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 Micah 5:2 prophecy foretelling the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem.[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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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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>

Maimonides and Jesus of Nazareth – the Messiah?

Messiah or stumbling block? Famed Medieval Rabbi Maimonides had an opinion about Jesus of Nazareth on this question as well as his lineage, supernatural powers, and a comparison to the Messiah prophecies.

Affectionately known as Rambam in Jewish circles, he brought clarity to Jewish Law with some calling him “the second Moses.” Born in 1135, Moses Ben Maimon, later becoming known as Maimonides, authored Mishneh Torah. Considered a monumental Jewish work, it formulated the 13 principals of Jewish faith.[1]

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

King David’s lineage is a key requirement for the Messiah cited in multiple prophecies, by renowned Rabbi Rashi and by Maimonides who went further adding 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…”

Calling out Balaam’s (Bilaam) prophecy as messianic, unlike Rashi who stopped short, Maimonides explicitly referred to “Mashiach,” Hebrew for the 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 … his said that performing supernatural abilities would not definitively 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?”

With a key prophetic requirement that the Messiah must be born in the royal lineage of David, Maimonides did not disqualify Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah on that basis. He easily could have, if it were true, using the meticulous Jewish genealogy records maintained in the Temple.[3] Instead, in denouncing “Jesus of Nazareth who aspired to be the Mashiach,” Maimonides acknowledged that Jesus was born in the House of David.[4]

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

One response to Yeminite Rabbi Jacob al-Fayumi is known as the “Epistle Concerning Yemen.” In it, Maimonides established the “My Servant” parashah of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 as a messianic prophecy by citing Isaiah 52:15 and 53:2 saying the Messiah could be identified by his origins and his wonders:[6]

“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, etc.”

“Jesus of Nazareth” as a name broke from traditional Jewish family name association where he would have been called “Jesus ben Joseph,” meaning Jesus son of Joseph.[7] Instead of being known by his family association, he is known for his standalone reputation and image as Jesus of Nazareth devoid of any family association. Moreover, born in the lineage of King David in his home town of Bethlehem, the name of Jesus of “Nazareth” belies his family heritage.

“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.

All four Gospels report Jesus performed many wonders and miracles; diligently taught the people of Israel to walk in the way of God; despised and reacted to the exploitations of the Temple and the Scriptures by its keepers. The circumstances of his birth and life are consistent with the Messiah prophecies recognized by both Rabbis and Christian authorities.

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

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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>