Visiting the shepherd’s fields near Bethlehem

After the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, Luke records that an announcement of His birth was made to shepherds in the field at night.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11 ESV)

There was enough distance that the shepherds said, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15 ESV)

We do not know the exact time of the birth of Jesus. We have a reasonable degree of certitude about the place of His birth, but places such as the field of the shepherds are not certain. As a result, traditions have risen about the place. Here I will mention three places that one can visit a short distance east of Bethlehem, near the wilderness of Judea. This area is known as Beit Sahour.

The first place is the Shepherd’s Field of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land (a Roman Catholic site). The photo shows the modern church built over a cave.

The Shepherd's Field of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Shepherd’s Field of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Photo: F. Jenkins,

Under the church there is a large cave. These caves are not uncommon in the central mountain range. A display illustrating the birth of Jesus can be seen in the cave. One little note of interest. It is often pointed out that the manger of Luke 2:7 might be a feeding trough cut from stone. In this display the baby is placed in an ossuary! Notice the lid to the right.

Display in cave at Shepherd's Field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Display in cave at Shepherd’s Field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Outside one sees fields and olive groves.

Shepherd's fields at Beit Sahour. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

Shepherd’s fields at Beit Sahour. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Not far away is the Shepherd’s Field of the YMCA. Some call it the Protestant Shepherd’s Field. There is a large cave on the property overlooking the fields of the region.

Caves at YMCA Shepherd's Field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Caves at YMCA Shepherd’s Field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Greek Orthodox site features ruins of a Byzantine church dating from the 5-7th centuries.

Byzantine church ruins at the Greek Orthodox site of the Shepherd's field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Byzantine church ruins at the Greek Orthodox site. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Carl Rasmussen wrote about the “3 Christmases in Bethlehem” here, and Mark Ziese wrote about the Milk Grotto here. We have written about the Church of the Nativity several times, including here.

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