“Investigate carefully and you will see that no prophet comes from Galilee!”
John 7:52b – NETBible
When reading the two birth narratives of Jesus in GoMatthew and GoLuke side-by-side, a few things stand out with prominence. One is that these are not two versions of the same story at all; they are two completely different stories. Almost all the events narrated in GoMatthew are absent in GoLuke. Likewise, almost all the events described in GoLuke are absent in GoMatthew.
There are, however, two specific points that are shared by both narratives. The first is that the mother of Jesus was a virgin and that Joseph was not actually the father. Mary was impregnated by supernatural means. The second is that while it may have been commonly understood that Jesus had been from Nazareth in Galilee, he had been born in Bethlehem in Judea.
Both of these points are made clear in both GoMatthew and GoLuke in different yet contradictory ways, but neither of them can be found anywhere else in the New Testament except for one reference in GoJohn chapter 7.
Regarding point number one:
There are no prophecies in the earlier Hebrew writings that even hinted that a messiah would be born of a virgin. The supposed prophecy used by GoMatthew (Isaiah 7:14) was a misquote by the author, perhaps intentional. Neither Paul nor GoMark ever bring up the idea of divine conception, neither does the later GoJohn. There is also something else not relayed by the earlier sources, Paul or GoMark; the name “Joseph”.
Perhaps one of the early questions about the identity of Jesus was the rumor that he was illegitimate and in response to that rumor, the tradition began that Jesus was like the other legendary divine-men of the Greco-Roman world, sired by a deity but with a human mother. This would have seemed completely rational to first century CE pagans and would serve to dispel rumors that Jesus was Mary’s bastard son.
Regarding point number two:
The author of John relayed that even at the end of the first century; Jesus’ place of origin was still being debated.
Others said, “This is the Christ!” But still others said, “No, for the Christ doesn’t come from Galilee, does he? Don’t the scriptures say that the Christ is a descendant of David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So there was a division in the crowd because of Jesus… Investigate carefully and you will see that no prophet comes from Galilee!”
John 7:41-43, 52b
“So there was a division in the crowd because of Jesus.”
The earliest Gospel of Mark had apparently firmly established the tradition that Jesus was from Nazareth, a small town a few miles from Sepphoris in Galilee.
“And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.”
Perhaps the reason for inventing the idea that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem was a response to this point of contention which early Christians would have certainly had to overcome when debating the person and significance of Jesus with Jews.
“To get Jesus born in Bethlehem but raised in Nazareth, Matthew and Luke independently came up with solutions that no doubt struck each of them as plausible.”
“Jesus, Interrupted”, Bart D. Ehrman, 2009, p. 35
“…the fact that Jesus was known to be a Galilean from Nazareth is central to all the Gospel narratives, especially the Passion tradition. This fact would seem to be incontrovertible on historical grounds. Thus, the two localities, Bethlehem and Nazareth, geographically anchor the story of Jesus’s birth. Yet each author has chosen to create his “dual citizenship” by different, and even contradictory, narrative devices. Within each Gospel the continuity of the story and the itinerary is rather seamless, as the remainder of the narrative is adjusted accordingly. In each case, the narrative supports the themes and theological motifs of that particular author. The problem arises only when one compares the two accounts both at the level of narrative and in the light of known historical facts.”
“Scripting Jesus”, L. Michael White, 2010, p. 241
So where was Jesus born?
No one actually knows, but he was probably born and raised in a small community called Nazareth, about an hours walk from the city of Sepphoris in Galilee.