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Bodie Hodge and Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S., respond to another reader’s objections to our Christmas timeline article.
I love you guys, but I hope that Answers in Genesis cannot be accused of being intolerant to other’s interpretation of plain scripture. In your clear 12/21 posting “Christmas Timeline of the Biblical Account” you once again dismiss the possibility of Jesus being in Nazareth at the time of the magi’s visit. Your clear position suggests no other option is on your website.
Scripture does not say Bethlehem in Matthew 2:9–12. Just because Jesus was born there does not mean he stayed there. It is not “suggested” in Luke 2:39 that they returned to Bethlehem but clearly states Nazareth, their “home town.” Being well enough to fulfill the Law suggests wellness for returning home to Nazareth.
If the magi are from Persia, and the star only appeared at the birth, you may want to consider an optional time line reflecting travel distance and not pre-determine your answer. Return through Jerusalem from Egypt is likely when going to Nazareth. Will you please at least thoroughly consider the possibility?
I love you guys
Thanks. We are the first to admit this timeline is not the absolute standard, but we believe it is entirely consistent with Scripture and rebuts the alleged contradictions proposed by the skeptics. However, if it can be demonstrated from Scripture that we are wrong, we will gladly rework it to make sure it lines up with God’s Word.
but I hope that AnswersinGenesis cannot be accused of being intolerant to other’s interpretation of plain scripture. In your clear 12/21 posting “Christmas Timeline of the Biblical Account” you once again dismiss the possibility of Jesus being in Nazareth at the time of the magi’s visit. Your clear position suggests no other option is on your website.
We also clearly state that this is but one possible timeline. Other resources we offer (e.g., Ussher) have it slightly different.
Scripture does not say Bethlehem in Matthew 2:9–12.
But it is mentioned in the context all around this account.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem (Matthew 2:1)
So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:5–6)
And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” (Matthew 2:8)
Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. (Matthew 2:16)
Just because Jesus was born there does not mean he stayed there.
Of course, but after the fortieth day He was taken to Jerusalem for Mary’s purification. Perhaps he was circumcised elsewhere (Bethlehem?) on the eighth day following His birth. It makes little sense that Mary would make the 70-mile journey from Bethlehem to Nazareth shortly after giving birth, only to return a few weeks later to finish her purification ceremony. Also, if they were in Nazareth at the time of Herod’s murderous decree, why would the angel direct them to Egypt, since they would not have been in danger, being well beyond the area of Bethlehem?
It is not “suggested” in Luke 2:39 that they returned to Bethlehem but clearly states Nazareth, their “home town.”
But it doesn’t say immediately after the things of the law had been completed (eutheos is not used in this context). In our chronology, the journey to Egypt takes place after the things of the law were completed. We addressed this same topic in a previous feedback article with the following response:
We simply propose that some time elapsed between Luke 2:38 and 39, and that the events in Matthew took place during that time (visit of the magi, flight to Egypt, slaughter of children of Bethlehem). Luke does not mention these, but that does not mean they did not happen, just that Luke did not record them. So, these events had to happen somewhere within Luke’s account, and we believe this spot makes the most sense.
Interestingly enough, there are other examples where Luke left out details that Matthew provided. Luke 23:25 reveals that Pilate released Barabbas from prison and delivered Jesus to be crucified. The next verse states, “Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus” (Luke 23:26). This would seem to give the impression that Jesus was led away to be crucified immediately after Pilate pronounced the sentence. But this isn’t the case.
Matthew also discussed these events and he shows that something else occurred between the sentencing and Christ being led away to His Crucifixion. He wrote the following:
Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him.
When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.
Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross. (Matthew 27:26–32)
If we only had the Gospel of Luke, we would not know about the scarlet robe, the crown of thorns, and the brutality and mocking by the soldiers.
It is very interesting in this case that Luke used the exact same Greek words to transition from Luke 23:25 to 26 as he did in the transition from Luke 2:38 to 39. The Greek καὶ ὡς (kai hōs) is translated as “So when” (Luke 2:39) and “Now as” (Luke 23:26).
It is perfectly acceptable for a writer to skip over events while recording history, as Luke did in these cases. In fact, this is the nature of historical reporting. Since no historian can provide exhaustive details of the events they are recording, information will inevitably be left out. Luke did not write about Christ’s mistreatment at the hands of the soldiers, nor did he discuss the visit of the magi, the flight to Egypt, and Herod’s slaughter of the children. Thankfully, Matthew filled in these details for us. In other places Luke filled in some details which Matthew did not discuss, such as angelic announcement to the shepherds, the shepherds’ visit to see Christ, and the accounts of Simeon and Anna.1
Being well enough to fulfill the Law suggests wellness for returning home to Nazareth.
Being well enough was not the issue. They were well enough to go to Egypt too.
If the magi are from Persia, and the star only appeared at the birth, you may want to consider an optional time line reflecting travel distance and not pre-determine your answer.
Of course, the Bible gives no indication of when the star appeared. It was Herod who used the information about when the star appeared to determine his execution order of those age two years and under.
Return through Jerusalem from Egypt is likely when going to Nazareth.
Based on Matthew 2:19–21, it appears that Joseph and Mary were planning to return to the area of Israel where they had been living before they departed. We understand this to be Bethlehem, based on the context.
There were a few routes Joseph and Mary could have traveled from Egypt to Nazareth, and it is uncertain which route they would have taken. The following information was derived from the Bible History website.2 The shortest route (and easiest in terms of terrain) would have been the road that went along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. However this road went through the region of Samaria, so Joseph and Mary may have avoided it due to the hostilities between the Jews and Samaritans. They could have taken a road that would have brought them through Bethlehem and Jerusalem, but we know Joseph was afraid to go there, and God warned them in a dream, so they went to Galilee. If Joseph and Mary avoided Judea altogether, then they would have needed to travel through Idumea (south of Israel), then around the Dead Sea, and up the eastern side of the Jordan River. This would have been an extremely long trek, and the Bible tells us that they entered Israel before God warned them about Judea.
So which route did they choose? It makes the most sense that they would have gone through Samaria, even though relations between Jews and Samaritans were rocky. The other two routes should be ruled out because they seem to contradict information provided in Scripture.
Will you please at least thoroughly consider the possibility?
We had considered the scenario you proposed, and we believe it does not best fit the biblical account. However, we do not want to be dogmatic about it, as there may be other possibilities—e.g., go to Nazareth and then move to Bethlehem, etc. But after studying this for a significant amount of time, we believe this to be the best possibility. We would like to encourage you to continue studying this subject in more detail, and may God richly bless you.
With kindness in Christ,
Bodie Hodge and Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S.
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.