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Does Luke Contradict Matthew?

05 Jul
Out of Egypt...

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Luke claims Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth in Galilee, when all things according to the Law were fulfilled (Luke 2:39). What does this mean and is there a contradiction between his account and that of Matthew who claims Joseph and Mary went down into Egypt from Bethlehem before returning to Nazareth? Weren’t “all things according to the Law” (Luke 2:39) performed with Mary’s purification and Jesus’ presentation in the Temple? Actually, there were a few more things yet to be done to satisfy the Law after Mary’s purification was completed.

First, Joseph didn’t officially marry Mary, until he knew her (i.e. consummate the marriage), and he didn’t know her until sometime after Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1:24-25). After Jesus birth, when Joseph consummated his marriage with Mary, he observed the Law as seen in Deuteronomy 24:5, whereby he was joined with his wife for at least a year before returning to Nazareth. It is Luke’s style, if he knowingly skips something in chronology, that he formulates the language for a smooth flow in the narrative—just as he did when he skipped over the three years Paul spent in Arabia, before he returned to Jerusalem (Acts 9:20-26; cf. Galatians 1:15-18).

Secondly, there is no contradiction between Luke and Matthew with respect to Jesus being in Egypt before traveling to Nazareth in Galilee. That said, however, we need to understand Luke’s implication in writing “when they had done all things according to the Law of the Lord…” According to what Luke writes later, Jesus was persecuted when his people were persecuted (Acts 9:4-5). In other words, whatever happened to one occurred also to the other. For example, Paul wrote that, if we are Christ’s, we were crucified with him in his death (Romans 6:6) and rose with him in his resurrection (Colossians 2:12).

Nevertheless, is there anything in Luke that links his infancy narrative to Matthew’s record of the Magi? Perhaps there is, if Simeon can be seen as one of the Magi. Luke never tells us where Simeon lived. The implication is, as we have come to understand in previous blog posts, if Jesus birth occurred during the fall Festivals, Simeon was an important visitor, just as the Magi were in Matthew’s account.

There is reason to believe Jesus was born on the night of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah (cf. Revelation 12:1).[1] In 3 BC this would have been on September 11th (as we number our days). Mary observed her purification 40 days later (Luke 2:39) on or about October 20th. If both the Magi and Simeon met Jesus in the Temple (see my blog Simeon and Jesus), they couldn’t have done so before this date. Moreover the implication is that, until Joseph and Mary returned to Jerusalem from Egypt in Matthew’s record, Mary’s presentation ceremony is the only time either Simeon or the Magi could have been led to Jesus in the Temple. In other words, Luke is implying Simeon was one of Matthew’s Magi.

Joseph and Mary couldn’t have been officially married and gone to Egypt much before November of 3 BC, perhaps even waiting for pilgrims to come from Egypt for the Chanukah feast days and returning with them to Egypt in December (3 BC) / early January (2 BC). Joseph wouldn’t have heard of Herod’s death until about two years later in late January of 1 AD. He could have returned to Jerusalem at that time with regular pilgrims going there for the Passover celebrations of 1 AD. However, upon hearing of all the disturbances over Archelaus’ government and the war developing over the killing of the two beloved Pharisees who tore down the golden eagle Herod had placed over the eastern gate of the Temple, Joseph decided it might be better to return to Nazareth and live under the reign of Antipas.

The Jews believe in the same form of typology Christians believe, as mentioned above concerning Christ and the church. Jews believe that the whole Jewish nation is reckoned with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. What happens to the Suffering Servant must also be seen in the Jews as a whole. What happens to one must also happen to the other. According to this Jewish understanding, Israel is called God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22), and his son was called out of Egypt (Numbers 24:8; Hosea 11:1). Therefore the Messiah (Jesus) must, according to the Law be the Firstborn and be called out of Egypt. Therefore, Luke and Matthew agree in that Joseph and Mary didn’t return to Nazareth in Galilee before they first went down to Egypt.

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[1] Note that the sign of the woman in heaven is the sign of Virgo. The moon at her feet could have occurred only during the new moon or the beginning of the month—Rosh Hashanah. The woman in the heavens was about to give birth (Revelation 12:2), so Jesus was born on the night of the Jewish New Year!

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Posted by on July 5, 2016 in Gospel of Luke

 

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