The Urantia Book -- Part IV. The Life And
Teachings Of Jesus
PAPER 122: Section 7.
The Trip To Bethlehem
In the month of March, 8 B.C. (the month Joseph and Mary were
married), Caesar Augustus decreed that all inhabitants of the Roman Empire should
be numbered, that a census should be made which could be used for effecting
better taxation. The Jews had always been greatly prejudiced against any attempt
to "number the people," and this, in connection with the serious domestic difficulties
of Herod, King of Judea, had conspired to cause the postponement of the taking
of this census in the Jewish kingdom for one year. Throughout all the Roman
Empire this census was registered in the year 8 B.C., except
in the Palestinian kingdom of Herod, where it was taken in 7 B.C.,
one year later.
It was not necessary that Mary should go to Bethlehem for enrollment -- Joseph
was authorized to register for his family -- but Mary, being an adventurous
and aggressive person, insisted on accompanying him. She feared being left alone
lest the child be born while Joseph was away, and again, Bethlehem being not
far from the City of Judah, Mary foresaw a possible pleasurable visit with her
Joseph virtually forbade Mary to accompany him, but it was of no avail; when
the food was packed for the trip of three or four days, she prepared double
rations and made ready for the journey. But before they actually set forth,
Joseph was reconciled to Mary's going along, and they cheerfully departed from
Nazareth at the break of day.
Joseph and Mary were poor, and since they had only one beast of burden, Mary,
being large with child, rode on the animal with the provisions while Joseph
walked, leading the beast. The building and furnishing of a home had been a
great drain on Joseph since he had also to contribute to the support of his
parents, as his father had been recently disabled. And so this Jewish couple
went forth from their humble home early on the morning of August 18, 7 B.C.,
on their journey to Bethlehem.
Their first day of travel carried them around the foothills of Mount Gilboa,
where they camped for the night by the river Jordan and engaged in many speculations
as to what sort of a son would be born to them, Joseph
adhering to the concept
of a spiritual teacher and Mary holding to the idea of a Jewish Messiah, a
deliverer of the Hebrew nation.
Bright and early the morning of August 19, Joseph and Mary were again on their
way. They partook of their noontide meal at the foot of Mount Sartaba, overlooking
the Jordan valley, and journeyed on, making Jericho for the night, where they
stopped at an inn on the highway in the outskirts of the city. Following the
evening meal and after much discussion concerning the
oppressiveness of Roman
rule, Herod, the census enrollment, and the comparative influence of Jerusalem
and Alexandria as centers of Jewish learning and culture, the Nazareth travelers
retired for the night's rest. Early in the morning of August 20 they resumed
their journey, reaching Jerusalem before noon, visiting the temple, and going
on to their destination, arriving at Bethlehem in midafternoon.
The inn was
overcrowded, and Joseph accordingly sought lodgings with distant
relatives, but every room in Bethlehem was filled to overflowing. On returning
to the courtyard of the inn, he was informed that the caravan
out of the side of the rock and situated just below the inn, had been cleared
of animals and
cleaned up for the reception of
lodgers. Leaving the donkey
in the courtyard, Joseph shouldered their
bags of clothing and provisions
and with Mary descended the stone steps to their lodgings below. They found
themselves located in what had been a grain storage room to the front of the
curtains had been hung, and they counted themselves
fortunate to have such comfortable quarters.
Joseph had thought to go out at once and enroll, but Mary was weary; she was
considerably distressed and besought him to remain by her side, which he did.