Jesus Christ was born where?

Jesus born in BethlehemCNN.com, one of the most heavily visited news sites on the Internet, posted these headlines this morning in an attempt to cover the rapidly developing cycle of violence in the Middle East:

  • Israeli soldiers battle Hezbollah inside Lebanon

  • A Hezbollah rocket attack on Nazareth, revered as birthplace of Jesus, kills two people, Israeli army says
  • Israeli soldiers battle Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon near Avivim, Israel
  • Orient Queen leaves Beirut carrying about 800 U.S. and British citizens to Cyprus

Note to editors and producers at CNN.com: Jesus Christ was not born in Nazareth. Nazareth was his hometown. He is often referred to as "Jesus of Nazareth." But he was born in Bethlehem. Like in the Christmas carols. It may sound like a minor error, but it is actually quite significant theologically. A Nazarene being born in Bethlehem was a bit unusual at the time, as people did not travel much, and it fulfilled key biblical prophecies.

What does this say about CNN editors' knowledge of religion and their ability to present the news of a conflict that has ancient roots in religion?

The good folks over at Christianity Today noticed this error and one of their interns, Jason Bailey, a Wheaton College senior, was smart enough to take a screen shot. The error was quickly fixed, but not corrected. A correction requires admission of a past wrong. We in the print media know that an error requires a retraction. This makes us quite careful in what we publish. Apparently those standards do not apply to cable news websites.

Jason would like to refer CNN editors to this map for future reference, and maybe they could search their own archives to fact-check their headlines in the future.

Update: One of our readers, Michael M., noted that The Boston Globe did the exact same thing in an article on Monday:

Last night, Hezbollah rockets fired from Lebanon penetrated farther than ever into Israel, hitting Afula, 33 miles south of border, and landing on the outskirts of Nazareth, revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus. Israeli officials said Hezbollah possessed rockets that could fly more than 40 miles and warned residents of Tel Aviv, the country's metropolitan hub about 70 miles from the border, to be alert.

The blast in Haifa, Israel's third-largest city, brought the Israeli death toll to at least 24, half of them civilians. Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 148 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians.

So not only did CNN get it wrong -- CNN got it wrong in what looks a lot like a cut-and-paste job from the Globe. The wording is nearly identical.

I should also note that others have heard the same mistake over the radio.

It's time to call for a correction, folks. I'll let you know when we get it.

Second Update: If you want to help us out in getting the Boston Globe article corrected, go here. It's a basic error. Let's see how long it takes the Globe to fix it.

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