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WENT UP / DOWN: Why Evangelists report went up to Jerusalem?

Why did the Evangelist report that Joseph and Mary went up to Bethlehem and later went down from Jerusalem to Nazareth?

On the map, Bethlehem is below or south of Nazareth. The text could read “went down from Nazareth.” Bethlehem, which is near Jerusalem, is at a higher altitude than Nazareth in Galilee. So, the one travelling from the north to the south was climbing up. Joseph and Mary would have obviously been weak, especially on account of her pregnancy, which must have made climbing more difficult.

Though travelling from Jerusalem to Nazareth was from south to north, the evangelist records they went down because Jerusalem was situated 2,474 feet and Nazareth 1,138 feet above sea level. If they were passing through Jericho, the usual route to avoid Samaria, they would descend deeper because Jericho is 846.5 feet below sea level. The distance between Jerusalem and Jericho is about 28 km, and within that distance, the travelers would descend more than 3/4 of a km in elevation. So, the expression of one travelling to Jerusalem from anywhere is “going up” and returning from there is “going down”.

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