The circumcision of Christ and the Presentation at the Temple


I have two question that I need help clearing up:

If the Holy Family left Bethlehem right after Jesus’ birth for the fear of being killed by Herod, how did Jesus get circumcised? Was this “on the road”. Also, how was Jesus presented at the temple when he should have been in Egypt? Was there a temple there? Thanks.


If you recall, circumcision was done on the 8th day after birth. We used to celebrate the feast, called by the same name years ago, on January 1, which has been renamed now to Mary, Mother of God. It was also called World Day of Peace several years ago.

Presentation in the Temple was done on the 40th day after birth. If you watch the Rosary in the Holy Land on EWTN in the morning, Fr.Pacwa explains that the mother must also take a ritual bath to become “clean” on this day. He mentioned that this is called a Mitvah, and took place just outside the Temple.

Although the coming of the Magi is celebrated during the Christmas season in our liturgical cycle, they did not arrive in time to worship Jesus in the stable, but it is believed they came much later, so it would thereby be correct to fulfill the rite of circumcision and presentation prior to leaving for Egypt.


Indeed. Scholars now say Jesus was between 1 and 2 when HE was adored by the Magi.


We don’t know exactly when the Magi visited Jesus. At the time of the Magi’s visit, the holy family was living in a house (Matthew 2:11) in Bethlehem, which seems different from the stable where Jesus was born. Because King Herod ordered the murder of the boys in Bethlehem who were two years old and under (Matthew 2:16) based on the information provided to him by the Magi, Jesus may have been up to two years old when the Magi visited him. So, there was probably plenty of time for Jesus to be circumcised on the eighth day and presented in the temple on the fortieth day before the holy family had to flee to Egypt.

As far as there being a temple in Egypt, no; there was ever only one Jewish temple location and it was Jerusalem.


Makes sense, I always thought He left as a baby right away and didn’t come back from Egypt until He was a lot older.


Actually, there was - or I should say were. Back in the 7th century BC, there was a small colony of Judahites in Elephantine who had a temple to Yhwh right beside that of the Egyptian god Khnum in the area.

Plus, there was also the Jewish temple at Leontopolis built by the Zadokite Onias IV (former high priest Onias III’s son). What happened was, he hoped that the Maccabee’s revolt would put him in office as high priest. However, a string of events - another man, Alcimus, being elected to the high priesthood; Jonathan Maccabee eventually appropriating the high priesthood for himself - happened, he got fed up, went to Egypt with some of his supporters (which was controlled by the Seleucids’ rivals, the Ptolemies) and managed to curry enough favor from them to gain permission to settle down and build a temple. He apparently hoped that his Leontopolis temple would be regarded as the only legitimate one - he was the legitimate claimant as per tradition, after all - since the Jerusalem temple was desecrated. But he ultimately never gathered support for this, even among Egyptian Jews. So yeah, even if the Holy Family were in Egypt, chances of them going to Onias’ temple is slim, because most everyone never took it seriously.

If you count the post-exilic Samaritans (who may not be the same people as the foreign settlers of 2 Kings) as a Jewish sect, their temple at Mount Gerizim would also count as a rival location.


Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, wherever that was. The purification took place on the fortieth in the Jerusalem Temple.

The flight to Egypt would not have taken place till later, probably as Jesus approached 2 years old.


Actually, if you read Luke carefully, he doesn’t say that Jesus was born in a stable. He just says that He was laid in a manger “because there was no room for them in the resting place/lodgings/(guest) room” (often mistranslated as ‘inn’). We just imagine that it was a freestanding stable because in medieval Europe, that’s where feeding troughs are often found - and so medieval Western artists started depicting Jesus being born in a kind of barn.

But in 1st century Palestine, people usually kept their animals inside their houses (either in a kind of side or back room or basement), and so mangers were often found inside family homes. So it’s possible that the ‘house’ the holy family was staying in in Matthew’s infancy story is the same one where Jesus was born in in Luke. In other words, they’ve been staying in that house (whoever owned it) for quite some time.


Yeah. Strictly speaking, miqveh (or mikvah, mikves; plural miqvaot) is the term for the pool of water you immerse yourself into; the immersion itself is called tevilah. Jews actually took ritual baths frequently, because there are many situations in everyday life where you could become ritually impure.

In fact, miqvaot were common fixtures in every place where there were Jews in the Holy Land. So common, that you could pretty much tell whether a site was Jewish if it had a miqveh in it or not. (That, and if there were pig bones or not: most Jewish sites do not have bones of any non-kosher animals.)


Herod/Flight to Egypt- Gospel of Matthew
Circumcision/Presentation- Gospel of Luke

Two different stories, two different audiences, two different theologies. It’s difficult to combine the two stories into a single narrative. If fact there are very few similarities between the two birth stories.


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