Curtis Dahlgren
December 14, 2012
"Don't blame the Innkeeper"; additions & corrections (a classic)!
By Curtis Dahlgren

[The following is an excerpt from my December 24, 2004 column.]

I'll stand beside the keeper of the inn,
Challenging those who charge him with the sin
That let the Child be born within his stable.
He did the best, I say, that he was able . . .

The hostel must have reeled with raucous mirth,
Jangling the laden night with feast and dance
As Roman taxes found the dice of chance.
Only a wise man would have seen the manger
As a cradle beyond the pry of stranger.

When pompous fingers shame his guiltless deed,
I'm on his side, disciple of the need
To say he was the wisest one of all,
Providing the sanctuary of the stall.

— Ralph W. Seager, from "The Wisest of the Wise"

"SOME OF OUR CHRISTMAS CUSTOMS ARE AS SPIRITUALLY VALUABLE AS A SECOND-HAND COFFIN. They are broken cisterns which no longer hold the sweet waters of eternal life. They may seem tinsel-bright, but they lack depth . . . .

"Many who sing the beautiful carols of this season have no real knowledge of Christ. Or their acquaintance with Him is casual, or their attitude is diffident [suspicious and affected] . . .

"Even more pathetic are those persons who, once having loved Christ, have permitted their ardor to cool. They do nothing to nurture and sustain their friendship with the one true and eternal Friend."

Disclaimer: This author does not believe that that "Friend" was born on the winter solstice, nor 3 1/2 days later, but the preceding poem and quotations are from "When Christmas Came to Bethlehem," by Charles Allen and Charles Wallis (Revell, 1963), and they do make a point. And the proverbial "Innkeeper" has been the victim of many barbs thrown by ancient writers and contemporary anti-capitalist haters. So, here are a few points more:

1) Mary and Joseph weren't "homeless."

2) You can't find one scripture where they or anyone else spoke negatively of the Innkeeper. [Other writers over the last 2,000 years have often castigated him, or the bartender, or the bouncer, or someone, for turning Mary and Joseph "out into the cold."]

3) It wasn't as cold there as it is here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this morning (10 below zero); the sheep were still eating grass in the fields, for your information!

4) Allen and Wallis wrote: "Our scorn, if we must be scornful, should be directed toward those who, in later years and even nowadays, turn the Lord of life from their homes and hearts" [i.e., have "no room" for Him in their LIVES].

P.S. Here's the "correction and addition" to the Bethlehem story (a bit of a shocker):

It's hard to believe that it's been seven years since I posted that; it's even harder to believe that it took me so long to find out that, not only was there no guilty "innkeeper," but that there probably wasn't even an inn or a stable involved (though there definitely was a manger)! It has come to my attention recently that the story lost something in translation. Here are some important points:

1) The original Greek word translated "INN" was "kataluma" (translated as "guest chamber" by Young's Literal Translation).

2) In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the word for "INN" was the Greek "pandokheion," not kataluma.

3) Joseph was from Bethlehem and had relatives there to stay with, but evidently the host's "guest room" had already been taken, so Mary and Joseph stayed in the front room — next to a dirt-level room attached to the main house. According to Middle East traditon, some animals were allowed to stay inside overnight there in the wintertime, so a convenient "manger" was there in which to place the baby Jesus.

4) There were no animals in the house at that time because it was only September or early October.

5) Arabic and Syriac versions of the New Testament translate the passage in question as "guest room" for 'kataluma' — never "INN."

[For further clarification, you can go to — Nov/Dec, 2012.]

PPS: Here's another correction: In my November 9th column, I said that Mitt Romney had gotten three million fewer votes than John McCain did in 2008. I had heard and read that in more than one place, but a friend of mine says that it was much closer than that. If I were a Romney consultant, I wouldn't consider that much to boast about, eh? Well, nevertheless, I stand corrected if Romney indeed almost tied McCain.

I could say so much more, but I won't. I'm trying to get my blood pressure under control.

© Curtis Dahlgren


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in the frozen tundra of Michigan's U.P., and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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