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>

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.

Creative Commons License

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 foal would be unridden, unbroken. Donkeys have a reputation for their unruly and difficult behavior, even when broken, especially when they are in unfamiliar or 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 had reached the end of his 3-year ministry.[7] Saturday night before entering Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus attended 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, the next day, began the shortened week that ended with a special Passover celebration. This particular year, Passover fell that next weekend on the day before the weekly Saturday Sabbath thereby doubling the efforts for Preparation Day to accommodate the back-to-back, work-restricted observances. John refers to this Passover as a “high,” or “special” Sabbath, depending on the translation.[9]

One of the Disciples asked Jesus where they would be eating the upcoming Passover meal in Jerusalem? He did not answer the question directly and gave no specific information, just 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. From an investigative viewpoint, if Jesus wanted just a donkey to ride, he would have been expected to instruct the pair to simply find a donkey. Finding a mother donkey with a foal colt made the search much more difficult.

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

As they untied the mother donkey with a coat, indeed, Peter and John were asked what they were doing taking 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. After they viewed the room, the owner allowed the two Disciples to take the two donkeys back to Jesus.

Entering Jerusalem for the last time, all four Gospel authors wrote about that Sunday when Jesus rode into the city seated on a donkey colt.[12] In Christianity, the Sunday event before Easter is celebrated as “Palm Sunday”:[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 more specific referring to the unbroken colt ridden by Jesus.

Less than a week before his crucifixion, Jesus made his final entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey colt matching the Zechariah 9:9 Messiah prophecy.[14] If Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey colt, but was not the Messiah, then the Zechariah Messiah prophecy was not 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.

Creative Commons License

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

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>