Are the Infancy Narratives Historically Reliable?

Nick, the atheist whose original arguments I addressed here, returned with better ones. Specifically, he points to seeming contradictions in the Infancy Narratives:

Marten de Vos, Nativity of Jesus (1577)

I’m sure you’re aware that the [G]ospels were written long after the death of Jesus and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life. They were also copied and recopied by scribes that could have had their own religious agendas. 

The question is about Jesus’ birth followed by Herod’s massacre. Now through my research Ive found that when the [G]ospels were written, many years after Jesus’ death, nobody knew when he was born. Jews expected the Messiah to come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) but John’s [G]ospel specifically remarks that he was born in Galilee and not Bethlehem. 
To fix this detail Matthew and Luke handle the problem differently and have him getting there by different routes. Matthew has Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem all along, moving to Nazareth long after the birth of Jesus. Luke, by contrast, acknowledges that Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth before Jesus was born. 
Luke says that Caesar Augustus decreed a census and everyone had to go ‘to his own city’. Joseph was of the house of David and therefore had to go to Bethlehem. This seems odd because why would the Romans require Joseph to go to the city where David lived a millennium earlier? Moreover, the census decreed by Caesar Augustus wasn’t made until AD 6, long after Herod’s death. Why the glaring contradictions? 
Shouldn’t that throw up a red flag that Matthew traces Joseph’s decent from King David via 28 intermediate generations, while Luke has 41 generations? Could it not be possible that these two different views were a desperate attempt to fulfill the prophecy of Micah, while tactlessly mentioning events that historians are capable of independently checking?
We should realize at the outset that this whole line of argument presupposes that Jesus historically existed. That is, it presupposes that there was a Jesus of Nazareth, creating the historical problem of how to also present Him as Jesus of Bethlehem. If Jesus were a myth, they could have just set the story in Bethlehem to begin with.  So I don’t think atheists can grant the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth for purposes of these types of questions, and then retracts that historicity when it suits them.  In other words, the nails are in the coffin on Nick’s first arguments (that Jesus was a repackaged Egyptian or Greek or Roman myth).

Having said that, Nick really raises nine separate issues worth addressing:

1. I’m sure you’re aware that the gospels were written long after the death of Jesus and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life.

The Gospels were probably written a few decades after the Death and Resurrection of Christ, but still within the span of time in which plenty of eyewitnesses were alive.  And it’s true that St. Paul’s letters almost certainly come first.

It’s a gross exaggeration to say he mentions “none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life,” but it’s true that he doesn’t dwell on many of the details prior to His death and Resurrection.  That makes sense, though. Paul is writing in response to specific controversies facing the early Church.  He’s not writing to pagans who need to learn about who Jesus is.  He’s writing to existing Christians. So he skips a lot of the background, because they already know it.

In other words, he’s writing apologetics, not a biography.  The Gospels are the biographies of Christ.  You don’t see a lot of biography in Paul’s letters, or a lot of apologetics in the Synoptic Gospels, but that’s because they’re different genres of Books.

2. They were also copied and recopied by scribes that could have had their own religious agendas.

Early-Second Century Parchment
Containing Part of John 18

There were, quite quickly, numerous copies of the various New Testament writings spread throughout the entire known world. So even if an unscrupulous scribe had attempted to add or alter some details, it’d be obvious, since the rest of the manuscripts would remain the same.  And we have really ancient manuscripts of certain parts of the New Testament, and don’t see evidence of tomfoolery when compared to the modern copies.

3. The question is about Jesus’ birth followed by Herod’s massacre. Now through my research I’ve found that when the [G]ospels were written, many years after Jesus’ death, nobody knew when he was born.

I don’t know that it’s true that “nobody knew when He was born,” and I don’t know what sort of research could ever hope to prove that.  It is, in any case, largely irrelevant.  We’re dealing with where Jesus was born, not when.

The Gospels never tell us the exact day (or even year) when He was born, but they do tell us where. And that’s a very knowable detail. In particular, the Gospel of Luke seems to be based off of Mary’s own account: there are a number of details only she witnessed, and not found elsewhere.  I’m sure Mary would recall what city she birthed the Savior in.

4. Jews expected the Messiah to come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) but John’s [G]ospel specifically remarks that he was born in Galilee and not Bethlehem.

No. John’s Gospel specifically remarks that some people in the crowd didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah, because they didn’t think He was from Bethlehem (John 7:42). Neither Jesus nor John endorses this error.

In fact, in context, it doesn’t even make sense to say that John thinks the crowd is right here. Are we to understand that John, whose Gospel is written last, and was written that we might believe in Christ (John 20:30-31) just mentioned in passing, “Oh, by the way, this isn’t the Messiah promised in Scripture”?

5. To fix this detail Matthew and Luke handle the problem differently and have him getting there by different routes. Matthew has Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem all along, moving to Nazareth long after the birth of Jesus. Luke, by contrast, acknowledges that Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth before Jesus was born.

It doesn’t work to say that Matthew and Mark are trying to fix a problem in John’s Gospel, since his Gospel wasn’t written yet. And it’s not true that Matthew “has Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem all along.” All we know is that at the time Jesus was conceived, Mary and Joseph did not yet live together, but that Joseph took her into his home thereafter (Matthew 1:24). No details on whether that was in Nazareth or Bethlehem. The first time the two are mentioned in Bethlehem is Matthew 2:1, at the time of Jesus’ birth.

6. Luke says that Caesar Augustus decreed a census and everyone had to go ‘to his own city’. Joseph was of the house of David and therefore had to go to Bethlehem. This seems odd because why would the Romans require Joseph to go to the city where David lived a millennium earlier?

When it says he’s of the “house of David,” it’s explaining who his family is. Namely, they’re the direct descendants of David, who was from Bethlehem.  Many of these descendants probably still lived near their ancestral home.  The world was somewhat less transient then, and being the descendant of an important person can tie you to the area a bit more.  For example, you can still find some descendants of the Pilgrims living in Boston.  So St. Joseph was almost certainly from Bethlehem, which explains why they’re going back there.

7. Moreover, the census decreed by Caesar Augustus wasn’t made until AD 6, long after Herod’s death. Why the glaring contradictions?

I don’t know where Nick got that information, but it’s mistaken.

8. Shouldn’t that throw up a red flag that Matthew traces Joseph’s decent from King David via 28 intermediate generations, while Luke has 41 generations?

No. Abraham is also referred to as the “father” of various people in the New Testament. It’s a common Semitism: “brother” could mean cousin or nephew, “father” could mean great-great-great grandfather, etc. Matthew highlights some of the big names, choosing fourteen (seven twice) for each epoch of Jewish history. He even says as much: “fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah” (Matthew 1:17). Luke goes into more depth.

9. Could it not be possible that these two different views were a desperate attempt to fulfill the prophecy of Micah, while tactlessly mentioning events that historians are capable of independently checking?

Flight to Egypt, Giotto (14th c.)

Is it possible? Sure, if one denies Scriptural inspiration. Is it likely? No.  After all, if Jesus were simply a myth, why not just make Him from Bethlehem?  And why would John purposely undermine the Infancy Narratives of Matthew and Luke, if he’s writing to encourage faith in Christ?  This explanation of the facts presented in the Gospel is incredibly convoluted.

Taking the account at face value, on the other hand, works seamlessly.   Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, but moved back to Joseph’s hometown of Bethlehem during the census enrollment.  They fled Israel during Herod’s persecution, but returned after his death, settled in Nazareth.  I imagine that plenty of people reading this can relate: growing up in one city, moving to the other as an adult, perhaps moving back and forth a couple times throughout adulthood, particularly when it comes time to start a family.  I’d say that this version — that is, that the Gospel writers aren’t lying — rings truer on a number of levels than the accounts that seek to write this off as a conspiracy.

21 Comments

  1. It’s amazing how some people think that after almost 2,000 years of constant exposure to the Scriptures they’ll somehow come up with something that will disprove the whole thing.

  2. Hi Joe. As usual, great analysis.

    One thing that I’ve often wondered about is the timing of the Presentation relative to the Slaughter of the Innocents and the flight into Egypt. Luke has Mary and Joseph taking Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem about forty after His birth. But I would have thought they’d be in Egypt by then. What am I missing?

  3. MGL,

    The Presentation is on the eighth day after His birth (Luke 2:21). The flight into Egypt appears to have been much later. We treat Matthew 2 like it occurs immediately after Matthew 1, but there’s nothing in the text indicating either way. In fact, Herod orders the death of all male children in the vicinity under age 2 (Matthew 2:16). That suggests that Jesus probably wasn’t a Newborn: you’re not likely to mistake a Newborn for a two-year-old.

  4. Joe,

    I’m happy to see this – just downright happy with the fine work here and on the last post. We can speak the Truth and do our Biblical scholarship boldly, for if it is what we believe it is, it’ll hold up. I watched this lecture on the Gospels being based on eyewitness accounts a bit ago, and it might be of some use to you along the way. Even if not, I think you and your readers might enjoy it. The Q & A is also very good.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5Ylt1pBMm8 (lecture)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6u04d6M3tAw&feature=related (Q&A)

    N.B. The guy’s a Protestant, and he might drop a “Jesus’ brother” here or there, fyi. Can’t quite remember.

    Peace and hope.

    Drew

  5. I was wondering if you had anymore to add to Luke referring to the time of the census being when Quirinius was governing Syria. I’ve seen many sources for both sides that state it was in AD 6 when he was governing, though the one you alluded to as being “mistaken” was a new one to me. These source attempt to interpret what Luke meant to say. I only ask because it was the underlining theme of my question and was discarded. I’m not sure whether it was a deserved dismissal or if you knew anything else on the matter, which is why i was inquiring. If it was I had another thing that was bothering me.

    In Thomas Jefferson’s letter to his nephew he mentions other histories of Christ that, for their time, were the known Apocrypha of the time. These other Gospels included at least a dozen other histories of Christ including the Gospels of Thomas, Peter, Nicodemus, Philip, Bartholomew and Mary Magdalen. It was decided by a council of ecclesiastics that these be omitted. Now were these omitted because of the embarrassingly implausibility or because of their lack of validity? I basically want to know why the four canonical Gospel were chosen over the others. What set them apart besides being more plausible?

  6. mgl,
    I think the circumcision would be eight days after birth, but not at the temple. The presentation at the temple is traditionaly 40 days because that is how long the woman was unclean after child birth. She comes with her child and they are both admitted.

    Interestingly, this tradition was carried on in Christianty up until recently. Some traditional communities still do it. It is called Churching which is based on the Presentation.

    It is plausible that the flight into egypt was when Jesus was old enough to stand. Roughly 2 years. The greek word for infant in describing the slaughter literally means “standing”.

  7. Hey, Nick.

    I’m glad you’re interacting here. I’ll leave the Quirinius business to Joe (though I’ll look around some myself), but the Peter Williams lecture I posted a link to in my comment above deals a little with the non-canonical gospels. If you’re interested, have a watch, but if you want straighter answers, I’ll have to bow out for now. Got a mean test coming up.

    Peace and hope.

    Drew

  8. Just a word about St.Paul’s accounts, because I don’t think we need concede that the Apostle skips the chief facts of Christ’s life.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia puts it best,

    “The four great Pauline Epistles (Romans, Galatians, and First and Second Corinthinas) can hardly be overestimated by the student of Christ’s life; they have at times been called the “fifth gospel”; their authenticity has never been assailed by serious critics; their testimony is also earlier than that of the Gospels, at least most of the Gospels; it is the more valuable because it is incidental and undesigned; it is the testimony of a highly intellectual and cultured writer, who had been the greatest enemy of Jesus, who writes within twenty-five years of the events which he relates.

    At the same time, these four great Epistles bear witness to all the most important facts in the life of Christ: His Davidic descent, His poverty, His Messiahship, His moral teaching, His preaching of the kingdom of God, His calling of the apostles, His miraculous power, His claims to be God, His betrayal, His institution of the Holy Eucharist, His passion, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, His repeated appearances (Romans 1:3-4; 5:11; 8:2-3; 8:32; 9:5; 15:8; Galatians 2:17; 3:13; 4:4; 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 13:4; etc.).

  9. The idea that the Gospel’s were written late is as commonplace in some quarters as it is wrong. The textual evidence (the lack of 2nd century anachronisms)alone suggests that we are working with very early docs. As does the style in which they are written – they bear all the hallmarks of eyewitness testimony. If memory serves, I believe we have manuscripts that date from within a century of Christ’s Resurrection.

    In fact, Jesus of Nazareth, is the best attested to figure of ancient history, better than Caesar, Alexander, Plato, or Socrates. To reject the reliability of the Bible (as a purely historical doc) you have to reject everything we know about everyone and every event in the world from before about 800 AD.

    My guess is Nick rejects the Gospels because they contain miraculous events and is trying to find other reasons to justify this position.

  10. Nick,

    The deal with those other Gospels (usually referred to as the Gnostic Gospels) is that they were written significantly later and had dubious authorship. The earliest of those is the Gospel of Thomas and the earliest I’ve ever seen it dated with mid-second century AD. The rest of them vary between the late second century and the fourth century. So we’re talking about accounts that were written (at the earliest) about a hundred years after Jesus’ life and the Apostles and other witness were all long dead by that time. Contrast that with the 4 Gospels in the New Testament which are dated to a few decades post-Christ- when there would have been numerous living witnesses to correct the record- and are attributed to either actual Apostles (Matthew and John) or the direct disciples of the Apostles (Luke and Mark).

    Add into that mix how wildly different the Gnostic Gospels are from the traditional ones- which, again were written in a period very close to Jesus’ life and within the life of the Apostles and living memory of any witnesses- and it’s pretty easy to see why they were rejected.

  11. Oh, and I wanted to mention something Joe didn’t touch on with regards to apparent contradictions between the Gospels. Something people- Christian and non-Christian alike- don’t realize is that the intended purpose and audience for each Gospel is different.

    Let’s say that you’re writing a book about WWII. Depending on your audience you would focus on different things depending on what is important to your intended readers. If your intended audience is men you might focus on specific battles, generals, strategy, and the like. If your intended audience is women you would likely focus on the impact the war had on families and women in the workplace, etc and so forth. Makes sense, right? Well the Gospels were written in a similar way.

    So, for instance, the Gospel of Matthew is written for the benefit of the Hebrews which is why it focuses on certain aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry that some of the other Gospels may only briefly mention or skip over altogether. Luke and Mark are generally accepted to be written for Gentile audiences in different geographical areas, and John is more of a theological text.

  12. Our Dominican priests at our parish have actually told us mere laypeople need to sit down and really read the gnostic gospels if we want to know why they weren’t included in the New Testament.

    For starters: Many of them lack the geographic and historical details that the four canonical gospel possess.

    The Gospel of Judas has the line:

    “One day he [Jesus] was with his disciples in Judea…”

    Israel may not be the largest country on Earth, but the region of Judea is still a big place. One would think that if the author knew the details, he would have mentioned at least the town that Jesus was in when that scene took place.

    Compare that to the canonical gospels which have a lot more details: Jesus is at Caesarea Philippi in Matt. 16, In John there’s a definite chronology with mentioning of the number of days of Jesus’ Ministry, as well as mentioning A LOT of towns that Jesus visits. There are several historical people mentioned in the beginning of Luke that the author gives to set the stage.

    The canonical gospels have the handicap of needing to at least make Some sense. The gnostic gospels have Jesus spouting off philosophical mumbo-jumbo that makes no sense for the sake of spouting off philosophical mumbo-jumbo that makes no sense!

    Many of the gnostic gospels also have more in common with “Harry Potter” than with Christianity. In one of them Saint Peter has something of a wizard battle with Simon Magnus…

    You’d think that if St. Peter did the acts that were recorded in the gnostic gospels that bears his name, the Bishops of Rome who immediately succeeded him would know about it.

    The early church could see these writings for what they were: Junk that was best ignored.

    (Although I’ll admit to liking them for being yet another keyhole-sized window into the Ancient World. I’m able to separate the amateur historian in me from the amateur theologian…)

  13. Nick,

    Regarding Quirinius, I think the problem is less one of history than one of grammar. The Greek in Luke 2:2 is a bit ambiguous, and worse, the syntax varies slightly between manuscripts.

    Luke’s clearly making a connection to Quirinius. Apparently, the Greek is ambiguous enough that it can also mean that this was the census preceding Quirinius, or the census that became important while Quirinius was governor. Either of those translations strike me as stronger candidates then how the passage is generally translated – usually something like “This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.”

    There are three reasons that I don’t think Luke could possibly be saying what most modern translations depict him as saying.

    First, Luke just said King Herod was in charge, not Quirinius. A bit of background here. Upon the death of King Herod (“Herod the Great”) in about 4 B.C., his kingdom was divided up between his sons. Judea and Samaria went to Herod Archelaus, while Galilee went to Herod Antipas (“Herod” or “Herod the tetrarch” in the New Testament) and Herod Phillip III got Iturea and Traconitis. Ten years later, in 6 A.D., Herod Archelaus was banished, and the tetrarchy of Judea was placed under direct Roman control: specifically, under the control of Quirinius, governor of Syria.

    Now, Luke has just said that King Herod is still alive (Luke 1:5 – and yes, this means that the traditional dating of Christ’s birth is probably off by a couple years). He can’t be saying that Judea is both under the control of King Herod and under the control of Quirinius. Not only would the chronology be off, but that doesn’t make any sense. It’d be like saying that King George III was in charge of the American colonies, and then that John Adams was president. Not only is there a decade in between those two events, and a major political shift, but they just can’t both be in charge. And Luke is writing propably in the 60s, much nearer the event than we are to the American Revolution.

    Second, Luke knows his history much too well to make that mistake. Regardless of your views on the inspiration of his writings, Luke just isn’t dumb enough to have made that mistake. He knows much too much about regional history and politics. Besides the thorough genealogy we discussed before, Luke knows of even the minor players in Herodian politics: for example, in Luke 3:19, he mentions the sister-in-law of Herod Antipas. And in Luke 8:3, he mentions “Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household.”

    So that’d be like making the John Adams mistake above, while knowing the name of Betsy Smith, John Adam’s sister-in-law. It’s just unlikely he couldn’t have known about the chronology following King Herod’s death.

    In fact, Luke 3:1 makes it clear he knows all about that division, and when it happens. The chapter begins, “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene…” So he’s pretty clearly well-informed about the division of Israel after the death of King Herod.

    Finally, it doesn’t make sense to call this the “first” census under Quirinius The traditional translation doesn’t make apparent sense, since there was only one census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

    So for Luke to be saying what most Bibles translate him as saying in Luke 2:2, he’d have to not only get the date wrong by a decade or more, he’d also have to think that Quirinius and King Herod were in charge at the same time, and that Quirinius had more than one census. All of this is resolved quite easily if we read Luke 2:2 as describing the census as the one that preceded that of Quirinius, which was better known.

    God bless,

    Joe

  14. === Nick wrote:
    8. Shouldn’t that throw up a red flag that Matthew traces Joseph’s decent from King David via 28 intermediate generations, while Luke has 41 generations?
    ===

    === and Joe responded:
    Luke goes into more depth.
    ===

    It’s not just about level of detail along the same period. Luke’s genealogy goes all the way back to Adam, and therefore includes those “before the flood”. Christ has come to restore all humanity, even that which was displeasing to God before the flood.

    While we’re on the subject of genealogies and their Mosaic significance — something very prophetic can be seen in the generational inheritence of Christ.

    Under the old covenant(s), there were two distinct forms of leadership that God blessed in the world: Kings and Priests. A Priest could not act as a King, and a King could not act as a Priest (remember what happens to Saul[Solomon?Saul?] when he tries to offer the sacrifice; the people understand this as a sacrilege regardless of how “kingly” he was.)

    Hebrew custom was such that lineage and descendent identity was more about who you were raised by than it was about biological parents (that’s a distinctly modern phenomenon.) Witness–the tradition and ensuing story about what happens when a man dies with no firstborn; the brother takes the widow as his wife and their children are by tradition considered the sons/daughters of the deceased. So “household” is more significant than genetics, and for the purposes of lineage, Jesus gains the rights of being Joseph’s son despite the virgin birth.

    – Joseph is descended from the lineage of Kings (David).
    – Mary is descended from the lineage of Priest (via Zachariah/Elizabeth, her cousins).

    Jesus Christ is therefore, according to the laws of lineage, a King *and* Priest — hence the term “royal priesthood”.

    === Joe:
    Matthew highlights some of the big names, choosing fourteen (seven twice) for each epoch of Jewish history.
    ===

    Seven twice is not the only significance. It’s numerology, which was very important to the believability by the Hebrews, for what it was worth. 14 Generations. 14 = 4 + 6 + 4. 4-6-4 represent the Hebrew letters for D-V-D (“David”.)

    === Iranaeus:
    I think the circumcision would be eight days after birth, but not at the temple. The presentation at the temple is traditionaly 40 days because that is how long the woman was unclean after child birth. She comes with her child and they are both admitted. Interestingly, this tradition was carried on in Christianty up until recently. Some traditional communities still do it. It is called Churching which is based on the Presentation.
    ===

    The Churching on/after the 40th Day is still standard practice in the Orthodox Church.

    Tidbit for the day: Mary is the fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant — the Ark that will contain God Himself. When Mary is brought to the Temple as a little girl, she is actually taken into the Holy of Holies by the high priest, to everyone’s surprise. But by this time, the Ark had already gone missing (which was hidden from the people.) Mary, the true Ark, winds up in its place.

    In 2 Kings 6:2, David goes to the hill country and leaps for joy in front of the Ark, like a little child. Before the Nativity, when Elizabeth and Mary meet, John the Baptist leaps in the womb before the Ark that is the Virgin Mary.

  15. Irenaeus,

    that still wouldn’t work. King Herod died 4BC, Quirinius was in charge of Judaea only after 6 AD, so it’s ten years.

    Joe’s explanations of this however are spot on.

  16. John Black,

    three items:

    1. Sure, Luke’s genealogy has Adam and God and the top end, Matthew’s only Abraham, but I am sure that Nick (or his forebearers) couted only the generations from Abraham onwards to Joseph – and Luke’s is much longer than Matthews.

    Not only that, they actually contradict each other:

    -Matthew’s goes through David’s son Solomon and the succeeding kings (leaving out some) to Shealtiel and his son Serubabel, the Jewish leader after the exile and further down to Joseph.
    -Luke’s goes through David’s son Nathan and a much longer list of unknown descendants (no kings), still ends up with Shealtiel and Serubabel and continues with a different line of Serubabel’s descendants (also much longer) to end up with Joseph.

    Looking at both lineages after David, only two names appear in both: Shealtiel, Serubabel and Joseph, with Shealtiel and Joseph having differently named fathers.

    And, Serubabel’s parentage is already not completely clear in the Old Testament.

    The contradictions however can be explained by the Jewish institution of the levirate marriage, i.e. a someone marrying his dead brother’s childless widow to father a child for his brother. This way, someone can have two fathers, one legal, one biological. That this type of arrangement was not uncommon among the House of David can be seen in the Book of Ruth.

    2. Though Mary is described as being related to Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron, it nowhere says that Mary was of that descent. (Tradition actually holds that she was of David’s as well.) Aaronic descendents were actually commanded to marry within their own house (as Elizabeth to the priest Zecharaiah) so she couldn’t have married the Davidic Joseph. Furthermore, while one is an Israelite by being born to a Israelite mother, the tribal lineage is inherited through the father. So a Aaronic mother would not make Jesus “of priestly descent”.

    3. Can we please desist from repeating pious but fictional stuff like that Mary ever entered the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest entered that room, once every year and only after thorough cleansing. Had anyone brought any woman in there, we would know of the event and of the subsequent death penalty of all those involved. Mary’s being the “new Ark” doesn’t hinge on such stories.

  17. Regarding the massacre:

    Luke tells us that Herod had all boys in the town ‘up to the age of two’ killed, according to the time the Magi told him.

    This only makes sense if the birth of Christ, announced to the Magi through a star, happened roughly two years before the massacre.

    Which gives the Holy Family plenty of time to circumcise Jesus on the 8th day, take him to the Temple on the 40th day, move into a house at Betlehem (as the star indicated a house) and receive the Magi there.

    If I am allowed to speculate: Matthew’s text makes it appear that the Family only settled at Nazareth because they wouldn’t go back to Judea in 4BC. IMHO, this actually fits with Luke’s account if they had actually intended to stay in Betlehem after Christ’s birth.

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