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We read in Exodus 13: 1- 2 & 12-13:

The Lord said to Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal. .........

You are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord. Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons. ".

Lk 2 gives an account of how the family of Jesus visited the Temple for his presentation. It is specifically written that they offered two pigeons which was prescribed of the poor, for purification of Mary who had been delivered of a child. But Luke does not narrate as to what was offered to the Temple so as to 'redeem ' their child consecrated to the Lord. Do we have any apocryphal writings on the subject ?

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  • I fixed your formatting. A problem is created when you indent paragraphs. It works better if you don't indent but put and space between them. Dec 13, 2023 at 3:06
  • Thanks, Dan Fefferman for the editing and for the wonderful answer. Dec 13, 2023 at 3:54

4 Answers 4

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Numbers 18:16-17

6 For the redemption price of a son, when he is a month old, you shall pay the equivalent of five silver shekels according to the sanctuary shekel, that is, twenty gerahs. 17 But the firstborn of cattle, or the firstborn of sheep or the firstborn of goats you shall not redeem; they are holy. Their blood you must splash on the altar and their fat you must burn as an oblation of pleasing aroma to the Lord.

Talmudic scholar Dr. Joseph Kulp deals with this issue in his Introduction to Mishnah Bekhorot, which deals with the question of "firstborns." Based on Numbers 18, he explains that for the redemption of a firstborn human male, there is only a monetary price, not an animal sacrifice:

The male first-born of a human being. - This first-born is redeemed by giving five shekels to the priest. In addition, Bekhorot finishes with a chapter dedicated to the cattle tithe, the giving of the tenth-born of every domesticated animal to the priest.

So the answer is fairly clear: a first-born son would be redeemed by paying the equivalent of five shekels to the priest. However, after the Second Temple was built such transactions were usually delegated to the Levites, who were in charge of the treasury. (1 Chronicles 26:20)

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In Luke 2:22-24 we read:

And when the time of purification according to the Law of Moses was complete, His parents brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord: “Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer the sacrifice specified in the Law of the Lord: “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Note that Jesus presentation at the temple had nothing to do with Mary's purification (except the timing.) The purpose of the temple visit was to "present Him to the Lord" and pay the redemption money as explicitly quoted by Luke from Ex 13:2.

Further, the price of two turtledoves or two pigeons is as defined in Lev 12:8.

Thus, Jesus' parents complied with Torah law to present Jesus at the Temple and pay the redemption price.

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  • Thanks, Dottard. There is a difference between 'fee' for the ritual of purification vis- a -vis ' fee' for redemption of the consecrated child. Lev 12:6-8 clearly state that either a lamb with a dove or two doves were to be brought alive, one of which would make burnt offering and the other, sin offering. Ex 13 which speaks of the consecration and redemption, does not however speak of the ' fee' . That is done in Num 18:16-17 in terms of monetary fee. My question is on the monetary payment that Joseph made to 'redeem' Child Jesus . Please see Dan Fefferman' s answer. Dec 13, 2023 at 5:29
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    I think it's better to consider the purification sacrifice as something other than a fee. Leviticus calls it "...a burnt offering, a sweet-smelling oblation to the Lord." Dec 15, 2023 at 15:55
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Q. What was Baby Jesus ' redeemed with ' at the Temple?

[Luk 2:21-24 NASB95] [21] And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was [then] called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. [22] And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord [23] (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "EVERY [firstborn] MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD"), [24] and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, "A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS."

The questioner is confused because s/he is looking for direction in Exodus. The direction given in Exodus 13 only applied to the role of the first born males, who at that time served as a quasi-priesthood. It wasn't until the establishment of "the sanctuary" in Leviticus that the tribe of Levi assumed the priesthood established the relevant "redemption price" for firstborn human males, to "pay off" the LORD for not murdering the firstborn of the Jews along with the murdering of the Egyptians' first born sons:

[Exo 13:2 NASB95] [2] "Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me."

So every first born Jewish parent became obligated to give their firstborn son for priestly service because the Death Angel (IE: the preexistent Messiah?) saw the blood of the innocent animals and "passed over" the first born of the Jews.

But the sacrifice of the Passover was insufficient to release the Jews of their debt to the LORD. The progeny of the Jews were forever obliged to the LORD to pay God back for his mercy and grace in not permitting the slaughtering of the Jews. By saving the parents, the LORD saved all future generations, so all Jews will forever be obligated to pay the LORD a "salvation fee" to the LORD in the form of either perpetual servitude as a priest or the blood of a flock animal.

[Num 18:14-16 NASB95] [14] "Every devoted thing in Israel shall be yours. [15] "Every first issue of the womb of all flesh, whether man or animal, which they offer to the LORD, shall be yours; nevertheless the firstborn of man you shall surely redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem. [16] "As to their redemption price, from a month old you shall redeem them, by your valuation, five shekels in silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs.

NONE of the above is relevant to Luke 2, invalidating the answers previously provided.

Related:

https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6138-first-born-redemption-of#anchor5


What IS relevant is the cost to a woman for bearing a son. Childbirth involves the shedding of blood, and blood is taboo for ancient, and even modern, Jews. One has to absolve the mother of shed blood, even if it is her own:

[Lev 12:2-7 NASB95] [2] "Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: 'When a woman gives birth and bears a male [child,] then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean. [3] 'On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. [4] 'Then she shall remain in the blood of [her] purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed. [5] 'But if she bears a female [child,] then she shall be unclean for two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall remain in the blood of [her] purification for sixty-six days. [6] 'When the days of her purification are completed, for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the doorway of the tent of meeting a one year old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. [7] 'Then he shall offer it before the LORD and make atonement for her, and she shall be cleansed from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears [a child, whether] a male or a female.

But if one was poor, they could satisfy their blood guilt, and indebtedness for the survival of their generation, with something much less costly than a whole flock animal: a pair of birds:

[Lev 12:1-7 NASB95] [1] Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [2] "Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: 'When a woman gives birth and bears a male [child,] then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean. [3] 'On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. [4] 'Then she shall remain in the blood of [her] purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed. [5] 'But if she bears a female [child,] then she shall be unclean for two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall remain in the blood of [her] purification for sixty-six days. [6] 'When the days of her purification are completed, for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the doorway of the tent of meeting a one year old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. [7] 'Then he shall offer it before the LORD and make atonement for her, and she shall be cleansed from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears [a child, whether] a male or a female.

So in Luke's narrative, Maria Carry was cleansed from her blood guilt by a token sacrifice (because she couldn't afford the actual cost of her indiscretion of spilling her blood while bearing the progeny of her forefathers, for being spared the death of their race):

[Lev 12:8 NASB95] [8] 'But if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.'"


Luke is a much more sophisticated writer than is Matthew. In Matthew's portrait of Jesus as "King of the Jews," poverty was not an issue for the Boy Born King. All of the spiritual advisors from Iran did what they still do, and that is to generously fund the destroyer of the Jews:

[Mat 2:11 NASB95] [11] After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Matthew's Jesus is not destitute. We see the differing priorities here also:

[Mat 5:3 NASB95] [3] "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Versus:

[Luk 6:20-21 NASB95] [20] And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He [began] to say, "Blessed [are] you [who are] poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. [21] "Blessed [are] you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed [are] you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

So unlike Matthew, who wants very badly to impress with depictions of Christ as royalty, Luke wants to portray Christ as "Joe the Plumber," poor as dirt and proud of it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlcIKh6sBtc

Be mindful of which gospel you choose. Lukans tend to be much better people than Matthewans.

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  • You make an interesting point (a valid one IMO) with your Joe the Plumber comment... but it seems over the top to suggest that those who prefer Luke are better people. Dec 13, 2023 at 14:16
  • Everything under the top is compromised. Matthew gives rise to "dominionists." The world is cursed with MAGAts, who see in Matthew their ticket to wealth and power.
    – Ruminator
    Dec 13, 2023 at 14:17
  • I am, by constitution, "over the top"!
    – Ruminator
    Dec 13, 2023 at 14:25
  • Thanks,Ruminator. But, you have not made me wiser ! If Jesus was presented to the Lord, he was to be redeemed. And the price of redumption was hard cash; not a couple of birds. Dec 13, 2023 at 14:59
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    Ruminator, you have ' gray hair' and I ought to hear you out . Pax. Dec 14, 2023 at 0:43
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(Num 18:15–16)

Everything that opens the womb of all flesh, whether man or beast, which they offer to the LORD, shall be yours. Nevertheless, the firstborn of man you shall redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem. And their redemption price (at a month old you shall redeem them) you shall fix at five shekels in silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs.

These are minute details for which some NT critics and commentators like Raymond Brown have argued that Luke was ignorant and confused different kinds of rituals, and that he failed to mention the 5 shekels price for redemption of the son. These criticisms have led to them to label Luke as a gentile who has bookish knowledge of the law. However, recently these objections have been debunked by a some real scholars who demonstrate that Luke has the best practical knowledge of the law, and he presented Jesus and his parents as perfect law-abiding Jews in his narrative theme, the details which also suggest that Luke was a Jew, not a pagan.

Isaac Wilk Oliver, explains that it is unnecessary to write every little detail like the five shekels. This rite could be implied as it is insignificant, or it is possible that Luke's narrative doesn't present Jesus as redeemed, as his life is dedicated to serve God as his ministry shows.

Isaac writes in Gentilizing Luke’s ‘Most’ Jewish ‘Moment’: Reassessing the Circumcision, Purification, and Redemption of Jesus, also in the book Torah Praxis After 70 CE (2013):

In earlier history all firstborn Israelite sons were dedicated to serve the God of Israel, but eventually the Levites assumed this priestly task (Num 3:11–13). Henceforth, non-Levite firstborn sons would be exempted or redeemed from their priestly duties through the payment of five shekels (Num 18:15–16). Exodus 34:20 could imply that one of the parents had to redeem the firstborn son in person at the sanctuary where the God of Israel resided: “All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. No one shall appear before me (פני) empty-handed” (Exod 34:20). This verse presupposes that one of the parents (with the child?) had to be present at the sanctuary, the Hebrew noun פני indicating that the rite was to take place in the sanctum where the God of Israel resided.

Rubin suggests that Jews who went up to Jerusalem during the Second Temple period might have taken advantage of this unique opportunity to perform several commandments at the same time in the temple. This proposal would account for Luke’s combination of the fulfillment of two commandments, namely, the purification after childbirth and the redemption of the firstborn. It is clear that Luke’s main goal in this pericope is to have the infant Jesus brought to the temple, a site of extreme importance throughout Luke-Acts. Nevertheless, Jesus’ presentation could not occur before the forty days of purification for the parturient and her newborn were completed. Luke takes advantage of this halakic opportunity to highlight the Torah observance of Jesus’ family by indicating that they waited until the days of purification were over before redeeming their firstborn son at the temple. Numbers 18:16 declares that a firstborn male could be redeemed “from one month of age” (מבן־חדש). Rabbinic exegesis interpreted this phrase to mean that a firstborn could not be redeemed before the age of thirty days. Thirty-one days, of course, is too early a date to bring the infant Jesus into the temple since he would still be impure. The first opportunity to present Jesus in the temple would occur after the completion of the forty days of impurity. Some rabbinic passages claim that a firstborn can be redeemed after the thirty-first day. Indeed, the wording of Num 18:16 could allow one to infer that the redemption can take place anytime from the age of thirty days onward. Based on the limited evidence at our disposal, Luke’s description and timing of the performance of the redemption of the firstborn make good sense halakically.

The only minor problem awaiting resolution involves the absence of any reference in Luke 2:22–24 to the payment of the five shekels for the redemption of Jesus. However, the payment for the redemption may be implied in Luke 2:27: “the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law” (emphasis mine). But, more importantly, Luke does not explicitly mention this financial transaction because he wants to emphasize the presentation and dedication of Jesus in the temple to his special calling (2:22: παραστῆσαι τῷ κυρίω). Luke wishes to portray Jesus as a unique and gifted child (2:47) dedicated and set apart for an important mission, not as any firstborn Jew exempted from fulfilling his service to the God of Israel. In a certain sense, Luke implies that Jesus never really was redeemed from his obligation of carrying out his mission on behalf of Israel and the nations. This becomes clear later on when Luke presents Jesus once again in the temple, this time at the age of twelve, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (2:46). Jesus’ bewildered parents, who search endlessly for their lost child, fail to comprehend his retort when they finally find him in the temple: “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house (ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου)?” (2:49) The Greek phrase ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου is ambiguous and could alternatively be rendered as “about my Father’s work.” Regardless, the sentence proclaimed by Luke’s adolescent Jesus still implies a dedication to a very particular mission that will bring him into the realm of the temple in Jerusalem throughout the Lukan narrative.

  • footnotes: Sifre Num 118; cf. b. Bek. 10b; 12b: an infant cannot be redeemed before the age of thirty days. According to t. Shabb. 15[16]:7, an infant younger than thirty days was not considered a person (because of the high mortality rates of that time).
  • M. Bek. 8:6; b. Bek. 51b: a father must redeem a son who died after thirty days if he had not yet done so. See also t. Bek. 6:10, which allows for the postponement of the redemption in certain circumstances (cf. b. Qidd. 29b). According to b. Bek. 12b, if the father did not redeem his firstborn at the right time, he may do so “forever” (עד עולם). See Rubin, The Beginning of Life, 128–29.
  • (from the book) In Lev 27:6, a child from the age of thirty days to five years olds is evaluated at five shekels. Could this mean that a parent could redeem their child up until the age of five years old? We know too little about the ritual to make any definite conclusions, and, in any case, Lev 27:6 does not refer to the rite of redeeming the firstborn male, but to the funding of the sanctuary.

Concerning the time of redeeming and purification. They can be flexible, and when they got the opportunity to go to the temple, they may do the rites together. There is no fixed date that they had to redeem the child at the exact date, but it is the minimum limit. They could redeem the child locally, however due to his impurity period, he couldn't go to the temple, thus they would perfect both his rites after the purification period.

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  • Thanks, Michel16. Please clarify this: if the requirement was to redeem the child at one month 's age, why did Joseph wait for forty days , till date of completion of the purification of Mary ? Dec 13, 2023 at 14:41
  • I added more details. You should download the article it's free to dowload on academia. They could perform the rites any day after the minimum period, but due to his purification period, he couldn't be in the temple. They can wait until the whole period to finish all the customs together.
    – Michael16
    Dec 13, 2023 at 15:30
  • Michael16, let us keep in mind that Luke had by profession,been a physician. See how he narrates the condition of the lady with the blood- disease (Lk 8:43-48) adding a comment that doctors had made her condition worse. If he forgot to mention the redemption price paid for Baby Jesus, but mentioned the purification ritual of Mary- both of which happened on the same day, it was quite inadvertent . Dec 14, 2023 at 0:32
  • There's no purification rite of Mary. It was Jesus and Mary whose purification is mentioned. Nothing is forgotten, but selectively described. We need to think the reason. Perhaps it was too insignificant, or he doesn't show that he was redeemed.
    – Michael16
    Dec 14, 2023 at 3:09
  • Maybe the aged priest Simeon intervened and got the redemption money waived off. He had recognised Jesus ! Dec 14, 2023 at 14:34

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