Ask a Franciscan

Is the Timing Off? 

Person holding a rosary in prayer

In praying the joyful mysteries of the rosary, I wonder about the timing of the events cited—for example, the presentation of Jesus in the Temple 40 days after his birth. Weren’t Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Egypt then, hiding from King Herod the Great? Also, if according to the law Jesus’ circumcision happened eight days after his birth, where did this occur? 

The problem here arises from the fact that Matthew’s Gospel (with the flight into Egypt) and Luke’s Gospel (with the presentation of Jesus in the Temple) are not coordinated chronologically. 

Matthew’s Gospel has the Magi finding Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in a “house,” whereas Luke has Jesus born in a cave (probably not a freestanding stable). King Herod’s spies were obviously bumblers if they could not find Jesus within 40 days of his birth. 

Sometimes we are tempted to impose order where that simply cannot be done. I think this is one of those situations.

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