Bob Ruins the Story of Christmas

Bob and Polly in Morocco[Lee] You know your illustration about not turning you down in the Mideast. That was in Translation Principles [perhaps Bible Translation] or something. They said it was very hard when people are working in languages there to translate that Joseph came and they turned him down at the inn because they would never turn down a pregnant woman.

[Bob] I have a whole other theory on that. It was taught by Ken Bailey [cf. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes]. He said he didn’t go to an inn. That’s the only place that that word is used as an “inn.” What it really means is the guest room in a house. All it means is that there was no room in the guest room because others were there to sign up, so he slept with the family. There wasn’t even a stables because none of that makes any sense. He said, “Was Joseph so ill-received in his own home?” That was his native home. Would they have turned him away? He said, “Never would they have done that.” So the principle is the same, but the whole business of the stable and the inn and all of that just doesn’t make any sense.

[Lee] But we heard, isn’t it a cave that they [ ]?

[Bob] Well, that’s what they say, but all of this, all of this. . . .

[Virginia] You guys are blowing my mind.

[Bob] I know. Polly doesn’t like this.

[Polly] I’m going to the flea market. I don’t want to hear this.

[Bob] The idea of the house was that every house had stables in it. I mean they brought their animals into the house and there were these little mangers—like, umm, oh about yeah big—cut into something. And the animals were down there and you went up three or four stairs onto a level, onto a plank, and that’s where you slept. You slept with the animals, so in that’s sense it’s right. But that whole story was written in 200 AD [sic]. I mean the depiction of coming down in winter and all the rest, it just, it isn’t right. It’s just something we bought hook, line and sinker, and I try not—not after Polly made such a fuss about—I have a video on it.

[Virginia] Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You’re breaking my . . . the foundation of my. . . .

[Polly] Wait a minute. You’re taking my story away. I have my whole scene.

[Bob] But it’s all based on total hospitality. And this is Ken Bailey, who was raised as a missionary kid over there and then taught at the University of Jerusalem in a Bible setting over there. So he knows the culture.

[Polly] Interestingly enough—and I still don’t like it, but anyway—I heard on a . . . I forget who the preacher was on the radio, just recently, I mean within the last couple weeks. He was speaking in the same way, but he was referring to Ken Bailey.

[Bob] Yeah. Yeah. Well that’s . . . he’s the only one. I have a video on this. He’s a terrible, boring speaker. He’s sitting at a desk, you know. But the point is very well taken, I think. But there’s only so many . . . it’s not the kind of issue. . . .

[Ken] [ ] put on the camera [ ]

[Bob] It isn’t. It isn’t the cattle are lowing and the poor baby sleeps. Well, that could be.

[Lee] You know, we ought to leave so they can [ ].

[Polly] Right.

transcription of a conversation between Bob, Polly (his wife), Virginia (Lee’s daughter), Lee, and Ken (Lee’s second husband) during a visit to California in January 2004

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.).

  • Did Bob and Polly take more than one trip to the Middle East?
  • Lee mentions a resource call Translation Principles. Was that a book? I’ve listed the modern SIL book, but who wrote the one Lee used? What was the full title?
  • Anybody else have a story of Uncle Bob’s “research” messing with your idea of Scripture?
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