New Testament

The Birth of Jesus – Lukan Version

The previous post was the Birth of Jesus narrative from the Gospel of Matthew.  Here is the Xcntrik manic-concise version of that story:  (and yes, I do have an artistic license on file)

This girl named Mary was pregnant, Joseph, her husband2be, found out and decided to give her the boot, privately.  He had a dream where an angel told him not to be afraid but to be merry and marry Mary, that this was a supposed fulfillment of prophecy.  So he married her but didn’t do the do with her until after the baby was born.  Wise guys come to Jerusalem from the East (Newark, I think) and ask about the child who had been born King of the Jews; said they saw a star.  King Herod and Jerusalem freaked out, so Herod called the religious leaders and lawyers together and asked where “the Messiah” was to be born.  Bethlehem, they said, another supposed fulfillment of prophecy.  Herod gives the 411 to the wise guys, slips them a twenty and says to let him know when they find “the Messiah” so he can go worship him too.  So they head off to Bethlehem, once again following the star.  Then the star stopped over Joseph and Mary’s house in Bethlehem, and they were happy dudes.  They went into the house and saw Mary with the baby and they bowed down and paid homage to him.  They gave him some sparkly and smelly stuff for gifts.  The wise guys dreamed that they were not supposed to go back to Herod, so they took the back roads home.

Joseph had another dream where an angel told him to grab up his wife and baby and skedaddle to Egypt, causin’ Herod was looking for the boy and wanted to throw him in a dumpster.  Joseph did just that and they stayed in Egypt until Herod died, another supposed fulfilled prophecy.  In the meantime, Herod was pissed that the wise guys never came back, and had obviously absconded with his twenty bucks, so he sent hit-men to kill all the children, two years old or younger, in and around Bethlehem, another supposed fulfilled prophecy.

When Herod kicked the bucket, Joseph had another dream where an angel told him to “get (some versions add “on”) your ass back to the land of Israel, because the people who wanted to kill the baby are dead”.  So that’s what he did, but when he got there, he heard that Herod’s son Archelaus had taken over for his dad, and Joseph was askeered.  So he had himself another dream.  So they went north to the district of Galilee and moved to a town called Nazareth, another supposed fulfilled prophecy.

That’s the Matthean narrative, plus a few embellishments on my part, but you’ve got the storyline down.  Now let’s take a look at the Birth Narrative – Lukan Version.  Once again, I’ll let the Gospel of Luke speak for itself and will again be quoting from the New Revised Standard Version (1995).

The Birth of Jesus

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  All went to their own towns to be registered.  Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.  He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Jesus Is Named

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.’

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary,

‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day.  At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

The Return to Nazareth

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.

Now see if you can tell what is wrong with this picture

Christian Nativity Scene




4 thoughts on “The Birth of Jesus – Lukan Version

  1. I know what is wrong with that picture… it’s a harmonization of two birth narratives that are mutually exclusive!

    In Matthew Bethlehem was their hometown and they remained there for two years after the birth until they caught wind that Herod had designs on the toddler’s life. Eventually they relocate to Nazareth (whose existence at the time is very doubtful).

    Luke, on the other hand, has Nazareth as their hometown! And he makes them travel to Bethlehem to register for a census. A census that required one to travel to the home of one’s ancestors cannot be found in the records outside of Luke’s Gospel. And once all the imperial and religious obligations are met, they go back… peacefully.

    Yes, I know, I’m restating the obvious but some readers here will be Christians who need to be hit over the head by a 2 by 4!

    Posted by Ed-M | December 11, 2010, 9:19 pm
    • Oh, I don’t think that there are many Christians following along that need or would appreciate the stubborn mule discipline. Those folks won’t likely read past the first few lines. But I don’t think that is an accurate representation of peoples anyway. That’s just a small but rather vocal group that is doing more to destroy their own ideology on their own, and we both know that all you would really accomplish would be to ruin an otherwise good 2 X 4.

      I would also like to thank the 50+ visitors who found the site while searching for Christmas Nativity coloring pages for their kids (the graphic on this post). Perhaps they read a little while they were here.

      Posted by Xcntrik | December 13, 2010, 1:19 pm
  2. LOL! I loved this. That reminds me of the following article I just read (most of).

    What particularly struck me was the idea that everything Matthew said happened had to occur within the time frame given in Luke (a much shorter time frame). Plus there’s that weird bit about did they go to Nazareth for the first time (according to the impression given) or was it their hometown? For me personally, I love both stories, but it’s impossible to reconcile them in my mind.

    BTW, I really like the falling snow on your page.

    Posted by Byroniac | December 9, 2010, 11:00 pm
    • Agreed Byroniac, I love the stories too. I am certain that it is because of the culture in which I was raised, but the Lukan version is one of my favorite stories of all times, and this is my all-time favorite “telling” of that story:

      The reality is that the two stories can not be reconciled without jumping through numerous logical and historical hoops. For me, as I have said before, the differences between the narratives are what makes them even more important because it tells us about each community and the individual authors. For instance, in the Matthean narrative, the author is obviously comparing his understanding of Jesus with the Hebrew hero, Moses. Even the sermon on the mount has Jesus ascend a mountain to give the law. The birth narrative also makes it clear, right from the get-go, that the author was not a student of the Hebrew scriptures, but simply robbed from the Septuagint.

      In the search for the historical Jesus, it is imperative to be able to identify and remove these later interpretations of who Jesus was to one particular community, if we are ever going to find out who Jesus really was.

      RE: Snow
      I can’t make it snow in southeast Texas, but at least I can make it snow here.
      Thanks for being here.

      Posted by Xcntrik | December 13, 2010, 1:05 pm

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