Chronology of Jesus' infancy?


Recently I have been wondering: how does the story of the presentation in the temple fit with the Lord’s journey into Egypt? Presentations had to happen (i think) 40 days after birth and the gospel says that after this Jesus returned to Nazareth, not bethlehem or egypt. Any clues?

awesome question!!

unfortunately, your question has no answer.

The Egypt journey is Matthew’s gospel
The Presentation is Luke’s gospel.

Matthew and Luke wrote two very different (and independent) stories on the birth of Jesus. Luke’s story is from Mary’s perspective while Matthew’s is from Joseph’s perspective. It is quite difficult to merge them into one story- although we woud like to.

I like both, actually.

But both gospels are the word of God. There can’t be a contradiction, it is impossible. There must be a solution.

true they are both the word of God. but there is no solution…I don’t see them as contradictory, but rather two different stories of the same event.

But one says they went into egypt, the other does not.

true, but that does make them contrary to one another. There are countless stories that appear in only one gospel, while some gospels share the same stories with only slight differences.

contrary does not mean one is more true or that the other is more false.

all of it, taken collectively, is the word of god, THE gospel. There is only one gospel, but it is told four different ways.

There’s no difficulty. Luke’s Gospel was written later than Matthew’s. Therefore Luke did not have to slavishly follow every detail in Matthew’s Gospel. Luke did not mention the sojourn into Egypt, but it most definitely happened, just as Matthew has informed us. Luke saying they went to Nazareth does not mean immediately after leaving the temple. :wink: Luke also mentions that the “child” grew in grace and wisdom. How did the infant become a child in one day? Time is compressed here, but adding some details not mentioned in Matthew.

I understand this, as it is well shown in the resurrection narratives. However, the Bible records historical events as well as spiritual ones, and the escape into Egypt is a historical event. Either it did happen or it didn’t. There must be an answer.

Luke had access to Matthew’s gospel when he wrote?? Highly doubtful.

Well, then, yes, it did happen.
However, the theological theme of Jesus going to Egypt and returning is much more important. Remember, the gospels were not written to communicate history, but rather an experience of Jesus Christ. See John 20: 30-31. History has contradictions only because they are told and retold many years after the fact…just like the gospels.

Not at all. It is very probable that Matthew’s Gospel was written in Judea for the Jews. It may have even been at the request of the Apostles who had still not dispersed. Luke’s Gospel was written for the Gentiles, many years (decades) later. It is very likely that Luke had access to Matthew’s Gospel. It is debatable, that’s true, but it is a very old tradition that Matthew’s Gospel was written first and no one doubts that Luke’s Gospel came many years after Matthew’s. :wink:

But when the Evangelist gives us a historical narrative, even though it may not be in exact chronological order, it is first and foremost their witness to a historical fact. That is the very nature of their mission TO BE WITNESSES TO THE HISTORICAL fact of Jesus and His Incarnation into our History. There is no “experience of Jesus” without a historical fact. History is not their primary objective, but it is hardly unimportant.

A very old tradition? Please tell me your sources for this.
Mark was the first gospel written. Matt and Luke used Mark but also inserted their own stuff. Matt and Luke also has access to other sources- hence two very different infancy narratives.
Just because Matthew is listed first does not mean it was the first Gospel.
Please find me a Catholic bible commentary that says otherwise.

Yes, it is their witness, but it is the community’s story since to community wrote and rewrote the story of the original histroical event.
BTW, Mark does not mention Jesus’ incarnation.


I like to understand the chronology and harmony of the infancy narratives as explained here and here. Needless to say, Ben Masada was not impressed. :slight_smile: But this is how I imagine it to have happened, or in a way similar to this.

With the love of Christ,

That is silliness
The truth is that MT and LK were written by two different authors/redactors at two different times in two different locations to two different communities that had two sets of different needs. While they had access to Mark and another unamed source, their stories of Jesus are completely different.

I’ll say it again: There is ONE gospel, ONE Jesus, and ONE history…but four stories all inspired by the Holy Spirit.


Matthew’s story has Jesus being born during the reign of King Herod who died in 4 BC. Luke’s story has Jesus being born during the census of Quirinius, the governor of Syria. Quirinius became governor and Judea came under his direct control in 6 AD. Hence, the two birthdates for Jesus are separated by 10 years.

Since King Herod would have been dead for ten years by Luke’s account, obviously Herod’s Slaughter of the Innocent the Flight into Egypt story would be chronologically impossible.

Obviously, one story is fictional. Probably both. Maybe “infallibly” fictional.:smiley:

well, here’s my theory, based on some of Pete’s ideas (thanks Pete), the scriptures and the Mystical City of God by Ven. Mary of Agreda, which, btw, I recommend as a source.

  1. Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth.
  2. Mary is made pregnant and goes to visit Elizabeth.
  3. Mary returns home to Nazareth.
  4. Mary and Joseph journey to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born.
  5. Family establish some connections in Nazareth and settle there.
  6. The shepherds visit Jesus.
  7. Jesus is circumcised – whether in Jerusalem or Bethlehem is immaterial.
  8. If Jesus was circumcised in Jerusalem, Holy Family return to Bethlehem.
  9. Magi honour Jesus in Bethlehem, then depart.
  10. Holy Family return to Jerusalem for the purification.
  11. Purification takes place in Jerusalem. While in Jerusalem, the Holy Family is warned of the threat posed by King Herod.
  12. They return to Nazareth to say goodbye to relatives, etc.
  13. They return to Bethlehem to gather up belongings, and then flee into Egypt.


That’s a nice version. But tell me, doesn’t Matthew have Mary and Joseph already living in a house in Bethlehem? Does he have any journey, manger, etc.?

And why would Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem from Nazareth anyway? Quirinius was given control of Judea and conducted a census for tax purposes, never Galalee.

Nazareth was in Galilee which remained under Herod Antipas who governed and collected the taxes. Hence, their was no requirement that they travel to Bethlehem (Judea) to register.

“The Facts of History” by Vererable JPM;)


Why is it silliness? There is certainly only one Gospel, and every detail of each of the four canonical Gospels is an essential piece of this one Gospel.

What do you see in the following accounts? Harmony? Contradiction? Would it be silly to reconcile them?

Gospel 1: There was a man who barely graduated high school. He enlisted in the Army as an infantryman and was discharged for acne. After this, he was living with his mom until she made him leave home. And so he ended up living in his car for a length of time. He went on to marry his wife in a courthouse ceremony, and lived in a townhouse.

Gospel 2: There was a man who, after graduating high school, enlisted in the Air Force as a computer programmer. He became a Body-for-LIFE Grand Champion and graduated college with a bachelor’s majoring in computer science. After separating from the Air Force, he was a personal trainer at a local gym, married his wife in the Catholic Church, and lived in a single-family home.

Gospel 3: After graduating high school, a certain man attended a local community college for a year. Drifting though life, he ended up getting a job doing glass construction on 3 separate occasions, working for a landscaper pulling weeds and building hardscapes, selling paint at SEARS, and variously working as a substitute teacher, a high school teacher, and a home instructor for kids who had been kicked out of school. He tried to get a job as a prison guard but was denied because of certain pacifistic tendencies. He also had a brother who entered the Army and, after serving for 6 years, went on to serve in the Air Force as an F-15 pilot.

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