What are the odds the circumstances surrounding the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth that correspond with many ancient prophecies was just a coincidence?

What Did Caesar Augustus Decree In Luke?

Traditional Nativity stories refer to the “census” decreed by Caesar Augustus. It was the motivation for Joseph to take Mary in her eight month of pregnancy to Bethlehem 90-miles away when Matthew and Luke say she gave birth to Jesus of Nazareth. Secular historical timelines present a conflict with these Gospels.

LK 2:1-3 “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.” NASB

Surprisingly the word “census” is not used in some of the Gospel English translations. One reason is that nowhere in the original Greek texts is found the Latin word censēre .[1] In a parallel comparison, the translated English word “census” appears only once in any of the four voluminous works by Josephus, an Antiquities reference to a census taken by Moses.[2]

Derived from the Latin word censēre is the English word “census” whereas the only possible Greek equivalents are the two words, apographo and apographe, with very similar meanings.[3] By definition, as a verb, apographo means an activity to “write off (a copy or list), i.e. enrollment.” The noun, apographe, means “an enrollment, by implication an assessment,” the actual registry data produced by the enrollment activity.

As a verb, apographo the activity, is used in Luke 2, verses 1 and 3 while the noun, apographe the registry document, is used in verse 2. Both Greek words have been interchangeably translated in English Bible translations using variations of five different words – “census,” “registered,” “enrolled,” “numbering,” and “taxed.”[4]

Applying the Greek definitions to Luke’s account, Augustus issued a decree for an enrollment activity in verse 1. The actual enrollment register (list) documentation was completed while Quirinius was governing in Syria in verse 2. Everyone had to travel to his own city for the enrollment activity in verse 3.

Backdrop to the historical context are the multiple facets associated with a Roman censēre where enumeration of Roman citizens was the prized objective. Augustus took three lustrum Roman censuses during his 44-year reign.[5] In Caesar’s own words:

“I made a census of the people with Marcus Agrippa as my colleague. I conducted a lustrum, after a forty-one year gap, in which lustrum were counted 4,063,000 heads of Roman citizens. Then again, with consular imperium I conducted a lustrum alone when Gaius Censorinus and Gaius Asinius were consuls (8 B.C.E.), in which lustrum were counted 4,233,000 heads of Roman citizens. And the third time, with consular imperium, I conducted a lustrum with my son Tiberius Caesar as colleague, when Sextus Pompeius and Sextus Appuleius were consuls (14 A.C.E.), in which lustrum were counted 4,937,000 of the heads of Roman citizens.” – The Deeds of Augustus

Roman lustrums involved a lesser known religious component. A sacred ceremony at the conclusion of a lustrum involved the Censor offering a sacrifice to the god Mars on behalf of Rome’s citizens.[6]

Taxation comes into play because data collection from a censēre was typically used to determine a tax valuation, an assessment or appraisal. A Roman procurator was then responsible for actual tax collection activities managed through local authorities.[7]

Abuses of tax collection were rife, a natural consequence of the Roman tax collection system. Publicani purchased franchise rights to collect taxes through an auction held in Rome.[8] A franchise inherently involves making a profit, but Rome didn’t care about how the proceeds were collected as long as the government received its expected revenue. This opened the door to dishonest and abusive behaviors to collect more revenue than was necessary by the franchise owner’s tax collection agents known as publicans, the despised tax collectors of the Gospels such as the Disciple Matthew.[9]

Syncing Luke’s account with the Augustus census in 8 BC does not come without controversy concerning historians, religious scholars, and detractors who take varied and opposing positions. According to Luke, the birth of Jesus occurred when Quirinius governed in Syria making the year 8 BC too soon under known or possible historical scenarios.

Further complicating the picture is the controversy surrounding the date of Herod’s death. Matthew’s Gospel first established the limiting parameter that Herod had to be alive, corroborated in Luke where two more parameters were added – the “census” and Quirinius factors.[10]

Secular historical calendars place Herod’s death in 4 BC. This year is determined from the printed accounts of Josephus’ Antiquities on which the secular timeline is reckoned. The calculation is based on the anchor date of the 20th year of the reign of Tiberius.[11]

Investigation by historian buff David Beyer on the Antiquities content included travel to major world libraries holding handwritten copies predating the first printings that came as a result of the invention of the Gutenburg press in 1544.[12] He discovered all existing handwritten manuscripts of Antiquities actually say Herod’s death occurred during the 22nd year of Tiberius, not the 20th year. Recalculating, the 2-year difference translates into Herod’s death occurring in 2 BC or early 1 BC – not 4 BC.[13]

Building on Beyer’s discovery, Dr. Earnest Martin’s research points to a special set of circumstances in 2 BC.[14] Rome was in the height of its glory commemorating the 750th anniversary of its founding and was the same year as the Silver Jubilee reign of Caesar Augustus.

Inspired by the circumstances of 2 BC, the Senate bestowed upon their emperor the honor of Pater Patriae, the “Father of the Country.” Augustus considered it to be one the highlights of his reign listed in The Deeds of Devine Augustus. To underscore this honor, prompted by the Senate Augustus decreed a “registration” to be taken of the entire Roman Empire claiming allegiance to him as Pater Patriae.[15]

Dr. Gerard Gertoux conducted independent research where the results corroborate the findings of Beyer and Martin. Dr. Gertoux concluded that Luke’s “census of the world” occurred in 2 BC and was not for taxation purposes. Gertoux determined that Caesar’s motivation for the “census” was to quantify the entire resources of Rome as part of his breviarium totius imperii eventually to be read at his funeral along with the unveiling of his Res gestae divi Augusti (The Deeds of Augustus).[16]

Research evidence produced by Beyer, Martin and Gertoux establishes a 2 BC timeline for a special “census” registration decreed by Augustus that occurred before the death of King Herod in late 2 BC or early 1 BC. These findings are consistent with the three dating parameters documented in the accounts of Matthew and Luke – Augustus, his census decree, and during Herod’s reign.

Perhaps the strongest evidence of Luke’s reference that a registration decree was issued by Augustus has nothing to do with history and is best presented with a question. How likely is it that Joseph would risk taking Mary, a young pregnant teenage girl, away from her comfortable home and family on a difficult, treacherous week’s long journey on the back of a donkey to Bethlehem 90 miles away knowing it was quite possible that Mary could give birth in the wilderness along the way – unless the Town Crier’s announcement gave them no other choice?[17]

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] “Census.”  Merriam-Webster. 2018. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/census
[2] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book 3, Chapter 12.4. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[3] Luke Greek text. Net.bible.org. “apographo <583>” and “aprographe <582>.” n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com>
[4] NASV, NRSV, ASV, BBE, KJV
[5] Augustus, Caesar.  The Deeds of the Devine Augustus (Res gestae divi Augusti). #8. Trans. Thomas Bushnell. 1998. <http://classics.mit.edu/Augustus/deeds.html>
[6] “Lustrum.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. 2018. <http://www.livius.org/concept/lustrum>
[7] Smallwood, E. Mary.  The Jews Under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletian. 2nd Ed. 1981. pp 151-152. http://books.google.com/books?id=jSYbpitEjggC&lpg=PA151&ots=VWqUOinty4&dq=census%20Syria%20Rome&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false Smith, William. “Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography.” 1901. 3rd Ed., Vol. 1. “Censor”, “Publicani” and “Vectigalia.” <https://books.google.com/books?id=Cu89AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA403&lpg=PA403&dq=greek+word+for+census&source=bl&ots=LM1MjmCiJt&sig=1_yjJgyNxcCcSWZvf0QK69IJuMw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjx0oPA04DYAhXo6YMKHebvAEwQ6AEIejAK#v=onepage&q=census&f=false “Procurator.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. 2018. <http://www.livius.org/concept/procurator>
[8] Smallwood.  The Jews Under Roman Rule. p 152.
[9] Matthew 9; Luke 5. Smith, W. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. “Censor.” “Publicani” and “Vectigalia.”
10] Matthew 2; Luke 1. Smallwood. The Jews Under Roman Rule. Appendix E, p 568.
[11] Josephus.  Antiquities of the Jews. Book XVIII, Chapters IV.6 and V.4.  Bernegger, P.M. “Affirmation of Herod’s Death in 4 B.C.” Journal of Theological Studies Vol. 34, no 2. 1983. pp 526-531. <http://www.redatedkings.com/postings/Bernegger.pdf> Schurer, Emil. A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ. Volume 1. 1890. pp 464-465, footnote 165. <http://books.google.com/books?id=BRynO3W9FPcC&pg=PP1#v=snippet&q=Tiberius&f=false> Doig, Kenneth F.  New Testament Chronology. 1990. Chapter 4.<http://nowoezone.com/NT_Chronology.htm>
[12] Chase, Jeffrey S. “The Gutenberg Printing Press.” n.d. <http://www.cs.duke.edu/~chase/cps49s/press-summary.html>
[13] Beyer, David W.  “Josephus Reexamined:  Unraveling the Twenty-Second Year of Tiberius.” pp 90-93, 95-96.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=mWnYvI5RdLMC&lpg=PP1&dq=isbn%3A0865545820&pg=PA85#v=snippet&q=beyer&f=false> Wolfram, Chuck. “The Herodian Dynasty.” 2004. <http://web.archive.org/web/20151013221102/http:/freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cwolfram/herod> Martin, Ernest L. The Star of Bethlehem – The Star That Astonished the World. Chapter 13. <http://askelm.com/star/star000.htm#_edn11
[14] Gertoux, Gerard. “Dating the two Censuses of Quirinius.”  n.d.  pp 6-7. <http://www.academia.edu/3184175/Dating_the_two_Censuses_of_Quirinius>
[15] Augustus. The Deeds of the Devine Augustus. #35.  “pater patriae.”  Nova Roma. 2017. <www.novaroma.org/nr/Pater_Patriae_(Nova_Roma)>  “pater patriae.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2018. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/pater-patriae> Martin. The Star of Bethlehem. Chapter 13.  Mosley, John. “Common Errors in ‘Star of Bethlehem’ Planetarium Shows.” Reprint from Planetarian, Third Quarter 1981. <http://www.ips-planetarium.org/?page=a_mosley1981> Gertoux. “Dating the two Censuses of Quirinius.” p 7.
[16] Gertoux. “Dating the two Censuses of Quirinius.”  pp 6-7.  Davis, William Steams, ed.  Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources. Vol. II: Rome and the West. 1912-13. pp. 166-172. <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/14resgestae.asp>  Schaff, Philip. “Chronology of the Life of Christ.”  History of the Christian Church, Volume I: Apostolic Christianity. A.D. 1-100. 1890. Chapter 2, Sec 16.  <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc1.i.II_1.16.html>
[17] “Distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem.” DistanceFromTo.net. 2018. <https://www.distancefromto.net/between/Nazareth/Bethlehem> “What is the distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem?” Reference.com. 2017. <https://www.reference.com/geography/distance-between-nazareth-bethlehem-6ac7e95c8360c7c7#> Bing.com/maps. Modern day mileage calculation from Bethlehem to Nablus (Nazareth) <https://binged.it/2mNpBy8>

 

 

The Uniqueness of Matthew’s Gospel

Matthew’s Gospel is surrounded by many questions – who, when, what, how – making it a target rich environment for those who wish to challenge its credibility. Is the content of the Gospel credible?

Authorship of Matthew is not claimed within the Gospel itself. Customarily Matthew is believed, based on sources who lived in very close time proximity, to have been written by one of the 12 Disciples of Jesus for whom the Gospel is named – an eyewitness.[1] Other scholars and skeptics with differing views believe Matthew was written by someone else, is a collection of stories and oral tradition, or is completely fictitious.[2]

Many religion authorities believe Matthew was written sometime between 55-75 AD; other views range from 90-100 AD.[3] All timeframe possibilities are during the first century when some of the original Disciples were still alive as were undoubtedly some from the Sanhedrin body who placed Jesus of Nazareth on trial. Which was written first, Mark or Matthew, is debatable.

Common reference material of one Gospel was clearly used by the author of the other as evidenced by parallel passages, sometimes verbatim, appearing in Matthew and Mark, then in Luke.[4] Still, less than a third of Matthew’s content is common to Mark.[5] Parallel passages as an alleged credibility issue, along with the Gospel having no identified author, can be attributed to legitimate literary protocol of the day.

Copying from another source to serve as “witnesses” was addressed at length by Josephus in Against Apion.[6] An author not penning his work was a characteristic Jewish practice for reasons of humility; to avoid bringing fame or attention to the author. For example, books of the Tenakh, the Old Testament, do not include the identity of their authors.[7]

Authorship, dates, and use of reference materials aside, the measure of authenticity and credibility of the Gospel can be still be evaluated based on assessing the entirety of its content.[8] How does Matthew measure up?

In the world of investigations, written statements that too closely resemble each other are immediately suspect of deception.[9] Truthful, credible statements, however, are expected to be consistent with known key evidence and to be wholly consistent with other statements, if they exist, where characteristically normal variation is expected. The more details, the harder to cover a deception – deceptive statements lack detail. Literary analysis and literary criticism are among important scientific methodologies used to assess credibility.

“There must, therefore, naturally arise great differences among writers, when they had no original records to lay for their foundation, which might at once inform those who had an inclination to learn, and contradict those that would tell lies…” – Josephus[10]

Distinct diversity can be seen immediately with Matthew’s genealogy listed in reverse order from Luke’s with some name variations.[11] Slightly more than a third of the content of Matthew is not in common with either Mark or Luke – and its unmatched subject matter is exceptional.[12]

Matthew is the only source of the circumstances involving Joseph. Revealed is his contemplation of a divorce thinking Mary was pregnant by another man. Joseph’s mind was changed by the angel’s visitation message that Mary would fulfill the quoted Isaiah 7:14 prophecy of a virgin birth, then instructed to name the babe “Jesus.”

Next is the exclusive, unusual introduction of the mystic Magi; the Star of Bethlehem; and Herod’s treachery – without it, there would otherwise be no traditional Christmas Nativity scene. Any question about “Bethlehem of Judea” being the birthplace of Jesus was addressed by quoting the Micah 5:2 prophecy provided by King Herod’s own Jewish religious experts.

Moving to the crucifixion, burial and the Resurrection, Matthew solely recounts details surrounding the death of Jesus – the earthquake, stones split in two, and tombs being opened with bodies coming back to life.[13]

Precluding several conspiracy claims, Matthew establishes the chain of custody over the body of Jesus – from the crucifixion; burial by a member of the Jewish Council corroborated by John who also identified a second Council member; to the tomb being sealed by the Romans and the Jewish Council after they testified to Pilate the body of Jesus was inside; and the unique use of koustodia, the Greek word meaning a company of guards posted at the tomb.

Morning of the Resurrection, Matthew includes the lone account of the angel rolling away the stone from the empty tomb, the earthquake, the proclamation of the Angel presenting the empty tomb, the dereliction of the Guards, and the resurrected Jesus appearing to the women of Galilee sometime after leaving the tomb.[14]

Historically, Matthew states Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod confirmed by Luke and is the only Gospel source who named Archelaus as ruler of Judea after Herod died.[15] Matthew’s historical attributions help raise the bar of Gospel answerability to the highest degree to evaluate Gospel credibility with a narrow window of five overlapping date markers – Augustus, Herod, Quirinius, the Roman census and the star.

Much of the bookend details of the birth Jesus of Nazareth and his death and Resurrection are found only in Matthew, but what about the information in between? Matthew recounts 3 miracles and at least 10 parables that do not appear in any other Gospel.[16]

One of the most famous teachings of Jesus came from the famed “Sermon on the Mount” that includes the 9 verses of Beatitudes, all beginning with “Blessed are…” The quoted sermon, found only in Matthew, covers 106 verses through three chapters.[17] To capture this kind of detail required an eyewitness.

One of the biggest clues to the divine nature of Jesus is quoted in Matthew, aside perhaps from his prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, the Tribulation and the second coming of the Messiah.[18] Jesus speaks from his personal perspective as One who, watching Jerusalem throughout its history, often longed to provide protection for its people even though they killed the messengers sent to them. The author of Luke chose to include the quote in his own investigative account:[19]

MT 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” NKJV

Extensive, unique details in Matthew – narratives, quotes, parables, miracles and prophecies – places the Gospel’s credibility in a most vulnerable position if it were untrue. It was written during a time when some direct witnesses were still alive or, at the very least those who learned directly from them, who could challenge the truthfulness of Matthew’s account – but they didn’t.

Parts of Matthew were corroborated by the independent eyewitness account of John’s Gospel while other content was included in Luke’s investigative report. Only a third of its content being in common with Mark, along with the consideration of customary literary protocols, the allegation of literary misconduct becomes a non-factor.

What remains to assess credibility of Matthew is its believability. Could the information with such specific details in the Gospel have been fabrications; or does the significant unique details in Matthew indicate truthfulness and credibility of the Gospel?

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Papias. “Papias.” Fragment I & VI. <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.vii.html>  Gloag, Paton James. Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. p 168.  <https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=chi.090193322;view=1up;seq=25>  Irenaeus of Lyons.  Against Heresies. Book III, Chapter I.1, IX, XXI.3.  <http://www.ccel.org/search/fulltext/Heresies>  Schaff, Philip. “Introductory Note to Irenæus Against Heresies.” Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume I. n.d. <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.i.htmlf>  Swete. The Gospel According to St. Mark, 1902. p XIX. <https://books.google.com/books?id=WcYUAAAAQAAJ&lpg=PA127&ots=f_TER300kY&dq=Seneca%20centurio%20supplicio%20pr%C3%A6positus&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] Fausset, Andrew R.  Fausset Bible Dictionary. 1878. “Matthew, The Gospel According to.”  <http://classic.studylight.org/dic/fbd/view.cgi?number=T2722>  Didymus, John Thomas.  “The Biblical Evidence For a Conspiracy Theory of the Resurrection.”  2010.  <http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Biblical-Evidence-For-a-Conspiracy-Theory-of-the-Resurrection&id=4205050>  “New Testament – Historical Books.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11498-new-testament>  Smith, Ben C. The Synoptic Project. 2018. <http://www.textexcavation.com/synopticproject.html>  Gloag, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. pp. 4-5, 48, 63-64, 106-108.  “Gospel of Matthew.” Theopedia.com.  “The Lives.” Quartz Hill School of Theology.  “New Testament – Historical Books.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11498-new-testament>  Kirby, Peter.  “Gospel of Matthew.”  EarlyChristianWritings.com. 2018. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/matthew.html>  Vick, Tristan D. “Dating the Gospels: Looking at the Historical Framework.”  Carr, A. The Gospel According to Matthew, Volume I. 1881. pp XVIII – XIX. <http://books.google.com/books?id=ZQAXAAAAYAAJ&dq=Swete%2C%20The%20Gospel%20According%20to%20St.%20Matthew&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=Swete,%20The%20Gospel%20According%20to%20St.%20Matthew&f=false>  Smith, B. D. “The Gospel of Matthew.”
[3] “Gospel of Matthew.” Theopedia.com. n.d. <https://www.theopedia.com/gospel-of-matthew>  “The Lives.”  Quartz Hill School of Theology. n.d. <http://www.theology.edu/biblesurvey/matthew.htm> Vick, Tristan D. “Dating the Gospels: Looking at the Historical Framework.” Advocatus Atheist. 2010. <http://advocatusatheist.blogspot.com/2010/01/dating-gospels-looking-at-historical.html>  Shamoun, Sam. “The New Testament Documents and the Historicity of the Resurrection.” Answering-Islam.org. 2013.  <http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/documents.htm>  Kirby, Peter. Index. EarlyChristianWritings.com. 2018. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/index.html> Smith, Barry. D. “The Gospel of Matthew.”  n.d. <http://www.mycrandall.ca/courses/NTIntro/Matt.htm>  Etinger, Judah. Foolish Faith. Chapter 6.  2012.  <http://www.foolishfaith.com/book_chap6_history.asp> Shamoun, Sam. “The New Testament Documents and the Historicity of the Resurrection.” 2013.  <http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/documents.htm>
[4] Fausset, Andrew R.  Fausset Bible Dictionary. 1878. “New Testament.”  <http://classic.studylight.org/dic/fbd/view.cgi?number=T2722>
[5] “Matthew. Easton’s Bible Dictionary. 1897. <http://www.ccel.org/e/easton/ebd/ebd/T0002400.html#T0002443>  Swete. The Gospel According to St. Mark, The Greek Text with Notes and Indices. p. XXIV.  Gloag, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. p. 33 <https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=chi.090193322;view=1up;seq=25>
[6] Josephus, Flavius. Against Apion. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Book I.1-2, 4-6, 10, 17, 19, 23, 26. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. “Preface.”  Reed, Annette Yoshiko.  Pseudepigraphy, Authorship, and ‘The Bible’ in Late Antiquity. 2008. p 478.  <http://www.academia.edu/1610659/_Pseudepigraphy_Authorship_and_the_Reception_of_the_Bible_in_Late_Antiquity>  “Custom Cheating and Plagiarism essay paper writing service.” ExclusivePapers.com.  n.d.  <http://exclusivepapers.com/essays/Informative/cheating-and-plagiarism.php>  Cummings, Michael J. “Did Shakespeare Plagiarize?” Cummings Study Guides. 2003. <http://cummingsstudyguides.net/xPlagiarism.html>    
[7] Reed.  Pseudepigraphy, Authorship, and ‘The Bible’ in Late Antiquity. p 476-479.  “Hebrew Bible: Torah, Prophets and Writings.” MyJewishLearning.com. <https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hebrew-bible>  Benner, Jeff, Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2018. “The Authors of the Torah.” <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/articles_authors.html>
[8] Carr. The Gospel Accouding to Matthew, Volume I. p XVIII – XIX.  Gloag, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. p 5. “Gospel of Matthew.” Theopedia.com. “Jesus.”  “The Book of Matthew.” Quartz Hill School of Theology.  Mareghni, Pamela. “Different Approaches to Literary Criticism.” 2014. <http://web.archive.org/web/20140628042039/http://www.ehow.com/about_5385205_different-approaches-literary-criticism.html>  Preble, Laura. “Traditional Literary Criticism.” 2014. <http://www.ehow.com/info_8079187_approaches-literary-criticism.html>
[9] Sapir, Avinoam. LSI Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation. Basics and advance courses. <http://www.lsiscan.com/id37.htm>  “Scientific Content Analysis (SCAN).” Personal Verification LTD. 2018. <http://www.verify.co.nz/scan.php
[10] Josephus. Against Apion. Book I.5.  
[11] Matthew 1; Luke 3. Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies. Book III. Chapter I.1, IX, XXI.3. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume I. n.d.  <http://www.ccel.org/search/fulltext/Heresies>  “New Testament – Historical Books.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  Gloag, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. pp ix, 39.
[12] “Matthew.” Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary. n.d. <http://www.ccel.org/e/easton/ebd/ebd/T0002400.html#T0002442>  “Luke.” Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary. n.d. <http://www.ccel.org/e/easton/ebd/ebd/T0002300.html#T0002331Carr. The Gospel Accouding to Matthew, Volume I.  pp XVIII – XIX.  Gloag, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels.  p 32-33, 38-42.  Sween, Don and Nancy. “Parable.” BibleReferenceGuide.com. n.d. <http://www.biblereferenceguide.com/keywords/parable.html>  Swete. The Gospel According to St. Mark, 1902. p XVII, XXIV.  Fairchild, Mary. “37 Miracles of Jesus.” ThoughtCo. 2017. <https://www.thoughtco.com/miracles-of-jesus-700158Ryrie Study Bible.  Ed. Ryrie Charles C.  Trans. New American Standard. 1978. “The Miracles of Jesus.”  Aune, Eilif Osten. “Synoptic Gospels.” Bible Basics. 2013. <www.bible-basics-layers-of-understanding.com/Synoptic-Gospels.html>
[13] Matthew 27.
[14] Net.bible.org. Matthew 27:65 Greek text.  “koustodia <2892>.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/2892.html>
[15] Matthew 2; CR Luke 1.
[16] Carr. The Gospel Accouding to Matthew. Volume I. pp XVIII – XIX.  Gloag, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. pp 32-33. Gloag, The Synoptic Gospels. pp 38-42. Smith, Barry D. “The Gospel of John.”  F. 5.3.3.  2015. <http://www.mycrandall.ca/courses/NTIntro/John.htm>  Sween. “Parable.”  Swete. The Gospel According to St. Mark. pp. XIX, XXIII. <https://books.google.com/books?id=WcYUAAAAQAAJ&lpg=PA127&ots=f_TER300kY&dq=Seneca%20centurio%20supplicio%20pr%C3%A6positus&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false>  “Luke.” Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary.  “Parable.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 2018. <http://www.internationalstandardbible.com/P/parable.html>  “The Parables of Jesus.” Ryrie Study Bible. “The Miracles of Jesus.” Ryrie Study Bible.  Fairchild, Mary. “37 Miracles of Jesus.” ThoughtCo. 2017. <https://www.thoughtco.com/miracles-of-jesus-700158>
[17] Matthew 5-7.
[18] Mathew 24.
[19] Luke 13:34.

Conspiracy Theories – Is Jesus a Fictional Messiah?

Atheists sometimes argue against the reality of Jesus of Nazareth as a real historical figure, not to mention being the Son of God. One contention is a conspiracy theory saying “Jesus” and “Christianity” are the result of diverse groups colluding to invent a morphed deity image of a messiah, the Son of God:[1]

“…Christianity and the story of Jesus Christ were created by members of various secret societies, mystery schools and religions in order to unify the Roman Empire under one state religion.  …this multinational cabal drew upon a multitude of myths and rituals that existed long before the Christian era, and reworked them for centuries into the religion passed down to us today.” – Acharya S.

Challenges to create a fictional deity messiah figure who would be sellable to the masses of the Roman Empire would have been enormous, especially in an era without any means of electronic communication or media distribution. Choosing to create a messiah named “Jesus” who came from probably the most scorned ethnic group in the Roman Empire – the Jews – alone would been a monumental task.

Creating a “Christian” religion with a Jewish messiah would have been equally extremely difficult considering that Judaism views Christianity’s belief as blasphemous that Jesus is the Son of God. This fact would have had to be spun into a conspiracy story that led to the trial and execution of its false messiah who was then resurrected as the savior for all mankind.

A deity being a god, a god is supposed to be perfect. For the fictional Jewish deity messiah to have merit, a perfect profile would be expected – a flawless ancestral background of pure Jewish lineage lacking any unsavory history; one that never went astray of Jewish Law and traditions.

Complexities of Jewish Biblical history, on the contrary, would have posed yet another enormous complication. Collaborators of the perfect messiah profile would have to weave in a most imperfect yet interconnected 2000-year ancestry going back to Abraham, overcome time and again through redemption and blessings, and reinforced by unwavering promises and prophecies from God.

Weighing the possibilities the alleged collaborators could overcome these challenges requires visiting some of the ignoble storylines pulled from the Old Testament, the Tenakh. One of many is how Jacob, grandson of Abraham, swindled his older twin brother’s inheritance away from their blind father, Isaac.[2] Still, God later blessed Jacob changing his name to Israel who then became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel.[3]

Jacob’s own conniving, jealous sons sold their younger brother Joseph into slavery. Joseph went on to become the second most powerful ruler in Egypt under Pharaoh who then saved his father, brothers and their families from a famine.[4]

Fast forward through the next 400 years to the celebrated story of Moses who led the Exodus from Egypt through the parted sea to Mt. Sinai. In-spite-of the Hebrew’s continued lack of faith, God made five promises of a future for the tribes of Israel. The next chapter begins with two spies and a prostitute.

Israel’s military leader, Joshua, sent two advance spies into the Promised Land to surveil the walled city of Jericho.[5] Hiding at the house of a prostitute named Rahab, word got back to the King who sent his men to hunt down the spies, but Rahab diverted their search outside the city.

Fearing the pending doom of Jericho, Rahab saw this opportunity as her winning ticket to safety. Striking a deal, Rahab agreed to help the spies escape and the spies swore an oath to spare the life of Rahab and her family when the Israelites attacked.

Scaling down the city wall from a window of Rahab’s house, the two spies escaped. Soon thereafter Jericho was attacked by the Israelites, but Rahab and her family were spared from the city’s annihilation.[6]

Salmon, a Hebrew, married the Gentile (non-Jewish) Rahab. Their son was named Boaz who became a wealthy resident of Bethlehem.[7] In the celebrated Jewish story of redemption, Boaz married Ruth, the widowed Gentile daughter-in-law of the Hebrew Naomi. Also a widow herself with no surviving sons, Naomi was at risk of losing her marital inheritance. Boaz’ marriage to Ruth allowed Naomi to redeem her otherwise lost inheritance.[8]

Matthew and Luke genealogies of Jesus include Salmon and Boaz with Matthew calling out both of their Gentile wives by name, Rahab and Ruth – facts repugnant to a Hebrew lineage. Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi reflected his distaste of having Ruth in the prophetic lineage of the Messiah in his commentary on the Micah 5:2 Bethlehem prophecy:[9]

“you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah: [Rashi] You should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah because of the stigma of Ruth the Moabitess in you.” – The Complete Jewish Bible

Grandson of Boaz and Ruth was Jesse, one of whose own sons was none other than King David.[10] The prophet Isaiah foretold the Messiah would come from the root of Jesse specifically identified as David in the prophecies of Jeremiah and Zechariah.[11] This seems to suggest David was a faultless king when actually one of the King’s dastardly deeds would be scandalous in any century.

David’s voyeurism led him to discover his soon-to-be paramour as he watched her taking a bath from his palace rooftop. Using his celebrity and power, the King seduced the married Bath-Sheba into his palatial bedroom, seduced her and she became pregnant.  Her husband, Uriah, was one of David’s top military officers away fighting a war.[12]

As a cover-up plan, Uriah was summoned by the King from the battlefield to provide an opportunity for marital relations with his wife. It backfired when the loyal Uriah thought it would not be fair to his troops if he were at home enjoying the pleasures of his wife.

David’s back-up plan sent Uriah to the frontlines where he was killed in battle. The murder plot was exposed by God through the prophet Nathan. As punishment, Bath-Sheba’s illegitimate baby died, yet while being consoled in her grief by David, she conceived another son named Solomon who would become the next king of Israel.[13]

Solomon’s wisdom and wealth became legendary even attracting a visit from the Queen of Sheba.[14] He indulged in the pleasures of 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of whom were Gentiles who brought with them heathen idolatry influences.[15] The King’s home life did not bode well producing devious and scheming sons.

Deteriorating with succeeding generations of immoral kings, the House of David split into the Hebrew alliances of either Judah or Israel who eventually went to war against each other.[16] The downward spiral hit an end with King Jeconiah’s curse and the Babylonia captivity.[17]

Counterintuitively for a perfect messiah figure, in reality the Biblical ancestry of Jesus of Nazareth includes perpetrators of acts of stolen identity, scorned inter-marriages, prostitution, infidelity, murder; indulgences in fortune and sex; idol worship and a curse from God.

According to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus of Nazareth was born into this flawed royal lineage, one not disputed by Judaism. Does this most imperfect Jewish ancestral legacy fit the profile expectations of a invented perfect deity messiah – or is the ancestral saga of Jesus of Nazareth simply so imperfectly human, it is true?

 

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REFERENCES:

[1] Acharya S. (Murdock, D.M.)  The Christ Conspiracy. Google Books advertisement. n.d. <https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Christ_Conspiracy.html?id=KnIYRi3upbEC
[2] Genesis 25; 27-28.
[3] Genesis 28; 32; 35.
[4] Genesis 37; 41-46.
[5] Joshua 2.
[6] Joshua 6.
[7] Ruth 4; I Chronicles 2.
[8] Ruth 2-4.
[9] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary. Micah 5:2 Rashi commentary.
[10] Ruth 4; I Chronicles 2.
[11] Isaiah 11; Jeremiah 23, 33; Zechariah 12.
[12] 2 Samuel 11.
[13] 2 Samuel 12.
[14] 2 Samuel 12.
[15] 2 Chronicles 9; I Kings 10.
[16] 1 Kings 11.
[17] I Kings 12, 16, 21, 22.
[18] Jeremiah 22.