8. Who all attended Jesus birth?
As we discussed in last time, the Wise Men were not present at Jesus’ birth and may have arrived in Bethlehem as much as two years later. Based on the testimony of the magi, King Herod wanted to stop the threat of the Messiah, the rightful King of the Jews, from overthrowing his rule. Herod killed all the boys in Bethlehem two-years old and younger. This event, known as the Massacre of the Innocents, is mentioned only in the Gospel of Matthew, causing many to question if it really happened. Bethlehem was a small town in Jesus’ time, and the estimate of the number of two year old boys who would have lived in the area is around 20. While a tragedy in Bethlehem it was not a mass killing of thousands and might not have made a lasting impression on other areas of Palestine.
The only people that are specifically said to have attended Jesus’ birth are “the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night” as described in the Gospel of Luke. The shepherds are told of the birth by angels, and the shepherds find the Child lying in the manger. Luke then recounts how Joseph and Mary took eight day old Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised before returning home to Nazareth. Matthew says that an angel warned them in a dream that Herod was going to kill Jesus, so Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled to Egypt and remained there until after the death of Herod in 4 b.c. Matthew does not say how long they lived in Egypt, but assuming it was at least several months, combined with the fact that Jesus may have been two years old when they fled, scholars estimate that Jesus was born in 7 or 6 b.c.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.