Reconciling the Flight to Egypt with Luke 2

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TK
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Reconciling the Flight to Egypt with Luke 2

Post by TK » Sun Dec 18, 2016 4:19 pm

Steve- not sure if will see this but I was looking for a reconciliation of the flight to Egypt noted in Matthew's account and the account in Luke 2. Of course anyone can chime in.

Luke 2 suggests that soon after his birth J & M took Jesus to Jerusalem for circumcision, etc. It then says they returned to Nazareth.

But Herod sent the soldiers to Bethlehem to kill the innocents, and Joseph was warned to flee to Egypt. I presume that when he was warned he was living in Bethlehem. But traditionally the wise men did not arrive until a couple of years after Jesus's birth. Indeed Herod said to kill every child age 2 or younger. When Jesus was two I assume he was living in Nazareth per Luke 2.

So I am having a little bit of a hard time reconciling the timing of the flight to Egypt.

I am NOT suggesting any type of contradiction or error, just looking for a way to reconcile the accounts.

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Re: Reconciling the Flight to Egypt with Luke 2

Post by morbo3000 » Mon Dec 19, 2016 6:02 pm

So I am having a little bit of a hard time reconciling the timing of the flight to Egypt.

I am NOT suggesting any type of contradiction or error, just looking for a way to reconcile the accounts.
Why would you intentionally exclude a possible explanation?
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Re: Reconciling the Flight to Egypt with Luke 2

Post by steve7150 » Mon Dec 19, 2016 8:14 pm

So I am having a little bit of a hard time reconciling the timing of the flight to Egypt.

I am NOT suggesting any type of contradiction or error, just looking for a way to reconcile the accounts.


The explanation in the John Macarthur Study Bible is, "Luke omitted the visit of the Magi and the flight into Egypt (Matt 2.1-18). The theme of early rejection so prominent in Matthew was not where Luke focused his attention.

As John said later which was that if they recorded everything about Jesus it would take the whole earth to house all the books! (or something to that effect)
So apparently the NT writers did have some discretion about what to include and perhaps Luke didn't feel he needed to repeat the same event already in Matthew or perhaps he didn't consider it important. Omitting this account does not make a contradiction since one does not make the other untrue.

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Re: Reconciling the Flight to Egypt with Luke 2

Post by steve » Tue Dec 20, 2016 12:36 am

Why would you intentionally exclude [a contradiction as] a possible explanation?
I would exclude it because there is not the slightest reason to suggest one, and to do so is to call into question the veracity and/or competence of the two historians. There seems no fair reason to call these men's abilities or reliability into question, which makes such a libel of them a gratuitous option.

As MacArthur said (and every evangelical thinker would probably say) Luke and Matthew, like every good historian, each had to decide what to include and what to exclude in their histories. They excluded a huge amount—including almost everything in the first 30 years of the life of Jesus. That Luke would record some details omitted by Matthew, and vice versa, is not only difficult to account for, but the very thing one would expect, given the authors' respective purposes in writing.

Luke 2:39 says that the return to Nazareth occurred "when [after] they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord" [that is, concerning the rituals related to childbirth]. Though Matthew mentions nothing about the performance of those rituals, he says nothing to suggest that they were neglected, and so, by implication, the return to Nazareth after the birth of Jesus was preceded by the ceremonies recorded in Luke. Matthew mentions the coming of the magi and the flight to Egypt in their proper chronological places. That material must be assumed to have filled an unmentioned gap in Luke's narrative between Luke 2:38 and verse 39.

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Re: Reconciling the Flight to Egypt with Luke 2

Post by morbo3000 » Tue Dec 20, 2016 1:17 am

steve wrote:
Why would you intentionally exclude [a contradiction as] a possible explanation?
I would exclude it because there is not the slightest reason to suggest one, and to do so is to call into question the veracity and/or competence of the two historians. There seems no fair reason to call these men's abilities or reliability into question, which makes such a libel of them a gratuitous option.
Libel? Gratuitous? Not the slightest reason? We wouldn't be having the discussion if an intellectually honest, objective, I assume conservative TK hadn't observed the problem. It's not like this just flew off the cover of Time Magazine as some recent assault by atheistic accusers. It's a known problem acknowledged by both conservative and liberal biblical scholars.

Allowing contradictions in Luke and Matthew's account is not an assault on their competence, because we don't hold any historian, ancient or otherwise to a level of infallibility. I would not accuse a historian contemporary with George Washington as incompetent if he got some facts wrong. He was simply human.

Allowing the possibility that there are problems between the two accounts does not disallow the authority of the birth narratives.

But bringing an a priori insistence that the accounts harmonize unnecessarily ties one hand behind ones back in studying the texts.
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Re: Reconciling the Flight to Egypt with Luke 2

Post by TK » Tue Dec 20, 2016 6:38 am

But bringing an a priori insistence that the accounts harmonize unnecessarily ties one hand behind ones back in studying the texts.
There is only an issue if they absolutely cannot be harmonized. I agree there is room in the texts to allow for harmony-- although it does seem to require a shoehorn.

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Re: Reconciling the Flight to Egypt with Luke 2

Post by mattrose » Tue Dec 20, 2016 12:49 pm

I agree with Steve that it is easy to fit a gap of time in between Luke 2:38 and 2:39.

We know that 2:39 assumes at least a month since Jesus' birth (the time it took for Mary's purification so they could travel to Jerusalem). So sometime between when Jesus was about 1 month old and 2 years old (based on Herod's probably liberal estimate), the wise men visited. They could have visited early on in that gap (say, when Jesus' was 6 months old?) or later in that gap (say, when Jesus was 1 and a half years old). Assuming they saw the star when he was born, they would have had to:

1) Interpret the star (days? weeks? months?)
2) Prep for a major journey (days? weeks?)
3) Make the major journey (At least 30 or 40 days if they were from Persia)
4) Consult with Herod in Jerusalem (Minutes? Hours?)
5) Make a short trip to Bethlehem (couple hours)

We also have to add in the time (probably a day or two) it took for Herod to realize the wise men weren't coming back with a report.

If everything on that list happened as quickly as possible, they could have arrived in Jerusalem very soon after Joseph & Mary arrived back in Bethlehem from Jerusalem (after the consecration ceremony). If some of those steps took longer, Jesus could have been almost a year and a half old. I'm guessing he was still under a year. Herod's '2 years old and younger' plan, I'm sure, was him making sure he got his man (baby), so to speak. It's not, after all, like Herod's staff would have known the exact age of a little 1 year old little boy. Sometimes there it's hard to tell the difference between and 8 month old and a 15 month old. So every boy under 2 would cover his intention of eliminating Jesus. Since Herod was a monster, I bet 2 was a very liberal upper end limit.

Jesus was, I'm guessing, maybe just a few months old when the wise men came. And I'd guess Jesus spent about a year or so in Egypt before getting to Nazareth.

One question I have is why were Joseph and Mary planning on going back to Bethlehem at all. Had it really become home for them in the 6 months (give or take a few months) that they were there? Maybe so, especially given that they had their first child their together.

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Re: Reconciling the Flight to Egypt with Luke 2

Post by TruthInLove » Tue Dec 20, 2016 1:50 pm

mattrose wrote:One question I have is why were Joseph and Mary planning on going back to Bethlehem at all. Had it really become home for them in the 6 months (give or take a few months) that they were there?
Unlike Herod, perhaps they were or later became aware of Micah's prophecy that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. It's conceivable that they took that as an indication that they should raise Jesus there.

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Re: Reconciling the Flight to Egypt with Luke 2

Post by TK » Tue Dec 20, 2016 5:14 pm

Matt wrote:
We know that 2:39 assumes at least a month since Jesus' birth (the time it took for Mary's purification so they could travel to Jerusalem)
A minor point, but I believe the period of "uncleanness" for the birth of a MALE child was 7 days. I always assumed this was so mother could attend the circumcision ceremony on day 8. For girls, the period of uncleanness was 30 days. (Lev. 12)

I don't believe this changes your analysis. I do agree that they had to have been in Bethlehem when the angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt.

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Re: Reconciling the Flight to Egypt with Luke 2

Post by mattrose » Tue Dec 20, 2016 11:38 pm

TK wrote:Matt wrote:
We know that 2:39 assumes at least a month since Jesus' birth (the time it took for Mary's purification so they could travel to Jerusalem)
A minor point, but I believe the period of "uncleanness" for the birth of a MALE child was 7 days. I always assumed this was so mother could attend the circumcision ceremony on day 8. For girls, the period of uncleanness was 30 days. (Lev. 12)

I don't believe this changes your analysis. I do agree that they had to have been in Bethlehem when the angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt.
I think the period of ceremonial uncleanness was 7 days, but then there was another 33 days before she was purified (Leviticus 12:4). Why this distinction is made I'm not entirely sure (without rechecking my commentaries, which are not currently handy).

12 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. If a woman becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son, she will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her menstrual period. 3 On the eighth day the boy’s foreskin must be circumcised. 4 After waiting thirty-three days, she will be purified from the bleeding of childbirth. During this time of purification, she must not touch anything that is set apart as holy. And she must not enter the sanctuary until her time of purification is over. 5 If a woman gives birth to a daughter, she will be ceremonially unclean for two weeks, just as she is unclean during her menstrual period. After waiting sixty-six days, she will be purified from the bleeding of childbirth.

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