Do the Gospels contradict each other?

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Gospels contradict each other
Mosaic of The Flight to Egypt. Adobe Stock

Question: Luke does not recount the flight to Egypt but simply says that the Holy Family returned to Nazareth. This seems to conflict with Matthew’s account that says they fled to Egypt. How do we resolve this? 

Weston Smith, Allentown, Pennsylvania

Answer: Neither Gospel claims to describe the whole of the Nativity events. As a general rule, the Gospel writers selected from and organized Jesus’ words, teachings and actions. No Gospel writer claims to have exhaustively and chronologically depicted the whole of Jesus’ public life or ministry. John’s Gospel is explicit in this: “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25). Hence, the Gospels are for us a selection of Jesus’ teachings and actions. 

With this in mind, we need not conclude, just because Matthew says they fled to Egypt and Luke does not, that one Gospel is defective in some way. In terms of the infancy narrative, Matthew and Luke likely selected material that they thought most necessary and helpful to their readers. They may also have eliminated material they were aware was covered by other accounts. Luke, in particular, was earnest to interview the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life and teaching. And whereas he sought to supply a thorough account of Jesus, he also had limits imposed by the common length of scrolls and the cost of handwritten manuscripts. 

Msgr. Charles Pope

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at Send questions to