Jesus' Birth Stories - Summary
Emphases and differences

The stories are set about 2,000 years ago during the Roman occupation of Palestine (now called Israel).

Both stories include Jesus’ birth to a Jewish couple, Mary & Joseph, in Bethlehem, a town south of the capital, Jerusalem, in an area called Judaea. The couple are betrothed and Mary is pregnant.

Matthew is particularly concerned to emphasise that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied by the Jewish prophets. He is visited and recognised as a King by important people from outside Palestine (the Magi) who bring gifts appropriate for a King.

Luke wants to emphasise that Jesus has come for everyone, whatever their background, and so he presents the birth in a lowly stable with poor shepherds as visitors
In Matthew Mary & Joseph already seem to be living in Bethlehem. In a dream an angel tells Joseph that he should marry Mary even though she is already pregnant, because her child is from the Holy Spirit.
In Luke the couple are living in Nazareth, a town in Galilee, and have to travel to Bethlehem to be registered in a Roman census for taxation purposes. Mary has been told by an angel that she will conceive a child by the Holy Spirit and that he will be called 'Son of God'. She is also told of the pregnancy of her 'kinswoman' Elizabeth, whom Mary goes to visit.
In Matthew Magi arrive from ‘the East’, following a star, and looking for “the child who is born to be king of the Jews”. Looking for a new king, they naturally visit the current one, King Herod the Great, in Jerusalem. Herod is “greatly perturbed” - he doesn’t want anyone taking away his throne! Herod’s advisers tell him of prophecies which say that a Messiah (king) will come from Bethlehem. Herod sends the Magi to search for the child, asking them to tell him when they find it.

The Magi arrive in Bethlehem and deliver gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. An angel warns them in a dream not to tell Herod, so they go home another way.
Herod realises this and orders the massacre of all babies under two in Bethlehem and the surrounding area.

Meanwhile in a dream an angel warns Joseph of Herod’s plan and tells them to flee to safety in Egypt. There they wait until Herod is dead and on their return go to Nazareth in Galilee because Herod’s son, Archelaus, is now king in Judaea.

    NB: In Matthew’s story there is no mention of a census, a stable or shepherds, nor is the number of Magi specified!

In Luke Mary puts her new born baby in a manger because “there was no room for them to lodge in the house”. Nearby a host of angels appears to some shepherds with news that “a deliverer has been born to you - the Messiah, the Lord”. The shepherds go to visit the baby Jesus and, praising God, tell everyone about what they’ve seen.

    NB: In Luke’s story there is no mention of the Magi, King Herod, the massacre of the children or the flight to Egypt, nor is the number of shepherds specified!

Luke interweaves his version of the birth of Jesus with the story of the birth of another important figure, John the Baptist. This is with whom Mary’s ‘kinswoman’ Elizabeth is pregnant when Mary visits her. For Year 7 you do not need to know the details of this part of the story.

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