Bill Pringle - Bill@BillPringle

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Prologue

Mark 1:1 Luke 1:1-4

1 THE beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;

1 FORASMUCH as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;

3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,

4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

Luke addresses his introduction to Theophilus. He does the same for Acts. Theophilus could be the name of a person or the a title of a person. The term means "friend of God". Since Luke uses the phrase "most excellent", it is likely that it is a real person.

Pre-mortal ministry

John 1:1-5 Genesis 1:1-4

1 IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 The same was in the beginning with God.

3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

1 IN the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

The word in John 1:5 that is translated "comprehended" can also be translated as "overtook". This shifts the meaning of the verse from "the darkness was unable to understand the light" to "the darkness was unable to overcome (or extinguish) the light.

Genealogy of Jesus Christ

Matthew 1:1-17 Luke 3:23-38 Genesis 5:1-5

1 THE book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;

3 And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram;

4 And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon;

5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;

6 And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her [that had been the wife] of Urias;

7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa;

8 And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias;

9 And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias;

10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias;

11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon:

12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;

13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor;

14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud;

15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob;

16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David [are] fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon [are] fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ [are] fourteen generations.

23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed ) the son of Joseph, which was [the son] of Heli,

24 Which was [the son] of Matthat, which was [the son] of Levi, which was [the son] of Melchi, which was [the son] of Janna, which was [the son] of Joseph,

25 Which was [the son] of Mattathias, which was [the son] of Amos, which was [the son] of Naum, which was [the son] of Esli, which was [the son] of Nagge,

26 Which was [the son] of Maath, which was [the son] of Mattathias, which was [the son] of Semei, which was [the son] of Joseph, which was [the son] of Juda,

27 Which was [the son] of Joanna, which was [the son] of Rhesa, which was [the son] of Zorobabel, which was [the son] of Salathiel, which was [the son] of Neri,

28 Which was [the son] of Melchi, which was [the son] of Addi, which was [the son] of Cosam, which was [the son] of Elmodam, which was [the son] of Er,

29 Which was [the son] of Jose, which was [the son] of Eliezer, which was [the son] of Jorim, which was [the son] of Matthat, which was [the son] of Levi,

30 Which was [the son] of Simeon, which was [the son] of Juda, which was [the son] of Joseph, which was [the son] of Jonan, which was [the son] of Eliakim,

31 Which was [the son] of Melea, which was [the son] of Menan, which was [the son] of Mattatha, which was [the son] of Nathan, which was [the son] of David,

32 Which was [the son] of Jesse, which was [the son] of Obed, which was [the son] of Booz, which was [the son] of Salmon, which was [the son] of Naasson,

33 Which was [the son] of Aminadab, which was [the son] of Aram, which was [the son] of Esrom, which was [the son] of Phares, which was [the son] of Juda,

34 Which was [the son] of Jacob, which was [the son] of Isaac, which was [the son] of Abraham, which was [the son] of Thara, which was [the son] of Nachor,

35 Which was [the son] of Saruch, which was [the son] of Ragau, which was [the son] of Phalec, which was [the son] of Heber, which was [the son] of Sala,

36 Which was [the son] of Cainan, which was [the son] of Arphaxad, which was [the son] of Sem, which was [the son] of Noe, which was [the son] of Lamech,

37 Which was [the son] of Mathusala, which was [the son] of Enoch, which was [the son] of Jared, which was [the son] of Maleleel, which was [the son] of Cainan,

38 Which was [the son] of Enos, which was [the son] of Seth, which was [the son] of Adam, which was [the son] of God.

1 THIS [is] the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;

2 Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.

3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat [a son] in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:

4 And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:

5 And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.

Notice that the two genealogies are different. Matthew starts from Abraham and ends at Joseph, whereas Luke starts with Joseph and goes back to Adam. There are a number of differences between the two versions.

Matthew appears to be the legal descent of Joseph from Abraham. Some have even claimed that Joseph could have been in line to be the king of Israel, had such an office still existed. Luke appears to be the natural genealogy of Joseph.

Some have speculated that one of the genealogies is actually of Mary, since Joseph's blood line has nothing to do with Jesus.

There are many lists of genealogies within the Hebrew Bible. Genesis 5 is just one example.

Notice that there is very little overlap between the four Gospels concerning the early life of Jesus. It is very rare that a given incident is mentioned in more than one book. This makes it difficult to construct an accurate picture of his early life. It is also difficult at times to reconcile the various stories, as well as to fit them into chronological order.

The Birth of John the Baptist

Luke 1:5-7

5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife [was] of the daughters of Aaron, and her name [was] Elisabeth.

6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were [now] well stricken in years.

Since Zacharias is said to be a priest, he must be of the lineage of Aaron. Elisabeth is also listed as a descendant of Aaron. Aaron was of the tribe of Levi, which were the priestly clan of the Israelites. Descendants of Aaron held the Aaronic priesthood, which included officiating at various sacrifices at the temple. This means that John had a "pure" priestly heritage.

Obeying all the commandments and being blameless was viewed differently than it is today. The commandments were specific things to be done, with specific things to do if one failed to do the first. These latter things would absolve the person of the offense. For example, each person was to offer certain sacrifices at various times. If they performed those sacrifices, they were blameless before the Lord for those acts.

Today much more emphasis is placed on the motives and methods of complying with the commandments. It is not enough to simply give money for the poor, but you must do it with a glad heart of good intent. The description given by Luke establishes that Zacharias and Elizabeth were devout, religious, Israelites.

The Annunciation of John the Baptist

Luke 1:8-17

8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,

9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.

10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.

12 And when Zacharias saw [him], he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.

17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

The above incident falls into a pattern of events called an Annunciation. An elderly couple is without children. An angel appears to one of them and announces that they will have a child. They are told what to name the child, and what great things he will accomplish in his lifetime, and are given a sign to show that these things will come to pass.

This is the "normal" type of annunciation. They occur in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Variations occur at times, and these variations are often significant. When someone hears the phrase "The Annunciation", they often think of the annunciation to Mary about Jesus. This is another such event, and there are many more in the Bible. For more information, see Robert Alter's book "The Art of Biblical Narrative".

Zacharius questions the angel and becomes mute

Luke 1:18-23

18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.

19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.

20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.

22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.

23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

Apparently it was Zacharias' turn to burn incense in the Holy of Holies. The rest of the people waited outside while Zacharias went in to offer the sacrifice. They were no doubt wondering why he was taking much longer than expected. Since only the high priest was to enter into the Holy of Holies, there may have also been some concern about what to do if he didn't come back out.

It has often been pointed out that both Zacharias and Mary asked how the event proclaimed to them would happen. Zacharias, however, seemed to doubt the words, while Mary seemed more curious about how it was to be, or perhaps asking what she had to do to make it come to pass.

Zacharias was essentially asking for a sign, which was in character with many such situations in the Old Testament (see Judges 6:34-40). In response, Gabriel gave him a sign: that he was mute until the events took place. It is not clear that this should be looked upon as punishment for doubting, but simply what Zacharias had asked for (although not what he expected).

Conception of John the Baptist

Luke 1:24-25

24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,

25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on [me], to take away my reproach among men.

Children were considered a great blessing. To not have children was considered a sign that God was not pleased with the wife and/or husband for some reason. Therefore, to be barren was considered a reproach among men. To be with child meant that whatever offense caused the woman to be barren had been lifted or atoned for.

Annunciation to Mary

Luke 1:26-38

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name [was] Mary.

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, [thou that art] highly favoured, the Lord [is] with thee: blessed [art] thou among women.

29 And when she saw [him], she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

From Luke 1:36 we find that John the Baptist is at least six months older than Jesus. From Luke 1:41 we find that he is probably six months older, since John leapt in his mother's womb when Mary arrived, presumably because she was pregnant with Jesus at that time.

The word in Luke 1:38 which is translated "handmaid" can also be translated as slave or bondswoman.

Mary visits Elizabeth

Luke 1:39-45

39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;

40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.

41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed [art] thou among women, and blessed [is] the fruit of thy womb.

43 And whence [is] this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

45 And blessed [is] she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

Luke 1:42 is quoted in the Catholic "Hail Mary" prayer: "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus" It appears that Mary is pregnant with Jesus at the time of this visit. That would explain why the babe would leap in the womb of Elizabeth, and why Elizabeth refers to "the fruit of thy womb".

Is is likely that Joseph isn't aware of Mary's condition at this point, since Matthew 1:18 states that Mary "was found with child of the Holy Ghost" and goes on to state that Joseph was unaware of the nature of her pregnancy. Presumably this occurred later in her pregnancy when she began to show that she was pregnant.

Mary's hymn of praise (the Magnificat)

Luke 1:46-56

46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy [is] his name.

50 And his mercy [is] on them that fear him from generation to generation.

51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52 He hath put down the mighty from [their] seats, and exalted them of low degree.

53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

54 He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of [his] mercy;

55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

The language of Luke's gospel is much more polished than those of the other Synoptic gospels. Luke tends to provide more insight into the thoughts of the people within his Gospel than the others. Speeches such as the Magnificat may well be an example of how Luke attempts to portray the thoughts of people.

Since Mary was told that Elisabeth was six months pregnant before she went to her, and since she stayed about three months, we can assume that Mary probably stayed until John was born.

Annunciation to Joseph in a vision

Matthew 1:18-21 Deuteronomy 24:1

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just [man], and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

1 WHEN a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give [it] in her hand, and send her out of his house.

The significant variation of this annunciation (besides the obvious reference to the Holy Ghost) is that it happened after the woman conceived. Normally, the annunciation is a prophecy, but in this case it is an explanation about a pregnancy that has already occurred. It is also significant that Joseph doesn't say anything to the angel. In fact, Joseph seldom, if ever, speaks in the entire Bible.

Matthew 1:22-23 Isaiah 7:13-16

22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; [Is it] a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?

14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.

16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

Contrary to the current meaning of the english word, the Greek and Hebrew words which are translated "virgin" merely means "young woman", not a girl who has never had intercourse. The "virgin birth" is indicated by the explanation of the angel that Mary had conceived of the Holy Ghost.

Matthew 1:24-25

24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Mary was at least three months pregnant when Joseph received this vision. According to Luke 2:21, Mary was not yet pregnant at the time of her annunciation. After her annunciation, Mary visited Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant, and stayed with her about three months until she delivered John the Baptist. Since this passage states that Mary was "found with child", it is highly unlikely that this could have taken place before she returned from visiting Elizabeth. Therefore, Mary was at least three months pregnant when she was "found with child."

Jesus is the first born of Mary, but he had brothers and sisters. (see Matt 13:55-56). There are some who believe that Mary remained a virgin her entire life. Others believe that, while Jesus was her first born, Mary had other children. There is another tradition that Joseph was much older than Mary, and that he had children from his previous marriage. Matt 1:25 states that Joseph knew her not "till she brought forth her first born", which would normally imply that he knew her after that time.

Birth of John the Baptist

Luke 1:57-63

57 Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.

58 And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.

59 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.

60 And his mother answered and said, Not [so]; but he shall be called John.

61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.

62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.

63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.

Jewish tradition was to name the child after a relative. This is why they said there was no kin named John. It is interesting that Elisabeth knew his name was to be John. Apparently, Zacharias had told her through writing what had happened, or else Elisabeth had her own vision that was not recorded in the scriptures.

In Luke 1:62 it indicates that "they made signs to his father". Why did they do this? Was he deaf in addition to being mute?

Zacharius prophesizes about John the Baptist and the Messiah

Luke 1:64-71 Psalms 18:2-3

64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue [loosed], and he spake, and praised God.

65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.

66 And all they that heard [them] laid [them] up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.

67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,

68 Blessed [be] the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,

69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;

70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:

71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;

2 The LORD [is] my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, [and] my high tower.

3 I will call upon the LORD, [who is worthy] to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

Luke 1:72-76 Malachi 3:1-2

72 To perform the mercy [promised] to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;

73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,

74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,

75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;

1 BEHOLD, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.

2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he [is] like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:

Luke 1:77-80

77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,

78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,

79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and [in] the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.

The prophecies that Zacharias are quoting picture the Conquering Messiah who would free Israel from her enemies. This is also what many of the people were expecting, which might be why they were disappointed or discouraged when Jesus made no attempt to overthrow Rome. Even the disciples, after the resurrection and before the ascension into heaven asked if now was the time that he would conquer the Romans. (See Acts 1:6)

The Birth of Jesus

Caesar's taxation decree

Luke 2:1-5

1 AND it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

2 ([And] this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

Luke states that Joseph and Mary were originally lived in Nazareth, although Joseph was from the house of David, and thus had to travel to Nazareth for the census, and then return. Matthew (see Matt 2:21-23) seems to imply that they were originally from Judaea, but went to Nazareth upon their return from Egypt because Archelaus was reigning in Judea.

It is difficult to reconcile the two versions because only Matthew mentions the Slaughter of the Innocents and the flight to Egypt. In fact, it is more the exception than the rule if more than one gospel book covers the same event during the early life of Jesus. This should not be construed that any of the accounts are false, just that the existing text is disjoint between the various accounts.

There are two ways in which believers view the Bible: (1) that God dictated the Bible word for word; the writers of scripture merely recorded what God dictated, and (2) that the Bible is the records of people who were inspired by God, and who then recorded what they were told using their own words and ideas. Members of the first group are more concerned about reconciling the various accounts of the Bible than those in the second group.

Personally, I fall into the second group. The styles of the various books differ in the way they are written. I believe this is because the writers were recording things in their own words, which affected how the books were written. When you compare the four Gospels, it is apparent that each writer had their own unique style as well as their own purpose in writting their books. Just as when different people describe the same event, they differ somewhat in details, each Gospel writer seems to bring their own personality to their writings. This makes the scriptures more interesting because you can see the same thing from several different viewpoints.

The fact is that we have very little information about the early days of Jesus. Each author no doubt tried their best to provide an accurate account, but were limited by their knowledge of the situation and their skills as a writer. None of the writers were present during the early life of Jesus, so they were limited to what they could learn from others.

In many cases, the Bible records events that few people actually witnessed. The Biblical accounts were often dependent on the memories of others. There are a number of situtations in the Hebrew Bible where conflicting accounts are included in the text in order to preserve both accounts (see Genesis 1 & 2). To do otherwise would mean that somebody would decide for the rest of us what accounts we were able to read.

In the Gospels we have several accounts of the same event that differ in the amount of detail, as well as some events that are recorded in only some of the Gospels. In some cases, the differences can easily be explained, but in other cases, it is more difficult. Those who are interested in determining "the truth" should prayerfully consider all the evidence and arrive at their own conclusion.

The birth of Jesus

Luke 2:6-7 John 1:9-14

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

9 [That] was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:

13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

The phrase in John 1:12 which is translated "sons of God" could also be translated "children of God". It is not limited to males.

The Shepherds

Luke 2:8-20

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen [it], they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard [it] wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered [them] in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Shepherds take their flocks into the field overnight during the spring. The winter date for Christmas is probably not correct. Like many Christian holidays, that date was established in reaction to pagan ceremonies. One method that the early Christian church used to transition people away from pagan festivals was to give them a Christian theme. The timing of Christmas is close to that of the winter solstice. The date for Christmas was set so that the feast of circumcision (eight days after birth) fell upon January 1st. That provided two Christian holidays that could be celebrated in place of winter solstice and the new year.

Circumcision and Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

Luke 2:21-24 Leviticus 12:2-8

21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present [him] to the Lord;

23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.

3 And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.

4 And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.

5 But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.

6 And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest:

7 Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This [is] the law for her that hath born a male or a female.

8 And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.

According to Lev 12:3, male children are to be circumcised when they are eight days old. In Lev 12:4, the mother shall be considered ritually unclean for two weeks, and continue in her purification for 66 more days. At the end of this time the parents are to present the male child in the temple and offer a sacrifice. Once complete, the mother will be ritually clean.

The sacrifice to be offered is a young lamb and either a pigeon or a turtledove. If they are not able to pay for a lamb, then they can offer two pigeons or turtledoves instead. Since that is what Mary and Joseph offered, we can assume that they were poor at this time. (See the discussion about the wise men.)

Simeon at the Temple

Luke 2:25-35

25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name [was] Simeon; and the same man [was] just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this [child] is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Anna at the Temple

Luke 2:36-39

36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

37 And she [was] a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served [God] with fastings and prayers night and day.

38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

According to Luke, Joseph and Mary were originally from Nazareth and returned there after presenting the child at the temple. Matthew makes no early mention of Nazareth, but instead describes their flight into Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. Matthew seems to imply in Matt 2:22-23 that they were originally going to return to Judea, the location of Bethlehem, but then settled in Nazareth because of the ruler in Judea. Luke doesn't explain how someone from the house of Joseph ended up in Nazareth; perhaps he assumes that they were always from there. Matthew states it is because of the ruler of Judea when they returned from Egypt that the ended up in Nazareth.

The Wise Men

Matthew 2:1-8 Micah 5:2

1 NOW when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

3 When Herod the king had heard [these things], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

6 And thou Bethlehem, [in] the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found [him], bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, [though] thou be little among the thousands of Judah, [yet] out of thee shall he come forth unto me [that is] to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth [have been] from of old, from everlasting.

Notice that no mention is made of how many wise men there are. Some think that the number three came about since there were three gifts mentioned that they brought, but there is nothing indicating that each wise man brought only one gift. Also, more than one wise man could bring, for example, gold. It is also possible that there were other types of gifts brought, but only three are listed.

Verse 3 states that Herod "was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." Herod was no doubt worried that the child would threaten his position, but what about Jerusalem? Some speculate the verse is refering to politically corrupt people who were dependent on Herod's rule. Others think it might be a concern that if Rome heard about this, they might take action against Israel. The scriptures makes no indication of the reason they were worried.

Matthew 2:9-12

9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Notice that there is no mention of where the star led them. Contrary to Christmas manger scenes, it is highly unlikely that they visited the child in Bethlehem.

In Luke 2:24 it mentions that Joseph and Mary took the child to Jerusalem to make an offering in the Temple. They offered two turtle doves. This was in accordance to Lev 12:6-8, which states that upon the birth of a first born son, the mother shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, along with a young pigeon or turtledove. However, if she can't afford a lamb, then she is to bring two turtledoves for an offering.

The fact that they offered two turtledoves indicates that they were poor. Had the wise men arrived before this time, they would surely have been able to purchase a lamb with the gold that had been brought. Therefore, the wise men had to have come after the offering in the temple, which was to be done when the child was about three months old.

In Luke 2:39, we read that when the left Jerusalem after the sacrifice, they returned home to Nazareth. Since we know that the wise men visited them after they were at the temple, the wise men had to visit them in Nazareth.

Another indication that the wise men visited them in Nazareth is Matthew 2:11 which states that the wise men came into the house (not a stable) and saw the young child (toddler). Since Herod later had all male children from two years old and younger killed, Jesus had to be between several months and two years old. Since Herod asked when they first saw the star, presumably thinking that was the time the child was born, it is most likely that the family were already living in Nazareth when the wise men arrived in Jerusalem.

The flight into Egypt

Matthew 2:13-15 Hosea 11:1-5

13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:

15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

1 WHEN Israel [was] a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.

2 [As] they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.

3 I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.

4 I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.

5 He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return.

The prophecy mentioned in Matthew 2:15 is from Hosea 11:1, which reads "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt." On the surface, this verse seems to be about bringing the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. Matthew frequently cites events and quotes scriptures, purporting them to be a prophecy of the events. Some of these "prophecies" are debatable.

Slaughter of the Innocents

Matthew 2:16-18 Jeremiah 31:15-16

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.

17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,

18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping [for] her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

15 Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, [and] bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they [were] not.

16 Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.

The word which is translated "coasts" in Matthew 2:16 actually means "borders" or "surrounding regions". Since the KJV translation was written in England, "borders" and "coasts" mean basically the same thing.

The prophecy quoted in Matthew 2:18 is from Jer 31:15, which is talking about the restoration of Israel. The following verse (Jer 31:16) tells Rama not to weep, for they will be restored from the land of their enemy. Rama is also mentioned in Jer 40:1; Jeremiah was taken captive to Rama, along with others, by the Babylonians.

The return to Israel, to Nazareth

Matthew 2:19-23 Zechariah 3:7-9

19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,

20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.

21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:

23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.

8 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they [are] men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.

9 For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone [shall be] seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.

In Matt 2:23 it appears that the family would have returned to some other place within Israel, but went into Nazareth because Archelaus reigned in Judaea. However, in Luke 2:39 (which doesn't mention the wise men nor the slaughter of the innocents) we read that they returned to "their own city Nazareth".

The prophecy mentioned in Matt 2:23 is interesting, since there is no known prophecy in the extant Hebrew Bible. Some have speculated that this verse involves a play on words, where the word for "Branch" is similar to the word Nazareth. In Zech 3:8 the Messiah is referred to as "the Branch." Also, in several places in Isaiah references are made to a branch representing the Messiah (c.f. Isa 4:2, 11:1, 25:5, and 60:21)

Others view the reference to this prophecy as further proof that there are sections of the Bible that are missing. There are a number of references in the Hebrew Bible to other books which no longer exist. There are also references in the New Testament, such as this one, that refers to a scripture passage that isn't known. In some cases, it might be argued that the text containing the reference has been corrupted. In other cases, it appears that a passage refers to a book of scripture that was once considered sacred, but was later dropped (e.g., The Book of Jasher). For example, Jude 1:14 quotes a prophecy that has only been found in The Book of Enoch, part of the Pseudepigrapha, which is not considered scripture.

The childhood of Jesus

Luke 2:40

40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

Jesus in the Temple as a young child

Luke 2:41-52

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.

42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.

43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not [of it].

44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among [their] kinsfolk and acquaintance.

45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.

46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.

49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?

50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.

51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

After three days they found Jesus. Can you imagine being entrusted with the Saviour of the world, and then losing him? For three days?

Jesus was both hearing the elders and asking them questions, but at the same time, they were amazed with his understanding and answers. Apparently Jesus was doing more than simply asking questions. Perhaps he was questioning some of their reasonings by pointing out other scriptures that presented a different interpretation. Perhaps he was questioning certain customs that had arisen that were not based on scripture.

For example, a devout Jew at this time would not walk across the grass on the Sabbath. This is because the grass might be in seed, and when the person stepped on the grass, they might push some grass seed into the ground. Pushing grass seed into the ground was planting the grass. Planting was work, and work was not allowed on the Sabbath. Therefore, they would not walk across the grass on the Sabbath. There are many cases when, as an adult, the actions of Jesus was questioned because it contradicted prevailing customs. Jesus, however, was able to quote scripture to show that his behavior was in agreement with scripture, if not those customs.

Notice the double use of the word "father". Mary states that "thy father and I have sought thee", meaning that she and Joseph had been looking for him. Jesus replied, "wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?", indicating Heavenly Father.

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