Matthew tells us that Joseph originally took his family down to Egypt for fear of Herod, who ordered the slaughter in Bethlehem of all male boys two and under in an attempt to kill Jesus. After Herod’s death they returned to Israel, but when Joseph heard that Archelaus (who had a brutal reputation of his own) was reigning in his father’s place, he diverted to Nazareth in the district of Galilee.
From that point on Luke informs us that Joseph and Mary went up to Jerusalem “every year” at the feast of Passover (Luke 2:41). Logic would assume, however, that if Joseph wanted to keep Jesus away from Judea when he was a toddler then he would want to keep him away every other year as well. Even the manner in which Luke relates the story seems to indicate that Jesus’ parents went to the feasts alone, perhaps leaving Jesus behind with friends or family in Nazareth.
But then we’re told that during his twelfth year Jesus went up with his parents according to custom. Was this Jesus’ first visit to Jerusalem since his dedication in the temple when he was only forty days old (Luke 2:22-38)? For now at least I tend to think it was. And if this visit at 12 was connected with Archelaus’ deposition by Augustus in A.D. 6, then we have a fairly accurate idea as to the date of Jesus’ twelfth birthday.
It’s a bit loose and based mainly on conjecture I know, but for the time being I’m content to run with it. Unless, that is, anyone can convince me otherwise. What do you think?