Bethlehem (Heb. house of bread), a small but very ancient town about six miles from Jerusalem on the road to Hebron. It was known in the time of the patriarchs as Ephrata, and is mentioned in the story of Ruth. David was born here, and Rehoboam fortified the place as a station on the way to Egypt. It had sunk into insignificance, when it became famous for ever as the birth-place of the Saviour. Hadrian desecrated the scene of the Nativity by setting up a temple and grove to Adonis, but the Empress Helena built on the site a majestic basilica which is still preserved. Around it sprang up Greek, Latin, and Armenian convents. In a neighbouring grotto Jerome passed his days translating the Scriptures. The Crusaders founded a bishopric here, which was long preserved in name. The inhabitants of the village are Christians.