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.

Creative Commons License

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

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>

Rabbi Maimonides & Jesus of Nazareth – the Messiah?

Affectionately known as Rambam in Jewish circles, the Rabbi brought clarity to Jewish Law with some calling him “the second Moses.” Born during the Medieval era in 1135 AD, Moses Ben Maimon, as a Rabbi became known by a single name, Maimonides. He authored Mishneh Torah, considered to be a monumental Jewish work that formulated the 13 principals of Jewish faith. [1]

Messiah or stumbling block? The famed Rabbi Maimonides expounded his view on this question about Jesus of Nazareth as well as his views on the lineage, supernatural powers, and a comparison to the Messiah prophecies.

Two chapters, sometimes called “The Laws Concerning King Moshiach,” focused on the Messiah – what characteristics would identify the Messiah and what characteristics would disqualify anyone purporting to be the Messiah?[2] Considered controversial, his statements became a focus of the Censor.

King David’s lineage is a key requirement for the Messiah cited in multiple prophecies by renowned Rabbi Rashi as well as Rabbi Maimonides adding that anyone who denies the Messiah is denying the prophets, Moses, and the Scriptures:

“In the future, the Messianic king will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, restoring it to its initial sovereignty.”

“Anyone who does not believe in him or does not await his coming, denies not only the statements of the other prophets, but those of the Torah and Moses…”

Unlike Rashi who only implied it, Maimonides explicitly identified Balaam’s (Bilaam) prophecy as messianic. The prophecy, he said, was in reference to “Mashiach,” Hebrew for Messiah:

“Reference to Mashiach is also made in the portion of Bilaam who prophesies about two anointed kings: the first anointed king, David, who saved Israel from her oppressors; and the final anointed king who will arise from his descendants and save Israel in the end of days. That passage Numbers 24:17-18 relates:

‘I see it, but not now’ – This refers to David;

‘I perceive it, but not in the near future;” – This refers to the Messianic king;

‘A star shall go forth from Jacob’ – This refers to David;

‘and a staff shall arise in Israel’ – This refers to the Messianic king…

Maimonides then addressed the supernatural powers of performing miracles, wonders, and resurrection of the dead without directly mentioning the Gospels or Jesus of Nazareth:

“One should not presume that the Messianic king must work miracles and wonders, bring about new phenomena in the world, resurrect the dead, or perform other similar deeds. This is definitely not true.”

Paying close attention to what the Rabbi said … performing supernatural abilities would not necessarily distinguish the Messiah; however, he did not deny that such miracles had occurred. Pivoting, he went on to describe characteristics that would identify the Messiah:

“If a king will arise from the House of David who diligently contemplates the Torah and observes its mitzvot as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law as David, his ancestor, will compel all of Israel to walk in (the way of the Torah) and rectify the breaches in its observance, and fight the wars of God, we may, with assurance, consider him Mashiach.”

Next, he described things that would disqualify anyone who might otherwise be viewed as the Messiah. Maimonides pointedly called out Jesus of Nazareth by name:

“If he did not succeed to this degree or was killed, he surely is not the redeemer promised by the Torah. Rather, he should be considered as all the other proper and complete kings of the Davidic dynasty who died. God caused him to arise only to test the many, as Daniel 11:35 states: ‘And some of the wise men will stumble, to try them, to refine, and to clarify until the appointed time, because the set time is in the future.'”

“Jesus of Nazareth who aspired to be the Mashiach and was executed by the court was also alluded to in Daniel’s prophecies, as ibid. 11:14 states: ‘The vulgar among your people shall exalt themselves in an attempt to fulfill the vision, but they shall stumble.'”

“Can there be a greater stumbling block than Christianity?”

As a key undisputed prophetic requirement that the Messiah must be born in the royal lineage of David, Maimonides did not disqualify Jesus as the Messiah on the basis of his lineage; rather, he associated Jesus with “all the other proper and complete kings of the Davidic dynasty who died.”[3] Instead, Maimonides denounced “Jesus of Nazareth who aspired to be the Mashiach.”[4]

Mishneh Torah launched Maimonides into Jewish celebrity status prompting letters sent to him with questions. His response letters, known as Responsa (or Teshuvot), have become additional important texts of Maimonides’ Scriptural interpretations.[5]

One Responsa was to Yeminite Rabbi Jacob al-Fayumi, known as the “Epistle Concerning Yemen.” Maimonides established the “My Servant” parashah of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 as a messianic prophecy when he cited Isaiah 52:15 and 53:2 foretelling the Messiah could be identified by his origins and his wonders:[6]

“But the unique phenomenon attending his manifestation is, that all the kings of the earth be thrown in terror at the fame of him – their kingdoms be in consternation, and they themselves will be devising whether to oppose him with arms, or to adopt some different course, confessing, in fact their inability to contend with him or ignore his presence and so confounded at the wonders which they will see him work, that they will lay their hands to their mouth; in the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which the kings will hearken to him, At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived. [Is. 52:15]

“What is to be the manner of Messiah’s advent, and where will be the place of his first appearance?

…there shall rise up one of whom none have known before, and the signs and wonders which they shall see performed by him will be the proofs of his true origin; for the Almighty where he declares to us his mind upon this matter, says, ‘Behold a man whose name is the Branch, and he shall branch forth out of his place’ (Zech. Vi. I2). And Isaiah speaks similarly of the time when he will appear, without his father or mother or family being known, He came up before him, and as a root out of the dry earth [Is 53:2], etc.”

One subtle factor. “Jesus of Nazareth” broke from traditional Jewish family name association where he normally would have been called “Jesus ben Joseph,” meaning Jesus son of Joseph.[7] Instead, Jesus is identified devoid of any family association. The name of Jesus of “Nazareth” belies his family heritage in the lineage of David, even born in the King’s home town of Bethlehem.[8]

All four Gospels are consistent with the Messiah characteristics defined by Maimonides. Jesus performed many wonders and miracles; diligently taught the people of Israel to walk in the way of God; rectified the abhorrent exploitation of the Temple and taught the Scriptures; and yet he was still executed.

Was Jesus of Nazareth a fulfillment of the Messiah prophecies or merely a stumbling block test sent by God?

 

Creative Commons License

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

REFERENCES:

[1] Maimonides.  Mishneh Torah.  Moznaim Publications.  Jewish year 4937 (1177 AD). Chabad.org.  2015. “Sefer Shoftim” > “Melachim uMilchamot.” <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/682956/jewish/Mishneh-Torah.htm> Rich, Tracey R.  “Jewish Beliefs.”  JewFAQ.org. n.d. <http://www.jewfaq.org/beliefs.htm>  “Moses Ben Maimon.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011.  <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11124-moses-ben-maimon> Furst, Rachel.  “The Mishneh Torah.”  MyJewishLearning.com. 2010.  <http://mobile.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Rabbinics/Halakhah/Medieval/Mishneh_Torah.shtml>  Seeskin, Kenneth.  “Maimonides.”  Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2006, revised 2017. <https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/maimonides>
[2] Maimonides.  Mishneh Torah.
[3]  Josephus, Flavius. Against Apion. Book 1 #6-7. 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>
[4] Mangel, Nissen. “Responsa.” Publisher:  Kehot Publication Society. 2008. Chabad.org. 2014.  <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/107783/jewish/Responsa.htm>
[5] Mangel. “Responsa.”
[6] Maimonides. “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p374.  Neubauer and Driver.  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>
[7] Rich, Tracey R. “Jewish Surnames.” Judaism101. 2011. <http://www.jewfaq.org/jnames.htm>  Weiss, Nelly. “The origin of Jewish family names : morphology and history.” p15. 2002. <https://www.scribd.com/doc/170261214/The-Origin-of-Jewish-Family-Names-Morphology-and-History-ebooKOID
[8] Maimonides. “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p374.