Jesus’s Birthplace and Hometown
Both Matthew and Luke agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which is in Judea, near Jerusalem (where David was from and therefore where David’s heir was expected to be born; see Micah 5:1). Both of these gospel authors also agree that Jesus grew up in a little hick town called Nazareth, which is in the northern part of the country (the Galilee). It’s somewhat embarrassing for Jesus to have grown up here because it really was “Nowheresville,” and in that time people expected the famous to come from somewhere famous.
Even though the gospels have these few similarities, they differ otherwise. For instance, consider this important set of differences regarding why Jesus was born in Bethlehem:
- The gospel of Matthew gives the impression that Mary and Joseph have always lived in Bethlehem, and that’s why Jesus was born there. And, according to the author of Matthew, the reason that the family ends up in Nazareth is because the southern Herods are so dangerous.
- The gospel of Luke, by contrast, says Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth all along, went down to Bethlehem only because the Roman Emperor decreed that everyone return to their ancestral birthplaces to enroll in a census, and returned home after Jesus’s birth.
Out of all these hometown and birthplace details, the Nazareth connection seems to be the most reliable piece of evidence to historians because Matthew and Luke both report it, and they do so even though it’s potentially embarrassing to Jesus. In fact, most scholars think that Nazareth is probably where Jesus was born, too, because outside the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke, all four gospels presume that he’s a Galilean or Nazarene (see Mark 1:9 and 6:1; John 1:45–56 and 7:41–42; Matthew 13:54, 57; Luke 4:16, 23–24). On top of that, the Bethlehem link clearly serves the purpose of painting Jesus as the promised messiah, which naturally raises historians’ suspicions about the historical accuracy of the claim.