. >> almost every christian in the world believes that jesus was born in bethlehem. >> dr. james charlesworth is a methodist minister and an archaeologist. >> the vast majority of critical new testament scholars, they have come to the conclusion that jesus was probably born in nazareth. >> why is that? >> he's never called "jesus of bethlehem." >> one of the interesting aspects regarding the traditions of jesus' birth is that there is no serious counterclaim among the early christians that jesus was born outside of bethlehem. >> the old testament includes prophecies that a messiah was expected to come from bethlehem. >> there were people who were
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saying, "this is the time. we've been counting, we've been calculating, we've worked out from the prophecies when this ought to occur, and we think it's pretty much now." >> in recent years, archaeologists have found facts that support that prediction. >> our work in the jewish villages is proving that, in the time of jesus, 80% of the jews came from judaea. that's bethlehem. we are not only people of faith -- we're people with minds. no one digs to get faith. so archaeology can't form faith. but archaeology is absolutely important for informing faith, and we would like to ask every question possible. what we can be certain about is that he's called "jesus from nazareth." this is where he spent his early youth. the nativity story begins here in nazareth with the annunciation. the gospel of luke says the angel gabriel was sent from god to tell mary, a virgin, that she
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would have a son through the holy spirit. we visited the church of the annunciation, the largest site devoted to mary, where roman catholics believe the miracle happened. [ traditional middle eastern music plays ] just a few blocks away is st. gabriel's church, where the greek orthodox say the annunciation was. and below st. gabriel's is mary's well, the traditional site of nazareth's spring -- the place where mary and young jesus would've drawn water. >> i don't think we need to say it was here or there to be able to affirm something beautiful and wonderful has entered our world. >> why the presence of angels in not only mary's life, but joseph's life, as well? >> in the first century, jews believed that the cosmos was filled with demons and angels and the power of god. now, this is a fact of history -- not that angels appeared, but they believed that
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they had experienced angel. and this gave them a meaning in life that maybe we have missed. >> what do we know about mary? >> she was living in a patriarchal society, where she obtains meaning because men give her meaning. her dream, of course, would be to have a man that would love her and that would help her bring a family into this world. so her dream would be to some day be respected and have a son. >> now, joseph -- we don't know much about joseph. >> joseph seems to disappear in the mist of history. >> right nearby is st. joseph's, a church marking the home of the holy couple. tradition says the structure was built over joseph's carpentry workshop, but when we looked at the actual translation from the greek bible, we discovered something else. >> this idea of joseph with a saw and a sawhorse is probably a romanticized version of joseph 'cause he was a builder. he made things. i mean, a tektonos is someone who makes things, who creates
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something. >> it's a mistranslation by people who thought that a builder always worked with wood because of the king james bible. but we have stone here. >> but, remember, we do romanticize about joseph in lots of ways. joseph and mary were never married. most people don't even realize that. >> but didn't they get married later? >> no, never says that they married. never -- in fact, he's never called anything except for her betrothed. >> in the first century, a betrothal was a legal contract. although it's not the same as being married, it's a much stronger bond than we would call today "being engaged." the virgin birth -- how would that go over in a first-century nazarene town? >> obviously, a lot of jews would say, "well, she obviously got raped by a roman. his name is pantera." and we do have those early accounts. but the claim of being born of a virgin, as unusual as it seems,
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was not unthinkable. >> a 13 or 14-year-old girl who is now found to be pregnant and she's not married... that's a death sentence. >> this was the high point in joseph's life because he could've exposed her, and you're right -- she could've been stoned. he protected her. yes, you can have facts, you can have history, but at the end of the day, you don't want to always separate -- was virgin birth fact or fiction? >> and i can make a parallel here perhaps between christmas and easter. at easter, sometimes we hear the question, "how important, how essential is it that jesus actually rose physically from the dead? would it be okay to say that jesus somehow rose in a spiritually way in people's minds and hearts but that his physical body is still in the tomb?" i will say no. [ chuckles ] in the mysteries of his passion and resurrection, we have to understand something about the mystery at the beginning of his life, what we would say the
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mystery of the incarnation, of god becoming man. >> so far, no objects have been found that are directly linked to jesus, the way archaeologists have uncovered evidence of pontius pilate and herod the great. but just before christmas in 2009, a house from the time of jesus was unearthed just across the street from the church of the annunciation. >> for a long time, we've been trying to find any evidence of jewish life here in nazareth. >> could this have been the home of mary and joseph and jesus? >> it is conceivable that mary and jesus and joseph lived here. it's much likely that they visited and a little boy named jesus was running in around all these houses. but there is nothing -- "i, jesus, lived here." if we find something that's from the first century and it was built by a tektonos, that is a builder, one of the possibilities is joseph. but don't forget another possibility is jesus.
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>> today the direct route from nazareth to bethlehem is south on highway 6, and it can take two to three hours, depending on traffic near jerusalem. but for mary and joseph, traffic wasn't a problem. they had to worry about herod the great, bandits, and the rugged terrain. so, which route did the holy family take? that's next. ♪ i built my business with passion.
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nativity: facts, fictions & faith." 2,000 years ago, 1 in every 4 people in the world were dominated by the roman empire. >> so, we're now standing, overlooking an ancient jewish village -- or it's really more of a town than a village. it was called gamla. the word "gamla" comes from the word meaning "camel" because the site sits on a natural spur
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that's shaped like the hump of a camel. >> archaeologist jodi magness has dug throughout the holy land for most of her career and is an expert on daily life in the time of jesus. >> coming down, you see the breach in the wall where you actually have a hole that was bashed through the wall, and then you continue down. the wall continues all the way down the slope of the hill. so you just -- one of the things that you have to imagine when you're here is the roman legions stationed out here, all this artillery, the catapults and the ballistas, and then they're bringing battering rams. >> 30 years after jesus' crucifixion, a defensive wall was built around this town to protect the 9,000 jewish farmers living there. that wall was an affront to their roman rulers. >> you have to realize that the romans were ruling all of these different native peoples, and if they allowed the jews to rebel successfully and gain independence, what would've happened? their empire would've fallen apart because all of these other
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peoples would've said, "oh, the jews did it -- we can do it, too." here we have a town that's frozen in time in the year 67 a.d., the moment it was destroyed by the romans. and that's what makes it so special. >> at least 5,000 jews died at gamla -- others may have escaped -- and gamla was abandoned for 2,000 years. these ruins and the artifacts found here tell us how people lived in the first century. >> life in the first century in gamla was much like village life all throughout the rest of the mediterranean world, throughout the rest of the roman empire. by our modern standards, it was dirty, it was not hygienic, it was not sanitary, but those are the conditions that people lived in normally as the matter of a course of everyday life 2,000 years ago. >> so, what was life like for a little boy growing up in first-century nazareth? >> from a very early age, let's say, you already had to go out and work in the fields or help your father, let's say, with whatever his craft was. >> what is this we're looking at right now? >> well, we're in a room of a
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first-century house, and here we have a grinding stone for grinding grain because, of course, you know you had to grind grain before you could make your bread. so this gives you a wonderful impression of what everyday life was like in the first century. and the fact that your mother, every day, had to grind the grain to make the bread from scratch and draw water at the cistern and bring it back to the house and wash the clothes by hand -- all of the things that today would look to us to be very difficult and like a very poor lifestyle, but this was the lifestyle of the majority of the people in the ancient mediterranean world, and they took it for granted. >> the battle at gamla was part of the first of three violent revolts that raged across galilee and judaea. jerusalem was under siege for three years, and the second temple was destroyed. over 1 million jews were slaughtered. this was during the time of the gospel writers. but when jesus was born, the roman pax, or peace, prevailed. >> when the romans take over
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this area, they actually issued laws that guaranteed the jews freedom of worship. by the first century, by the time of jesus, jews were building purpose-built buildings to accommodate these assemblies, and we happen to be sitting in a first-century synagogue building in the town of gamla. >> all seats around. >> yep, all the seats going around. and a little bit of -- you know, you see some of the columns, the original columns, and the decoration. >> religion for jews -- then as now -- is about more than worship, and the romans did not interfere with the jewish laws for daily living. but this freedom did not exempt jews from being counted in the roman census. and so joseph was forced to travel with a pregnant mary to bethlehem, his ancestral home. the gospel of luke talks about their journey from nazareth to bethlehem. which route would mary and joseph have taken from nazareth down to bethlehem? >> well, first of all, i actually don't believe that they made that trip. i think that the birth narratives are inserted into the
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gospels -- into two of the gospels, by the way, because only two of the gospels have birth narratives, and they're actually not the same narratives. they differ. but i think that the birth narratives were inserted in order to connect jesus with judah because, in order to be descended from king david, he had to have a judaean heritage. >> while there is no archaeological evidence of the holy family's trip, historical facts can help in speculating about their route. >> the main way to go from north to south through this country always -- even today -- is along the coast. but that, of course, is going to take you far out of the way that you have to go, especially if you're going from nazareth to bethlehem. >> the coastal route, the via maris, was already a centuries-old trade route that extended from egypt to mesopotamia. it was also the romans' main thoroughfare and a good reason the holy family would've avoided going that way. so the easier way would simply to be to cut south through the interior hill country and then by way, let's say, of the area
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of jerusalem down to bethlehem -- basically following the route that more or less cuts through the so-called "west bank" today. the interior is hard because it's hilly, it's mountainous, it's rugged, and if the situation is unstable, then security on the roads is not going to be guaranteed. there'll be a lot of criminals running around, bandits, things like that. there is a third way, and that is to cut east through the jezreel valley from the area of nazareth, and then you follow the jordan river south towards the dead sea. when you get to the area of jericho, you then cut westwards, up towards the direction of jerusalem, but, of course, going south towards bethlehem and passing along the way the site of herodium, which is where king herod the great was buried. >> the gospel according to matthew tells the story of another journey to bethlehem. it's about the wise men who traveled from the east, guided by a prophecy and a star. they were looking for the newborn king of the jews, the christ child. but first they had to contend with herod the great because the roman empire had given that
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>> i think, because the story has been domesticated in western culture into this realm of sort of fairyland and santa's grotto, that we miss what, certainly for matthew and luke, is very clear. >> the gospel nativity stories may have different accounts of jesus' birth, but their message is the same. >> in luke, you have augustus caesar sitting on his throne, and he says, "oh, we need a census. we need to raise some more taxes." and at the far end of his empire, this little couple set off, and a baby is born who, within a hundred years, will be the talk of the town around the roman empire. [ traditional middle eastern music plays ] for matthew, we have the focus on king herod, who is an incredible bully and kills his people in his own family and anyone who gets in his way. it's this little weak human baby who we're invited to see as not only supplanting the power
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structures of the world, but changing the very meaning of power itself. >> the whole story of king herod is almost a play on words, where king herod is referred to as "king herod." "king herod --" every time, "king herod." but the reader knows who the real king is. the real king is jesus. >> aaron gale and sarah yeomans bring gospel analysis and archaeology into focus at a place mary and joseph could not avoid on their way from nazareth to bethlehem. [ ominous music plays ] >> herod was very concerned about security. herodium is what we call a palace fortress. it was very important politically for places like this to be not just impressive but intimidating. >> no matter which way you travel from nazareth to bethlehem, this volcano-shaped mound is clearly visible. it's just one of herod the great's monumental building projects in the years before the birth of jesus. >> with just a little
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imagination, it's easy to visualize how beautiful these places would've been, because what we're looking at now are the bones of the structure. but imagine that we are in a palace where the walls are decorated with lavish frescoes in brilliant colors. there would've possibly been gilding, mosaics. water is one of the principal features of a roman palace. it also demonstrates a command of resources. that's pretty impressive, and it's meant to impress. [ soft organ music plays ] >> herod the great, appointed as king of the jews by the roman senate, ruled judaea and much of palestine from 37 to 4 b.c. >> he built caesarea maritima. he rebuilt the second temple, made it much larger, much more lavish. he redid and improved the water systems in jerusalem. he built the fortress palace on top of masada, and he built
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where we are now, herodium, another fortress palace. >> he's respected as israel's greatest builder, but reviled as a paranoid madman who killed his wife, three of his children, and the rabbis of the jewish hasmonean dynasty. in matthew's gospel, when the magi followed their star to jerusalem and asked herod where the king of the jews has been born... [ wistful music plays, woman vocalizing ] ...he commands his soldiers to kill all the babies in bethlehem -- "the slaughter of the innocents." would mary and joseph felt oppressed, in a sense, passing by it? >> i would have in their position -- already feeling threatened just from the years of roman rule, that this would've been a very intimidating place for them. [ soft music plays ] >> why are luke and matthew's nativity stories so different? >> different audience, different
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geography, different authorship, different needs for the community. the gospels are essentially four different perspectives on jesus' life. if you look at matthew's gospel, jesus says, "i've come not to abolish the torah -- i've come to fulfill it." jesus lived and died as a jew. >> why would the nativity story in matthew be meaningful for the jews in galilee? >> mentioned only in matthew's gospel -- they flee with baby jesus, take him to egypt after jesus is born. that's not found in luke's gospel. why is it in matthew's gospel? to conjure up images of moses, who also freed his people, came back from egypt. they both preached from the top of the mountain, they both interpret law, they both cross water, so there are many strands that seem to be linking moses and jesus. >> matthew is saying to a very jewish audience, "you need to pay attention to this story. this is actually your story coming to a surprising fulfillment." [ soft music plays ] one of the extraordinary things about the new testament is jesus is constantly telling stories which say, "god's kingdom is
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arriving, but it doesn't look like you thought it would." and jesus doesn't seem to have fitted into them, and even his own cousin john the baptist, when he's in prison, he sends him a message saying, "are you actually the one who we were looking for, or should we be looking for somebody else?" and jesus sends him a message back and says, "get a load of this -- the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the mute are speaking, the lame are walking, the dead are being raised. yes, i am actually the one that israel and the world has been waiting for." [ music continues ] >> up next, more facts and fictions about the nativity story and why december the 25th might not be the actual date of jesus' birth. then our religious scholars tell us how faith transcends it all. whether your car is a new car. an old car. a big car. a small car. a car that looks kind of plain. a car that looks kind of like a plane. a clean car, a dirty car.
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[ marching band plays, bagpipes play ] >> one of the things about bethlehem that is odd is that it used to be 100% christian, but now it's not. where have all the christians gone? [ man speaking foreign language over loudspeaker ] >> bethlehem was 80% christian and 20% moslem in the early 1990s. now the reverse is true. it's probably 20% christian and 80% moslem. we have seen a tremendous amount of immigration out of the bethlehem area, especially since the second intifada. >> anyone who wants to enter bethlehem to see the site of jesus' birth is required to pass
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through a checkpoint at this enormous wall. it's part of a 96-mile separation barrier built over the past 10 years because of the intense friction between the israelis and the palestinians. tensions between the palestinians and israelis go back to the establishment of the state of israel in 1948. and in 2000, the second intifada left a high number of casualties on both sides. today it is more peaceful, but still the threat of violence remains. but this wall hasn't stopped pilgrims and tourists. [ organ plays ] has there been a rebirth of pilgrimages, then, to bethlehem and the church of the nativity? >> yes, we have seen christians from every background, whether they're western christians or orthodox christians or christians from africa, all acknowledge bethlehem as the birthplace of jesus. and just like today's pilgrims, the wise men took a journey of their own more than 2,000 years ago to see the newly born messiah. >> the gospel of matthew
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introduces us to the magi, and we understand that they're from the east. it doesn't tell us the country, and it doesn't actually tell us the number of magi who come. >> while few facts are known about the wise men, they play a big part in today's christmas celebrations. >> the three kings is an elaboration, and the only reason we think that there are three of them is because matthew says they brought gifts -- gold, frankincense, and myrrh. >> just as mysterious as the wise men was the sign they followed. today's astronomers suggest the magi saw an exploding star or a comet or maybe the planet jupiter. or was the star of bethlehem a miraculous event which no one can explain? >> and of course, it's a great irony because they come to jerusalem and they come to herod and they say, "where is this child born, the king of the jews?" and so there's a sense that the star has led them almost far enough, but actually to the wrong king, and we often miss that when we just do the christmas carol thing, that this is actually much more about the
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fact of jesus is going to draw people from east and west and north and south. [ choir singing hymn ] >> the nativity scene as we envision it today is largely a result of the devotion of saint francis of assisi, who had life-size nativity scenes with live animals. so there are some elements of the way christmas is celebrated which go beyond what we find in the gospel texts. >> so many reenactments of the nativity show this drama about making it to bethlehem and how difficult it was. would he travel 90 miles with a pregnant wife? >> when i talk to my classes about the infancy narratives, i always say, "stop, pause, rewind." forget all the church art, forget the christmas cards, and forget all the movies because we need to hear what luke wants us to hear when he tells us this story. the story of the drama, the story of being pregnant on the donkey and in labor, it does not come from the gospels. you won't find that anywhere in the new testament. if we read luke, we understand
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that she's not about to give birth as she's traveling to bethlehem, that they arrive there before she's going to give birth. [ soft music plays ] not far from the birthplace of jesus is shepherds' field. this church was built on the site where it is said angels appeared and told the shepherds of the messiah's birth. >> luke focuses on these shepherds, and shepherds then, as often today, were poor. they often lived outside the towns and only came in from time to time. and luke focuses on them as the ones who are right at the center of the action, to their own surprise and everybody else's. >> but why is jesus' birth celebrated on december 25th, in the middle of winter? >> if the gospel of luke is any indication of the actual time, when we have shepherds out on the hillsides at night grazing their sheep, then we certainly know that it's not in the dead of winter, because it's absolutely freezing here in the winter. but spring and summer, you could be outside all night, and it would be lovely. so we really don't know the date. the december 25th was chosen
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partly in a response to pagan religions, which had a winter celebration called saturnalia, and the early christians wanted to have a christian focus in the wintertime. and it's almost symbolic in a sense that you celebrate the light coming into the world at the very darkest point of the year. >> the gospels tell us that jesus is born during the reign of herod the great. >> there is also the question about the year of jesus' birth. >> herod the great, according to the standard consensus, died in the year 4 b.c. now, the gospel of matthew, with the story of the massacre of the innocents, says that herod had children less than two years old murdered. and so, from that, if herod dies in 4 b.c., you count back two years, and scholars typically come up with a date of, say, 6
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or 7 b.c. for the birth of christ. [ soft music plays, woman vocalizing ] >> over the past 2,000 years, facts and fictions have been combined into the christmas celebration, but for christians, only one thing is essential. >> i think there are people who are looking for facts and there are people who are looking for fiction, but i think people of faith look for truth. and i think in both narratives, there's the truth. and truth sometimes goes a lot deeper and a lot farther than the detail. >> it isn't just about my private spirituality. as with the story of jesus, it's something which must transform the whole of one's life and, through one's own life, all sorts of other things out there in the world. >> coming up next -- our tour of bethlehem and the church of the nativity. the flu virus hits big. with aches, chills,
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>> so, where we're standing would've been jesus' ancestral home from the family of joseph. >> yes, from the family of joseph. so, although we know that he grew up in nazareth, we know from stories that there were relatives in this area, that there was an ancestral home -- he was of the family of david. the wonderful thing about the church of the nativity is that this tradition goes back to the second century, when the local people remembered where the families lived. [ soft music plays, woman vocalizing ] >> claire pfann has celebrated christmas at the church of the nativity many times over the past 30 years. >> so, in the fourth century, queen helena came. she conferred with the local christians to ask about the traditions of jesus' birth. they agreed that this was the place that the family had lived and that the birth had taken place. >> constantine, the first roman emperor to become a christian,
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sent his mother, helena, to the holy land to find relics and build churches. the church of the nativity has evolved over time. [ traditional middle eastern music plays ] >> this is the original lintel of the doorway here that was subsequently blocked. and slowly, the doors were filled in, perhaps as a defensive measure to protect against marauding soldiers on horseback, and ultimately a very small door that you have to bend down to enter in reverently. >> although burned and destroyed in the sixth century, some evidence of the original church remains. so, what are we seeing here, this mosaic down here? >> we're actually looking at the floor of the fourth-century constantinian church, so this floor is 1,700 years old, and it's done in a very typical byzantine style of geometrics and florals -- no depictions of people and no depictions of animals. so, really, out of the fourth-century church, what we see are these pillars and this
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floor, and that's about it. >> in the late sixth century, the roman emperor justinian rebuilt the church. the crusaders expanded it and used it for the coronation of their kings into the 12th century. others have fought at this holy place -- the persians, the turks -- most recently, in april of 2002... when palestinian militants wanted by the israeli defense force took refuge here for 39 days. priests carried bodies of 10 palestinians who were killed when the church came under fire during the siege. [ mystical music plays ] >> beautiful altar. >> it is beautiful. we're walking up to the main altar area of this church -- from the greek orthodox tradition. and you can see that it's decorated in a way that is unfamiliar to us who are from the west, but they have a beautiful screen called an iconostasis with silver and gold depictions of the saints and the
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holy family. and this is seen as a connecting point between heaven and earth. to our right, we have the armenian altar... [ music continues ] ...and to the left, a small altar, as well. here in bethlehem, we get christmas three times. >> [ chuckles ] >> we have christmas on december 25th for the western rite, and the catholics will celebrate christmas eve mass there and then bring a doll of jesus and put it in the grotto of the nativity. on january 7th, we have greek orthodox christmas, and then, on january 19th, we have armenian christmas. so it's a very special place in christian religious experience. >> wow. this is a totally different world. >> it is -- we've stepped from the east into the west, and we've walked into the medieval cloister of the church of saint catherine, named for saint catherine of alexandria, but the real hero, the real star
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of this place, isn't saint catherine -- it's saint jerome. we see a statue there in the middle of the courtyard. >> saint jerome lived in bethlehem in the late fourth century and wrote about the tradition of the birthplace of jesus. >> and, of course, the most important thing that jerome did was that he translated the bible into latin. and here below saint catherine's -- the chapel of the holy innocents, and that commemorates the children who were massacred by king herod's men. so, we're coming into the continuation of the cave complex that is underneath the church of the nativity. >> and that's where jesus was born -- he was born in sort of a cave like this, sort of a cellar or basement of somebody's home. >> that's right. and the burial caves of saint jerome and saint paula and saint eustochium are here behind this wall, deeper into the cave complex. [ soft music plays ] >> these early christians established the first monasteries and nunneries in bethlehem and commemorated a site where some would say facts,
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fictions, and faith come together -- the milk grotto, a site where tradition says the holy family hid when herod sent his soldiers to kill all the babies in bethlehem. >> according to the first christian belief, while mary was nursing her baby here, some drops of her milk fell to the ground. >> tradition says a miracle occurred in this cave a short distance from jesus' birth site, when the drops of mary's milk turned the walls white. and according to franciscan brother lawrence, people come here hoping for more miracles. >> and because mary's milk fell here, they would ask for the powder of her milk. we have small packets of the powder from the milk grotto stone. so, what do they with this powder? with the husband, every day, they would put a small grain of this powder into milk or water or juice. they would drink it. there's a special devotional prayer if they're catholic. if they're not catholic, they'd pray with faith, and they'd pray from the heart to be healed of these maternal problems so that they can have a family. i have over 2,000 babies born from women who were not able
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even to conceive. >> how can we believe it, though? >> we receive, every month, 10 testimonies, and the letters always say, "we're writing you just to say thank you because, my husband and i, we couldn't have children for 22 years. we believe that the virgin mary, mother of jesus, would help us to have a family. we believe this, and it happened because we believe. >> wow. [ choir vocalizing ] returning to the church of the nativity, one question remains. how do we know for certain that the church of the nativity marks the place where jesus was actually born? >> well, i don't know if we can ever know for sure. i mean, the only way you would know for sure -- if somebody had actually inscribed in the rock in the first century, "this is the home of jesus, mary, and joseph." then maybe we would know for sure. but the traditions themselves are more trustworthy than many traditions that are associated
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with holy spots. and the second thing that's very interesting is that there has never been a competitor. no other site in bethlehem or in this surrounding region has ever been proposed as an alternative. but everyone from all the traditions, western and eastern alike, have always looked to this place as the place of the birth. >> ♪ angelorum ♪ ♪ venite... ♪ >> wishing you and your family a very merry christmas from the holy land -- lauren green, fox news. >> ♪ venite... ♪ ♪ i built my business with passion. but i keep it growing by making every dollar count. that's why i have the spark cash card from capital one. i earn unlimited 2% cash back on everything i buy for my studio. ♪ and that unlimited 2% cash back from spark means thousands
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a great holiday and goodnight. . welcome to a special hour ap"an american journey. >> we're that southern tip of manhattan, once an out post to protect new york city from attack. and just a stone throw from ellis island. this hour, we're taking you on a journey that highlights america's proud past through a lens of modern stories we reported on this year. our journey begins at george washington 's


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