Unreal Birth Circumstances – Jesus of Nazareth

 

Circumstances of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth are no less than incredible. A three-way confluence of events from locations in Rome, Persia and Nazareth, hundred miles apart from each other and months in the making, culminated in a small town where none of the figures of the story lived.

Two Gospel accounts cover the Nativity story, Matthew and Luke, each complimenting the other with few overlapping details. According to Luke, Caesar Augustus issued a registration decree although the Roman story behind the story is not told.

Caesar Augustus was designated Pater Patrie of the Roman Empire, Father of the County, on February 5, 2 BC, by the Roman Senate. The achievement was one the 35 highlights in The Deeds of Divine Augustus listing the accomplishments of Caesar over his 25 years of rule.[1]

To honor Augustus in 2 BC, planning began for a special registration of the entire Roman Empire including the provinces, not just the typical census for citizens of Rome. Each registrant was expected to swear an oath of allegiance to Augustus.[2]

Logistics to execute this registration decree required considerable planning, time and resources, especially in a era without electricity, computers, phones, etc. Just the minimal time by horse to enact the announcement in far reaching provinces like Syria would take months.[3]

Meanwhile, Magi “from the East” (Persia, by reputation and historical context), according to Matthew, saw stellar and planetary alignments which signaled something exceptional was about to happen – the birth of a King of Judea. Not just any King – what they saw was so awe-inspiring, they were moved to act.

Believing wholeheartedly in their observations, they planned a journey that would cover hundreds of miles by camel in a quest to find this baby King. Much more than just a tribute visit, they intended to present the baby with precious gifts and worship him.

Greek text of Matthew uses the word proskynēsai or proskuneo translated as “worship.” The word means “to do reverence to;” “bow down or bow down before;” “kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one).”[4]

In another concurrent series of events, while the Magi were on their journey to Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary were busy going about their daily business. Preparing for the arrival of their new baby, they were planning his birth in Nazareth without any clue what was about to befall them.

Suddenly, everything changed – a praeco announced Augustus’ registration decree that compelled the betrothed couple to do the unthinkable. On short notice, an unplanned 90-mile trek on foot to register for the decree in Bethlehem was required in-spite-of Mary’s imminent childbirth.[5]

No one or thing trumped a decree by a Roman Caesar. Although it is not definitively stated that the decree had a deadline, Rome expected prompt compliance. Evidence of this urgency is seen by the immediate response of Joseph and Mary.

People were required to register in the home town of their family linage. In the case of Joseph and Mary, it was Bethlehem, the home town of King David who lived about a 1000 years earlier.

No doubt Mary would give birth before they returned to Nazareth where Mary should have been with her family and friends. Timing in this scenario is critical – if the praeco had announced the decree about two weeks earlier or later, Jesus would not have been born in Bethlehem.

Weary from the unplanned long trip from Nazareth, Joseph and Mary discovered that lodging accommodations in Bethlehem were full and they had to stay in a stable. As if this situation wasn’t challenging enough, Mary went into labor and was forced to give birth to Jesus using a manger for his crib.

According to Luke, the birth of Jesus was heralded by a host of angels. Shepherds left their flocks in the fields and went to Bethlehem to see this sight.

Not knowing their final destination, the Magi initially headed for Jerusalem, the government center of Judea. The city seemed to be a good place to get information and they went to the palace of Judea’s King Herod to ask him.

Arrival in Jerusalem by the Magi entourage was big news. It was not often that Magi visited Jerusalem being off the major trade routes and it likely caused a stir.[6] Further, the mystic Magi practices embraced by Hellenism were shunned by Judaism yet favored by the King.

Herod immediately granted the Magi access to his palace when the they arrived. The reigning King was informed of the news of the birth of a King of Judea, one with his own star – it was most shocking news.

At that point, Herod did not know any further details. However, it can be surmised that the King figured the Magi obviously knew something profound, both considering their reputation and the fact of their long journey to honor and worship this baby.[7]

After the Magi left the palace, the King summonsed the Jewish chief priests and scribes and asked if they knew where Christos was to be born. No ambiguity surrounded the question, the Jewish religion experts knew exactly what Herod was asking. They cited an ancient prophecy from Jewish prophet Micah who foretold the Messiah was to be born in “Bethlehem in land of Judah.[8]

Now that Herod believed he knew where the Christos was to be born, he planned to exchange that knowledge with the Magi to learn the exact location of the baby. The King secretly hailed the Magi to return back to the palace where they unwittingly agreed to the deal.

After leaving the palace, “his Star” reappeared at some point to the Magi and then stood over Bethlehem. The Magi were extremely excited and it corroborated the information given to them from Herod. Still not exactly sure of their final destination, they headed South toward the town just a short distance away.

Far off the path of a major trade route, unexpectedly the Magi from Persia arrived in Bethlehem. If their arrival was big news in Jerusalem, image what it was in the much smaller town. The Magi didn’t belong there, but the destination is where their quest took them.

In a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business, finding the child would not have been difficult. The Magi found the new family, then presented the newborn with their precious gifts and worshiped him.

Not all the drama was finished. Warned in a dream, according to Matthew, the Magi did not return to Jerusalem to tell Herod where the Christos was located.

Once Herod realized he had been duped, he commanded that all the male babies in the Bethlehem area under 2 years of age to be killed. Actions taken by the King were consistent with his ruthless reputation.

Joseph and Mary with Jesus escaped the King’s horrific murders by hiding in Egypt until Herod died shortly thereafter. Historian Josephus describes in detail events that transpired during the final weeks leading up to the King’s death. Eventually Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth where they raised Jesus and his siblings.

Was it just a coincidence that a 3-way confluence of events culminating in Bethlehem involved a quest by Magi from Persia following only stellar signs; Caesar’s registration decree intended only to honor himself and Rome; and Joseph and Mary who were compelled by the decree to embark on a 90-mile trip from Nazareth when she was about to give birth? Or was it divine plan? 

 

Updated December 29, 2023.

 

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REFERENCES:

[1] Martin, Ernest L. The Star of Bethlehem – The Star That Astonished the World. Associates for Scriptural Knowledge. 2003. Chapter 13. <http://askelm.com/star/star000.htm#_edn11>  Gertoux, Gerard. “Dating the death of Herod.” 2015. Academia.edu. 2015. <http://www.academia.edu/2518046/Dating_the_death_of_Herod>  Gertoux, Gerard. “Dating the two Censuses of Quirinius.” 2018. Academia.edu. <http://web.archive.org/web/20220427180241/http://www.academia.edu/3184175/Dating_the_two_Censuses_of_Quirinius>  Jachowski, Raymond. Academa.Edu. “The Death of Herod the Great and the Latin Josephus: Re-Examining the Twenty-Second Year of Tiberius.” n.d. <https://www.academia.edu/19833193/The_Death_of_Herod_the_Great_and_the_Latin_Josephus_Re_Examining_the_Twenty_Second_Year_of_Tiberius> “pater patriae.” Nova Roma. 2007. <www.novaroma.org/nr/Pater_Patriae_(Nova_Roma)>  Mosley, John.  “Common Errors in ‘Star of Bethlehem’ Planetarium Shows.” Reprinted from the Planetarian, Third Quarter 1981, International Planetarium Society, Inc. n.d. <http://www.ips-planetarium.org/?page=a_mosley1981>  Augustus. The Deeds of the Devine Augustus. #35.  Augustus, Caesar.  The Deeds of the Devine Augustus (Res gestae divi Augusti). #35. Trans. Thomas Bushnell. 1998. <http://classics.mit.edu/Augustus/deeds.html>  “pater patriae.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2018. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/pater-patriae>  confluence logo. Clipground.com. 2019. <https://clipground.com/images/confluence-logo-1.jpg>  Hochhalter, Howard. “The Star of Kings and the Magi.” 2023. video. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGTmwuqznec
[2] Gertoux, Gerard. “Herod the Great and Jesus.” Platner, Samuel Ball. A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome. 1929. “Forum Augustum.” <http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/_Texts/PLATOP*/Forum_Augustum.html#Aedes_Martis_Ultoris>  CR “Temple of Mars Ultor, Rome.” World History Encyclopedia. n.d. <https://www.worldhistory.org/article/617/temple-of-mars-ultor-rome/>
Orbis. Stanford University. map calculator of the Roman world. n.d. <https://orbis.stanford.edu/> “Census.” <https://books.google.com/books?id=Cu89AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA403&lpg=PA403&dq=greek+word+for+census&source=bl&ots=LM1MjmCiJt&sig=1_yjJgyNxcCcSWZvf0QK69IJuMw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjx0oPA04DYAhXo6YMKHebvAEwQ6AEIejAK#v=onepage&q=census&f=false>  Livius, Titus. The History of Rome. Book 33, #28. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.02.0144:book=33:chapter=28&highlight=crier>  Pliny the Elder.  The Natural History. 1.Dedication C. Plinius Secundus to His Friend Titus Vespasian. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.02.0137:book=1:chapter=dedication&highlight=crier#note-link34>  Gertoux, Gerard. “Dating the two Censuses of Quirinius.” n.d. Academia.edu.  <http://www.academia.edu/3184175/Dating_the_two_Censuses_of_Quirinius>  Heinrich, Bill. Mysteries of the Messiah. 2016. “The Registration (Census).” <https://www.mysteriesofthemessiah.net/2016/01/04-03-09-bethlehem-c-6-5-b-c-the-registration-or-census/#_ftnref3>  Hochhalter. “The Star of Kings and the Magi.”
[3] Orbis. Stanford University. “Travel Time from Ancient Rome.” Brilliant Maps. 2023. <https://brilliantmaps.com/travel-time-rome/>
[4] Matthew 2:2. BibleHub.com. n.d. lexicon. <https://biblehub.com/lexicon/matthew/2-2.htm> Matthew 2:2 BibleHub.com. interlinear. n.d. <https://biblehub.com/interlinear/matthew/2-2.htm> Matthew 2:2. NetBible.net. “4352.” n.d. <https://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Mat&chapter=2&verse=2> “G4352. Greek Dictionary (Lexicon-Concordance). definitions. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/4352.html>
[5] Luke 2:4. Smallwood, E. Mary.  The Jews Under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletian. 2nd Ed. 1981. p 152. <https://books.google.com/books?id=jSYbpitEjggC&lpg=PA151&ots=VWqUOinty4&dq=census%20Syria%20Rome&pg=PP1#v=snippet&q=register&f=false>  Heinrich, Bill. Mysteries of the Messiah. 2016. <https://www.mysteriesofthemessiah.net/2016/01/04-03-09-bethlehem-c-6-5-b-c-the-registration-or-census/>  Smith, William; Wayte, William; Marindin, G.E., Ed. A Dictionary  of Greek and Roman Antiquities. 1890. “commentaries, #4;” “census.” <https://books.google.com/books?id=Cu89AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA403&lpg=PA403&dq=greek+word+for+census&source=bl&ots=LM1MjmCiJt&sig=1_yjJgyNxcCcSWZvf0QK69IJuMw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjx0oPA04DYAhXo6YMKHebvAEwQ6AEIejAK#v=onepage&q=register&f=false>  Hochhalter. “The Star of Kings and the Magi.”  Tarwacka, Anna. “The consequences of avoiding census in Roman law.” 2013. <https://www.academia.edu/5525859/The_consequences_of_avoiding_census_in_Roman_law>
[6] Matthew 2:3.  Strabo. Geography. Chapters II-III. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0239:book=1:chapter=2&highlight=magi> <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0239:book=15:chapter=3&highlight=magi>  Diogenes Laertius. Lives of Eminent Philosophers. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0258:book=1:chapter=prologue&highlight=magi>  Stillwell, Richard et. al. “Gaza Israel.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=gaza&highlight=caravan>
[7] Plato. Republic. Book 9, Section 572e. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0168:book=9:section=572e&highlight=magi>  “Daniel, Chief of Wise Men – a Hebrew Magi?” TheOdds.website. 2018, revised 2023. <https://theodds.website/daniel-chief-of-wise-men-a-hebrew-magi/>
[8] Matthew 2:4-6. Hochhalter. “The Star of Kings and the Magi.”

Arabian Desert – Two Routes to Bethlehem?

 

Matthew’s Nativity account of the wise men, the Magi, reports their quest to find the newborn King of the Jews first took them to Jerusalem, then on to Bethlehem. Persia-to-Judea travel had one formidable obstacle the great Arabian Desert one of the largest, if not the largest desert, in the world.[1]

Arabian Desert, Persia

Magi were well-known by reputation for their origins in Persia east of Judea hundreds of miles away. Famed thirteenth century explorer, Marco Polo, wrote in 1298 of his travels to the Province of Persia searching for information about the Magi.[2]

Polo located the burial place of the “magi who came to adore Christ in Bethlehem” in a city called Saba, about 50 miles southwest of Tehran, Iran.[3 Traveling on, he went to the castle of “Palasata, which means the castle of fire-worshippers,” the same name for magi found in the Talmud.[4]

“…anciently, three kings of that country went to adore a certain king who was newly born, and carried with them three offerings, namely, gold, frankincense, and myrrh:  gold, that they might know if he were an earthly king; frankincense, that they might know if he were God; and myrrh, that they might know if he were a mortal man.” Maro Polo [5]

Matthew’s account neither discloses the number of magi nor that they were kings. Nevertheless, Marco Polo identified the Magi as three kings from Dyava, Saba and the castle of Palasata who presented “three offerings” to the baby.[6]

Parthian Empire’s trade routes 2nd BC – 1st AD

Erza 7:9 mentions how a similar journey from Babylon to Jerusalem took four months. Ezra was written after the Hebrew’s release from Babylonian captivity though still under the rule of the Persian Empire in the late 300 BC era.[7]

Scrolling forward to the last quarter of the 200s BC, trade routes had been established by the Parthian Empire making travel relatively much faster.[8] Commonly referred to as “caravan routes,” they were the busy interstate highways of the day.

Dotted with trading posts, they were the best practical means for land travel. Especially true considering the foreboding Arabian Desert.[9]

Shortest, easiest and safest travel option to Judea was the established trade route around the northern edges of the Arabian Desert. Known as the northern Parthian loop, it could be used for travel from Persia to Jerusalem.

From Seleucia near present day Baghdad, then to Jerusalem was approximately 700 miles.[10] Coursing north through the populous area east of the Euphrates River, the route went to Edessa in southeast Turkey; turned west to Damascus, Syria; then turned south following the ancient King’s Highway paralleling the east side of the Jordan River.

Magi wanted to start in Jerusalem to seek guidance from ruler of the land of Judea, King Herod. Trade route spurs going west to Jerusalem off the King’s Highway across the Jordan River were limited to only three.

Traveling from the north, the first two spur routes were not logical choices for a Jerusalem destination. Lastly was the route opportunity heading west by fording the Jordan going by Jericho just above the Dead Sea.

Jericho was also the location of King Herod’s winter palace where he would soon travel during his final days.[11] Crossing of the Jordan near Jericho was the same place where the Hebrews entered into the land of Abraham after their wonderings in the Sinai wilderness.[12]

Since Jerusalem was not located on the common caravan routes, arrival of the Magi in the city was a newsworthy event where everyone seemed to be aware of it.[13] Attention may also have been garnered by their conspicuous caravan of camels; their foreign grandiose attire; or perhaps they were even regarded as kings from Persia.[14]

Nevertheless, it is obvious the Magi were recognized on the highest social hierarchy given that King Herod granted the Magi immediate access to his palace. After consulting with Jewish religious experts and a deal with the Magi, Herod directed them to go to Bethlehem located only 5 miles to the south of Jerusalem.

MT 2:16  “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious…”(NIV)

After being warned not to return home the way they came, the Magi took a different route back to their homeland was there a second route?

Faced with the new challenge, Herod would assuredly know the Magi were in Jerusalem if they returned home the way they came. If the Magi went around the city, they would still have to go by Jericho where undoubtedly area look-outs would certainly inform the King.

Bethlehem to Petra trade routes

Another return route was possible although it was longer – the southern Parthian loop via Petra.

Literally at the doorstep of the Magi in Bethlehem, the southern Parthian trade route avoided going through Jerusalem or by Jericho.

Routing south out of Bethlehem to Hebron was the Central Ridge, south of the Dead (Salt) Sea connecting to the Spice Route, then ran to the King’s Highway and on to Petra. From Petra, the southern Parthian route went across the Arabian Desert to central Persia.[15]

Other less traveled minor route spurs off the Central Ridge Road had trade-offs. While these routes may have shortened the southward path, they were probably more difficult passages with fewer trading posts and greater risks such as robbers, water supply, etc.

Do these Southern secondary trade routes options corroborate and add credibility to the Gospel account of Matthew and the Nativity of Jesus of Nazareth? 
 

Updated December 14, 2023.

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REFERENCES:

[1] Matthew 2:1, 12. “Arabian Desert.” New World Encyclopedia. n.d. <https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Arabian_Desert>  “Arabian Desert.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Arabian-Desert>
[2] Polo, Marco.  The Travels of Marco Polo the Venetian.  1818.  Ed. Ernest Rhys. 1908 Edition.  Chapter XI. p 50. <http://archive.org/stream/marcopolo00polouoft#page/50/mode/2up> “Marco Polo.” Bibliography.com. 2020 <https://www.biography.com/explorer/marco-polo> “Marco Polo and his travels.” Silk-Road.com. n.d. <http://www.silk-road.com/artl/marcopolo.shtml>
[3] Saveh, Iran (untitled). Bing.com/maps. Map. 2020. <https://www.bing.com/maps?osid=caeb94c6-d007-42ed-a5c8-19628ce0cebc&cp=35.411126~50.908664&lvl=9&v=2&sV=2&form=S00027> Hartinger, J. A. “Saba and Sabeans.” Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 13. 1912.  NewAdvent.org. 2009. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13285c.htm>  Strabo. Geography. Chapter III. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0239:book=15:chapter=3&highlight=magi>Stillwell, Richard, et. al. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. “Hatra Iraq.” n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=hatra&highlight=caravan>
[4] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. The Soncino Press. 1935-1948. Sanhedrin 98a. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_98.html#98a_22> Sanhedrin 74b. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_74.html>  “Babylonia.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10263-magi>
[5] Polo. The Travels of Marco Polo the Venetian.  p 50.
[6] Matthew 2:11.
[7] “Ezra and Nehemiah, Books of.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2020. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ezra-and-nehemiah-books-of> “Ezra.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ezra-Hebrew-religious-leader>
[8] “Trade between the Romans and the Empires of Asia.” MetMuseum.org. 2020. <https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/silk/hd_silk.htm> “Map of Roman & Parthian Trade Routes.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2020. <https://www.ancient.eu/image/11763/map-of-roman–parthian-trade-routes>  Hopkins, Edward C. D. “History of Parthia.”  Parthia.com. 2008. <http://www.parthia.com/parthia_history.htm>  “Parthian Empire.” Iran Chamber Society. 2020. <http://www.iranchamber.com/history/parthians/parthians.php>
[9] Stillwell, Richard, et. al. “Bernice or Pernicide Portum (Madinet el-Haras) Egypt.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=berenice-1&highlight=caravan>  Stillwell, Richard, et. al. “Beroea (Aleppo) Syria.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=beroea&highlight=caravan> Stillwell, Richard, et. al. “Dura Europos Syria.”  The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=dura-europos&highlight=caravan> Stillwell, Richard, et. al. “Palmyra (Tadmor) Syria.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=palmyra&highlight=caravan> “Trade Routes/” National Museum of American History. n.d. <https://web.archive.org/web/20160618154742/http://americanhistory.si.edu/numismatics/parthia/frames/pamaec.htm> “Chapter 4. Iran Historical Maps Arsacid Parthian Empire, Armenian Kingdom.” “Iran Historical Maps Arsacid Parthian Empire, Armenian Kingdom.” Iran Politics Club. n.d. <http://iranpoliticsclub.net/maps/maps04/index.htm>  “Roads in Israel – 1st Century AD.” Bible-History.com. Map. n.d. <https://www.bible-history.com/maps/first-century-roads-israel2.jpg>
[10] II Kings 25:1-17; Jeremiah 52:3-30. Middle East. Bing.com. Map. 2020. <https://www.bing.com/maps?osid=a2a3d404-6095-4abc-9ac8-b6d695d42293&cp=34.13455~41.097873&lvl=7&v=2&sV=2&form=S00027>  “Atlas of Iran Maps.” IranPoliticsClub.net. Chapter 4. March, 2000. <http://www.iranpoliticsclub.net/maps/maps04/index.htm> “Spice Ways.”  Israel Antiquities Authority.  Map.  n.d.  2014.  <http://www.mnemotrix.com/avdat/spiceroute2.gif>  “Trade Routes of Palestine.” Bible Odyssey. Map. 2019. <https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/tools/map-gallery/v/map-trade_routes-g-01>
[11] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews.  Trans. and commentary.  William Whitson.  The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Book XVII. Chapter VI. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>   Geva, Hillel. “Archaeology in Israel: Jericho – The Winter Palace of King Herod.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2020. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jericho-the-winter-palace-of-king-herod> “Herodian Jericho.” Oxford Bible Studies Online. 2020. <http://www.oxfordbiblicalstudies.com/article/opr/t393/e57>
[12] Numbers 20:19, 22:1; Deuteronomy 32:48, 34:1-4; Joshua 3:14-17. “Roads in Israel.” Bible History Online. Map.  n.d.  <http://www.bible-history.com/maps/ancient-roads-in-israel.html>
[13] Matthew 2:3.
[14] Strabo. Geography. Chapters II-III. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0239:book=1:chapter=2&highlight=magi> <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0239:book=15:chapter=3&highlight=magi>  Diogenes Laertius. Lives of Eminent Philosophers. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0258:book=1:chapter=prologue&highlight=magi>  Stillwell, Richard et. al. “Gaza Israel.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=gaza&highlight=caravan>
[15] Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Trans. and commentary. William Whitson. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. 4.451. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0148:book=4:section=451&highlight=petra>“Major Trade Routes.” Bibarch.com. Map. n.d. <http://www.bibarch.com/images/Map-Regions.jpg> Ancient Israel trade routes (untitled).  BibleWalks.com. Map. 2011. <https://web.archive.org/web/20190414151021/https://biblewalks.com/Photos72/IncenseRoute.JPG> “Ancient Palestine.” The History of Israel. Map. n.d. <http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/images/AncientRoadsandCities2.jpg>  “Old Testament Map & History.” The History of Israel.  “Ancient Palestine.” Map. n.d.  <http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/old-testament-map.html> ;   “The Geographical, Historical, & Spiritual Significance of Shechem.” Bible.org. 2020. <https://bible.org/article/geographical-historical-spiritual-significance-shechem> “Spice Ways.” Israel Antiquities Authority. Map. n.d. Mnemotrix Systems, Inc. 2014.  <http://www.mnemotrix.com/avdat/spiceroute2.gif>  “The Urantia Papers’ First Century Palestine.” The Urantia Book Fellowship. Map. n.d. 2013. <http://web.archive.org/web/20070820230158/http://www.urantiabook.org/graphics/gifmap1.htm>  “Eastern Desert.” Pinterest.com. Map. n.d. <https://i.pinimg.com/originals/cb/8e/5c/cb8e5cdfa8e96c2fdc1eb3c884cc5f75.jpg> Last accessed 19 Dec. 2021. Stillwell, Richard, et. al. “Petra (Selah) Jordan.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=petra-2&highlight=caravan> Stillwell, Richard, et. al. “Elusa (El-Khalasa) Israel.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites.. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=elusa-2&highlight=caravan>

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

 

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

An entirely new religion was spawned by the teachings and events surrounding Jesus of Nazareth – Christianity. Something profound eventually 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.[1]

Religion archenemies of Christianity commonly agree on the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. The fact that Jesus was crucified is a fundamental component of the Jewish religion to disavow Jesus as the Messiah.[3]

Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are accounts about the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. They point out many Messiah prophecies that were fulfilled and cite many witness accounts to corroborate their accounts. Whether or not they were just a series of extreme coincidences points to the legal Doctrine of Chances.

Messiah prophecies that may have been fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth originate in the Tenakh, the Old Testament. Christianity views prophecies that they believe refer to the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus, such as the Branch prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah; the Psalms; the crucifixion and the Resurrection.

Judaism does not unanimously recognize some of these prophecies pertain to the Messiah. Renowned Jewish sages, including Rabbi Rashi and Rabbi Maimonides, had differing views on some prophecies deemed to be messianic by Christians.

One Messiah prophecy; however, is virtually undisputed by Jews or Christians alike – the Messiah would be born in the lineage of King David.[11] Gospels Matthew and Luke report that Jesus was a royal heir to David, a fact not a disputed by Judaism.

Birth circumstances described in Matthew and Luke spell out a scenario that uncannily lends credence for the Nativity story being dubbed “the greatest story ever told.” The Nativity story begins in three diverse countries of Rome, Persia and Judea, involves non-Jewish and non-Christian Magi, astronomy and a Roman Caesar. The Nativity story ends by converging in one place – Bethlehem.

Months in the making by the Roman government, the decree by Caesar Augustus forced the location change of the birthplace of Jesus. The decree in Nazareth compelled Joseph and Mary in her late-stage of pregnancy to abruptly make the days-long trek to Bethlehem where she went into labor. Had Jesus been born in Nazareth, it would have completely eliminated the potential fulfillment of Micah’s Bethlehem prophecy.[7]

Magi from the East presumed to be from Persia 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. They were compelled by what they saw in the sky, not by any prophecies or scriptures.

Multiple rare planet and star conjunctions occurred in an unusually brief period of time shortly before the birth of Jesus, seconds in astronomical time. Typically these close conjunctions occur centuries or millennia apart; however, all occurred over the course of only months. [8] NASA astronomy science and technology confirms it all happened, both in timing and close proximity.[9]

Assessing all the circumstances involving the life of Jesus of Nazareth obviously has a direct impact on believability. The U.S. legal Doctrine of Chances suggests it was not an accident. Aside from prophecies coinciding with the birth, life, death and Resurrection, secular history and astronomy science corroborate the conclusion of the Doctrine.

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

 

Updated November 14, 2023.

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[6] Matthew 2:1, 22; 27:2; Mark 15:1; Luke 2:1-2; John 19:1.
[7] Micah 5:2 (verse 1 in Jewish Bibles).
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[10] Matthew 2:1-3.
[11] 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