The birth of Jesus.

Matthew 1.18-25; Luke 2.1-7.

Current mode: View.

Notes and quotes.

§ Justin Martyr, Apology 1.33.5:

Και ο αποσταλεις δε προς αυτην την παρθενον κατ εκεινο του καιρου αγγελος θεου ευηγγελισατο αυτην ειπων· Ιδου, συλληψη εν γαστρι εκ πνευματος αγιου και τεξη υιον, και υιος υψιστου κληθησεται, και καλεσεις το ονομα αυτου Ιησουν, αυτος γαρ σωσει τον λαον αυτου απο των αμαρτιων αυτων, ως οι απομνημονευσαντες παντα τα περι του σωτηρος ημων Ιησου Χριστου εδιδαξαν, οις επιστευσαμεν, επειδη και δια Ησαιου του προδεδηλωμενου το προφητικον πνευμα τουτον γεννησομενον, ως προεμηνυομεν, εφη.

And the angel of God who was sent to the same virgin at that season evangelized, saying: Behold, you shall be with child from the holy spirit and shall bear a son, and he will be called the son of the highest, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins, as those who have made memoirs of all things about our savior Jesus Christ taught, in whom we put faith, since also through Isaiah, whom we have mentioned before, the prophetic spirit said that he should be born as we noted before.

Apology 1.34.2:

Κωμη δε τις εστιν εν τη χωρα Ιουδαιων απεχουσα σταδιους τριακοντα πεντε Ιεροσολυμων, εν η εγεννηθη Ιησους Χριστος, ως και μαθειν δυνασθε εκ των απογραφων των γενομενων επι Κυρηνιου, του υμετερου εν Ιουδαια πρωτου γενομενου επιτροπου.

And there is a certain village in the country of the Jews, at a distance of thirty-five stades from Jerusalem, in which was born Jesus Christ, as you can learn from the census lists made in the time of Cyrenius, who was your first governor in Judea.

§ Tertullian, Against Marcion 4.7.7a:

Et tamen quomodo in synagogam potuit admitti tam repentinus, tam ignotus, cuius nemo adhuc certus de tribu, de populo, de domo, de censu denique Augusti, quem testem fidelissimum dominicae nativitatis Romana archiva custodiunt?

And again how could he have been admitted into the synagogue, appearing so suddenly, so unknown, of whom no one till then was certain of his tribe, of his people, of his house, or even of census of Augustus, which the Roman archives keep in custody as a most faithful witness to the dominical nativity?

From Tertullian, Against Marcion 4.19.10:

Sed et census constat actos sub Augusto nunc in Iudaea per Sentium Saturninum, apud quos genus eius inquirere potuissent.

But it is established also that censuses had now been enacted under Augustus in Judea through Sentius Saturninus, about which they could have inquired of his race.

§ Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 14.3613, or Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae 918, restoration based on Mommsen:

[Publius Sulpicius Publii filius Quirinius, consul.
....
Praetor proconsul Cretam et Cyrenas provinciam optinuit.
....
Legatus pro praetore divi Augusti Syriam et Phoenicen optinens
bellum gessit cum gente Homonadensium quae interfecerat Amyntam
r]egem, qua redacta in pot[estam imperatoris Caesaris]
Augusti populique Romani, senatu[s dis immortalibus]
supplicationes binas ob res prosp[ere ab eo gestas et]
ipsi ornamenta triumph[alia decrevit]
pro consul Asiam provinciam op[tinuit. legatus pro praetore]
divi Augusti [i]terum Syriam et Ph[oenicen optinuit.]

Publius Sulpicius son of Publius Quirinius, consul. .... [As] praetor proconsul [he] obtained the province of Crete and Cyrene. .... [As] legate propraetor of the divine Augustus obtaining Syria and Phoenicia, he waged war with the people of the Homonadenses who had killed Amyntas the king, which, having been restored to the power of the emperor Caesar Augustus and of the Roman people, the senate decreed to the immortal gods double supplications for the affairs prosperously completed by him and to him himself the triumphal ornaments. [As] proconsul [he] obtained the province of Asia. [As] legate propraetor of the divine Augustus again he obtained Syria and Phoenicia.

The boldfaced portions represent the extant remains of the inscription; the rest is reconstructed.

§ The historical problems associated with the census that Luke uses to get Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem in Luke 2.1-5 are numerous and notorious. S. C. Carlson has attempted to unravel one of the problems in a weblog post of his from December of 2004. I myself am as yet undecided whether he has succeeded or not.

§ Census edict for Roman Egypt, year 104, discovered circa 1905, London papyrus 104 in the British Museum (text and translation adapted from that of K. C. Hanson):

Γαιος Ουιβιος Μαξιμος επαρχος Αιγυπτου λεγει·

Gaius Vibius Maximus, prefect of Egypt, says:

Της κατ οικιαν απογραφης ενεστωσης αναγκαιον εστιν πασιν τοις καθ ηντινα δηποτε αιτιαν αποδημουσιν απο των νομων προσαγγελλεσθαι επανελθειν εις τα εαυτων εφεστια ινα και την συνηθη οικονομιαν της απογραφης πληρωσωσιν και τη προσηκουση αυτοις γεωργιαι προσκαρτερησωσιν. ειδως μεντοι οτι ενιων των απο της χωρας η πολις ημων εχει χρειαν, βουλομαι παντας τους ευλογον δοκουντας εχειν του ενθαδε επιμενιν αιτιαν απογραφεσθαι παρα Βουλ....

The census by household having begun, it is essential that all those who are away from their nomes* be summoned to return to their own hearths so that they may perform the customary business of registration and apply themselves to the cultivation which concerns them. Knowing, however, that some of the people from the countryside are required by our city, I desire all those who think they have a satisfactory reason for remaining here to register themselves before....

* Egyptian administrative units.

Φηστω επαρχωι ειλης, ον επι τουτω εταξα, ου και τας υπογραφας οι αποδειξαντες αναγκαιαν αυτων την παρουσιαν λημψονται κατα τουτο το παραγγελμα εντος της τριακαδος του ενεστωτος μηνος Ε....

Festus, the cavalry prefect, whom I have appointed for this purpose, from whom those who have shown their presence to be necessary shall receive signed permits in accordance with this edict up to the thirtieth of the present month E....

§ The following table comparing and contrasting the Lucan and Matthean birth narratives as a whole is adapted from one assembled by the FRDB (formerly IIDB) poster known as spin:

  Matthew. Luke.
  Annunciation of birth.
Relationship. Betrothed (1.18). Betrothed (1.27).
Recipient. Joseph (1.19). Mary (1.26).
Name given. Jesus (1.21) or Immanuel (1.23). Jesus (1.31).
Result. Joseph marries Mary (1.24). Mary visits Elizabeth (1.56).
  Circumstances of birth.
Date. Before death of Herod (4 BCE; 2.16). During Quirinian census (6 CE; 2.2).
Location. Bethlehem (2.1). Bethlehem (manger; 2.7).
Adoration. By magi (2.11). By shepherds (2.16).
  Aftermath of birth.
Immediate actions. Flight to Egypt (2.13). Circumcision (2.21);
presentation (2.22).*
Eventual actions. Move to Nazareth (2.22-23). Return to Nazareth (2.39).

* The circumcision is described as taking place after 8 days, as stipulated in Genesis 17.12; Leviticus 12.3. The period of purification before the presentation in the temple is presumably the span of 33 days mandated in Leviticus 12.4, 6-8.

Refer also to the Wikipedia discussion page on the nativity.