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Dear catholic.com visitors: This website from Catholic Answers, with all its many resources, is the world's largest source of explanations for Catholic beliefs and practices. A fully independent, lay-run, 501(c)(3) ministry that receives no funding from the institutional Church, we rely entirely on the generosity of everyday people like you to keep this website going with trustworthy , fresh, and relevant content. If everyone visiting this month gave just $1, catholic.com would be fully funded for an entire year. Do you find catholic.com helpful? Please make a gift today. Thank you. Wishing you a blessed Lenten season.

Was Jesus really born at Bethlehem?

Question:

I saw a TV program that said historians doubt Jesus was born at Bethlehem because there is no record of a census at that time and thus no reason for Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem. Is that true?

Answer:

It is certainly true that some historians have doubts about any historical event, and some are especially eager to disbelieve events recorded in Scripture. That doesn’t mean they have any evidence against what Scripture says.

It is no surprise that there is no record of the census preceding Jesus’ birth, since there is no record of many events from this time. The fact is, the historical records for things like this are very spotty. We don’t have Rome’s governmental archives to consult. And of course what your TV show meant is there is no record apart from the Gospel of Luke of the census. The Gospel of Luke is a record, but they are discounting him, despite the fact that his book of Acts has been shown to be the work of a fine historian. But the argument from silence proves nothing.

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