Often we associate Jerusalem with Jesus and vice versa. The four canonical gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all agree that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. Historically, if we can validate anything, we can strongly say that Jesus was crucified in or just outside the walls of Jerusalem.
The only other geographical location that was can have strong confidence in was that he was from a small backwater town in Galilee called Nazareth.
What is also surprising is that the first three synoptic gospels focus all of his time in Galilee. The very end, in each case tells how he goes to Jerusalem, incites a riot by overthrowing tables in the temple, and is then executed.
The birth of Jesus in or near Jerusalem is a beautifully described pastoral account in Luke with Angels and a shepherds watching sheep with a manger and no room in the inn. Here Mary and Joseph came from Galilee to be taxed.
Matthew tells of Mary and Joseph living in Jerusalem, a new star, wisemen or magis from the East, and a plot to kill all the babies, a side trip to Egypt, and relocation to Nazareth.
Both Luke and Matthew have a motive: it was predicted the Messiah would come from the city of David, or Bethlehem. Throughout Matthew you’ll read of how different Jewish prophesies are fulfilled through the works of Jesus. The intent is to convince Jewish people that the Messiah was in fact Jesus of Nazareth.
John and Mark are silent on the issue and everyone in all gospels is under the impression Jesus is from Nazareth. In John we read about Nathaniel wondering if anything good can come out of Nazareth and later we have the Jews reasoning that this Nazarene does not fulfill prophesy as he was not born in Bethlehem.
Today people make the case that these gospels don’t conflict with one another and there is perfect harmony on the account of Jesus birth. Given the facts are scarce people can believe this way and they should not be counted as foolish by anyone. I believe everyone should have that right to an opinion on the matter and I will not belittle anyone who thinks so.
But for me, I have a hard time believing any of the birth stories surrounding Jesus. As much as I love the nativity, the traditions, and the message of hope the story offers it factually probably never happened.
On one hand is the fact that the two birth gospels Luke and Matthew don’t support each other on the details. If Luke mentioned a new star, or Matthew mentioned no room at the inn there would be a stronger case for the story to have actually happened.
Further more, the authors of Luke and Matthew seem to have had access to similar sources like Mark and another one that scholars call Q.
Lastly, as was mentioned all the gospels seem to agree Jesus was from a Nazareth.
In the story I’m writing, the Gospel of the Galileans, Jesus is born in Nazareth, to poor parents with little to no fanfare other than the immediate relatives close to the family who actually cared. This to me is more spectacular than any virgin birth story or having to fulfill any cultic prophecy. Why? Because look what this man did. He came from nowhere and to this day somehow continues to inspire millions of people to follow him and be a force for good in the world.
There are other reasons I could add but the big message I hope people understand is that the Bible does not hold answers to questions like this. Dogma and theology is wide open to interpretation, hence the thousands of different Christian denominations. What I get out of the Bible is spiritual and helps me live a better life. Not because I take the events as factual, but because I take the message to be beautiful and that it works for me in my life to make me and those around me happier:
Love, Forgive, show kindness, do good.
That is a common way to live we can all agree on.