What do we know about the inn at Bethlehem?

by S. Kent Brown  

The term translated “inn” (Luke 2:7) is the same as that translated “guestchamber” in Luke 22:11 (Greek katalyma). Luke’s narrative mentions “the inn;” the Joseph Smith Translation changes the expression to the plural, “the inns” (JST Luke 2:7).  The Greek term carries several possible meanings. In the meaning that Christian tradition has preserved, the inn is a caravanserai, that is, a place of lodging that rents stalls to guests who might be traveling with animals, as well as renting private rooms on the second floor to those who can afford them. Another meaning is “guest room,” usually an extra room within a well-to-do home such as the one where Jesus spends the last supper with his apostles (see Luke 22:11). Because Joseph’s family roots are in Bethlehem, such a room would be in the home of a relative. But when Joseph and Mary arrive, other guests already occupy the room. A further addition to the Joseph Smith Translation can support either view: “there was no room for them” becomes “there was none to give room for them” (JST Luke 2:7).