Matthew and Luke are the only gospels to record Jesus birth so these are the two we can compare. We are all familiar with the Story of the First Christmas. That Mary and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Jesus is born and the shepherds come to visit, followed by the wise men who bring presents. Then Jesus parents flee with him to Egypt to escape Herod's slaughter of the babies before they return to Nazareth. What is less apparent is that this is actually a conflated account and does justice to neither of the different stories the gospel writers tell. If we look at each record individually we find that:
- Mary and Joseph apparently live in Bethlehem to begin with, and intend on going back there after they return from fleeing to Egypt and only move to Nazareth to steer clear of Archelaus, Herod's son.
- Flee to Egypt to escape Herod's killing in the first place
- Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth and have to travel to Bethlehem to register in the census
- They go to the temple on the eighth day, perform the rites of the Law, and then return to their home in Nazareth.
There are significant differences between these two records, they both put Jesus in Bethlehem for his birth and then Nazareth for his upbringing, but they achieve that in very different ways. Matthew takes Mary and Joseph from Bethlehem to Nazareth while Luke takes them from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
There are also historicity problems with the nativity accounts which are explained on a later page.