25 Events in the Mysterious Life of Jesus of Nazareth

Only one of the canonical gospels – Matthew – describes the flight of the Holy Family into Egyptian exile. Wikimedia

2. The flight to Egypt to escape the murderous wrath of Herod

Appearing only in the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible, though supported by stories in the Apocrypha, is the Flight of the Holy Family into exile in Egypt. According to the account in Matthew Joseph was warned by an angel of the impending danger to the infant Jesus. Joseph was instructed to flee with his wife and infant child to Egypt, where they remained safe from Herod’s murderous intent for an undefined period. According to Matthew, they remained there until after Herod’s death, which is widely accepted to have occurred in or about 4 BCE.

Nothing further is said of the years in exile, including how many were spent in Egypt. When the family returned it was to Nazareth, rather than Bethlehem, from which they presumably escaped (the account in Matthew is unclear). Luke does not include the story of the Egyptian exile, instead recounting Joseph’s return to Nazareth with his family following Jesus’ presentation at the temple. According to the law specified in Leviticus (12: 1-3), the presentation should have occurred 40 days after the birth of Jesus. Luke also specifies that the presentation took place at the Temple in Jerusalem, which obviously conflicts with the story of the Flight to Egypt and exile there recounted in Matthew.