The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (Mt 2:1-2:1)

“In the time

Of King Herod,

Jesus was born

In Bethlehem

Of Judea.”

 

Τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ γεννηθέντος ἐν Βηθλέεμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας ἐν ἡμέραις Ἡρῴδου τοῦ βασιλέως,

 

We have a specific time and place for the birth of Jesus. He was born (δὲ Ἰησοῦ γεννηθέντος) in Bethlehem in Judea (ἐν Βηθλέεμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας), during the reign of King Herod (ἐν ἡμέραις Ἡρῴδου τοῦ βασιλέως). Bethlehem was always in the territory of Judah, about 6 miles south of Jerusalem, with a current population of about 25,000 in the present day Palestinian territory. David was from Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. Matthew did not say why Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, like Luke, chapter 2, did because of a census. King Herod the Great (74 BCE-1 CE) was the Roman client king of Judea. In fact, the Roman Senate named him King of the Jews in 40 BCE. He built many things during his reign, including expanding the Second Temple in Jerusalem. At his death, his kingdom was divided among his children.

The letter from Rome to the Egyptian king (1 Macc 15:15-15:21)

“The following was written.

‘Lucius, consul of the Romans,

To King Ptolemy,

Greetings!

The envoys of the Jews

Have come to us as our friends and allies.

They have come to renew our ancient friendship and alliance.

They had been sent by the high priest Simon and the Jewish people.

They have brought a gold shield weighing one thousand minas.

We therefore have decided to write

To the kings and the countries

So that they should not seek their harm.

They should not make war against them.

They should not make war against their cities and their country.

That they should not make alliances with those who war against them.

It has seemed good to us to accept the shield from them.

Therefore if any scoundrels have fled to you from their country,

Hand them over to Simon the high priest,

So that he may punish them according to their law.’”

This Roman letter is from Lucius Calpurnius Piso the Roman Consul of the Roman Senate from 140-139 BCE. He seems to be sending this letter to King Ptolemy VII who ruled in Egypt from 145-116 BCE, so this is the right time frame. Envoys had been sent by Simon and the Jews to Rome to renew their alliance and friendship. They brought with them a gold shield that was mentioned in the previous chapter. The Romans accepted this shield. Lucius then decided to write to the kings and countries that no one should invade their cities, fight a war with them, or form an alliance against them. If there were any problems with scoundrels fleeing, see Simon the high priest, although he was not called a king or even an ethnarch.