There are claims that Jesus was a refugee. For example, Al Sharpton tweeted,

enter image description here

According to the New Testament, was Jesus a refugee?

  • 2
    Are we speaking about a fictional character? In a similar manner one can claim that Battlestar galactica team consists of refugees or ask whether a Supergirl qualifies for a refugee. Feb 5 '17 at 12:43
  • 2
    This is literally a question on definitions, not on facts. Closing.
    – Sklivvz
    Feb 5 '17 at 13:19
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    How is this opinion based? There are commonly accepted definitions of a refugee and it is not a matter of opinion whether or not Jesus fits these.
    – bon
    Feb 5 '17 at 15:28
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    @SalvadorDalin There is a huge amount of historical evidence that Jesus existed as a person. Whether he did any of the things the Bible claims he did is another question but it is widely recognised amongst historians that he was a real person.
    – bon
    Feb 6 '17 at 8:29
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    Being a reverend, pretty clear that Sharpton's context is the Bible story only, with no regard to historicity.
    – fredsbend
    Feb 6 '17 at 17:05

Yes, Jesus is a perfect example of a refugee.

The Webster's 1828 dictionary defines refugee as:

  1. One who flies to a shelter or place of safety.

  2. One who, in times of persecution or political commotion, flees to a foreign country for safety; as the French refugees, who left France after the revocation of the edict of Nantz, and settled in Flanders and America; the refugees from Hispaniola, in 1792; and the American refugees, who left their country at the revolution.

Jesus, according to the Bible, meets both these definitions, because he was fleeing to escape the fact that Herod was planning to kill all male babies:

he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under (Matthew 2:16)

Others have recognized Jesus as a refugee:

Religion in Malawi (1987):

So the child Jesus was a refugee in Egypt. The reason for fleeing to Egypt has been pointed out in the quotation and that is, Herod wanted to kill Jesus and therefore Jesus had to find safety elsewhere.

Refugee Ministry in the Local Congregation (1992) :

Jesus Was a Refugee
In remembering that its Lord was once a refugee, the early Christian community of Matthew's Gospel was reminded of at least two central truths.

The Minister's Manual for 1993:

Shortly after his birth Jesus was a refugee child.

The Big Book about Jesus (1995)

Jesus became a refugee. (See Matthew 2:13-15.)

The National Christian Council Review (1981) :

According to the Matthean narrative, due to the decree of Herod, Jesus had to escape his wrath by running away to Egypt. Jesus is rendered a refugee at birth and we know very well the plight of a refugee — helpless and dependent.

The Ministers Manual: A Study and Pulpit Guide (1955)

Jesus became a refugee, hurriedly taken down into Egypt

International Journal of Religious Education (1941):

28 December
Theme: Jesus, a Refugee
Worship Center:
The picture "Flight into Egypt" by Rubens; or "Repose in Egypt" by Merson

The Presbyterian Magazine, Volume 7 (1857) :

The infant Jesus became a refugee from the bloody tyranny of men

So for at least 160 years people have recognized that Jesus, as described in the Bible, was a refugee.

  • He only tried to kill all male babies because he was specifically trying to kill Jesus. If he knew where and who Jesus was, he would have just killed him. Herod wasn't just killing babies for the hell of it.
    – fredsbend
    Feb 5 '17 at 3:21
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    @fredsbend The second definition says "in times of persecution" and regardless of Herod's motivation for the persecution, it was definitely a time of persecution.
    – DavePhD
    Feb 5 '17 at 3:46
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    @DavePhD—The second definition also states, “...flees to a foreign country...” I’m curious, would Egypt, a Roman province (i.e., part of the Roman empire) ruled by a prefect appointed by the Roman emperor Augustus (Octavian), have been considered a foreign country? Prior to fleeing, Jesus and his parents lived in Herod’s kingdom of Judea, which itself was a client-state of Rome, and Herod had been appointed king by the Roman senate. This is perhaps the only reason I’m skeptical of the claim. Did Egypt qualify as a foreign country? Feb 5 '17 at 3:55
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    @Brew Herod was king of Judea and Egypt was outside his kingdom en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herod_the_Great
    – DavePhD
    Feb 5 '17 at 3:59
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    @Brew Maybe in the sense that some of the people being called refugees today are not facing persecution to the same degree Jesus was. Some might be faced with persecution to the point of death, like ISIS persecuting Yazidis en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide_of_Yazidis_by_ISIL but not others.
    – DavePhD
    Feb 5 '17 at 4:09

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