The birth of Jesus and the flight into Egypt
The story of Jesus is set out in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The ﬁrst three are called the ‘synoptic’ gospels because they are studied together owing to their similarity. The fourth gospel, John’s, contains many details not found in the others and is different in many other ways also.
According to Christian tradition, Jesus was born at Bethlehem in the days of King Herod, who died in the spring of 4 BC. Jesus’ birth probably occured in 4 or 5 BC. According to Luke (2:22-24), the child was presented at the Temple.
Menaced by Herod, Joseph and Mary decided to ﬂee to Egypt by night. The shortest way to leave Herod’s domain was seemingly by way of Ascalon, which lay on the main road to Egypt: the safer way of the desert would have been too arduous for a woman and a newborn baby.
The family arrived unharmed in the land of the Nile, where they found shelter and sustenance among the many Jews then living in Egypt. Exactly where they lived is unknown, but there was a sizeable number of Jewish enclaves there at the time, and Joseph and Mary probably had relatives or connections among them.
Gospel texts: Matthew 1:18 – 2:15
(Above and below) Ruins of the ancient city of Pelusium,
though which Jesus, Mary and Joseph probably passed on their journey to Egypt
This Egyptian coffin portrait was painted only a little after the time that Mary and Joseph lived there. The two peasant farmers from Galilee, parents of Jesus, would have encountered a highly sophisticated society capable of producing subtle paintings like the one above. It was a long way from Nazareth.