Where Was Jesus Born?

Jesus’ birthplace and hometown


Where was Jesus born? In the Bible, Jesus’ birthplace is identified as Bethlehem. This scene from the Arena (Scrovegni) Chapel in Padua by the Italian artist Giotto shows Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the Bethlehem stable. The three wise men, along with their caravan, and angels gather around the child. Above the stable, Haley’s comet streaks across the sky. Haley’s comet was sighted in 1301, three years before Giotto painted this scene.

When the Christmas season draws near each year, the Nativity story is revisited in churches and households around the world. Passages from Matthew 1–2 and Luke 1–2, the infancy narratives in the Gospels, are read and sung—and even acted out in Christmas pageants.

Where was Jesus born? In the Bible, the answer seems straightforward: Bethlehem. Both Matthew 2 and Luke 2 state that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea.

However, Biblical scholarship has recently called the identification of Bethlehem as Jesus’ birthplace into question: If Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem, why is he called a Nazorean and a Galilean throughout the New Testament, and why is Bethlehem not mentioned as Jesus’ birthplace outside of the infancy narratives in the Gospels? This has caused some to wonder if Jesus was actually born in Nazareth.

In the November/December 2014 issue of BAR, Philip J. King addresses this question—where was Jesus born—in his Biblical Views column “Jesus’ Birthplace and Jesus’ Home.” He takes a close look at what the Bible says about the towns of Bethlehem, traditionally Jesus’ birthplace, and Nazareth, Jesus’ home.

Interested in learning about the birth of Jesus? Learn more about the history of Christmas and the date of Jesus’ birth in the free eBook The First Christmas: The Story of Jesus’ Birth in History and Tradition.

While Bethlehem in Judea was known in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament as being the birthplace of King David and the birthplace of the future messiah, the small village of Nazareth in Galilee was much lesser-known, not even warranting a mention in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud or in the writings of Josephus. King explains, “Nazareth derives its importance entirely from its relationship to the life and teaching of Jesus.”

The contrast between Bethlehem, the birthplace of King David, and Nazareth, a small agricultural village, is obvious. Yet both sites were significant in the life of Jesus.

So if Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as the Gospels of Matthew and Luke attest, why was he called a Nazorean? To see what Philip J. King thinks—and for more information about the Biblical towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth—read the full column “Jesus’ Birthplace and Jesus’ Home” in the November/December 2014 issue of BAR.


Subscribers: Read the full column “Jesus’ Birthplace and Jesus’ Home,” by Philip J. King in the November/December 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a subscriber yet? Join today.

Interested in learning about the birth of Jesus? Learn more about the history of Christmas and the date of Jesus’ birth in the free eBook The First Christmas: The Story of Jesus’ Birth in History and Tradition.


Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible: Lawrence Mykytiuk’s feature article from the January/February 2015 issue of BAR with voluminous endnotes

How December 25 Became Christmas: Andrew McGowan’s full article from the December 2002 issue of Bible Review

Christmas Stories in Christian Apocrypha by Tony Burke

Herod’s Death, Jesus’ Birth and a Lunar Eclipse

Who Was Jesus’ Biological Father?

Why Did the Magi Bring Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh?

Has the Childhood Home of Jesus Been Found?

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on November 17, 2014.


Posted in Jesus/Historical Jesus, New Testament.

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  • Wardell says

    Jesus was born in Jerusalem as noted by his tomb in Talpiot, Jerusalem. reflecting a Jerusalem native.

  • Kurt says

    Micah,a prophet of God, foretold that this child would eventually become a ruler and that he would be born in “Bethlehem Ephrathah.” (Micah 5:2) At the time of Jesus’ birth, there were two towns in Israel that were named Bethlehem. One was situated near Nazareth in the northern region of the country, and the other, near Jerusalem in Judah. Bethlehem near Jerusalem was formerly called Ephrathah. Jesus was born in that town, exactly as the prophecy foretold!—Matthew 2:1.
    It was natural and not particularly unusual to speak of Jesus as the Nazarene, since from infancy (less than three years of age) he was raised as the local carpenter’s son in the city of Nazareth, a place about 100 km (60 mi) N of Jerusalem. The practice of associating persons with the places from which they came was common in those days.—2Sa 3:2, 3; 17:27; 23:25-37; Na 1:1; Ac 13:1; 21:29.
    Frequently Jesus was referred to, in widely scattered places and by all kinds of persons, as the Nazarene. (Mr 1:23, 24; 10:46, 47; 14:66-69; 16:5, 6; Lu 24:13-19; Joh 18:1-7) Jesus himself accepted and used the name. (Joh 18:5-8; Ac 22:6-8) On the sign that Pilate had placed on the torture stake he wrote in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek: “Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews.” (Joh 19:19, 20) From Pentecost 33 C.E. forward, the apostles as well as others often spoke of Jesus Christ as the Nazarene or as being from Nazareth.—Ac 2:22; 3:6; 4:10; 6:14; 10:38; 26:9.http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200274021

  • Yz2hear says

    Yeshua (Jesus) was Hebrew.
    Yeshua was not born at Christmas
    Christ mas was is & will always be pagan!!!
    YeHoVaH God All Mighty wants all of us to get w/ His calander celebrate his sacred feast days.
    check out truth YouTube Michael Rood /Rood awakening/119 ministry/Arthur Baily House of Israel.The truth will set you free.

  • Phillip says

    There are claims that there was more than one Bethlehem, and one of those towns was located in the Galilee. Those who were guiding Constantine’s mother through the area were not adverse to making things up as they went along.

  • Karen S says

    Isn’t it possible he was born in Bethlelam, and during infancy or at a very young age, they moved to Nazareth?

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