What does Luke 2:4 mean?
ESV: 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,
NIV: So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
NASB: Now Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,
CSB: Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David,
NLT: And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.
KJV: And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
Verse Commentary:
Joseph is engaged to Mary (Luke 1:26–27), who is expecting a child conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:30–33). They are travelling due to a government-ordered census (Luke 2:1–2). In this case, the census required people go to their ancestral hometowns (Luke 2:3). Jesus will be born here, fulfilling prophecy (Luke 2:6).

Later, Luke will explain Jesus' genealogy. The later reference to Joseph as the "son of Heli" likely means son-in-law (Luke 3:23), meaning Luke's list seems to run the family line through Mary. This establishes Jesus as a biological member of David's line. As Jesus' earthly, adoptive father, Joseph would legally bring Jesus into the family line of David. Matthew's tracing of Joseph's genealogy confirms those details (Matthew 1:1–17).
Verse Context:
Luke 2:1–7 gives a brief explanation of Jesus' unusual birth. Some traditional details of this event are just that: traditional, and not necessarily given in Scripture itself. Luke establishes a historical timeframe, when Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem to participate in a taxed census. Due to the number of travelers, lodgings are crowded. Mary gives birth and lays Jesus in an animal's feeding trough.
Chapter Summary:
The early part of this chapter is famously read at Christmas, while celebrating the birth of Jesus. Luke gives a relatively brief description of how Mary came to give birth in a stable, laying Jesus in a feeding trough. Nearby shepherds are informed of the news by multiple angels. Two people speak in praise of God at Jesus' circumcision. Years later, Joseph and Mary lose track of Jesus on the way back from Jerusalem, only to find Him astounding teachers in the temple with His wisdom.
Chapter Context:
Luke began his well-organized account by explaining the conceptions of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist, in chapter 1. In chapter 2, he briefly summarizes Jesus' birth and the arrival of shepherds directed by angels. Prophecies and prayers celebrate His dedication at the temple. After briefly losing track of a twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple, Jesus' parents take Him home to Nazareth. There, He grows up relatively normally. Chapter 3 leaps forward many years to the beginning of John the Baptist's preaching. This is followed by Jesus' genealogy. Chapter 4 relates Jesus' temptations by Satan and the start of His public ministry.
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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