Luke 2 English Standard Version (ESV)
The Birth of Jesus Christ
2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.[c]
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Jesus Presented at the Temple
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant[e] depart in peace,
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.[f] She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
The Return to Nazareth
39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
The Boy Jesus in the Temple
41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents[g] saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?”[h] 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature[i] and in favor with God and man.
Luke 2 The Voice (VOICE)
2 Around the time of Elizabeth’s amazing pregnancy and John’s birth, the emperor in Rome, Caesar Augustus, required everyone in the Roman Empire to participate in a massive census— 2 the first census since Quirinius had become governor of Syria. 3 Each person had to go to his or her ancestral city to be counted.
This political background isn’t incidental: it is crucial to the story. Conquering nations in the ancient world work in various ways. Some brutally destroy and plunder the nations they conquer. Some conquer people as slaves or servants. Other empires allow the people to remain in their land and work as before, but with one major change: the conquered people have to pay taxes to their rulers. The purpose of a census like the one Luke de-scribes is to be sure that everyone is appropriately taxed and knows who is in charge.
4-5 Mary’s fiancé Joseph, from Nazareth in Galilee, had to participate in the census in the same way everyone else did. Because he was a descendant of King David, his ancestral city was Bethlehem, David’s birthplace. Mary, who was now late in her pregnancy that the messenger Gabriel had predicted, 6 accompanied Joseph. While in Bethlehem, she went into labor 7 and gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped the baby in a blanket and laid Him in a feeding trough because the inn had no room for them.
8 Nearby, in the fields outside of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds were guarding their flocks from predators in the darkness of night. 9 Suddenly a messenger of the Lord stood in front of them, and the darkness was replaced by a glorious light—the shining light of God’s glory. They were terrified!
Messenger: 10 Don’t be afraid! Listen! I bring good news, news of great joy, news that will affect all people everywhere. 11 Today, in the city of David, a Liberator has been born for you! He is the promised Anointed One, the Supreme Authority! 12 You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough.
13 At that moment, the first heavenly messenger was joined by thousands of other messengers—a vast heavenly choir. They praised God.
14 Heavenly Choir: To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God!
15 As soon as the heavenly messengers disappeared into heaven, the shepherds were buzzing with conversation.
Shepherds: Let’s rush down to Bethlehem right now! Let’s see what’s happening! Let’s experience what the Lord has told us about!
16 So they ran into town, and eventually they found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the feeding trough. After they saw the baby, 17 they spread the story of what they had experienced and what had been said to them about this child. 18 Everyone who heard their story couldn’t stop thinking about its meaning. 19 Mary, too, pondered all of these events, treasuring each memory in her heart.
20 The shepherds returned to their flocks, praising God for all they had seen and heard, and they glorified God for the way the experience had unfolded just as the heavenly messenger had predicted.
Here again is Luke’s fascination with disadvantaged people. Jesus’ first visitors are not ambassadors, dignitaries, or wealthy landowners. The first to pay Him homage are simple shepherds, minimum-wage workers in the ancient agrarian economy. They have little to no status in the world. They are the humble and the poor whom God is now raising up to receive heavenly messages and an audience with the great King. This theme recurs as the story continues.
21 Eight days after His birth, the baby was circumcised in keeping with Jewish religious requirements, and He was named Jesus, the name the messenger had given Him before His conception in Mary’s womb. 22 After Mary had observed the ceremonial days of postpartum purification required by Mosaic law, she and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. 23 They were fulfilling the Lord’s requirement that “every firstborn Israelite male will be dedicated to the Eternal One as holy.”[a] 24 They also offered the sacrifice required by the law of the Lord, “two turtledoves or two young pigeons.”[b]
25 While fulfilling these sacred obligations at the temple, they encountered a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was a just and pious man, anticipating the liberation of Israel from her troubles. He was a man in touch with the Holy Spirit. 26 The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Anointed One. 27 The Spirit had led him to the temple that day, and there he saw the child Jesus in the arms of His parents, who were fulfilling their sacred obligations. 28 Simeon took Jesus into his arms and blessed God.
29 Simeon: Now, Lord and King, You can let me, Your humble servant, die in peace.
33 His father and mother were stunned to hear Simeon say these things. 34 Simeon went on to bless them both, and to Mary in particular he gave predictions.
Simeon: Listen, this child will make many in Israel rise and fall. He will be a significant person whom many will oppose. 35 In the end, He will lay bare the secret thoughts of many hearts. And a sword will pierce even your own soul, Mary.
36 At that very moment, an elderly woman named Anna stepped forward. Anna was a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She had been married for seven years before her husband died 37 and a widow to her current age of 84 years. She was deeply devoted to the Lord, constantly in the temple, fasting and praying. 38 When she approached Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, she began speaking out thanks to God, and she continued spreading the word about Jesus to all those who shared her hope for the rescue of Jerusalem.
39 After fulfilling their sacred duties according to the law of the Lord, Mary and Joseph returned with Jesus to their own city of Nazareth in the province of Galilee. 40 There Jesus grew up, maturing in physical strength and increasing in wisdom, and the grace of God rested on Him.
41 Every year during Jesus’ childhood, His parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. 42 When Jesus was 12, He made the journey with them. 43 They spent several days there, participating in the whole celebration. When His parents left for home, Jesus stayed in Jerusalem, but Joseph and Mary were not aware. 44 They assumed Jesus was elsewhere in the caravan that was traveling together. After they had already traveled a full day’s journey toward home, they began searching for Him among their friends and relatives. 45 When no one had seen the boy, Mary and Joseph rushed back to Jerusalem and searched for Him.
46 After three days of separation, they finally found Him—sitting among a group of religious teachers in the temple—asking them questions, listening to their answers. 47 Everyone was surprised and impressed that a 12-year-old boy could have such deep understanding and could answer questions with such wisdom.
48 His parents, of course, had a different reaction.
Mary: Son, why have You treated us this way? Listen, Your father and I have been sick with worry for the last three days, wondering where You were, looking everywhere for You.
Jesus: 49 Why did you need to look for Me? Didn’t you know that I must be working for My Father?
Little is recorded about Jesus’ life between His birth and the age of 30. But this one episode tells so much. First, Jesus’ family life is a lot like anyone’s—full of mishaps and misunderstandings. Second, as Jesus enters young adulthood, He begins manifesting an extraordinary sense of identity. (Remember, a 12-year-old isn’t “just a kid” in Israel—he is becoming a man.) He isn’t just “Mary’s boy” or “Joseph’s stepson.” He has a direct relationship with God as His Father, and He knows His life will follow a path of working for God.
50 Neither Mary nor Joseph really understood what He meant by this. 51 Jesus went back to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. His mother continued to store these memories like treasures in her heart. 52 And Jesus kept on growing—in wisdom, in physical stature, in favor with God, and in favor with others.
Luke 2 Living Bible (TLB)
2 About this time Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the nation. 2 (This census was taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
3 Everyone was required to return to his ancestral home for this registration. 4 And because Joseph was a member of the royal line, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, King David’s ancient home—journeying there from the Galilean village of Nazareth. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was obviously pregnant by this time.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born; 7 and she gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in a blanket[a] and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn.
8 That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly an angel appeared among them, and the landscape shone bright with the glory of the Lord. They were badly frightened, 10 but the angel reassured them.
“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone! 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem![b] 12 How will you recognize him? You will find a baby wrapped in a blanket,[c] lying in a manger!”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God:
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,” they sang,[d] “and peace on earth for all those pleasing him.”
15 When this great army of angels had returned again to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Come on! Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They ran to the village and found their way to Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 The shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story expressed astonishment, 19 but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and often thought about them.
20 Then the shepherds went back again to their fields and flocks, praising God for the visit of the angels, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had told them.
21 Eight days later, at the baby’s circumcision ceremony, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was even conceived.
22 When the time came for Mary’s purification offering at the Temple, as required by the laws of Moses after the birth of a child, his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord; 23 for in these laws God had said, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he shall be dedicated to the Lord.”
24 At that time Jesus’ parents also offered their sacrifice for purification—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” was the legal requirement. 25 That day a man named Simeon, a Jerusalem resident, was in the Temple. He was a good man, very devout, filled with the Holy Spirit and constantly expecting the Messiah[e] to come soon. 26 For the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen him—God’s anointed King. 27 The Holy Spirit had impelled him to go to the Temple that day; and so, when Mary and Joseph arrived to present the baby Jesus to the Lord in obedience to the law, 28 Simeon was there and took the child in his arms, praising God.
29-31 “Lord,” he said, “now I can die content! For I have seen him as you promised me I would. I have seen the Savior you have given to the world. 32 He is the Light that will shine upon the nations, and he will be the glory of your people Israel!”
33 Joseph and Mary just stood there, marveling at what was being said about Jesus.
34-35 Simeon blessed them but then said to Mary, “A sword shall pierce your soul, for this child shall be rejected by many in Israel, and this to their undoing. But he will be the greatest joy of many others. And the deepest thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed.”
36-37 Anna, a prophetess, was also there in the Temple that day. She was the daughter of Phanuel, of the Jewish tribe of Asher, and was very old, for she had been a widow for eighty-four years following seven years of marriage. She never left the Temple but stayed there night and day, worshiping God by praying and often fasting.
38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she also began thanking God and telling everyone in Jerusalem who had been awaiting the coming of the Savior[f] that the Messiah had finally arrived.
39 When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the Law of God, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. 40 There the child became a strong, robust lad, and was known for wisdom beyond his years; and God poured out his blessings on him.
41-42 When Jesus was twelve years old, he accompanied his parents to Jerusalem for the annual Passover Festival, which they attended each year. 43 After the celebration was over they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him the first day, 44 for they assumed he was with friends among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started to look for him among their relatives and friends; 45 and when they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there.
46-47 Three days later they finally discovered him. He was in the Temple, sitting among the teachers of Law, discussing deep questions with them and amazing everyone with his understanding and answers.
48 His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son!” his mother said to him. “Why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you realize that I would be here at the Temple, in my Father’s House?” 50 But they didn’t understand what he meant.
51 Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them; and his mother stored away all these things in her heart. 52 So Jesus grew both tall and wise, and was loved by God and man.