Several churches are found on the slopes of the Palestinian village of Beit Jala. The facade and steeple pictured here crown the Orthodox Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos, or more simply, the Kinesa al-Adra (the Church of the Virgin Mary). The building was consecrated in 1862.
Orthodox Christians use the Greek term theotokos to describe Mary the mother of Jesus. It suggests the English "bearer" or "birth-giver of God." The term is theologically loaded, to be sure, and was affirmed by the Council of Ephesus in 431 to counter the claims of the Nestorians. The controversy revolved around the question of whether Mary gave birth to Christ's humanity, Christ's divinity, or both.
Today, this structure serves one of the largest congregations in Palestine. Many Christians in Beit Jala are Roum Orthodox in orientation. The term Roum is often used locally to refer to Arab-speaking Christians under the the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. Onboard lectures will focus on Paul's fourth missionary journey. See the link here for details.