How the accounts of Jesus’ childhood fit together: 6 things to know and share [Akin]

#1 Matthew and Luke contain accounts of Jesus’ infancy.

But they don’t describe all the same events.

As a result, some have even accused Matthew and Luke of contradicting each other.

What’s the true story? Why did they record different events? And can the two be fit together?

Here are 6 things to know and share . . .

1) Why don’t the Gospels all record the same events as each other?

Because there was too much information to fit into a single book about Jesus.

John notes this specifically, and humorously, at the end of his Gospel (John 21:25).

In the ancient world, they didn’t have the printing technology needed to make large books, and so there was pressure to keep each single book short by modern standards.

This meant each Evangelist had to leave many things out.

There was also more than one way to approach telling the story of Jesus, to benefit different audiences, and so each Evangelist takes a somewhat different approach, and that affects his selection of which stories and sayings to include in his Gospel.

2) What approaches do Matthew and Luke take in their accounts of Jesus’ childhood?

The accounts of Jesus’ childhood are known as “infancy narratives.”

Although both have many points in common (e.g., Jesus was born of a Virgin named Mary, his foster father was Joseph, he was born in Bethlehem, the family later moved to Nazareth, etc.), it’s clear that Matthew and Luke are emphasizing different aspects of Jesus and the people around him.

Matthew keeps his account short, he focuses on Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, and he emphasizes Jesus kingly role (descent through Solomon in the genealogy, seen as a threat by King Herod, visited by foreign dignitaries, etc.).

Luke devotes much more space to the events, he focuses on Jesus mother, Mary, and he does not emphasize Jesus’ kingship as much (e.g., he records him being visited by humble shepherds).

3) Can we track the movements of the Holy Family (and the others in the narratives) by bringing together Matthew and Luke’s accounts?

Yes. The texts give us enough indications of time and sequence to do this, as follows:



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