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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  • FRED says

    I failed to see the complication in the birth place of Jesus, he was born in Bethlehem to fulfill the prophecies in Micah 5:2, Isa. 9:6, Ge. 49:10 and Lu. 2:4. Because King Herod was out to kill the young boy Jesus, under divine warning Joseph took Mary and Jesus into Egypt. Hosea 11:1 and Mat. 2: 1-15
    When King Herod died Joseph moved to Israel ,settle in the province of Galilee in the town of Nazareth…so for Jesus to be called The Nazarene or Jesus of Galilee was the same thing

  • DENNIS says

    What is also interesting is that Luke was a poor researcher of dates. Herod the Great died in 4 BC but Quirinius only became Legate (“governor”) of Syria in 6 AD, ie, 10 years later. In addition, Rome usually carried out their censuses every five years which would mean Joseph would have to go to Bethlehem every five years. This makes it more reasonable that it was the Bethlehem near Nazareth that was the actual census site. The village in Judea was substituted because the writers wanted to “prove” a link to King David and to an Old Testament prophecy. However, the bottomline is the actual PHYSICAL location does NOT matter: you either believe Jesus was divine or you don’t.

    • John says

      So you obviously do not believe what the Bible says Dennis………Luke 1:3 points out that Luke traced all things with accuracy.
      I may suggest that the eclipse in 4 B.C.E. was of only 36-percent magnitude and would have attracted the attention of very few people at the early morning hour.
      The most striking eclipse that occurred was the late-night lunar eclipse in the early hours of January 8, 1 B.C.E. (January 10, Julian calendar). This was a total eclipse in which the moon was blacked out for 1 hour 41 minutes.

  • Ede says

    Did anyone read the Bible? Joseph did not live in Bethlehem, he WENT there for the census and to be taxed! His home was Nazareth. Why is that so hard to understand? Stop trying to tinker with Scripture – don’t add to it or take away from it. And the locals in Bethlehem didn’t know Joseph or his wife and baby and did not make a shrine of that stable. It was lost to time. Jesus would not WANT a shrine made of a cave anyway. HE IS THE FOCUS of our faith, not “things”!!!!

  • C.L.(Chuck)Troupe says

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, being that time after time, the spade of true, scientific archeology has unearthed and confirmed one Biblical fact after another. For example, for many, many years “the scholars” ridiculed the Bible’s reference to King Sargon. “No such person in all of history,” they said. But the remains of Sargon’s palace were finally found. So, again, for me it works like this. If a thousand scholars … all of equal intelligence, education and credentials … say the Bible is wrong about something, I will put my money on the Bible every time. That goes for the creation account, the rib story and Noah’s ark too. Proof? Sorry you skeptics and scoffers, you don’t get proof. God reveals Himself and confirms His Truth to ALL those who truly seek Him. Had any of them actually done that, they would have had their proof a long time ago.

  • Griffin says

    CB: indeed there is no issue here, then Bible is very clear and here is a quote from the Gospel of Matthew:
    But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
    Mat 2:20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.
    Mat 2:21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
    Mat 2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
    Mat 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

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