The birth of Jesus Christ mentioned in the two gospel accounts specifies two different historical references which helps us to pin-point the exact year of His birth. But there is one big problem because both account don’t harmonize. In this blog, we will look into the gospel accounts to understand and investigate more.
Matthew’s Account – (23 BC to 6 BC)
Matt 2:1-2 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, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
Matt 2:14-16 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” 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.
Matt 2:19-20 Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.”
Herod reigned from 37 BC until his death in 4 BC. He killed all children under 2 years. Based on this historical reference, Christ must have born anytime from 37 BC to 6 BC. Also, there were no historical records for any sightings of stars in heaven which is of significance during this period.
John 2:20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
John gives us a historical detail about the temple being built for 46 years. We know based on historical records, Herod’s temple began it’s works in the 18th year of his reign which is (20-19 BC). Adding 46 years means, Jesus must have began his ministry after 26-27 AD. We were also told in the Luke gospel that Jesus is around 30 years of age when He began His ministry. But, because we are comparing the two gospel accounts – Matthew and Luke, we don’t want to use the details in each other’s account.
John 8:57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”
Luke’s Account – (6 AD)
Luke 2:1-2 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.
Luke 3:1-2 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. … (23) Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli
Which account is correct? Matthew’s account is wrong!
Error in Hos 11:1-2:
Matt 2:14-15 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Hos 11:1-2 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. As they called them, So they went from them; They sacrificed to the Baals, And burned incense to carved images. (Masoretic text).
Hos 11:1-2 Early in the morning were they cast off, the king of Israel has been cast off: for Israel is a child, and I loved him, and out of Egypt have I called his children. As I called them, so they departed from my presence: they sacrificed to Baalim, and burnt incense to graven images. (LXX).
Error in Jer 31:15-16
Matt 2:16-18 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. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”
Jer 31:15-16 Thus says the LORD: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.” Thus says the LORD: “Refrain your voice from weeping, And your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD, And they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
No Prophecy about Christ being a Nazarene
Matt 2:23 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.”
Star Direction Problem
Matt 2:1-2,9 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, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” … When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.
If the wise men are from the east, and the star was seen in the east and if they followed the star, they would never reach Judea but rather go in opposite direction. Hence, many had put forth that this should be a comet. Irrespective of whether it is a star or a comet, any significant sign in the sky for Christ’s birth was never mentioned by any of the other New Testament authors.
Thank you for this very interesting read; I will definitely look into it further. I actually stumbled upon this page when I did a search for Matthew 2:19-23 because it struck me as odd that an angel of the Lord would deliver a false message.
The angel says to bring the child back to Israel because those that are seeking his life are dead. But when Jospeh heard Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of Herod he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream withdrew to Galilee.
That struck me as extremely odd because an angel of the Lord would obviously already know who was reigning over Judea, and if he said it was ok then that means it’s ok (just like an angel of the Lord came speaking of the birth of Jesus and what to name him).
But the fact that Joseph was thinking in worldly terms and the flesh instead of faith, and that he is afraid because it appears dangerous, and that he decides not to go because he also has a dream that warns him seems so strange. That goes directly against the message of the angel which begs a few things into question since he had no problem following the angel’s instructions before.
I’m curious what your thoughts are on this?
Actually, vers 20 and 21 state they returned to land of Israel, not Judea. The fact is they left to Egypt from Nazareth (in Israel). Not Bethlehem in Judea.
Turning aside doesn’t mean he changed his mind about his final destination, but to skirt that location on his way to the final destination.