Was Jesus Born as the Messiah, the Son of God?

Two big questions often come to mind about the birth of Jesus, especially during the Christmas season … was Jesus really born and is Jesus the Son of God, the Messiah?

Simple logic, beyond what the Gospels say, can answer the first question. A personage named Jesus divided world history into two eras – before his life and after his life. That alone makes Jesus the most impactful figure in history. No one else has been so influential as to change calendars. Consider the likelihood this monumental change to historical dating was based on a fictitious figure. Logic dictates Jesus had to be a real historical person in order to change history.

Secular dating revisions have introduced “BCE” (Before the Common Era) to replace “BC” (Before Christ) or “CE” (Common Era) instead of “AD” (Anno Domini – year of our Lord). It is viewed by many as intended to exclude any reference to Christ or Lord.[1] Nevertheless, the “BCE” and “CE” designations are still based on the fact that the calendar change occurred at the same point in time as the life of Jesus.

Religion archenemies of Christianity commonly agree on the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Jewish ancestral birth records and lineage of Jesus are undisputed by Judaism.[2] The miraculous conception of Mary and the birth of Jesus are recognized by the Quran.[3]

An entirely new religion was spawned by the teachings and events surrounding Jesus of Nazareth – Christianity. Something profound changed the official views of the Roman empire and became the largest religion in the world, today over 2 billion people.[4]

Providing more specifics, Matthew and Luke raise the bar of answerability and credibility to the highest degree. Both Gospels reference the names of verifiable secular historical names which in turn establishes historical dating markers.

Caesar Augustus was the ruling Roman Emperor. King Herod was the head of the Judean government. Quirinius , Procurator Pilate and Archelaus, son of King Herod, are all well-documented historical ruler figures who are referenced in the two Gospels when Jesus was born.[5]

Nazareth was the expected birth place of Jesus, not 90 miles away in Bethlehem.[6] The angel who appeared separately to Joseph and Mary announcing Mary’s miraculous pregnancy didn’t tell either of them to go to Bethlehem, as such they should not be expected to think otherwise.[7]

Only a decree by a Roman Caesar forced the location change of the birthplace of Jesus. Months in the making in Rome, timing of Augustus’ official decree compelled Joseph and Mary in her late-stage of pregnancy to abruptly make the days-long trek to Bethlehem where she went into labor. If the choice had been optional, Joseph and Mary would almost certainly have stayed in Nazareth to give birth at home surrounded by family and friends.

Announcement by the Town Crier of Caesar’s decree a week later or more than a week earlier and Jesus would have been born in Nazareth. Had Jesus been born in Nazareth, it would have completely eliminated the potential fulfillment of Micah’s Bethlehem prophecy.[8]

Months earlier, hundreds of miles away from Nazareth and Rome, the Magi began making preparations to travel around the edges of the vast Arabian Desert on a month’s long journey to Judea to find the newborn King of Israel. These astronomy experts began their quest based on seeing “His Star,” not because of any Jewish Messiah prophecy.

Multiple rare planet and star conjunctions occurred in an unusually brief period of time beginning just months before the birth of Jesus. Typically these close conjunctions occur centuries or millennia apart; however, at this point in time, all seven conjunctions occurred over the course of only 18 months.[9]

Last of these conjunctions partially overlapped on June 17, 2 BC, causing the appearance of an extremely rare, unusually brilliant, elongated star. NASA astronomy science and technology confirms all these rare conjunctions both in timing and close proximity.[10]

When the Magi began their month’s long journey to Judea, their final destination was unclear. They sought out King Herod in Jerusalem for assistance in finding the newborn King signaled by “His star.”[11]

In turn, Herod consulted his Jewish religious council who told the King about the [12] King Herod indicated that he believed the prophecy had been fulfilled when he pointed the Magi to Bethlehem to search for the babe in exchange for telling him the location of the newborn.[13]

Looking beyond the birth circumstances for more indications that Jesus might be the Messiah involves other prophecies that matched later events during his lifetime. Further consideration has to be given to the chances the circumstances of the Messiah prophecies could be fulfilled today if not by Jesus 2000 years ago.

Messiah prophecies are the primary starting point originating in the Scriptures of Judaism, the Tenakh or, for Christianity, the Old Testament. Not all Messiah prophesies are unanimously recognized by Jewish religious authorities. Many Christianity viewpoints on Messiah prophecies are likewise disputed by Judaism.

One Messiah prophecy; however, is virtually undisputed – the Messiah would be born in the lineage of King David.[14] Other potential Messiah prophecies involve the Branch, crucifixion and Resurrection.

Branch prophecies issued by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah are not universally considered by Judaism to be Messiah prophecies. Two of the most renowned Jewish sages are Rabbi Rashi and Rabbi Maimonides, each having differing views on some Messiah prophecies.

Maimonides viewed the Isaiah 53:5 and Zechariah 6:12 Branch prophecies as foretelling the Messiah.[15] Rashi, on the other hand, viewed the same Isaiah and Zechariah Branch prophecies to be about Zerubbabel.[16]

Crucifixion was a most horrible method of execution – a slow death designed to inflict prolonged maximum pain and humiliation. In Isaiah 52-53, the prophet not only described the circumstances of the torture and death of “My Servant,” Isaiah also described the Servant’s burial among the rich and a life after death. All closely mirror the Gospel’s description of the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.[17]

Psalms contains Messiah prophecies recognized by Judaism, but not Psalms 22 which reflects very similar circumstances to a Roman crucifixion 1000 years later. Psalms 22 also includes both a quote and a specific gambling activity by those present at the scene – each precisely occurred during the crucifixion of Jesus according to the Gospels.[18]

Zechariah 12:10 foretells that “Me” of the House of David will be thrust through or pierced, killing him. His death would cause morning as deep as for an only son. While Rashi believed this was a prophecy about Israel, he acknowledged it could be about the Messiah referencing the faction of Rabbis in the Talmud’s Succah 52a who believed it to be Messianic.[19]

Assessing the validity of the Messiah prophecies and the possibility they were fulfillment by the life of Jesus obviously has a direct impact in determining the answer to the second question, was Jesus born as the Messiah?  One option is to consider the manner of execution death of Jesus of Nazareth as merely a happenstance 3-fold coincidence with the centuries-old writings of Isaiah, Psalms and Zechariah. The other option is to accept that the three scenarios are indeed Messiah prophecies fulfilled by Jesus as part of a divine plan.

Confluence of the seemingly unconnected chain of events converging in Bethlehem when Jesus was born are, frankly, most remarkable. Contemplate the likelihood that independent events in Rome, the East, the phenomena in the sky and Nazareth all converged unexpectedly at a single point in time when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The U.S. legal Doctrine of Chances suggests it was not an accident.

What are the odds that Jesus was born as the Son of God, the Messiah?

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REFERENCES:

[1] Hocken, Vigdis. “Common Era (CE) and Before Common Era (BCE).” TimeandDate.com. 2020. <https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/ce-bce-what-do-they-mean.html> Mark, Joshua J. “The Origin and History of the BCE/CE Dating System.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2020. <https://www.ancient.eu/article/1041/the-origin-and-history-of-the-bcece-dating-system>
[2] “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8616-jesus-of-nazareth>  Maimon, Moshe ben (Maimonides). “Melachim uMilchamot.” Chabad.org. Chapter 11, #4. <https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188356/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-11.htm>  CR I Chronicles 9:1; Matthew 1:5; Luke 3:32. Josephus, Flavius. Against Apion. Trans. and commentary William Whitson. Book 1, #7. The Complete Works of Josephus.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Hall, David Markel.  “The Temple of G-d.”  1997.  Zion Messianic Congregation of Austin, Texas. <http://tzion.org/articles/temple.html>  “Jewish Genealogy & Surnames.” Archives. Archives.com. n.d. <http://www.archives.com/genealogy/family-heritage-jewish.html>  “Jesus.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. pp 246-251. Encyclopaedia Judaica. Eds. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 11. 2nd edition. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/infomark.do?action=interpret&eisbn=9780028660974&prodId=GVRL&userGroupName=imcpl1111&type=aboutBook&version=1.0&authCount=1&u=imcpl1111>
[3] Quran. Trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali. n.d. Search “Jesus.” <http://search-the-quran.com>  “The Descriptive Titles of Jesus in the Quran (part 1 of 2): “The Messiah” and “a Miracle.”’ IslamReligion.com. 2020. <http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/230>  The Quran. JM Rodwell Translation With text notes. “Preface.” <http://www.truthnet.org/islam/Quran/Rodwell/Introduction.html>
[4] “What is the #1 religion in the world?” Search. Google. 2020. <https://www.google.com/search?q=what+is+the+%231+religion+in+the+world&oq=what+is+the+%231+rel&aqs=chrome.0.0i457j0j69i57j0j0i22i30l4.10361j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8>
[5] Matthew 2:1, 22; 27:2; Mark 15:1; Luke 2:1-2; John 19:1.
[6] Luke 1:39, 2:1-5. Map of Israel (active, untitled).  Bing.com/maps. Mileage calculation from Bethlehem to Nazareth.  n.d. <https://binged.it/2mNpBy8>  Oshri, Aviram.  “Where was Jesus Born?” Archaeology. Volume 58 Number 6. November/December 2005. <http://www.archaeology.org/0511/abstracts/jesus.html> Arbez, Edward. “Bethlehem.” Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 2. 1907. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02533a.htm>
[7] Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:26-37.
[8] Micah 5:2 (verse 1 in Jewish Bibles).
[9] Ventrudo, Brian. “Measuring The Sky.”  “Venus and Jupiter’s Upcoming Conjunction.” Universe Today. 2004. <http://www.universetoday.com/10006/venus-and-jupiters-upcoming-conjunction/#ixzz2B6cvKJEt>  Dickinson, David. “Is This Month’s Jupiter-Venus Pair Really a Star of Bethlehem Stand In?” Universe Today. 2015. <https://www.universetoday.com/122738/is-this-months-jupiter-venus-pair-really-a-star-of-bethlehem-stand-in/> Beatty, Kelly. “Venus and Jupiter: Together at Last.” Sky & Telescope. 2015. <http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/venus-and-jupiter-a-dazzling-duo-062520154 >  Cain, Fraser. “Venus and Jupiter’s Upcoming Conjunction.” Universe Today. 2004. http://www.universetoday.com/10006/venus-and-jupiters-upcoming-conjunction/#ixzz2B6cvKJEt> Carroll, Susan S. “The Star of Bethlehem:  An Astronomical and Historical Perspective.” Pulcherrima Productions.  1997. Twin Cities Creation Science Association. n.d. <http://www.tccsa.tc/articles/star_susan_carroll.pdf>
[10] Phillips, Tony. “A Christmas Star for SOHO.” NASA Science | Science New. 2018. <http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast16may_1>  Haley, A. S. “The Star of Bethlehem and the Nativity.” Anglican Curmudgeon. Video. 2009. <http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2009/10/star-of-bethlehem-and-nativity.html>  CR “Birth of Jesus.” Navsoft.com. 2012. http://navsoft.com/html/birth_of_jesus.html>  Clevenger, John. “Astronomy, Astrology, and the Star of Bethlehem.”  Lake County (Illinois) Astronomical   Society. 2012. <http://www.lcas-astronomy.org/articles/display.php?filename=the_christmas_star&category=miscellaneous>
[11] Matthew 2:1-3.
[12] Matthew 2:4-6.
[13] Matthew 2:7-8.
[14] Maimon, Moshe ben (Maimonides). “Melachim uMilchamot.” Chabad.org. Chapter 11, #4.  Numbers 17-19. The Complete Jewish Bible. Rashi Commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9952/showrashi/true>
[15] Zechariah 3:8; 6:12-13. Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p374. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[16] Isaiah 53:2. The Complete Jewish Bible. Rashi commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15984/showrashi/true>  Zechariah 6:12. The Complete Jewish Bible. Rashi commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16210/showrashi/true>
[17] Isaiah 52-53.
[18] Matthew 27:35, 42; Mark 15:24, 31; Luke 23:34-35; John 19:23-24.
[19] Zechariah 12:20. The Complete Jewish Bible. Rashi commentary. n.d. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16216/showrashi/true>  Sukkah 52a, p 75. <http://www.halakhah.com/rst/moed/16b%20-%20Succah%20-%2029b-56b.pdf>

Micah’s Unique Bethlehem Prophecy

Prophecies throughout the Scriptures foretell many things about the Messiah, but only one prophecy specifies the location from where he would come forth – Bethlehem Ephrathah.[1]

Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” –New King James Version

Translations of the Micah prophecy in the Jewish and Greek Bibles are in harmony with English translations; in Jewish Bibles one verse earlier: 

Micah 5:1 But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from ancient days.” – Jewish Publication Society[2]

Micah 5:2 And thou, Bethleem, house of Ephratha, art few in number to be reckoned among the thousands of Juda; yet out of thee shall one come forth to me, to be a ruler of Israel; and his goings forth were from the beginning, even from eternity.” – Septuagint LXX [3]

One noteworthy exception is the Targum Jonathan, the Aramaic Talmud translation, which uses the word Mashiach, Hebrew for “Messiah”:[4]

“Out of thee Bethlehem shall Mashiach go forth before me, to exercise dominion over Israel. Whose name has been spoken of Old from the day of Eternity.”

Hebrew text of Micah’s prophecy not explicitly saying Mashiach (Messiah) opens the door to controversy. Counterviews, in essence, contend the future ruler of Israel would possess no messianic qualities.

Some argue the “ruler of Israel” refers to a future general or that Bethlehem Ephrathah refers to a family clan, not a town location.[5] Others claim the meaning of the “days of old” and “ancient times” refers to the golden area of David’s reign some 300 years earlier. A few even go so far as to say Targum Jonathan was mistranslated.

All sides agree it is a prophecy about a future ruler of Israel who will come from the lineage of David leaving the controversies to hinge on two questions. Would the future ruler come forth from the physical location of the town of Bethlehem Ephrathah or as a descendant of the Biblical person, Bethlehem Ephrathah?[6] Who is the true identity of the future ruler of Israel?

Detractors of this being a Messiah prophecy are lined up against some very highly respected Jewish sages. Comments by Rabbi Rashi, revered as a Jewish sage on the Talmud and its Mishnah, appear in The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary:  [7]

And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah”: [Rashi:] whence David emanated, as it is stated (I Sam. 17:58): “The son of your bondsman, Jesse the Bethlehemite.” And Bethlehem is called Ephrath, as it is said (Gen. 48:7): “On the road to Ephrath, that is Bethlehem.”

“from you shall emerge for Me”: [Rashi:] the Messiah, son of David, and so Scripture says (Ps. 118:22): “The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone.”

“and his origin is from of old”: [Rashi:] “Before the sun his name is Yinnon” (Ps. 72:17).

Rashi identified the future ruler of Israel as “the Messiah, Son of David” and “Yinnon” (Yinon) has been his name “before the sun.” The Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 98b identifies Yinnon along with Shiloh and other names for the Messiah (Moshiach) including one with a quote from the Isaiah 52-53 parashah Messiah prophecy.[8] Reflected in Rashi’s commentary, Talmud Nedarim 39b says the name of the Messiah has existed before the Sun and shall endure forever.[9]

Medieval Rabbi David Kimchi (Kimhi or Radak) is highly regarded by Jewish authorities for his written comments in the margins of the Torah 1347 edition, The Prophets.[10] An excerpt of Kimchi’s commentary on the prophecy is translated from Hebrew text using Google Translate: [11]

“And this is King Christ and it means to be you avoided in the cities of thousands of young Judah now against them and though yes from you Christ came to me because of David’s seed. Who was from Bethlehem will be and that is what he said and his origins promoted from the world because the origins of the Messiah at that time would say that a long time ago were from Bethlehem it is David because there is a long time between David and the King of Christ and it is to him that he was from ancient times…”

Further evidence of a special status for Bethlehem is found earlier in the Book of Micah. A contemporary of Isaiah, Micah prophesied judgment of utter destruction and singled out 10 towns or cities by name in Israel that would experience God’s wrath – Bethlehem was not one of them.[12]

Just the opposite. Micah specifically pointed to Bethlehem Ephrathah, “out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel.” Not just any ruler, but one described with divine characteristics, “whose goings forth are from of old, from ancient days.”

King Herod’s expert Jewish religious council of chief priests and scribes believed Micah’s prophecy foretold the future “King of the Jews” or Christos would come forth from the location of the nearby town, Bethlehem Ephrathah. According to Matthew, the Magi did indeed find and worship the child, Jesus of Nazareth, and Herod sought to kill him there.

Foretelling the location of the birth of the Messiah far into the future sets a standard of predictability that seems virtually impossible. In a small town of little significance, in a land disdained by its rulers, raises the level of difficulty of accuracy to the extreme. Impossible is controlling the circumstances of one’s own birth. Chances of intentionally fulfilling this prophecy without divine intervention…

Nazareth was the expected location of the birth of Jesus, nothing seemed to be able to change that – except for a Roman Caesar. Months in the making, the decree of Augustus announced by the Town Crier set in motion the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem where Magi, already traveling in parallel time, were destined to arrive in that little town at a single moment in time. If Micah’s prophecy foretells the Messiah would come from Bethlehem Ephrathah, was the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem a fulfillment of that prophecy?

 

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REFERENCES:

[i] Killian, Greg (Hillel ben David).  “Bethlehem – Beit Lechem – The House of Bread.”  Betemunah.org.  n.d. <http://www.betemunah.org/bethlehem.html>  “Bethlehem.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible.  n.d <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=bethlehem>[2] Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation. 1917. Benyamin Pilant. 1997. <http://www.breslov.com/bible/Micah5.htm#5>
[3] English Translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible. Trans. Brenton, Lancelot C. L. 1851.  <http://www.ecmarsh.com/lxx/Michaeas/index.htm>
[4] “Targum.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14248-targum>  “Historical Jewish Sources.” The Preterist Archive. “Overview:  About Targums.”  n.d. <http://www.preteristarchive.com/BibleStudies/JewishSources/Targums/index.html>
[5] “Jesus Christ is a False Messiah.”  Ed. Chris Thiefe.  EvilBible.com. Point #8, A & B. <https://www.evilbible.com/do-not-ignore-the-old-testament/jesus-is-a-false-messiah>  “Jesus of Bethlehem.” MessianicJewishTruth.com. n.d. <http://web.archive.org/web/20131103080951/http://www.messianicjewishtruth.com/Jesusbethlehem.html>  “Who will emerge from Bethlehem.” Teshuvas HaMinim. 2011. <http://web.archive.org/web/20120902023316/http://www.teshuvashaminim.com/michah51.html>
[6] I Chronicles 2:19, 24,50; 4:4.
[7] Bolding and brackets added by author.  The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary. Micah – Chapter 5.
[8] Sanhedrin 98b. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. 1935-1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_98.html> “Nedarim 39b.” Soncino Babylonian Talmud.  Steinsaltz, Adin. “Masechet Sanhedrin 98a-104b.” Orthodox Union. 2010. <https://www.ou.org/life/torah/masechet_sanhedrin_98a104b>
[9] “Nedarim 39b.” Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. 1935-1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/nedarim/nedarim_39.html#39b_11>
[10] “Kimhi” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9320-kimhi>  Marlowe, Michael.  Editions of the Hebrew Text of the Bible. Bible Research. “The Incunabula.”   2012. <http://www.bible-researcher.com/hebrew-editions.html>  Rosenau, William. Jewish Biblical Commentators. 1906. pp 87-91. <http://www.archive.org/stream/jewishbiblicalco00rose/jewishbiblicalco00rose_djvu.txt>  Mindel, Nissan. “Rabbi David Kimchi – RaDaK.” Chabad.org. 2019.  <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/111880/jewish/Rabbi-David-Kimchi-RaDaK.htm>
[11] “Redak on Micah.” Micah 5:1. Sefaria.org. Hebrew text translated using Google Translate. <https://www.sefaria.org/Radak_on_Micah.5.1.1?lang=bi>  CR Yehoshua, Avram. “Messiah’s Diety and Micah 5:2.” Quote cited from Mikraoth Gedoloth. n.d. <http://seedofabraham.net/Messiahs-Deity-and-Micah-5.2.pdf>
[12] Micah 1: Gath, Beth Leaphrah, Shaphir, Aaanan, Beth Ezel, Maroth, Jerusalem, Lachish, Achzib, and Mareshah. Wood, Leon J. “Eighth-Century Prophets: Isaiah and Micah.” 1979. <http://www.ldolphin.org/isaiah/woodisaiah.html>  Miller, Fred P. “The Prophecy Of Micah.” 2016. <http://www.moellerhaus.com/Micah/micahcom.htm>