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>

Prince of Peace – Who Is He?

Popularly appearing in Christmas season cards, posters, songs and media is a Bible passage from Isaiah. It is a prophecy foretelling that a male child will become a King whose kingdom will last forever and he will be called the “Prince of Peace” – who is he?

Is 9:6-7 “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever…”[1]

Hebrew text of the passage includes Sar Shalowm, the first word Sar meaning “prince.”[2] The second Hebrew word is the masculine noun Shalowm, commonly recognized as the Jewish greeting Shalom, means “peace;” its root word meaning “to be safe…figuratively, to be completed.”[3] Translated as “called” or “name” is the Hebrew text word qara’, the same word used in the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy where the future boy child is to be called “Immanuel.”

Two Rabbi sage contributors to the Jewish Babylonian Talmud discussed the identity of the “Prince of Peace.” Rabbi Jehoshua declared:[4]

“The name of the Holy One, blessed be He, is also “peace” (Shalom), as it is written: “And called it Adonay-shalom.””

Quoting from Judges 6:24, the Rabbi referred to the place named Y@hovah shalowm, “the LORD is Peace.” Gideon, a famed Hebrew judge, military leader and prophet, gave it this name because it is the place where he had met an angelic messenger and spoke to the LORD.[5]

Rabbi Jose the Galilean expanded on Jehoshua’s statement quoting from Isaiah 9:5(6) unambiguously saying the name of the Messiah is “”peace’…’the prince of peace’”:

“The name of the Messiah is also “peace” (Shalom), as it is written: “The prince of peace.””

Going into more detail, the Rabbi Galilean alluded to Isaiah 52:7 and Deuteronomy 20:10 prophecies that say the Messiah will be known for his great characteristic of peace:

“When the Messiah shall come to Israel, he will begin with peace, as it is written: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good tidings, that publisheth peace, that announceth tidings of happiness, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.” He also said: Great is peace, because even wars are waged for the sake of peace…”

Jumping back into the Talmud dialog, Rabbi Jehoshua referred to Isaiah 26:3, saying the “Holy One” would use peace to uphold righteous because of their trust in him:

“In the future the Holy One, blessed be He, will uphold the righteous with peace, as it is written [Is. xxvi. 3]: “The confiding mind wilt thou keep in perfect peace; because he trusteth in thee.””

The Complete Jewish Bible translation (chapter 9 begins one verse earlier) is significantly different. It says, “the wondrous adviser, the mighty God” will call “a child…a son…the prince of peace.”

IS 9:5-6 “For a child has been born to us, a son given to us, and the authority is upon his shoulder, and the wondrous adviser, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, called his name, ‘the prince of peace.’ To him who increases the authority, and for peace without end, on David’s throne and on his kingdom, to establish it and to support it with justice and with righteousness; from now and to eternity…” – Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary

Commentary in this translation by renowned Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi disagreed with Rabbi Jose the Galilean who said the prophecy referred to the Messiah. Instead, Rashi wrote, the prophecy likely refers to King Hezekiah, a descendant of King David. Rashi hedged slightly in further commentary acknowledging it is possible that “Prince of Peace” could be another name for the “Holy One” without mentioning the Messiah:

“…it is possible to say that “Prince of Peace,” too, is one of the names of the Holy One, blessed be He, and this calling of a name is not actually a name but an expression of (var. for the purpose of) greatness and authority…On the throne of the kingdom of David shall this peace be justice and righteousness that Hezekiah performed.”

“He [Hezekiah] increased the authority upon his shoulder, and what reward will He [God] pay him? Behold, his peace shall have no end or any limit.” – Rabbi Rashi

Christian Old Testament Bible content is based on the Septuagint LXX c. 285-247 BC.[6]According to Josephus, Pharaoh Ptolemy Philadelphius of Egypt commanded the translation of the Hebrew Bible text by 72 Jewish scholars into a complete Greek translation.[7]

Tanakh, the Jewish Scriptures, is based on two surviving Hebrew Masoretic (MT) texts a millennium after the Septuagint LXX. The oldest is the Aleppo Codex dated to 925AD, partially destroyed by a fire.[8] The oldest complete Masoretic text is the Leningrad Codex dated to 1008-10AD.[9]

Menachem Cohen, Professor of Bible and Director of the Miqraot Gedolot HaKeter Project (Great Scriptures) at Bar-Ilan University of Israel, explained the Masoretic Text lacked the benefit of a side-by-side comparison to the original “witnessing” Hebrew text.[10]

Qumran scrolls discoveries began in 1948 and among the finds was the crown jewel, a complete Hebrew text scroll of Isaiah known as the “The Great Isaiah Scroll.”[11] Isaiah’s book was originally written around 700 BC and the Great Isaiah Scroll is dated to between 200-100 BC. The Scroll, possibly a direct copy of the original Isaiah text, provides the oldest “side-by-side” text opportunity.

One translator of the Great Isaiah Scroll, Fred P. Miller, explained the translation methodology on his website, The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll. His direct translation of the Hebrew text:[12]

Great Isaiah Scroll 9:6-7:

[Line] 23…Because a child shall be born to us and a son is given to us and the government shall be upon

[Line] 24. his shoulders and he shall be called wonderful, counsellor, mighty God, everlasting father the prince of peace. (6) Of the increase

[Line] 25. of his government [&waw&} and his peace there shall be no end. upon the throne of David and over his kingdom to order it and to establish it

Line] 26. in judgement and in righteousness from and until eternity, The zeal of YHWH of Hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:-6-7 is a prophecy saying a child will be born on Earth in the lineage of King David who will be called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” He is to be a great King who will reign throughout eternity establishing “peace” with no end. Is Jesus of Nazareth the “prince of peace” in fulfillment of this prophecy?

 

Updated December 21, 2021.

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

REFERENCES:

[1] NKJV.
[2] sar <08269>. NetBible.org. Hebrew text. <http://classic.net.bible.org/strong.php?id=08269>  “8363.” Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=8323>
[3] Y@havah shalowm” <03073> Net.Bible.org. Hebrew text. “Shalom.” Ravitzky, Aviezer. “Shalom: Peace in Hebrew.” n.d. <https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/shalom>  “7965 ‘shalowm.’” Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=+shalowm> “7999 ‘shalam.’” Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. Eliyah.com. n.d. <http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=hebrewlexicon&isindex=shalam> Berkowitz, Matthew. “Greetings of Peace.” 2006 <http://www.jtsa.edu/greetings-of-peace>  “Hebrew: Greetings & Congratulations.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/hebrew-greetings-and-congratulations>
[4] The Babylonian Talmud.Trans. Michael L. Rodkinson. 1918. Tract Derech Eretz-Zuta. Chapter on Peace. <https://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t05/ere18.htm>
[5] Judges 6:24. Hebrew text. NetBible.org. <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Jdg&chapter=6&verse=24>
[6] “The Septuagint (LXX).” Ecclesiastic Commonwealth Community. n.d. <http://ecclesia.org/truth/septuagint.html>
[7] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XII, Chapter II.1-6; 13-1.. Trans. and commentary William Whitson. 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>  English Translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible. Trans. Brenton, Lancelot C. L. 1851. <http://www.ecmarsh.com/lxx> “Septuagint.”  Septuagint.Net. 2018.  <http://septuagint.net>  “Septuagint.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Septuagint>
[8] Ofer, Yosef. “The Aleppo Codex.” n.d. <http://www.aleppocodex.org/links/6.html>  Bergman, Ronen. “A High Holy Whodunit.” New York Times Magazine. July 25, 2012. <https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/magazine/the-aleppo-codex-mystery.html>  Ben-David, Lenny. “Aleppo, Syria 100 Years Ago – and Today.” 23/07/15. Arutz Sheva 7 | isralenationalnews.com.  <http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/198521>
[9] Lundberg, Marilyn J. “The Leningrad Codex.” USC West Semitic Research Project. 2012. University of Southern California. 8 Jan. 1999. <https://web.archive.org/web/20170403025034/http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/wsrp/educational_site/biblical_manuscripts/LeningradCodex.shtml> Leviant, Curt. Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. “Jewish Holy Scriptures: The Leningrad Codex.” <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-leningrad-codex> “Leningrad Codex.” Bible Manuscript Society. 2019. <https://biblemanuscriptsociety.com/Bible-resources/Bible-manuscripts/Leningrad-Codex>  Leviant, Curt. Jewish Virtual Library. 2019. “Jewish Holy Scriptures: The Leningrad Codex.” <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-leningrad-codex>
[10] Cohen, Menachem. “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text and the Science of Textual Criticism.” Eds. Uriel Simon and Isaac B Gottlieb. 1979. Australian National University. <http://cs.anu.edu.au/%7Ebdm/dilugim/CohenArt> Cohen, Menachem. “Mikra’ot Gedolot – ‘Haketer’ – Isaiah.” 2009. <http://www.biupress.co.il/website_en/index.asp?id=447
[11] Benner, Jeff A. “The Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text.” Ancient Hebrew Research Center. 2019. <https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/dss/great-isaiah-scroll-and-the-masoretic-text.htm> “The Dead Sea Scrolls.” The Israel Museum. 2019. <https://www.imj.org.il/en/wings/shrine-book/dead-sea-scrolls> “Isaiah.” Biblica.  Abegg, Jr., Martin G., Flint, Peter W. and Ulrich Eugene Charles.  The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible:  the oldest known Bible translated for the first time into English. “Introduction”, page x. (page hidden by Google Books). 2002. <https://books.google.com/books?id=c4R9c7wAurQC&lpg=PP1&ots=fQpCpzCdb5&dq=Abegg%2C%20Flint%20and%20Ulrich2C%20The%20Dead%20Dead%20Sea%20Scrolls%20Bible%2C&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=Isaiah&f=false>
[12] Miller, Fred P. “The Translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll.” n.d. <https://www.ao.net/~fmoeller/qa-tran.htm>  Miller, Fred P. “”Q” = The Great Isaiah Scroll.” Translation. n.d.  <http://www.moellerhaus.com/qum-intr.htm>

Zechariah’s Donkey Prophecy

Zechariah’s Messiah prophecy focused on a donkey is one of those prophetic rarities that is so unambiguous, there can be no other explanation other than exactly what it foretells. It is more precise even than the Micah prophecy foretelling the future Ruler of Israel would come from Bethlehem Ephrathah.[1]

Zech 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”(NKJV)

Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi commented, as it appears in the Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary: “It is impossible to interpret this except as referring to the King Messiah.”[2]

Not just any lowly donkey, it was prophesied to be a colt, a foal which is a male under a year old. At that age, the colt would be unridden, unbroken. Donkeys are known, even when broken, for their unruly and difficult behavior especially in unfamiliar and frightening scenarios.[3] Yet the future King of Israel was prophesied to bring salvation to Jerusalem riding one such donkey colt.

Written between 520 – 518 BC, the prophecy was issued about 80 years after the last king of Israel, Jeconiah, sat on the Throne of David. The Davidic royal dynasty ended when Jeconiah was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar’s army in 597 BC.[4] The last Jewish King was deported to Babylon along with “the most distinguished men of the land, and the most valuable treasures of the Temple and the palace.”[5]

Decrees issued by successors of the Babylonian empire, Persian rulers Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great each instructed the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem; the backdrop when Zachariah issued the prophecy.[6] Based on the historical timing, the prophecy could only be about a future King who would bring salvation to Israel.

Scrolling forward 550 years sets the stage when Jesus of Nazareth was reaching the end of his 3-year ministry. Outside of Jerusalem, oddly some Pharisees warned Jesus that Tetrarch Herod wanted to kill him.

Brushing off the warning, Jesus replied that no prophet is killed outside of Jerusalem. The comment referred to the historical reputation of Jerusalem being known for killing the prophets sent by God.[7] It was an indicting condemnation of the Jewish religious leaders represented primarily by the Pharisees.

Saturday night before entering Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus was at a dinner event at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany. In attendance were siblings Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and the 12 Disciples.[8]

Sunday began the week that held a special Passover celebration. This particular year, Passover fell on the day before the Sabbath causing a doubling of efforts on Preparation Day to accommodate the back-to-back work-restricted observances. John referred to this day as a “high,” or “special” Sabbath, depending on the translation.[9]

One of the Disciples asked Jesus where they would be eating the Passover meal in Jerusalem? He did not answer the question directly; no specific information was given, only a clue.

Matthew and John Gospel accounts say that Jesus had instructed Peter and John to go into Jerusalem to find a mother donkey with its colt and bring them both back. If Jesus wanted just a donkey to ride, he would have been expected to instruct them to simply find a donkey.

Aimlessly entering the big city looking for the clue Jesus had given to them, they found a tethered mother donkey with its colt.[10] If anyone were to ask why they were taking the donkeys, they were instructed to say, “The Lord has need of it.”[11]

As they untied the donkeys, indeed, Peter and John were asked what they were doing with his donkeys? Answering as instructed, they were led by the man with the donkeys to a house with an upper room prepared for the Passover. The owner allowed the two Disciples to take the donkeys back to Jesus.

Entering Jerusalem for the last time, all four Gospel authors wrote about that Sunday when Jesus rode a donkey colt as he entered the city.[12] The Sunday before Easter, it is known as “Palm Sunday” in Christianity.[13]

MT 21:6-9 “The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”(NIV)

Most translations of Matthew 21:7 say that Jesus sat on “them” although it is highly unlikely he sat on two donkeys of different heights at the same time. Mark and Luke are most specific in referring to the unbroken colt ridden by Jesus.

Jesus making his final entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey colt matches the Zechariah 9:9 Messiah prophecy.[14] If Jesus as the Messiah was not riding on the donkey colt, then the Zechariah prophecy could not be fulfilled.

Was the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem sitting on an donkey colt merely a coincidence – or was the Palm Sunday event a fulfillment of Zechariah’s Messiah prophecy?

 

Updated October 15, 2021.

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REFERENCES:

[1] CR Micah 5:1(2).
[2] Zechariah 9:9. Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Chabad.org. 2021. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16213/showrashi/true
[3] Luke 19:35. “Understanding Donkey Behavior.” The Donkey Sanctuary. 2018. <https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/sites/sanctuary/files/document/142-1404405754-donkey_health_and_welfare_19.pdf>
[4] Ryrie Study Bible. Ed. Ryrie Charles C. Trans. New American Standard. 1978. “Introduction to the Book of Zechariah.”
[5] “Captivity, or Exile, Babylonian.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. < http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4012-captivity>
[6] Ezra 1:1-3, 4:4-6, 6:14-15; Nehemiah 6:15; 12:45. Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. 1850. Book XI, Chapter II. The Complete Works of Josephus. Trans. Commentary by William Whitson. < http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false > “Cyrus the Great.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2018. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Cyrus-the-Great>  “Darius I.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2021. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Darius-I>
[7] CR Matthew 23:19-39. Luke 13:31-35. I Kings 18:13-15; 19:14. 2 Chronicles 24:19-22; Jeremiah 26:7-16, 18-19, 20-23; 38:1-13.>
[8] Matthew 23:37-39. Luke 13:31-35.
[9] John 12:1-2, 4. CR Matthew 26:6; Mark 11:1, 14:3; Luke 10:38-39, 19:29.
[10] John 19:31. BibleHub.com. 2021. <https://biblehub.com/john/19-31.htm>  CR Mark 15:42.
[11] Luke 19:28-37. CR Matthew 21:1-7.
[12] NASB, NKJV.
[13] Matthew 21:7; Mark 11:7; Luke 19:28; John 12:1.
[14] “Palm Sunday.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2021.  <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Palm-Sunday>