Alister McGrath: Shadowlands–Christmas in the Cave

It’s always nice to learn something new. I was talking to some Lebanese students in London recently. They were looking forward to returning home for Christmas, and celebrating this great feast in traditional Lebanese style. In the West, we think of Christ lying in a manger in a stable. In Lebanon, I was told, Christians depict the nativity as taking place in a cave. The reasons for this are lost in the mists of time. Yet the image of Jesus being born in a cave is rich and suggestive.

As we reflect on what Christmas means for billions of Christians across the world, this image can help us unlock some of its themes, and help us understand why it is seen as being so significant….

Read it all.


Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology

7 comments on “Alister McGrath: Shadowlands–Christmas in the Cave

  1. Steve Perisho says:

    I can’t figure out where the first paragraph comes from, since it isn’t there in the article by McGrath, but doesn’t the Eastern cave imagery come from the Protoevangelion of James?

  2. Steve Perisho says:

    Shooting from the hip, I misspelled Protevangelium, but see e.g. chap. 18 and following here ( and here (;seq=131).

  3. Steve Perisho says:

    I.e. σπήλαιον.

  4. Terry Tee says:

    And if you visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem you go down some steps into a crypt which looks pretty much as if it has been carved out of a cave.

  5. Terry Tee says:

    Steve’s Greek transliterates as spelaion, meaning a cave or den and occurs once each in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Hebrews and Revelation. Hence the English word speleologist, meaning an explorer of caves.

  6. Steve Perisho says:

    Yes, but not in connection with the birth of Jesus, as in the Protevangelium.