Does the Greek specifically say "a manger" or does it say "the manger" in Luke 2:7,12,16?

Wondering if it, by chance, denotes a specific manger as opposed to any manger. In other words, would the shepherds understand it to be a particular manger? They were given no specific directions to find the manger where the baby was but, on the other hand, it does not seem that they had trouble locating it either.


  • 3
    The definite article in Greek functions differently than it does in English, so it’s technically not possible to answer this beyond whatever translations say. If you would edit this to specify a bit more about the reason you’re wondering about it, though, we could discuss whether or not the article is present in Greek and what this indicates (which is different from the distinction between “a” vs “the” in English) in terms of your specific concerns. Thanks!
    – Susan
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 22:39
  • Thanks for the additional explanation; it should definitely be possible for someone to address this now. I think it may be more challenging than it seems at first glance!
    – Susan
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 22:49
  • I know the shepherds utilized mangers in their work with their flocks. If the Greek, per chance, seemed to indicate the it would be a specific manger known to the shepherds that would be significant to me. Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 22:54
  • Just be careful you don't fall into the trap of saying baby Jesus was born in a manger! He was BORN in a stable, but LAID in a manger! Don Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 0:30

2 Answers 2


There is no definite article in front of the word manger occurring in verses 7 or 12. It does appear in verse 16. This would indicate, based on context, it is best to translate it as a manger in the first two occurrences where no specific manger was known and the manger in 16 where a specific manger was being talked about. While Greek can leave off the definite article and still have a word be definite, the context here doesn't seem to warrant such thinking.


There is a definite article in all 3 verses in the Greek "textus receptus", which you have not mentioned. It is the Westcott-Hort text that only has one. Some would regard the latter as more liberal.

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange John, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 12:59
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    This is perhaps sufficient for the question that's been asked, but consider adding more detail on the validity of the textual variants - which you consider more authoritative on this question and why.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 13:00

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