Luke 2

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Luke 2
Papyrus 4 (Luk 6.4-16).jpg
Luke 6:4-16 on Papyrus 4, written about AD 150-175.
Book Gospel of Luke
Bible part New Testament
Order in the Bible part 3
Category Gospel

Luke 2 is the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament. It contains an account of Jesus's birth and an incident from his childhood. Verses 1 and 3-19 are commonly read at Nativity plays as part of celebrating Christmas.

Jesus's birth[edit]

Main article: Census of Quirinius

According to the Gospel of Luke, Caesar Augustus ordered a census be conducted of the "..entire Roman World", during Quirinius's governorship of Syria and that this is the reason that Joseph and Mary, who lived in Nazareth, were in Bethlehem, King David's place of birth, when Jesus was born.

There is no record of a census that would meet this description. The emperor Augustus ordered censuses of Roman citizens in 28 BC, 8 BC and AD 14,[1] but clearly this would exclude Joseph, who was not a Roman citizen. This is generally understood as a reference to the provincial census conducted by Quirinius in Iudaea Province and Syria in AD 6 or 7. Luke, however, in Luke 1:5 implies that John and Jesus were conceived during the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BC, a decade earlier. If Jesus was conceived during the reign of Herod, then Luke must be wrong about Jesus being born during the census. According to Luke, however, the census was the reason Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem, where according to both Luke and Matthew 2:1 Jesus was born. Matthew records nothing about a census, and appears to imply that the family lived in Bethlehem;[2] both agree Jesus was born there but raised in Nazareth.

The angels and shepherds[edit]

Luke then tells of shepherds working nearby who are visited by an angel who tells them that in Bethlehem, the " of David...Christ the Lord." had been born. More angels appear and Luke has them saying "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." The angels go back to heaven and the shepherds go to town to see for themselves and find Joseph and Mary and the infant Jesus. They then "...spread the word..." about the angels and Jesus, then return to their flocks.

Luke makes no mention of the Magi, the Massacre of the Innocents, nor the escape of Jesus' family to Egypt found in Matthew 2


Luke 2:21 tells how Joseph and Mary have their baby circumcised on the eighth day after birth, and name him Jesus, as Gabriel had told Mary to do in Luke 1:31.

Presentation in the Temple[edit]

Simeon's Song of Praise (also showing Anna) by Aert de Gelder, around 1700–1710.

According to Leviticus 12, a woman was ritually unclean for forty days after giving birth to a male child. After this period, Joseph and Mary take Jesus to the Temple to complete Mary's ritual purification and to provide the sacrifice specified in the Law of Moses. Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb) in Leviticus 12:8, sacrificing "a pair of doves or two young pigeons."

In the Temple, they meet Simeon and Anna. Simeon had been waiting for the Christ, and believes Jesus is him. Simeon prays the Nunc Dimittis (Canticle of Simeon) and tells Mary "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." Anna, an old widowed woman who spent all her time in the temple praying, comes and praises Jesus as well.

Boy Jesus at the Temple[edit]

The Gospel then provides the only story of Jesus's childhood in the Canonical Gospels. When Jesus is twelve his family travels to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Then they leave with a large group of their relatives and friends and after a day they realize Jesus is not with them. They go back to Jerusalem and after three days of looking find him in the temple talking with the temple teachers. His parents scold him for running off, but Jesus replies that they should have known where he was. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?". His family doesn't understand what he is talking about. They all then go to Nazareth.


  1. ^ The Res Gestae of Augustus as published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1924, chapter 8
  2. ^ Raymond E. Brown, A Coming Christ in Advent, Liturgical Press (1988), p8


Preceded by
Luke 1
Chapters of the Bible
Gospel of Luke
Succeeded by
Luke 3