Facts about the birth and childhood of Jesus
The gospels of Luke and Matthew offer the only pictures of Christ’s childhood. Here are some fascinating details they give us.
1. Jesus gets his name from an angel
“The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end’” (Luke 1:28–33)
2. Jesus was a commonly used first-century name
If God was going to become a human, you’d think that He’d choose a powerful and rare name. That’s just not the case. The name “Jesus” was the John Smith of the first-century. When Christ walked on the earth, He didn’t chase after prominence—and that’s even demonstrated in the name that He chose. But that doesn’t mean that Jesus’ name is meaningless. Hidden in that common name is the truth that “Yahweh saves.”
3. Jesus last name wasn’t Christ
In the ancient near east, they had a similar practice. People were identified as the son, or daughter, of their father. Or, if they had a famous ancestor, they might use his name. This is why when you see people introduced in the Bible, they are introduced as the son of so-and-so. John and James, Jesus’ apostles, are identified as the sons of Zebedee. Jesus would have been known as Jesus, son of Joseph. Sometimes people were identified by their occupation, like Matthew the tax collector, or by the town they were from, such as Jesus of Nazareth. Christ is a title, not a last name. Christ is the English form of the Greek word, which means “The Anointed One.” Messiah is the English form of the same word in Hebrew. The term is a clear reference to the way that kings were chosen.
The apostles called Jesus the Messiah, or Christ, to proclaim that he was the King that the Hebrew Scriptures prophesied would come to restore Israel. By calling Jesus “The Christ,” we are identifying him as the promised, chosen ultimate king of Israel and of the universe.
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11).
4. Jesus was born of a virgin
Matthew’s gospel claims that Jesus’ conception was miraculous, and points to this miracle as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Not only was Jesus born to a virgin, but Matthew saw this as a critical piece of evidence that Jesus was actually the Messiah.
5. Jesus had several (half) siblings
The gospels tell us that Jesus had brothers (Matthew. 12:46, Luke. 8:19, Mark. 3:31). Matthew even tells us the brother’s names, and mentions His sisters:
“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (Matthew 13:55–56)
6. Bethlehem means “House of bread”
The name of the town where Jesus is born is called Bethlehem. In Hebrew, this is two words. Beth meaning “house,” and lehem which means “bread.” It’s hard not to see the significance here, not only did the prophet Micah predict that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but Jesus frequently referred to himself as the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35, 48, 51).