The "Return" to NazarethAnother problem conveniently overlooked by believers is the basic incompatibility in the narratives of Matthew and Luke regarding the "return"[a] of Joseph and his family to Nazareth. According to Matthew, Joseph and Mary went there direct from Egypt, as they dared not return to Judea because of Archelaus.
According to Luke Joseph went to Jerusalem from Bethlehem for Mary's purification ceremony and from there went back to Nazareth:
The two stories are completely incompatible. Nowhere in earlier passages had Luke even implied that Mary and Joseph went back to Nazareth first after the birth of Jesus. Thus according to Luke, Joseph, Mary and Jesus went to Jerusalem from Bethlehem and then back to Nazareth.
The itinerary based on Matthew was Bethlehem-Egypt-Nazareth, while that of Luke was Nazareth-Bethlehem-Jerusalem-Nazareth. The table below shows the two itineraries-they are fundamentally incompatible.
Some theologians had, as usual, tried to twist the story in Matthew to such an extent where they claimed that Joseph went to Jerusalem from Egypt and then went on to Nazareth after the Temple offering. So the "unified" itinerary becomes: Nazareth-Bethlehem-Egypt-Jerusalem-Nazareth. There are two problems with such an attempt at harmonization.
First, Matthew had explicitly stated that Joseph did not return to Judea from Egypt (see Matthew 2:19-23 above)
Second there is a problem of time- in the sense of there being not enough of!
Luke says that Joseph and his family went back to Nazareth after the purification ceremony. Jewish Law requires that the purification be done forty days after the birth of the Baby:
So to reconcile the two nativities (and ignoring the basic incompatibility we have noted above) every event must be fitted into these forty days. Now Luke says that Jesus was circumcised and given his name on the eighth day (Luke 2:21) and Matthew narrated about the story of the visit of the wise men only after Jesus was named. So, in effect the visit of the wise men, the slaughter of the innocents, the flight into and the return from Egypt all took place within a period of only 32 days!  This is clearly impossible, for the journey to and from Egypt itself would have taken at least that long. Perhaps God had his remote controller on fast forward?
Back to the top
Back to the top