The gospel of Luke contains specific details regarding Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem of Judea. One of the things mentioned in this narrative is that he was placed in a “manger” (Luke 2:7, 12, and 16).
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, … and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds … find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger … found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
The Greek word φαντη that is used here typically refers to a stone type trough that was used for feeding of animals—sometimes in the stalls within a dwelling.
This word is used once more in the Gospels (Luke 13:15) where it refers to a “stall” (NIV), actually a feeding trough, for a donkey—and it is clear from the context that this was within a house (Luke 13:10–17).
The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall (φαντη; “manger“) and lead it out to give it water?
It appears that after the birth of Jesus, that he was actually placed in a feeding trough somewhat similar to the ones presented here if not ones that were carved into the stone floor of the “stable”—a far cry from the rickety wooden “mangers” of Christmas pageants.
For details on this topic see Kenneth E. Bailey Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes — Cultural Studies in the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008, pp. 28–32 as well at the various Greek lexicons.
As Christmas approaches, I thought I would repost a few “blogs” that are related to the celebration.