Where Was Jesus Born?

Jesus’ birthplace and hometown

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2014.—Ed.


 
Giotto_adoration-of-the-magi

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.

——————

BAS Library Members: 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 BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.
 


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


 

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

Who Was Jesus’ Biological Father?

Why Did the Magi Bring Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh?

Has the Childhood Home of Jesus Been Found?
 


 

Posted in Jesus/Historical Jesus, New Testament.

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  • tapani says

    Questions are possible, why Betlehem, Nazaret and Galilea are used. New Testament however supposes that Jesus was unknown mostly. There were many dwelling-places on inform. Parents were from Nazaret but Jesus was born in errand way. Mary may been also family of David? In Galilea Jesus perhaps helped his father in building of Roman town. In some maps there is Bethlehem near Nazaret. Young Jesus remowed to Cabernaum of Galilea!Matthew 4:13, John 2:12.

  • ari says

    https://ascentofsafed.com/cgi-bin/ascent.cgi?Name=Gilgul37

    According to a famous rabbi arizal in tzfat (galilee) jesus was buried in galilee. Clearly we see he was buried in jerusalem according to nt. Maybe jerusalem isnt where we think it is?

  • MSawyer says

    “Biblical scholarship has recently called the identification of Bethlehem as Jesus’ birthplace into question…”

    All I have to say to those scholars… 1 Corinthians 1:27 (KJV) But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty

  • Shoshana says

    Yeshua (“Ioseus, Jesus”) was born in a separate room or temporary dwelling as per ancient Jewish tradition. Birthing women, the same as menstruating ones, went to a separate tent or area till the period of their confinement was over. In this case is quite possible that if Yeshua was born in a skéné, Strong’s 4633, or succa (temporary dwelling) during Succot or the Feast of Tabernacles, Miriam (“Mary”) would have been confined to the succa for 7 days then on the 8th day have Yeshua circumcised and through her purification rites as per instructed in Lev 12. We should also keep in mind that birthing woman had midwives to assist her, not her husband. All this would not take away from placing Yeshua in a watering trough made from a carved stone. He would not have been born in close proximity to animals that is just not kosher at all.

  • Francesca says

    According to Matthew’s infancy narrative, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not because of a census (which is Luke) but because Mary and Joseph lived there. And after the angel informed him of Herod’s death, Joseph settled in Galilee rather than returning to his home in Bethlehem in Judea.

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