The first settlement in the area of Bethlehem was made posiible only when humans learnt to dig wells. There is no source of water in the nearby mountains. This happened probably in the Bronze Age, the period when the Canaanite people dwelt in the Land.
In the Amarna letters Bethlehem is called Bit Iloo Lakhma which perhaps refers to some Canaanite goddess. Though when translated directly from Hebrew, the name Beit Lekhem would mean the house of bread. ( Beit - house, lekhem - bread).
Significantly, Jesus Christ called Himself living bread in one of his sermons.
"I am the bread of life. Whosovere comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35)
The first Biblical reference is in the book of Genesis (35:19,20):
"So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrat ( that is Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar and to this day that pillar marks Rachel's tomb." Amazingly, both Arabs and Jews venerate the tomb of Matriarch Rachel, situated at the vicinity of Bethlehem, literally "to this day".
According to the Hebrew Holy Scripture, the most famous and iconic king, the prototype of the expected later Messiah, was born in Bethlehem. His name was David (God's beloved).
That is why the prophets were expecting the Messiah's coming from the same city.
"But you, Bethlehem, Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2)
Jerusalem and all Judea were destroyed during the Babilonian conquest of the sixth century BCE, restored in 70 years, conquered again and reclaimed by the famous Maccabean rebels in he second century BCE.
But people still had been expecting David's descendant to come and rule over them in the Messianic perfect kingdom, where everybody could be free and content.
And it is not in vain the Gospel writer tells us:
"The angel told them: today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, He is the Messiah, the Lord." ( Luke 2:11)
And significantly the New Testament begins with the Gospel og Matthew, giving us "the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah (Christ), the son of David, the son of Abraham." (1:1)
The Gospel writers give us two stories of Jesus birth, one by Like and another by Matthew.
The church is built in a transept form which is a cross-shaped building.
to be continued...