The year 4 BC marks the beginning of this unusual story. It is recorded that a woman named Mary was said to be betrothed to a man named Joseph, both of whom were residing in the town of Nazareth which is in Galilee. It is unknown how long the two were together in engagement but during that time Mary became pregnant. Upon receiving this information, Joseph decided not to marry Mary for fear it would make her look bad, and both testified to have practiced complete purity before their marriage vows.
Return to the "Apostolic Era" Chronology
Return to "Ancient Israel" Chronology
Joseph had decided to break the marital agreement that an angel appeared to him and spoke to him. The angel informed Joseph that he was an angel of the Lord and told him to proceed with the marital agreement with Mary despite the fact that she was pregnant for it was through the Holy Spirit that she was carrying a child in her womb. The angel also informed Joseph that the child's name should be Jesus for he was to be the savior of the world.
Giotto: Nativity, fresco,
Arena Chapel at Padua, Italy.
All of Palestine was at this time under Roman rule. Augustus, the Roman emperor at that time, had ordered a census to tally up the number of people under Roman rule. It was decreed that everyone in the land must return to the homeland of his father to be counted. The town of Bethlehem, located 5 miles south of Jerusalem, in Judea, was the birthplace of Mary and Joseph and so it was from Nazareth to Bethlehem that they traveled. Upon their arrival to Bethlehem the young couple soon realized that there was nowhere to stay in the city because of the many others migrating to their homelands. After discovering that there was no room in the whole town of Bethlehem, Joseph searched for any sort of shelter from the weather because Mary was approaching the time of labor. An inn keeper denied them any room in his inn but gave them permission to stay in his stable with his livestock. It is recorded that it was here that Jesus was born and Mary wrapped him in cloth and placed him in a feeding trough.
It is said that in a distant land there were shepherds attending their sheep and an angel of the Lord appeared to them. The angel told them of the birth of Jesus and told them to go find this miracle of the Lord.
Matthew writes in his gospel of Herod, the Jews king at the time. When Herod heard news of a baby boy who was to be king of the Jews he became afraid. Herod heard from a group of wise astrologers who were following a star in hopes of finding this young king. He told them that when they found him to come back and tell him where the boy was so that he could go and show his respect to the child as well. The wise men did find Jesus but they then proceeded to return to their countries by a different route in hopes of avoiding Herod for they feared he would want to kill the boy. Soon after, when Herod realized that they were not coming back, he put out a decree which demanded that every boy under the age of two must be killed. He did this because of his increasing fear of Jesus' possible take over of his throne. Just prior to this, however, another angel appeared to Joseph, warned him of the approaching danger, and told him to flee to Egypt where he would be beyond the reach of Herod's wrath. Joseph and Mary did this and waited until Herod's death to return to Nazareth. It was here that Jesus spent the remainder of his childhood years.
Berney, K.A. and Ring,Trudy ed. International Dictionary of Historical Places. Volume 4., (Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. Chicago and London). pp. 133.
Grant, Frederick C., The Life and Times of Jesus. (Abingdon-Cokesbury Press. New York. 1921). pp. 16-20.
Luke 2: 1-20.
Montgomer, Helen Barretty. The Story of Jesus.. (Philadelphia. The Judson Press. 1927). pp. 9-14.
Image from Carol Gerten's Fine Art Virtual Museum <http://sunsite.auc.dk/cgfa/>
Edited by: Kyle P Olson
Researched by: Jason M Baehr
Written by: Aaron M Nordby
December 3, 1997
Text copyright 1996-1999 by David W. Koeller. All rights reserved.