Matthew and Luke on the Nativity

Let’s do a short compare and contrast of Matthew and Luke on the story of the birth of Jesus. These are the only two Gospels that talk about the birth.

  • Similarities. Jesus is born in Bethlehem; his mother Mary is a virgin; after his birth he is visited by a group of men (shepherds in Luke; wise men in Matthew) who have been alerted to his birth by a heavenly sign (an angel in Luke; a miraculous star on Matthew); eventually he is taken to Nazareth where he is raised.
  • Differences (minor). Luke has shepherds. Matthew has wise men.
  • Differences (Hmmm). 
    • Matthew has Jesus’ hometown as Bethlehem, not Nazareth. So there is no traveling to Bethlehem. 
    • Matthew has no census. Luke does.
    • But Matthew has a flight to Egypt for two years. And after they return the magi come to worship. Not in Luke.

When doing these comparisons, it remains important to recognize that the authors of Matthew and Luke were not trying to write a historically-accurate account of the birth of Jesus. Their intent (70 years+ after the birth of Jesus) was to give a creative interpretation of the significance of Jesus to the world.

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