Why didn’t the Jewish leaders realize that Jesus was from Bethlehem, not Nazareth, originally? Mary “pondered” things, but did she talk about them? Or because she was a woman, would she have not been heard? Or was it just because they were destined to not understand? [I’ve just been wondering about this and would like to hear some opinions, for I guess that’s all we can muster.] Please see Matthew 2:4, 23 and John 1:45-46 and perhaps help me with the Old Testament prophecies specifically.

That is, If Jesus was born in Bethlehem, why was He always known as Jesus of Nazareth?

  • Yes, in Jewish law women's testimony was worth less than men's. Though Joseph was there too. I wonder how they would have proved it? Remember that explaining he was born in Bethlehem would also require explaining how he survived Herod's slaughter -- we heard from an angel... I guess they could have gotten the innkeeper to corroborate. But we don't know if he would have wanted to draw Herod's attention to the miraculous escape of the very baby he'd hoped to kill. Plus when Mary hinted to the public that Jesus was special at Cana, he told her to knock it off. Maybe she didn't want to interfere. – Luke Sawczak Feb 6 '19 at 22:59

Many reasons for this could be speculated, but four factors emerge.

1.) As you have stated, Mary was a woman and would not be afforded the same speaking rights today. In addition to this, Mary would have also been scoffed at as someone suspected of having a child out of marriage.

2.) Just as today, people may not have always referred to where they were from as where they were born. Jesus only spent a short amount of time as a baby before His family had to flee from Herod in Matt. 2:13. After this, he spent the next few decades in Nazareth.

3.) Keeping geography in mind, we must remember the sheer distance between Jerusalem and Nazareth. On top of this many Jews refused to travel through the Samaritan territory in between Judea and Galilee, opting to take a long water route instead. While Jewish leaders may have been willing to travel that distance to confront Jesus, it is unlikely that they would have gone that far to talk with Mary.

4.) Consistently throughout the Gospels, Jesus "deflects" claims about him being the Christ. Continually, Jesus rebuffs people calling him Christ in favor of the term Son of Man. The Christ that most people expected was not who Jesus came to be. While they desired a robust military ruler, Jesus combated misconceptions and instead talked about his death and resurrection. Jesus was never in the business of proving he was the Messiah, but rather being it whether people liked it or not.

  • Wow, thanks for the solid reasoning. Very helpful insight. – Jeanne Harrison May 30 '19 at 0:47
  • Thanks! I'd appreciate it if you would vote and accept it as an answer! – Dustin Sable Jun 6 '19 at 19:07
  1. Matthew records:

    • Jesus was born in Bethlehem:

      1Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
      -- Matthew 2:1 (KJV)

    • Joseph then returned with his family to live in Nazareth:

      23And 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.
      -- Matthew 2:23 (KJV)

  2. Mark records:

    • Jesus came to John from Nazareth to be baptised:

      9And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
      -- Mark 1:9 (KJV)

  3. Luke records:

    • An angel was sent to Mary who was living at Nazareth:

      26And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
      -- Luke 1:26 (KJV)

    • Joseph and Mary then moved to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born:

      1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2( And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
      4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because ( he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
      6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
      7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
      -- Luke 2:1-7 (KJV)

    • Joseph, Mary and the baby then returned to live in Nazareth following the birth:

      39And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
      -- Luke 2:39 (KJV)

    • Nazareth was the town of Jesus upbringing:

      16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
      -- Luke 4:16 (KJV)

  4. John records:

    • Before they became his disciples, Phillip and Nathaniel recognised Jesus as a citizen of Nazareth:

      45Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
      46And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
      -- John 1:45-46 (KJV)


It is clear from the evidence of the Gospels that Jesus was known to the general populace as a citizen of Nazareth, the town of his upbringing. It is unlikely the details surrounding the circumstances of Jesus' birth at Bethlehem were widely known, because Mary kept them to herself until she was moved to make them known.

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