The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Christ, the Light of the World

'As long as I am in the world; I am the light of the world.
John 9:5

From a purely Christian point of view, the Creator God sent His Holy Spirit to invest the virgin, Mary, with a Son, His Son, so that He might grow to become the Messiah, or Savior, not for Israel alone, but for the whole world ( John 3:16 ). On the other hand, though, there are those ( for lack of a better term, maybe, we'll call them 'Pagans' ) who choose, not necessarily to refute or refuse the principles of life laid out for us in Scripture, but to acknowledge the Divine Presence in other religions of the world, even in those places, or circumstances, where no particular religion is claimed, or followed. What are we, as Christians, to do with those who do not follow our religion; should we, as in times past ( still do today ) strive to 'evangelize' them, bringing them around to our way of thinking, as though Christianity is the only religion that has the Truth?

Jesus told His disciples they were the light of the world ( Matthew 5:14 ): this is a good example of one of the many universal statement in the Scriptures! Looking at both the historical & covenant context of such a bold statement, one may note that Jesus spoke these words to His followers in the first century, in opposition to the Jews of the day, who thought the nation of Israel, or the Jews, was the Light of the World. Others might go so far to state that Jesus' words apply only to those who follow the religion based on the Name most closely associated with Him, the name 'Christ'. But what if 'Christ' is NOT a name; what if it's a title, like, 'THE Pharaoh', THE Caesar?!

According to the Merriam-Webster ( online ) dictionary, the title simply means 'messiah'.it functions basically as the Greek version of the Hebrew term, though in actuality, it means so much more! The Greek 'Christos', in biblical usage, means 'anointed' & is closely related to the word 'chrism'. Semantically speaking then, it would be more correct to use the term, 'the Christ' in reference to Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. In the same Spirit then, so to speak; would it not be acceptable to refer to those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus by the same title? In actuality, we are! As Christians, we are 'little Christs'. Traditionally, this title was assigned to the followers of Jesus as a derogatory term, by His detractors. In this sense then, one might say that it's only those who follow Jesus that can truly bear this title with honor!

The truth of the matter is, only those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus can bear this Name, or Title with honor! What is it then to follow in the footsteps of Jesus? Is it only those who adhere to the religion named after His exalted Title that can be called 'the Christ', or 'little Christs'? It must be noted here, that we are 'little Christs', little Messiahs', if you will, for we are NOT the Creator God, we are simply of the same Essence, of the same Being. We all have one Father ( for lack of a better term? )! Being of One Essence ( though all do not realize, or acknowledge it ), we all have the potential to be 'little Christs', to awaken the 'Chrism', but sadly, some choose not to & these go their own way, selfishly acting according to only their own interests, while yet others look outside themselves for some future salvation!

To follow in the footsteps of Jesus, it might be argued, is to do what He did, which was to exercise judgement. His judgement came as a two-edged sword though; it fell, ultimately, on His covenant people, when in AD70, the Romans bore the sword in the destruction of Jerusalem & the Temple, for all intents & purposes, destroying the Jewish economy. Secondly, it served to separate the wheat from the chaff, biblically speaking, effectively revealing the Remnant, or those who had been Chosen, out of Israel of Old, to represent True Israel. This was the Purpose of His Parousia, in celebration of which we now observe what may be the most Holy of days, Christmas.

Christmas, however, is not just for Christians, although it might be noted here, that 'everybody is a 'Christian' on Christmas'! Pagans of all shapes & sizes celebrated the day, or season we call 'Christmas' long before we did! The Coming of the Light, AKA the Winter Solstice-the day when the light begins to linger longer, has been celebrated by Pagans from time immemorial! Constantine, if memory serves, simply renamed & restructured these old traditions when he Christianized the Roman Empire. 

As Christians, we believe that we ( alone ) have that True Light of the World, although some Christians, like the Jews & Muslims, are still waiting for that Light to be revealed from above! Almost every religion around the world, to whatever extent, believes theirs is the true religion, the True Light; are they wrong, while we're right? Or do WE have it all backwards & THEY'RE right, while WE are the ones who're wrong? Not saying that we ARE the ones who're wrong, but then again, we haven't got all our ducks in a row, either. It has been said there is truth in every religion; this is verifiable, not because all religions are ultimately the same ( they're not ), but because while some individual adherents to those religions choose to adhere to that religion, for religions sake, others choose to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, judging, as He did, by spreading Love rather than Hate, Freedom rather than Fear. They shine their Light in the midst of a dark & dreary world, because, though they may not realize or acknowledge it as such; they ARE the Light of the World!

Jesus, as the Messiah of Israel, was the Christ ( some would put the emphasis on 'THE', as in the only One )! However, as we are ( to be ) to the world as Jesus was to Israel ( He being our Great Example ), we, as Christians, should strive to shine our Light into every dark corner, as He did, bringing forth those treasures hidden ( struggling ) in the darkness, that they too, may realize their Purpose. It is not only as a Christian, religiously speaking, that one may be a follower of the Divine Principle that Jesus followed; Pagans too, though they may not acknowledge Him that we acknowledge as 'the Christian God, yet still follow that Divine Principle, shining their Light into dark places & bringing into the Light treasures previously hidden. We are not alone in this world & no man, or religion, is an Island!

In this Christmas season, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus as the Coming of the Light: Pagans celebrate the Winter Solstice as the coming of the light; either way, whether it's the Sun or the Son, it's simply a religious holyday, or holiday! From the original Purpose, we have come a long way ( or should that be, 'fallen a long way?' ) what with the commercialization ( business ) of the holyday. Some have  selfishly & greedily chosen 'the bottom line' as their messiah, while others have chosen to save themselves & the world be BEING the Light, by loving their neighbor as themselves, showing them that indeed, THEY are Light, if only they would choose to shine!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Bloody Bible

You shall not murder.
Exodus 20:13

Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones,
and kill every woman who has known a man intimately.
Numbers 31:17

'Why did Yahweh ( God ) command the children of Israel to kill the inhabitants of Canaan?' This question, in other words, maybe, was presented to me recently by a friend who, like many others, is having a difficult time reconciling a God of Love with One who seems, in the Hebrew Scriptures anyway, to be filled with a 'holy hatred', One who instructed His people to kill their enemies & even further, to murder complete strangers. Then we come to the Aramaic & Greek Scriptures, where we find Jesus telling His disciples to 'love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you' ( Matthew 5:44 ). Many people, Pagan & Christian alike, find these passages hard to read, wondering how a loving Creator could order His Creation to be destroyed!

You may have heard, by way of explanation, that when Jesus came along, He tamed His Father down so that unlike the petty, vindictive God He is often painted as in the so-called Old Testament, in the so-called New Testament, He is now a kinder, gentler God, One who, rather than killing His enemies, loves them to death! This almost seems reasonable, until one considers that Jesus & God, according to traditional orthodoxy anyway, are One & the Same. To suggest that the God of the Hebrews would or even could change is to fly in the face of orthodoxy! Scripture tells us in at least one place, in no uncertain terms ( Malachi 3:6 ), that He does not change. Plenty are the passages that intimate the same, though admittedly, there are a few that seem to indicate that He's had regrets & gone back on His word ( Genesis 6:5-8, Exodus 32:10-14 ).

Those who like to 'cherry-pick', on both sides of the fence, choose certain passages from the Scriptures & almost ignore the context, both historically & culturally speaking. For instance, the context of the passage above, from the book of Numbers, tell us that this was a drastic situation, a time of war. Further, we should understand from Moses' words in verses 15-17 that it was more for the sake of purity than anything else that they were commanded to kill even those they had captured, the women & children. From the Ancient Near Eastern perspective, one which survives almost intact to this day, we may understand too, that killing the male children, but keeping the female children alive might discourage any further retaliation from their enemies.

The Scriptures, both Old & New Testaments, DO portray a vengeful God, one who judges those who take a stand against Him & His people with everlasting fire, but again, we must understand this from both a cultural & historical context. From a cultural perspective, we can see that Yahweh ( God ), by His seemingly genocidal commands, simply meant to purify His people Israel by removing from before them any temptation. We see how this worked out for the Israelites, though, particularly since they failed to remove those stumbling blocks as they were instructed. Furthermore, as with the Law given through Moses, these commands merely served to show that the temptation was really in themselves!

There can be no doubt that the History of Israel which we read in the Scriptures is indeed a bloody one; however, did Yahweh, or the Creator God mean for His human Creation to kill their brothers & sisters? Yes, the Lord commanded His people, as Judges of the Earth, to carry out His vengeance on the nations around them, but as we have seen, it was more for the sake of separating out a holy people for Himself with which to purify those nations than to actually exterminate them. This is not to say that He never ordered a genocide, of sorts, but the God of Israel, contrary to popular opinion, was not the petty, vindictive God that some have made Him out to be.

'Proof-texting', or 'cherry-picking', involves the mistake of taking a verse totally out of context & hanging certain beliefs & doctrines on them. The doctrine of Hell is one such doctrine. When taken out of their context, passages like the Parable of the Rich Man & Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 & Revelation 20 put 'the fear of God' in many people, when it comes to 'hell-fire & damnation'!

In Exodus 4 ( 23 ), we read that Yahweh did indeed instruct Moses to tell the Pharaoh of Egypt, 'let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn'. The Lord ends up, as He promised, killing the firstborn, not only of the Pharaoh, but of all Egypt, those anyway, who refused to heed the word of Moses. In fact, before Moses even got to Egypt, Yahweh, it is recorded, tried to kill Moses' firstborn because he had not been consecrated in the way that Moses had been instructed!

'The Bloody Bible', it should be noted, is stained with not only human, but animal blood! This is a cultural phenomenon. Israel, at its conception, was rooted in a culture that operated largely on sacrifice; sacrifice to a pantheon of gods. Although human sacrifice was not uncommon in that culture, we can see that Israel was instructed to offer animal, not human sacrifice to Yahweh. Even in the History of Israel, we can see echoes of human sacrifice from the nations around them as Israel began to apostatize.

The Truths of the Bible are unavoidable! Many choose, right or wrong, to ignore the bloodier parts of it, but the truth is that these bloody parts are a part of our past. We were not born, most who read these words, in that part of the world, much less in that ancient culture, but even here in America, we have experienced bloodshed, almost, it would seem, on par with that of ancient Israel! Bloodshed seems to be an almost necessary part of life; for one to eat, it would seem, something must die, whether it be animal or plant. In the case of war, which I do not recommend, by the way, it would seem that one must kill or be killed. I will not judge in this matter, except to say that war is a veritable hell! In the case of self defense, much the same dilemma exists, 'kill or be killed'; which is the better choice? Would you rather lose your humanity, or become a murderer ( killer ) really, what's the difference? ) yourself, even if it's in defense of a loved one?

Then we come to the question that is at the heart of the History of Israel; 'what's it all about?' We tend to focus overmuch on the physical aspect of life, as indeed the earlier Scriptures seem to do, but when we, as Jesus did, focus on the heart of the issue, the spiritual aspect of life, we begin to see that, though the spiritual must affect the physical, much as the tiny & unseen rudder steers the much larger ship, we are spirit beings more than we are human beings! This puts things in a different light, as it should; for example, when Yahweh commanded His people Israel to drive out, even kill those Canaanites, was He actually instructing them to commit murder, or was He simply telling the Israelites it was time for the Canaanites to move on?

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Covenant World

'God became Man that Man might become God.'

One problem that many have noted with preterism, beside the fact that it's just another 'ism', is that 'if it's all fulfilled, than what do we have to look forward to?'; 'if Jesus already came back, why are we still reading the Bible?': 'YOU MEAN, THIS IS IT?!' The 'problem' is exacerbated with a Covenant Eschatology ( NOT to be confused with 'preterism'! ), which leads naturally to Covenant Protology
( Covenant Creation ( CC ), or the fact that Genesis is not about the formation of Planet Earth, but rather the formation of the Land & Man in the Land; 'the Land', of course, referring to what we call 'the Promised Land', or even, 'the Holy Land'! It must be noted, though, that 'the Land' itself referred, not to the physical geographical features, but to a greater spiritual reality, ultimately, 'God with us'!

Throughout Scripture are scattered what may be called 'Universal Truths': while some may beg to differ on the existence of these 'nuggets', they are rather self-evident! Probably THE most famously memorizable verse in the Bible, John 3:16, reads, 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life'. Read in context, some would say, making note of the Greek word translated 'world', this promise was given to the 'world' of the 1st century, both Jew & Gentile. Given that Covenant Protology posits that the 'cosmos', or orderly arrangement, whose creation is recorded in the first chapters of Genesis, is simply the creation of covenant, rather than the material, or physical creation, then it would follow that the 'world' spoken of in John 3:16 is not ( necessarily ) the physical ( biological ) creation, but that same covenant creation. We are faced, then, with the question, 'What constitutes a covenant?'

A covenant, most would probably agree, is an agreement between two or more people, for mutual benefit. In short. a covenant, unlike a mere contract, connotes relationship, of whatever sort & to whatever extent. The Covenant that we see in the Scripture, being personified in Jesus the Christ, infinitely surpasses the legal definition of 'covenant', for one, because it IS personified & for another, because it was constituted by the Creator God Himself, Scripturally speaking of course. One way to put it is that Adam did not asked to be created, or formed; he did not even ask for a wife to be brought to him. Even so, Israel did not agree to be singled out from among the nations. However, both Israel & Adam were in relationship with the Creator God, known as YHWH to the Hebrews. As anyone may note for themselves, this relationship was pretty bumpy at times!

Throughout the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures, we come face-to-face with the notion that the Creator God is our Father & we are His Children, not ( necessarily ) because of physical generation, but through spiritual regeneration ( this is most clearly pronounced in the Greek Scriptures ). Like any good father, He 'chastens'  His children ( Hebrews 12:6 ( Deuteronomy 8:5 ). This is not to say that He holds any malice for them, or delights in their punishment, but because of the Covenant, He disciplines them in order to have a better relationship with them.

Although the Creation recorded in Scripture indeed entails that of a special Covenant, that special Covenant involved the Creator God dwelling with Man, as Man! As this special Covenant, through Israel, blessed all the nations ( Genesis 12-17 ), so we may note that many of these truths, such as John 3:16, are to be understood universally. Matthew 24, for instance, should be understood as a prophecy of the coming destruction of Jerusalem & the Temple, although, even in this fulfilled prophecy, one may note universal truths.

Covenant implies relationship! The relationship recorded in Scripture, between YHWH & His people Israel, was a special one, intended to ultimately bless the entire Creation, not just spiritually, or covenantally ( again, 'Scripturally speaking' ), but physically, or geographically as well. The relationship between a father & his children, as any father ( or mother ) can attest to, goes far beyond the limitations of any writ or agreement! Simply through generation, though rocky at best sometimes, the relationship, or covenant, if you will, still stands. Just as Adam & Israel did not choose to be singled out for special duty, neither did we choose, humanly speaking, to be born into a certain family.

It should be fairly clear by now that the Covenant with Israel was a special One, not simply because YHWH singled them out, but because He Himself personified the Covenant! That the Covenant extends to all Creation should be clear as well. The uniqueness of this Covenant does not require agreement because it is not based merely on one's willingness to enter into a relationship, but on the fact that all Creation are in a relationship with the Creator God.

The Universal Truths of Scripture, then, though not defined as covenantal ( by Scripture ), are yet covenantal in nature. Because the End Goal of the Covenant History of Israel was 'God with us', the Covenant was shown to include all Creation, not just those who chose to 'enter in'! 'The Land' promised to those who would enter in, including the Greater Spiritual Truth of  'the Christ in us', was indicative of the Creator dwelling with ( in ) the Creation! The History of Israel served its purpose, in that through a proper reading & understanding of it, we bear witness to the fact that the Creation is in fact One with its Creator, that Heaven is indeed One with Earth, 'it is what it is' & 'it's all good'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, December 08, 2017

The Christ at the Crossroads

So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.
And its desire [ is ] for you, but you should rule over it.”
Genesis 4:6 & 7

Life is full of choices, some easy, some hard; some harder than others, some easier than others, but in all cases, a choice must be made or we will end up doing nothing! Sometimes it seems there is no choice to be made, for good or evil, even for better or best, or the lesser of two evils, but, on a purely physical level, there is always a choice, whether we like it or not, like, even if we don't acknowledge or perceive it as such. When we do perceive & acknowledge the choice, then the real difficulty presents itself; for instance, in the case of one dying in order that hundreds, even thousands might live, especially if that one is innocent or even a loved one ( family or friend ), how do we make the choice? Do we let that one person in the world that we are most attached to slip away, or do we allow hundreds or thousands of people to die who are significant to others? However one looks at it, the choice is not an easy one!

'I get it!' From a purely spiritual perspective, in the mind of universal consciousness, there is no choice, only a BE-ingness, but we do live on a 'plane', in a dimension, if you will, where choices must be made. On a very mundane level, we make the choice everyday of whether to stay in bed or to get up & go to that job we love to hate, whether to wear blue socks or red, what to eat for breakfast; cereal or eggs? One may choose to live their life in this biology free from the choices of everyday life, choices like this or that, right or wrong, good or evil, but they have still made a choice! We may choose ( I heartily recommend this, BTW ) to say things like 'it is what it is' & 'let it be', but even in this case, passively or not, we have decided it's not worth worrying our pretty little heads about, or winding up with spiritual constipation.

As much as I've exalted ( in words, anyway ) the Christ Within, one would think I'd be making better choices! In my defense ( I'm not the only one, either ) it IS much easier to say, or write about it, than to put those words into practice! Life in this biology is about the hard choices; if you're not faced with hard choices everyday, you're probably doing something wrong! This is not to say that choosing the easy path is automatically wrong, though the easy way is not usually the best, but when are faced with the hard choices, it's a good sign that we are facing reality, because life is not easy, especially where people are involved!

People ( others ) make their own choices, like it or not, that we automatically perceive as right or wrong, good or evil. For instance, we are inclined to think ( many of us ) that abortion is murder & therefore wrong! It is easy to condemn the act, but when we dig into the reasoning behind the other person's decision, it becomes harder, say, in the case of the mother's life or her baby's, to choose one way or the other. Another may condemn the act of killing enemy combatants in a wartime situation, but when faced with the reality that the other person is going to kill us if we do not kill him or her first, what then? It's easy to say, one way or the other, in the comfort of our own home, but an unimaginably hard choice when faced with such a situation!

These choices, however, MUST be made & like it or not, people must make them! We may ( should ) choose not to live from the Person, or Ego, like Cain did in our Story, but that doesn't guarantee that the other will do the same. There ARE many out there & the number is growing, who, though undeniably living in the Person, refuse to live any longer FROM the Person! Who knows, maybe it will be our example of living from the Universal Consciousness rather than from the Ego that encourages the other to do the same!

'What IS this Universal Consciousness?' you might ask. Realizing the Universal Consciousness, in my way of thinking, is equivalent to realizing the Christ Within; it is the idea, the reality, in fact, that there IS no 'other'! Understanding that, though we are fated, for whatever reason, to living in the Person, in this biological existence, one might say, we need not murder or mutilate the 'other' ( Person ) in order to further our own existence. In other words, by not looking at People as the 'other', we see them as they are, One & the Same Spirit manifesting in different ways, not necessarily wrong or right, just different; it is our perception, whether because of our feelings on the matter, or because we read it in some book, that make it good or evil in our eyes!

The Christ is within every person! 'Is every person, then, the Christ?' God Forbid! By making such a controversial, even heretical statement, I simply mean that it is through our choices in this biological existence that we manifest our Spirit. When we choose to let the Person or Ego ( the Bible terms it 'Sin' ) rule over us, over our spirit, as Cain did, then we end up as Satan, as devils, doing the opposite of what we should. Manifesting the Christ Within, though, means ruling over, or conquering our Ego, not acting on its selfish & animal desires, but according to the knowledge that we are all children of our Heavenly Father & gods in our own right. The choice, my friend, is up to you; will you manifest the Christ, or will you be a Satan? Choose wisely!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, December 02, 2017

The Forest For the Trees; 'Away in a Manger'

Question; did Jesus' lowly birth occur in a stable, as we have assumed, or was it in a house, as Matthew's Gospel seems to imply?  Matthew, Mark & Luke are called 'The Synoptic Gospels' , but some of the details of Jesus' birth can be a bit confusing when read in context. Mark, for instance, says nothing of His nativity & Matthew has more to say about the circumstances surrounding the event than about the Event itself. Luke gives us the clearest picture of where this blessed event took place. Luke, however, doesn't even mention the wise men ( three kings? ) from the East, while Matthew seems to recount their adventures in some detail, placing them at a house in Bethlehem when they presented their gifts. Fairly commonly, it has been thought, because of Herod's killing spree & the specific ages he targeted ( Matthew 2:16 ), that Jesus would have been, or could have been, around two years old at this time. Trying to mesh the two Gospels at this juncture, again, proves somewhat confusing, though; according to Matthew, Jesus' parents are forced, along with their newborn baby ( ? ) to flee to Egypt, after the wise men visit Him in Bethlehem, while Luke totally ignores this seemingly important event & moves Jesus, with His mother & father, back to Nazareth, assumably before He reaches the age of 1. Confused yet?

One thing that's pretty plain is that Jesus was placed in a manger after He was born! He wasn't 'born in a manger', per se, because that would just be, well......uncomfortable ( poor Mary! ) & probably not very feasible. The Greek, according to Thayers, translates very well here, plainly rendering 'phatnē' as 'manger'. The reason Luke gives for Jesus being born in such lowly conditions is that there was 'no room for them in the inn', although Matthew doesn't seem to be concerned with this important fact! The fact, though it is understandable & seemingly happenstance, that there was no room found for them at an inn in a Jewish city should give us pause. Why would Luke take such pains to record this seemingly minor detail when no one else corroborates it? Then again, why does Matthew record the visit of the wise men, whereas Luke doesn't see fit to mention it? Both details are of significance, are they not?

The story I've heard is doubtless the one you may have heard, that Matthew's & Luke's accounts differ, particularly on this point, because Matthew was concerned more with the kingly nature of Jesus' nativity, while Luke was more concerned with showing His humanity. This does make some sense, although, as we saw, it can be a bit confusing when trying to nail it down, chronologically speaking.  That Jesus was born is of utmost importance! Both Matthew & Luke record the involvement of the Holy Spirit in this blessed event & both seem to uphold what we call 'the Virgin Birth' ( Isaiah 7:14 ). Matthew makes us aware in at least two different places that Mary & Joseph were not, as husband & wife till after Jesus was born ( wow; flashback to the Garden narrative-Genesis 2:5 ), while Luke has Mary acknowledging to the heavenly messenger that she does not 'know a man'. ( it's useful here to understand the idiomatic meaning of 'know' )

Plainly speaking, then, we can naturally ( safely ) assume that Joseph & Mary did not engage in sexual relations, according to Scripture, until after the birth of Jesus. Other tales may enter the picture here, like the writings of Josephus, but solely from Scripture, it is plain that Mary was a virgin when she & her husband married. The importance of the Virgin Birth is that though this Event, the 'virgin of Israel' ( Jeremiah 18:13, 31:4 ) was redeemed. It was not, as some have postulated, that Jesus' blood might be sinless, or some other ridiculous assertion!

'Why a manger, cousin?' Well, a manger was a trough of sorts, for feeding, you guessed it, animals! One doesn't necessarily have to believe in a covenant creation in the first part of Genesis to understand that animals in Scripture were often representative of human beings outside the 'land' of Israel, outside the Covenant, Scripturally speaking. Peter's vision, recorded in Acts 10, makes this clear. The fact that Jesus, as a newborn baby, the very Son of God, was placed in a trough ( crib ) where animals were accustomed to feeding, is significant of the Gentiles feeding upon the Word of God. Luke alone records the 'manger' ( I surmise ), because, as a Gentile, he understood that Jesus would be King, not of the Jews alone, but also of the Gentiles!

'Was Jesus born in a house or a shed? I was recently asked this question & while I naturally assumed for years, like most everyone else, that He was born in a stable, or shed of some sort, because they laid Him in a manger afterwards, we tend to forget the historical & cultural context of the Event. I know enough of that culture to know that a manger, along with animals, in the house, would not be a strange notion. We envision, especially in our day & age, as well as our Western culture, that this manger was most likely in a rough-hewn cave, built at least partially into the rocks, or possibly one of the three-side structures we are familiar with, but is this really important? Does it really make a difference if Matthew's version doesn't quite jive with Luke's, if Jesus was born in a house or a stable, if the wise men visited Him in Bethlehem or Nazareth, when He was 2, or when He was born? The important Message here is that He WAS born; that He spread the Gospel beyond the borders of national Israel & that He lives in us, as the Fulfillment of that Gospel!

Charles Haddon Shank