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

Two big questions often come to mind about the birth of Jesus. Was he really born and is Jesus the Son of God, the Messiah?

Beyond what the Gospels say, simple logic can answer the first question. A personage named Jesus divided world history into two eras – before his life and after his life. No one else has been so influential as to change calendars making Jesus the most impactful figure in history.

A monumental change to historical dating is highly unlikely to be based on a fictitious figure… Logic dictates that Jesus, regardless if he is the Messiah, had to be a real historical person in order to literally change history. The modern effort to change “BC” and “AD” to “BCE” and “CE” designations are still based on the fact 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.[1] The Jewish Encyclopedia in its article “Jesus of Nazareth” states that Jesus is a real historical figure, even pinpointing the date of his birth.[2] The miraculous conception of Mary and the birth of Jesus are also recognized by the Quran.[3]

Circumstantially, 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 with Christianity going on to become the largest religion in the world, over 2 billion people today.[4]

Caesar Augustus as the ruling Emperor of Rome; King Herod as the head of the Judean government; Quirinius, Procurator Pilate and Archelaus, son of King Herod – all these historical figures are referenced in the Gospels. As such, it raises the bar of Gospel answerability and credibility to the highest degree.[5]

Mary gave birth to Jesus in a totally unexpected, unplanned location in Bethlehem 90 miles away instead of Nazareth.[6]  The angel who appeared independently months apart to Mary and Joseph didn’t tell either of them to go to Bethlehem.[7] Joseph and Mary planned to stay in Nazareth for the birth of their baby surrounded by family and friends.

A Roman Caesar’s decree 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.

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

Hundreds of miles away from Nazareth and Rome,  Magi made 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 occurred over the course of only months.[9]

Last of these cosmic events occurred on June 17, 2 BC, where the two brightest stars in the sky caused the appearance of an extremely rare, unusually brilliant, elongated star. NASA astronomy science and technology confirms it and all these other 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]

Herod consulted his Jewish religious council who told the King about the Micah 5:2 (1) prophecy foretelling the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem.[12] King Herod indicated 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 exact location of the newborn .[13]

Messiah prophecies that may have been fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth originate in the Scriptures, the Tenakh or the Old Testament. Not all Messiah prophesies are unanimously recognized by Jewish sages such as the Branch prophecies issued by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah .

Two of the most renowned Jewish sages are Rabbi Rashi and Rabbi Maimonides, each had differing views on some Messiah prophecies. Maimonides viewed the Isaiah 53:5 and Zechariah 6:12 prophecies as foretelling the Messiah.[15] Rashi, on the other hand, viewed the same Isaiah and Zechariah prophecies to be about Zerubbabel.[16]

One Messiah prophecy; however, is virtually undisputed – the Messiah would be born in the lineage of King David.[14] Matthew and Luke report that Jesus was a royal heir to David and this is not a disputed fact by Judaism. Other potential Messiah prophecies involve the crucifixion and Resurrection foretold in Isaiah, Psalms and by Jesus.

Isaiah 52-53 describes the circumstances of the torture and death of “My Servant” consistent with a Roman crucifixion developed hundreds of years later. Isaiah also described the Servant’s burial among the rich and a life after death, all described in the Gospels involving the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.[17]

Psalms contains Messiah prophecies with varied views by Judaism. For example, Psalms 22 closely mirroring a crucifixion is not recognized as a Messiah prophecy yet Psalms 118 is included in the traditional Jewish Hallel about the Messiah. [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. A faction of Rabbis in the Talmud’s Succah 52a believed it to be Messianic. Rashi believed it to be a prophecy about Israel although he acknowledged it could be about the Messiah.[19]

Assessing all the circumstances involving the life of Jesus of Nazareth obviously has a direct impact in determining the answer to the second question – was Jesus born as the Messiah?  The U.S. legal Doctrine of Chances suggests it was not an accident.[19]

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

 

Updated April 12, 2022.

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REFERENCES:

[1]“Jesus of Nazareth.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8616-jesus-of-nazareth>
[2] 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>
[?] 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>

David – Iconic King of Israel

Prophecies foretell the Messiah would come from the House of David. Who was this iconic king of Israel and why would the Messiah need to be born in David’s lineage?

Red-headed David, the youngest of 8 boys, drew the short straw in the family and was assigned to be the shepherd of his father’s sheep.[1] Alone in the wilderness, he became an expert with a slingshot and single-handedly killed lions and bears who threatened the flock.[2]

Summoned one day by his father, Jesse, to come back home in Bethlehem, much to David’s surprise the prophet Samuel was there waiting. Shockingly, the prophet anointed David as God’s choice to be the next King of Israel.[3] David’s legendary fame would begin at that moment and grow soon thereafter…

Three of David’s brothers were fighting in Israel’s army supported by their father who routinely sent David to them with supplies. During one visit to the battle front, David was astonished to see Israel’s army afraid of a giant Philistine ace warrior named Goliath who challenged and taunted Israel’s army daily.

Asking King Saul’s permission to battle Goliath, the shepherd boy was ridiculed by his older brothers and Saul tried to talk David out of it; however, the King relented. David defiantly announced to Goliath he will kill him in the name of the Lord and cut off his head. And David did just that – with a slingshot and a single stone he killed Goliath, then used Goliath’s own sword to cut off his head. That very day David was placed in the service of King Saul.[4]

David’s fame eventually made Saul jealous and he tried to hunt down and kill him.[5] Failing to seek and obey God’s guidance would cost Saul his own life and that of his sons in battle. After Saul’s death, David became king, but he had no throne.[6] The fortified city of Jebus seemed the perfect place.

As a skilled formidable warrior serving in King Saul’s army, David had become well-known to his enemies.[7] Equipped with this savvy and fame, he gathered people of Israel, formed an army and advanced toward Jebus.

Hurling insults at David’s approaching army, the Jebusites taunted shouting “the blind and the lame” could fight off Israel and in mockery arrogance positioned lame and blind people on the city walls.[8] Taking great offense, David offered his the commanding general position to whomever led the army to victory over Jebus.[9] Joab won the challenge and became the commanding general.

Soon after taking the city, it was expanded to encompass Mounts Moriah and Zion. Jebus, formerly known as Salem, now was called by a new name – Jerusalem, the City of David.[10] 

More good news came from God through the prophet Nathan saying David’s future son would be the one to fulfill promises God made to Moses to build the House of God and to Jacob that the scepter would never leave his family:[11]

2 Sam 7:12-13  “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” [12]

Basking in the glory of his kingdom, David decided to take a census contrary to God’s past instructions because it demonstrated a lack of faith.[13] General Joab pressed the King not to do it, but David persisted.[14]

Punishment delivered by “an angel of the Lord” for David’s sin was heavy upon the nation and the King pleaded with God to punish only himself and his family because Israel was innocent. The prophet Gad delivered God’s response instructing David to build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah on Mount Moriah and offer an atonement sacrifice for the people of Israel.[15] 

David purchased the threshing floor, the oxen and materials, then built the altar himself. To his astonishment, God sent fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice. Moved deeply, David declared:  “This is the house of the LORD God, and this is the altar of burnt offerings for Israel.”[16]

The promised permanent place for God’s Name to dwell, the Temple, was to be built on Mount Moriah, the place where a 1000 years earlier Abraham took his only son, Isaac, to be sacrificed then spared at the last moment with a substitute sacrificial ram.[17]

Lord Acton’s quote “absolute power corrupts absolutely” applied even to David. From his palace rooftop, David watched his neighbor’s wife taking a bath. Her name, ironically, was Bath-Sheba. The King dispatched his men to bring her to his palace where David seduced her and she became pregnant.[18]

Bath-Sheba’s husband, Uriah, was one of the King’s top military officers away fighting a war – how would Bath-Sheba explain away her pregnancy? David devised a cover-up plan.

Uriah was summoned from the battlefield at the behest of David under the pretense of earning a well-deserved leave from duty. The true reason was to give Bath-Sheba an opportunity to have marital relations with her husband to legitimize her pregnancy. The plan backfired when the loyal Uriah did not think it would be fair to his troops back on the battlefield if he were at home enjoying the pleasures of his wife.

David’s back-up scheme was much more sinister. The King sent Uriah to the front lines of the war in hopes he would die in battle. Indeed, Uriah was killed in action. A royally planned and executed murder plot seemed foolproof – except to God. The prophet Nathan exposed David’s sin bringing judgment upon David and Bath-Sheba when their ill-conceived baby died.[19]

In spite of his deplorable sins of adultery and murder, God still honored His promise to David. Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah over the following centuries would prophesy that the Messiah would come from the House of David; prophecies confirmed by renowned Jewish Sages Rashi and Maimonides.[20]

David also wrote many of the Psalms, some deemed to be prophetic.[21] First words of Psalms 22, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” were cried out by Jesus shortly before he died on the cross. The 22nd Psalm written by David depicts the dramatic image of a man dying in agony and humiliation remarkably consistent in specific detail with the circumstances of the Roman crucifixion of Jesus a millennium later.

As a mortal, Jesus would have no control over being born a 1000 years later into the royal lineage of David nor in his same hometown of Bethlehem, especially exceptional considering that up until the last moment , Jesus was expected to be born in Nazareth, a week’s long journey away. From King David to Jesus, what are the odds of improbability all these events occurred simply by chance?

 

Updated October 1, 2021

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

REFERENCES:

[1] 2 Samuel 11, 16.
[2] I Samuel 17.
[3] I Sam. 16; Chronicles 2, 10.
[4] I Samuel 18.
[5] I Samuel 19.
[6] 2 Samuel 2, 5.  1 Chronicles 10, 11.
[7] 1Chronicles 11.
[8] I Chronicles 11; 2 Samuel 5. Josephus.  Josephus, Flavius.  Antiquities of the Jews. Book VII, Chapter III.1. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[9] 2 Samuel 5.  I Chronicles 11. Josephus.  Antiquity. Book VII, Chapter III.1.
[10] I Chronicles 17:1. Josephus. Antiquity. Book VII, Chapter III.1-2. Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. “Jebus <2982>”  <https://net.bible.orgLexicon-Concordance Online Bible.  Hebrew “Jebuw <2982>” (Brown-Driver-Briggs). <http://lexiconcordance.com>  Dolphin, Lambert. “Mount Moriah, Site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”  TempleMount.org. 1996.  <http://www.templemount.org/moriah2.html> “Zion.”  Fausset Bible Dictionary. 1878. http://classic.studylight.org/dic/fbd>
[11] Genesis 49; 2 Samuel 5; 1 Chronicles 11, 17; Chronicles 5; 1Kings 2; Judges 1; Psalms 76.  Josephus.  Antiquities. Book VII, Chapter III.2.
[12] NASB.  I Chronicles 17.
[13] Exodus 30.
[14] I Chronicles 21; 2 Samuel 24.
[15] I Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 3; 2 Samuel 24.
[16] NKJV.  I Chronicles 21-22.  2 Samuel 24. “Araunah.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com> “The Site – The Temple Mount.”  Bible-History.com.  n.d. <http://www.bible-history.com/jewishtemple/JEWISH_TEMPLEThe_Site.htm>  Josephus.  Antiquities. Book VII, Chapter III.
[17] I Chronicles 22; 2 Chronicles 3.
[18] 2 Samuel 11.  “Lord Acton writes to Bishop Creighton…” Online Library of Liberty. 2017. <http://oll.libertyfund.org/quote/214>
[19] 2 Samuel 12.
[20] Isaiah 9; Jeremiah 23; 33; Zechariah 12.  The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Rashi commentaries: Gensis 49:10; Numbers 24:17; Zechariah 12:12; Micah 5:2. Maimonides.  Mishneh Torah.  “The Law Concerning Moshiach.” Chapter 11. <http://www.kesser.org/moshiach/rambam.html#SIE>
[21] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary. Rashi commentaries on Micah 5:2 and Psalms 118:22. “Salvation.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011.