The Chronological Study Bible is an excellent resource for reading about the birth of Jesus. Since it arranges all the biblical events in chronological order, you’ll read through John’s prologue first, then move back and forth between Luke’s and Matthew’s accounts. We want to give you a glimpse of what this looks like so keep reading to see how the differing accounts of the birth of Jesus are intertwined in the Chronological Study Bible.

The Prehistory of Jesus

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:1-5

The prologue of John’s Gospel locates the beginning of the story of Jesus in timeless eternity, before the dawn of creation (see Php 2:5–11; Col 1:15–20). John at once identifies “the Word” as God the Son and distinguishes Him from God the Father. Although there was a time when Jesus of Nazareth did not exist, there never was a time when the Word did not exist.

Yet John announces a time when “the Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14). The Word became incarnate in this Jesus. This event, the Incarnation, marks the time when the Revealer of God became a specific human being. After the Incarnation, John’s Gospel never again refers to Jesus as “the Word.” Since the Incarnation, God may be known in the person and work of Jesus.

The Word Becomes Flesh

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:14

John’s Gospel describes Jesus’ preexistence by identifying him as the divine “Word” (Jn 1:1), or, as expressed in the Greek language, the Logos. Many Greek philosophers spoke of the Logos as universal Reason. People familiar with Greek thought could have understood John to be proclaiming Jesus as the organizing principle or “Reason” behind the universe.

Some Jewish people adapted the Greek idea of Logos to fit the traditional Jewish idea of the Word. But more thought of the Word in traditionally Jewish categories. They identified God’s creative Word with divine Wisdom, which they also identified with God’s Law (the Torah). They brought various ideas together: that God created all things through the Law or Wisdom (Jn 1:3), that the Word was life and light (1:4), and that Wisdom had been with God from the beginning (1:2).

In the prologue of his Gospel, John declares something that neither the Greek philosophers nor the Jewish teachers conceived: the Word became flesh and dwelt among his people. To the Greeks Logos was invisible reason, not part of the material world. To the Jewish teachers Wisdom was a divine attribute of Yahweh. But to John the Word was the divine Christ who became a human being. The Word’s glory was “full of grace and truth,” revealing to us the full character of God (Jn 1:14, 17, 18).

The Birth of Jesus

No one knows precisely when Jesus was born. Even his year of birth is only an educated guess based on the information available. The intention of the medieval creators of our calendar was to set the date of Jesus’ birth at A.D. 1. They simply miscalculated. The Jewish historian Josephus places the death of Herod the Great in 4 B.C., and both Matthew (Mt 2:1) and Luke (Lk 1:5) presume that Herod was king at the time of Jesus’ birth. But it is not clear how much before Herod’s death Jesus was born.

We know that Herod became king of the Jews in 37 B.C. Outside of Matthew (Mt 2:16), no historical record mentions Herod’s slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem. Josephus does write that Herod ordered the murders of members of his own family to protect his throne. So it is not surprising that a few peasant children in Bethlehem went unnoticed among Herod’s many atrocities, leaving us no help with dating. Since Herod’s calculations led him to target children under two years old, Jesus’ birth likely occurred one or two years before Herod’s death—in either 6 or 5 B.C.

A date of about 5 B.C. could fit with Luke’s note that Augustus, who reigned from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14, was the Roman emperor when Jesus was born (Lk 2:1). Luke’s mention of Quirinius (2:2), however, creates a problem. After Herod died, Rome divided his territory among his surviving sons. Archelaus ruled in Judea (see Mt 2:22) until he was deposed by the Romans in A.D. 6. Only then was Quirinius appointed governor, after serving for more than a decade as commander of the Roman troops in the area. Perhaps Luke simply identified him by his later office.

Signs in the Heavens

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Matthew 2:1-2

Some have tried to specify Jesus’ birth date by appeal to astronomical phenomena that might explain the star of Bethlehem (Mt 2:2, 7, 9, 10). Halley’s comet appeared in 12 or 11 B.C. and another comet in 5 B.C. But in antiquity comets were thought to forecast evil, not blessed, events. In 7 B.C. a rare (once every 794 years) conjunction of the planets Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn occurred in the constellation Pisces. Whether Matthew’s star was any of these is pure speculation. For ancient people the star confirmed again that Jesus was the Messiah who fulfilled Balaam’s star prophecy (Nu 24:17).

Early Lives of John the Baptist and Jesus

Elizabeth and Mary, the mothers of John and Jesus, were either blood relatives or close kinswomen (Lk 1:36). The angel Gabriel appeared to both families—to Elizabeth’s husband and to Mary herself—and announced their future sons John and Jesus. Even before birth, these babies were named (Lk 1:13, 31) and set apart for unique missions (1:16, 17, 32, 33).

Practically nothing is known of John’s boyhood, except that he “grew and became strong in spirit” (Luke 1:80). Only slightly more is known of Jesus’ upbringing. Early in his life Jesus was taken to Nazareth, a town of Galilee, and there raised by his mother, Mary, and her husband, Joseph, a carpenter by trade. Hence the Child was known as “Jesus of Nazareth” (Mk 1:24).

Jesus was his mother’s firstborn child; he had four brothers (James, Joses, Judas, and Simon) and an unspecified number of sisters (Mk 6:3). The only incident preserved from his first 30 years (after his infancy) was his trip to Jerusalem with Joseph and Mary when he was 12 years old (Lk 2:41–50). Occurring in the year that, as a Jewish boy, he attained the age of religious responsibility, the trip was at a crucial juncture of his development.

The Journey of the Magi by James Jacques Joseph Tissot c. 1894 – Minneapolis Institute of Arts

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Luke 2:39-40

The NIV and NKJV Chronological Study Bible

The Chronological Study Bible is available with both the NIV and NKJV translation. If you want to read and study the Bible in chronological order, then this is a perfect resource for you! Follow one of the links below to purchase this unique resource in our store!

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