Did Jesus Mary and Joseph go to Egypt after Jesus' birth Matthew 2 v14 or Nazareth Luke 2 v39?

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For Christians, a problem with the Bible is that it contains too many errors and contradictions. Uta Ranke-Heinemann (Putting Away Childish Things) "The nativity accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (the only two that report about Jesus' birth) are, with respect to time, place, and circumstances, a collection of legends."

Raymond E. Brown (An Introduction to the New Testament) says, at least in respect to the genealogies that form part of the two nativity accounts, "Inspiration does not guarantee historicity or reconcilability; otherwise God should have inspired the two evangelists to give us the same record." The same comment can safely be applied to the accounts of Jesus being taken from Bethlehem to Egypt (Matthew) or from Bethlehem to Nazareth (Luke).
The issue here is when did the wise men come? Since Jesus had to be circumcised on the 8th day, and Luke 2: 12, 22 tells us Mary went to the temple to present Jesus and fulfill the requirements for purification at 40 days from birth (see Leviticus 12:1-8), it is unlikely the wise men came before then. Once the wise men visited, which could have been up to Jesus' age 2, since Herod had the male children in Bethlehem 2 and under killed, they would have then gone to Egypt as Matthew 2:14 indicated. Matthew 2:23 says that, after Herod died, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus went to Nazareth. Therefore there is no contradiction in what is said; the Luke passage doesn't demand that they went directly to Nazareth without any stopovers or diversions.   The sojourn of Joseph and Mary with Jesus in Egypt was in fulfillment of what prophecy?
Matthew: That "spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son" (ii, 15).
This may be found in Hosea xi, 1, and clearly refers to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
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Jesus was subsequently taken to Nazareth. Why?
Matthew: "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, He shall be called a Nazarene" (ii, 23).
The Bible contains no such prophecy. Fleetwood admits that "the words are not to be found" in "the prophetical writings," and Farrar says, "It is well known that no such passage occurs in any extant prophecy" (Life of Christ, p. 33). The only passage to which the above can refer is Judges xiii, 5. Here the child referred to was not to be called a Nazarene, but a Nazarite, and Matthew knew that "Nazarene" and "Nazarite" were no more synonymous than "Jew" and "priest." A Nazarene was a native of Nazareth; a Nazarite was one consecrated to the service of the Lord. Matthew likewise knew that this Nazarite referred to in Judges was Samson.
  With regard to the above answer, it seems that, in the Greek NT the word Nazarene was used deliberately, the word Nazirite having a totally different root and difficult to confuse with Nazarene in the original Greek. Scholars believe that the lack of a prophesy in the Old Testament is because this was to be found in a book or books that have been lost and therefore not included in the modern Bible. This is not incompatable with what we know - as one example in the books of Kings and Chronicles, reference is made several times of the lives of the many Jewish kings to a book called the 'Annals of the Kings of Judah' (varies intranslation), which is now lost.

The accounts are very clear in both Gospels. Luke makes it clear that 'after all these things were done....they returned to Nazareth' but makes absolutely no mention of when. Let's not forget that, whilst a stickler for detail, Luke never met Jesus and relied on other sources (eg Mark's gospel, Peter, material from a lost collections of sayings called 'Q' and possibly Mary, Jesus' mother) for his information. Luke was also, as a doctor and a Gentile, primarily concerned with two things in his gospel: healing and forgiveness, and preaching the Good news to non-Jews. He was not concerned with 'proving' Jesus was the Jewish Messiah as this would not be of interest to him. Therefore, in Luke's account we see little in the way of Old Testament prophesy; he is concerned primarily with Jesus' miraculous birth and his ministry, and not with any details about whether or not he was 'called from Egypt'. Hence, he saw no reason to include this in his account stating that jesus simply and eventually ended up in Nazareth, with no interest paid to any other exile.

Contrast this with Matthew. He writes the most Jewish of the Gospel accounts with one aim in mind; to persuade the reader that Jesus IS the long-awaited Messiah. Therefore he litters his gospel with many Old Testament prophesies, including the one from a document now lost. Matthew wanted to make it absolutely clear that, while Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, he was also the Messiah for all; not just the Jews. Whereas Luke has the baby jesus visited by Jewish shepherds on the night of his birth, Matthew has Jesus visited by Gentile wise men as soon as word has spread to that far-off country. This would have been up to 2 years after his birth judging by the slaying of the children by Herod. To Matthew, speaking directly to the Jews, this tragedy would be still in the memories of those whose families were affected - and so the episode with Herod, the slaughter of the innocents, and Egypt was all included.

Therefore both accounts sit happily with each other. However, you cannot simply take the gospels at face value and decide that one is wrong and the other right. Look into the context; look into the hears and minds of the authors and discern from which angle they are writing. Do this, and suddenly the whole story becomes crystal clear.


  To clarify in regards to Matthew 2:23, the notes in the Zondervan study Bible of the New International Version note that in Jesus' day "Nazarene" was synonymous with "despised".

This seems to be supported by the conversation in John 1:45-46 (NIV):

Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked.

"Come and see," said Philip.

Thus this could be in reference to the fulfillment of the prophecies in Psalm 22:6 and Isaiah 53:3 as well as others stating that the Messiah would be "despised". Note "the prophets" (plural).
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