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apologetics, Apologetics of Christ

Jesus, Dedication, and Wise Men

Are these Biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth irreconcilable:

“When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.”- Luke 2:22

“When [the Magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt…” Matthew 2:13-14

One says he was dedicated in the temple, the other, that Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt. The key to solving this potential problem is, as frequently is the case with Bible difficulties, context, context, and context.

The dedication of Jesus would have taken place very shortly after His birth. But reading the account of the visit of the Magi, we find that the wise men came at some point after the birth of Jesus. This is evident in Matthew 2:1-12, in which the Magi initially stop to visit King Herod to ask him where Jesus was born. Unless one is to assume the Magi were able to travel instantaneously to Bethlehem from Jerusalem with all of their escort, one should have no difficulty thinking that the Magi arrived at some point after Jesus had already traveled to Jerusalem and back for His dedication at the temple.

Not only that, but despite some traditions drawings of the Magi, it is unlikely that they came while Jesus was merely a babe. Again, these men came from “the east,” so it is unlikely that they made the trip in a few days. But there is also textual evidence for this idea, for when Herod seeks to kill Jesus, he kills all boys 2 years old and younger (2:16). Sure, he may have simply had no idea how old Jesus was and simply been shoring up his bets, but the text goes on to say that he kills boys 2 and younger “in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi” (2:16b).  So at some point he must have asked them how long they’d been traveling, and it was long enough to warrant killing the boys 2 and younger.

Thus, there is no contradiction in the text.

Merry Christmas.

SDG.

This is part of a series I’ve entitled “Jesus: the Living God,” which explores Jesus from Biblical, theological, and apologetic levels. View other posts in the series here.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Jesus, Dedication, and Wise Men

  1. I have a further question about this Bible account. In Luke 1:39-40 it says, “When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”
    So I’m trying to piece this together. Why does Luke’s gospel say they returned to Nazareth, which sounds like fairly shortly after Jesus was brought to the temple to be presented to the Lord? He does not mention going to Egypt as you said, but it really sounds like Luke believed that Jesus went back to Nazareth shorty after his visit with Simeon & Anna at the temple.

    Posted by Jay | December 18, 2010, 10:08 PM

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