Theologian Ian Paul apologizes for possibly spoiling your Christmas décor.

His message also will cause some people to trip over the lyrics to familiar Christmas carols.

At the blog psephizo.com, Paul argues that “Jesus was not born in a stable,” as the traditional picture of Jesus’ birth is portrayed. 

Paul says three things combined to make this misrepresentation: traditional “elaboration” of Scripture, grammar and ignorance of culture from Jesus’ time.

He says that first issue comes from people applying a "messianic" meaning to the Old Testament book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 1:3 mentions a manger, which then leads people to Jesus’ birth story in Luke, where a manger is mentioned, along with animals.  So doesn’t that mean it was in a stable?

His second argument is the use of the Greek word kataluma in Luke 2:7. Traditionally, it has been translated to mean inn.

Paul gives a lot more description on his blog but eventually points out there are two words we need to understand in Greek.

Kataluma is a spare or upper room in a private house or village. Pandocheion is a place of shelter for strangers with a common area and a dormitory.

And historically and culturally, Joseph was heading to his ancestral home. Anyone kin to him, even if a stranger, would have welcomed him into his home.

So what does this all mean?

In the area, most families lived in a house that had an area where animals were brought in for the night. A room or space on the roof would be set aside for visitors. The family living area had hallowed areas filled with straw. This is where the animals would feed.

Paul comes back to say that Mary and Joseph probably arrived at a relative’s house and the family guest room was already full. So the couple stayed with the main family and the hay-filled hollows made a natural place to lay the baby Jesus.

Visit psephizo.com to read Ian Paul's full description and his links to other works on the matter. An internet search will offer a lot more on the issue, also.

Advent calendar

In my last column, I suggested some Advent calendars. My brother started his own Twitter Advent calendar featuring Christmas music outside the mainstream. Check out Thomas Pitchford, who goes by @LibrarySpider on Twitter. Each day he is linking to a favorite Christmas song or album. Among his first suggestions are Smithfield Fair and Loreena McKennitt.

Special date in Buddhism

Dec. 8 is Bodhi Day, the “Buddhist celebration of the time when Prince Gautama took his place under the Bodhi tree, vowing to remain there until he attained supreme enlightenment,” according to interfaith-calendar.org. In Japanese Zen, it is known as Rohatsu.

Facets of Faith runs every other Saturday in EatPrayLive. Reach Leila Pitchford-English at lenglish@theadvocate.com.