Did Simeon actually hold the infant (8 day old) Yahushua in his hands in the temple in Jerusalem as stated in Luke 2:28? How would this be possible if Joseph had heeded the angel's warning and fled with his family to Egypt to avoid Herod's edict to slaughter all males under 2 years of age (Matthew 2:13)?

  • Welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. When you have a minute, be sure to check out the site tour and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web... For your question to be on-topic here, you need to reference the specific text(s) you are interested in. (In short, the answer to your Q is that the massacre of the innocents took place when Jesus was a year old or so.)
    – ThaddeusB
    Jan 10, 2016 at 19:13
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    @ThaddeusB OP has very possibly referenced his texts quite diligently. Luke (where Simeon hold baby Jesus) says they continued their travels back to Nazareth. In this gospel, the young family could not have fled from Bethlehem to Egypt or been anywhere near Bethlehem at the time of the slaughter of the innocents. You should address this in a fuller answer. Jan 10, 2016 at 20:05
  • @DickHarfield Well someone referenced his texts diligently, but I believe that was you, not the OP. :)
    – ThaddeusB
    Jan 10, 2016 at 20:32
  • Thank you for above. History confirms death of Herod @ 4BC. Circumcision is to be done on the 8th day - this is explicit. Today; science confirms that an infants 'clotting factor' kicks in on the 8th day ! without which the infant would bleed/infection to death. A donkey ride is NOT recommended; however domesticated the animal ! And for Mariam, heavily pregnant, to mount/dismount would be a phenomenal exercise. Especially a first pregnancy for a 'Temple virgin' who spent her formative years ensconced within Temple precinct. I am still searching for the answer to my question ! Please help. Jan 12, 2016 at 10:54
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    I commend to you the reading of an article written by Hodge and Chaffey. It's here: answersingenesis.org/holidays/christmas/a-matter-of-time. The article provides what I consider to be a welcome balance to the oft-repeated charge of the "higher critics" that there are glaring contradictions in the Christmas timeline. Enjoy! Don Jan 12, 2016 at 17:35

2 Answers 2


Simeon did hold baby Jesus as the scripture says. According to Luke 2:21-22 this occurred after Mary's days of purification. Compare Luke's sequence with Lev 12:2-4:

Luk 2:21 When eight days were fulfilled for the circumcision of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. Luk 2:22 When the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord Luk 2:23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), Luk 2:24 and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

Lev 12:2 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘If a woman conceives, and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her monthly period she shall be unclean. Lev 12:3 In the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Lev 12:4 She shall continue in the blood of purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any holy thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed.

Joseph was not warned by the angel until after the Magi departed Joseph's home. They did not depart the manger in which Jesus was born (as some Nativity scenes falsely portray):

Mat 2:13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.”

This occurred some two years after the birth of Jesus. We know this by examining two verses:

Mat 2:7 Then Herod secretly called the wise men, and learned from them exactly what time the star appeared. and

Mat 2:16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the wise men, was exceedingly angry, and sent out, and killed all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding countryside, from two years old and under, according to the exact time which he had learned from the wise men.

So as you see there was a two year span of time from Simeon's encounter with the child Jesus and Joseph's angelic warning to flee with family to Egypt.

Addition to answer

Joseph and family did not depart Bethlehem in route to Egypt, they departed to Egypt from Nazareth. Confusion about this may stem from misunderstanding the course the Magi took in route to the baby Jesus.

Mat 2:8 He sent them to Bethlehem, and said, “Go and search diligently for the young child. When you have found him, bring me word, so that I also may come and worship him.” Mat 2:9 They, having heard the king, went their way; and behold, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, **until it came and stood over where the young child was.**

The star led the Magi to the Nazareth not Bethlehem (Nazareth approx 70 miles from Bethlehem).

  • It is good and well answering the question strictly from the Bible but I expect more on BH. At the time of the birth, Ashkelon and Akko was Egypt. Bethlehem was about two hours walk west of Nazareth and the largest town in the region. Bethlehem in Judea did not exist. It is very likely Luke did not know about this and wrote about the country he found himself in fifty years later when Herod had destroyed the Galilean Bethlehem and the Judean Bethlehem had been re-inhabited. This might well mean that a visit to Jerusalem in the middle of winter did not take place. Jan 12, 2016 at 17:39

John Shelby Spong wrote a book, Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Birth of Jesus, in which he investigates the gospel nativity stories. On page 65, he discusses the birth stories in Matthew and Luke, and says that neither contains any historical truth. If Spong is correct, then it is neither necessary nor possible to harmonise the accounts in Matthew and Luke.

In spite of the many apparent differences in the two nativity accounts, many Christians maintain they tell different parts of the same story, and that they can be harmonised by presuming that one account occurs later in time than the other. In Jesus: The Evidence, Ian Wilson looks at the evidence and says (page 46) there are actual discrepancies between the two infancy accounts. Whether it is possible for Simeon to have held the baby Jesus, if Joseph had heeded the angel's warning and fled with his family to Egypt, depends on whether we can reconcile these two aspects of the gospel stories.

(New Perspectives on the Nativity takes a comprehensive look at the nativity stories. Henry Wansbrough says (page 5) the importance of the infancy narratives lies not in the precise historicity of the events but in what these narratives show about Jesus. I stress this, because this means we can look at any differences between Matthew and Luke more objectively if their historicity is not fundamental to Christian belief.

Wansbrough says (ibid, page 10) it seems to be generally accepted that the best explanation for Matthew's story of the magi and the journey to Egypt is to assume that Matthew combined two sources from the Old Testament. He says the story of the magi and the star appear to be based on the account of Balaam, while the journey to Egypt appears based on the story of Moses, with Matthew 2:20 mirroring Exodus 4:19.

Bernard P. Robinson (ibid pages 111-112) compares the infancy stories in Matthew and Luke, and says the differences are striking. He also says it would be rash to place too much credence in the historicity of two accounts that are so very different, except perhaps in the details they share. He says that if, as we read in Matthew, Joseph took the family to Egypt until the death of Herod, the Lukan Presentation in the Temple after forty days and the touching stories about Simeon and Anna may begin to look very shaky from a historical perspective.

So, there we have it. Joseph could not have taken Jesus to the Temple forty days after the birth of Jesus and, after Simeon held Jesus in his arms, continued peacefully to his home in Nazareth, apparently never to return to Bethlehem, if he also fled from Bethlehem to Egypt and only went to Nazareth after a long sojourn in Egypt (Matthew 2:23):

Matthew 2:23: And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

  • (not the downvoter) I think this answer is misguided, as the other answer shows that Joseph went to Egypt after almost two years later, making it possible for the event with Simeon to happen.
    – justhalf
    Jan 15, 2016 at 0:49
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    @justhalf With respect to the other answerer, no it does not. The word 'exact' does not occur in the Greek, but in any case a difference in timing stlll does not make it possible. In Lk, the family had already departed for Nazareth; in Matt they are still in Bethlehem (whether 1 week or 2 years later). Matt 2:22-23 confirm this because only Joseph's intention to return to Bethlehem makes Archelaus a threat to Jesus - he had no authority in Galilee, which is why they turned aside and went to Galilee then went to live in Nazareth. Jan 15, 2016 at 4:23
  • The timing I think is a non-issue here based on the text, for as long as the flee happened after the time they saw Simeon and Hannah reported in Luke, it is still possible. The flee seems to happen much later (at least one year), compared to the event with Simeon (at most a few months later). So the only core issue here is "when did Joseph start staying in Nazareth", right?
    – justhalf
    Jan 17, 2016 at 8:11
  • @justhalf I appreciate your attempt to understand my answer, and will do what I can. The core issue, as most scholars agree, is that the two stories were written independently by two authors who never met and had no opportunity to compare notes. Result is a whole series of differences, including this one. For Lk, Jesus did go to Naz. after 14 days - that is not in doubt (Lk 2:39) - they did not return to Bethm but they went from Nazareth to Jerusalem each yr for Passover (Bethm is farther south). .../cont Jan 17, 2016 at 8:24
  • For Matt, they were still in Bethm 1 wk or 2yrs later - time is non-issue. They never went to Nazareth until after some yrs in Egypt, when their intention was to return to Bethm, Judea. Because Archelaus now ruled Judea, they turned aside and went to Galilee, and settled in Nazareth. Matt makes it clear this was the first time they were ever in Nazareth (Matt 2:23) Jan 17, 2016 at 8:28

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