Nazareth or Bethlehem or...?

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Nazareth or Bethlehem or...?

I have heard the explanation of Jesus of Nazareth being born in Bethlehem because the family had to move down their for a census. I am wondering how much truth there is behind this. If you could help, I would be much obliged.


I have found some information around the internet which claims to refute this, but I am wondering if there is any truth behind these refutations.

Luke 2:1-7 describes Joseph and Mary as residents of Nazareth in the Galilee. They would have had to travel for about a week to cover the approximately 90 miles (140 km) from Nazareth in the Galilee south to Bethlehem in Judea. 2 Luke says that they had to do this in order to take part in the Roman census and taxation. Jesus was born while they were in Bethlehem. This version of the Christmas story seems a little strange, for many reasons:

bulletIn 1st century Judea women "...were considered second-class citizens, akin to slaves." 3 Only Joseph would be required to register with the authorities, because "the husband was the spiritual and legal head of the house." 3 The presence of his teenaged fiancé or wife would be redundant. Mary would hardly have made the 100 mile trip while about 9 months pregnant unless it was absolutely necessary. Joseph would have traveled without Mary, and probably in a group to give better protection from bandits. 4  
bulletAviram Oshri, a senior archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), has said: "Basic medical knowledge tells you that a heavily pregnant woman could not ride a donkey that kind of distance without losing her baby." 5 Although medical knowledge was primitive in those days, that much information would have been generally known. Joseph and Mary would not have had access to a method of transportation other than walking on foot or by riding on an animal.

bulletThere is no record of a worldwide census as stated Luke having been made in the last decade BCE. If one had been conducted, it would have been so disruptive that its effects certainly would have been recorded at the time in many Roman documents. A local census was taken by Quirinius during 6 CE, but that would have been when Jesus was about ten years of age. Also, it was held in Judea, but not the Galilee where the Gospel of Matthew said that Joseph lived. 6
bulletIt makes absolutely no sense to require Jews and other inhabitants of the Roman Empire to return to their ancestral town for registration. The economy of the Empire would be devastated if everyone had to make such a visit. The transportation facilities would be hopelessly overloaded. Censuses are generally taken where people live -- in ancient times and now.
bulletCirca 6 BCE, when Jesus was believed to have be born, it would have been impractical to require adults to return to the ancestral city of their tribe. Because of the extermination and scattering of Jews in the Northern Kingdom, and the enslavement and exile of the remaining Jews in Babylon of whom relatively few returned, many, if not most, Jews in Judea at the time would not be aware of their tribal identification.


Questions I have regarding the above refutations:

Did censuses in those times actually not require counting women? Were women really considered second-class citizens?

Does 'basic medical knowledge' really say that a mother would lose her child riding on a donkey for a week? I would imagine the jarring of a donkey, especially with a mother being in full term, would not kill a baby...

Are there any records of a census at the time of Jesus' birth? If there isn't any record, wouldn't that still just be an argument from silence?


Even if we were to admit that the Bethlehem birth was a fakery designed to shoehorn Jesus into the prophecy, wouldn't that still suggest something? Wouldn't the fakery suggest that there had in fact been a man wondering around making a big fuss? If Jesus never existed in the first place, why not just call him Jesus of Bethlehem?


Thanks in advance for your help!

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Welcome to the forums




                Your refutation facts are very accurate.  I have written on this topic before. So rather then rewrite here can you check out the following posts and take note of the post #'s.















                            Rook Hawkins has also written on this topic extensively you can read his posts on this site also. My post are shorter.   







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poor Mary

I am 59 years old, I've been 9 months pregnant 4 times, and I raised 3 sons.  I can not tell you about the historical/archeological truthfulness, but I can certainly address poor Mary.

You couldn't have gotten me on that donkey except with a block and tackle.  And I would have fought you every inch of the way.  Even women who ride horses now a days, are less likely to ride in the last trimester.  Not that they don't, but they do cut back.  The ungainly awkwardness of your body and the constant little aches have a tendency to keep you close to home.

Would you lose the baby?  Hard to tell - what kind of shape is the mother in, the exact age of the fetus, the distance, the terrain, possible slips and accidents - there is the real possibility of an early delivery.  How thoughtful of god/s/dess to ensure the baby would not be born even a day or two before they reached the city.  Which is what I think would be most likely is an early birth while still on the road.  To sit on that stupid donkey while your pelvis feels like it is being racked into pieces?  No.  No way, not me.

As for women being second class citizens - where have you been all your life?  I am generally bored with women's studies, and don't recommend anyone waste their time with it.  But maybe you could use a refresher course.  Yes, women were considered second class citizens throughout history at least until they got the vote in your country - and maybe even more recently than that.

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Q1: Let's say just for

Q1: Let's say just for shits and giggles that the census did happen. Perhaps the entire records of the Roman empire got lost to history but even so, it matters very little what the Judeans thought about women. It matters much more what the Romans thought about women.


I don't have an immediate source on that but it is a fact that a census is an effort to gauge the scale of the economy. Do you think that the Romans decided to only count half the population and multiply by two?


Q2: While not a doctor myself, I do know that we have extensive medical records from a hundred years ago. Those records include how abortions were performed. To my knowledge, riding a donkey is not on that list.


Q3: There are lots of records from that time. Some of them include census data. Even if the bible is not perfectly accurate, that certainly does not mean that a census of local scale never happened. Seriously, the whole matter admits toa big fat SFW.


Q4: Well, if you want to take the bible as not a perfect recording of history, I am fine with that idea ;--)


Still, if there was some dude that the stories were hung on, he was born somewhere. In that the archeological evidence admits on no references to the town of Nazareth prior to 132 CE, whomever wrote the stories probably just picked a decent sized city and said that that was where he was born.


In any case, why would there not be a dude walking around making a big fuss? They were under a military occupation at the time. I really can't see how there would not be lots of people making a big fuss over the matter.

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Hello.My information is,

My information is, that at the time when Jesus was supposed to be born (the year -24) there was no village of Nazareth. There was only a mystical Jewish sect of Nazarenes. If Jesus existed, main problem with his identification is, that he didn't live his own life. He and his parents were much into the mystical teaching, and Jesus made sure that his life looked like Mithra, Horus, Dionysos, and so on. All mystical teachings have a lot in common, they all tell the same symbolic story and Jesus was so much into it, that he was one of people who acted out this story physically. Including crucifixion.

Of course, this has nothing to do with later doctrines of eternal sin, damnation and very profitable bargain of redemption if you join the exclusive Jesus Christ customer club. There is still a meaning and value in major points of Jesus' life and teaching, but most of it can be understood through explaining mystical symbols in normal language. It basically symbolizes the way how anyone can attain divinity. For example, the baptism in river symbolizes a moment, when adept manages to control his own emotionality. You see, water is a symbol of emotions.

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