Synchronizing the Nativity Stories

By Tim Sullivan


Of the four Gospels, only Matthew and Luke tell the story of the Jesus' life before he began his earthly ministry. But these two accounts differ greatly in the details each one choses to convey.

In the Gospel according to Matthew, the nativity story focuses on Joseph. In Luke, the story focuses on Mary.

The person who only reads Matthew will not know about Gabriel's visitation with Mary, or the circumstances revolving around the birth of John the Baptist. He will not know that angels visited the shepherds in Bethelem, or of Jesus' dedication at the Temple in Jerusalem.

The person who reads only Luke will not know that Gabriel also visited Joseph. He will not know of the wise men from the east who came to honor the Christ child, or that King Herod ordered the slaughter of children trying to eliminate the foretold king. He will not know that the holy family found refuge in Egypt until the death of Herod.

Here is a simple synchronization of Matthew and Luke in the most probable order of event. References to Matthew ("Mt") are in BLUE; references to Luke ("Lk") are in GREEN.

Mt 1:1-25

The lineage of Christ, Abraham to Joseph

Lk 1:1-25

Gabriel and Zacharias (the pregnancy of Elisabeth)

Mt 1:18

Mary’s pregnancy

Lk 1:26-38

Gabriel and Mary (Mary's pregnancy)

Lk 1:39-56

Mary's visit with Elisabeth

Mt 1:18-25

Gabriel gives reassurance to Joseph

Lk 1:57-79

The birth, circumcision, and official naming of John the Baptist

Lk 2:1-5

Joseph and Mary's journey to Bethlehem

Mt 2:1

The birth of Christ

Lk 2:6-7

The birth of Christ

Lk 2:8-20

The angels and the shepherds

Lk 2:21

The circumcision and official naming of Jesus

Lk 2:22-24

The presentation in the Temple in Jerusalem

Lk 2:25-38

The prophecies of Simeon and Anna

Mt 2:1-9

The wise men and King Herod

Mt 2:10-12

The wise men visit the Christ child

Mt 2:13-15

The angel sends the holy family into Egypt

Mt 2:16-18

The slaughter of the innocents

Lk 1:80

The life of young John the Baptist

Mt 2:19-20

The death of Herod and the return of the holy family to Israel

Mt 2:21-23

The holy family's return to Nazareth in Galilee

Lk 2:39-40

The family returns to Nazareth in Galilee

Lk 2:41-50

Jesus at the Temple

Lk 2:51-52

Young Jesus in Nazareth


Here is a link to my PowerPoint presentation on this message with illustrations and other interesting facts about the Nativity.


Presented December 13, 2015