Faith of the Apostles 2

CHAPTER TWO

Time In A Bottle

As if it were too much to expect religion to be expedient in its wealth of data, much has been made as to the date of Jesus’ birth. If nothing else, more factual data presents itself in religious and secular history than is necessary to arrive at an accurate answer. Only an uncalled for suspicion of inquiring minds has kept us from having this material.

It is important to know when Jesus was born because it tells us what was happening in the world around him, and to what powers he and his disciples were subject. It is important to know because the things he did happened in the context of the world’s history. The fact of his being in the world, changed it forever.

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was Governor of Syria)

One might easily slip into a trap baited with valid historical figures of the era, however, any connection with the time period involved and the characters named, is purely hypothetical.

“Luke sets his story against the background of secular history. Caesar Augustus ruled from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. No other source makes any mention of a census of ‘all the world’ -a hyperbole for the Roman Empire- during his reign. An enrollment in the province of Syria for the purpose of taxation was undertaken in 6 A.D. (7) when Quirinius was governor.”

Indeed the theologians are correct, with certain omissions. Cyrinius and Quirinius are one and the same person, the difference in names is only relevant to the language you use. The Interpreter’s Bible goes on to note:

“Since Quirinius was never Roman legate in Syria during the lifetime of Herod the Great, and Luke’s earlier narratives assume that John the Baptist -and therefore Jesus also- was born while Herod was still King of Judea, it would appear that the evangelist has been guilty of an anachronism.”

“In making this point Lk. seems to have made use of historical data with which he was imperfectly acquainted. A census was held about 6 A.D., when Quirinius was legate of Syria… This is referred to in Ac. 5:37, and Lk. was probably uncertain of its date and ignored the inconsistency involved here in associating it with the reign of Herod. A census ordered by Augustus could scarcely have taken place in Herod’s dominions without provoking disturbances and would be unlikely to be unnoticed by Josephus.”

With the errors in Luke’s story, we may assume that he drew on many sources for his information, some of it contradictory, some of it plainly in error, and much without a knowledge of the history of Palestine and Rome. In reference to the dates of audits and taxations, the Interpreter’s Bible states, “…it would appear that the evangelist has been guilty of an anachronism.”

Here, intellectual endeavor seems to have gone to sleep at the moment of great discovery. Let us take the position of upholding both the stories of Luke and Matthew, even though they are unrelated.

Both authors note that Jesus and John were born during the reign of Herod the Great. If they relate this fact with a taxation of any kind, they are not just guilty of an anachronism, but of having no knowledge of recent Palestinian history. They are guilty of trusting that whatever source material they had at their disposal was correct. Obviously, it was not!

Our only other option would be to suppose that a scribe, or higher dignitary, took it upon themselves to amend Luke’s work at some later date. For what purpose, we can only imagine, but that part of our mystery will shortly be brought to light.

Cyrinius and his ‘tax’ were of a later date than Luke’s story would have us believe, exactly twelve years later. And it was not a tax, nor was it for a first enrollment for a new Roman tax, it was for an audit of the treasury held by Archelaus when he was relieved of his position in Jerusalem. Sent back to Rome, he was tried and then banished to an exile from which he never returned.

“In A.D. 6 he was accused of gross mismanagement and was promptly summoned to Rome by Augustus. He could not defend himself and was speedily removed from office and banished.”

If, as Matthew insinuates, Jesus was born in 6 B.C., then when Archelaus was exiled and removed from office in 6 A.D., he would have been twelve years old. Scripture does testify to these dates when it notes that Jesus appeared in the Temple of Jerusalem after Archelaus was gone, as Luke has it, at the age of twelve. Calculating from the date of Jesus birth from 6 B.C. the date we arrive at when he is twelve, is 6 A.D., the very year in which history, and the Bible, record the end of Archelaus’ reign.

“And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem… ”

It is amazing that theologians who used Josephus’ works, and the accounts of the evangelist and the Romans, did not take greater care to preserve for us the several records of these events. It would almost appear that they were more interested in saving the ‘honor’ of a man-made tradition than to find the true path of Jesus’ younger life.

One other date will assist us in fixing the date of Jesus birth, and it comes from Luke.

“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea… the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.”

The fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar was 29 A.D.

“Lk.’s elaborate dating conforms to secular patterns, such as Thucydides ii, 2( the closest classical parallel to this passage), and serves to set the Gospel event in the framework of world history. The fifteenth year of Tiberius : A.D. 28-9…”

Pilate was appointed governor of Judea in 29 A.D. It is, therefore, stated in the Gospel that John is preaching in the wilderness when Jesus comes to him in, 29 A.D. If Jesus had been born as Matthew depicts, and we will provide a variance of one or two years, he would have been between the ages of thirty-three and thirty-five years old when he was baptized by John, and then began his ministry.

If we use Luke’s determination, a dating by Luke’s version of historical data, Jesus would only have been twenty-three years old. This is completely unacceptable in light of history (Josephus), and even in light of a tradition that has him crucified in the year 32 A.D. (33). He would have only been in his mid-twenties. Luke himself denies this:

“And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age… ”

The error in using any other dating for Jesus’ birth would have had Tiberius ruling in Rome, when in fact, the Bible is particularly clear that Augustus Caesar (Octavian) was Emperor of Rome.

Luke’s story gets lost in the combining of two separate cult myths concerning Jesus’ birth, the flight of the family to Egypt, and the return to the Temple in Jerusalem in 6 A.D. when Jesus was twelve years old. One must begin to wonder just how old Luke’s sources were, for even seventy years of secular history could not have become so jumbled. I will make no assumptions, but the intertwining of these separate and distinct moments in Jesus’ life would seem to assure us that the writing of Luke is not as close to the Teacher’s life as we are led to believe.

Later in this treatise we will show how even expert, professional theologians ask the same question, how could sixty or seventy year old history be forgotten so quickly by those who wrote the Gospels?

The Bible is considered to be an inspired work, but an examination of Luke’s history would seem to shatter that illusion. Certainly God is not ignorant of human history. Wouldn’t Luke have had a working knowledge of his world’s history, especially a relatively recent history? He was not an ignorant man, rather legend has us believe that he was well lettered, a physician. But he was a Greek, not a Jew. His preface to Luke and Acts tell us that neither he nor his good friend Paul (Saul) were eyewitnesses, and he admits by his own words that neither were his sources.

Then we must believe that the source material available to him, including any oral tradition that existed in that time period, was faulty, or passed on by third parties who were again, not eyewitnesses. The perception of these events was obviously far beyond the limit of Luke’s knowledge, and the Gospel itself seems more of gossip rather than inspired factual data.

To a people who believed with fervor in omens portrayed by heavenly events, eclipses, comets, and the constellations of the heavens, no such event is of record in any history, including a vast majority of Bible text. We must also take into account, the story of the, Magi. Jerusalem, Herod’s abode, is at most a week’s travel from Galilee, and possibly a day to Bethlehem. Yet, Herod waited two years for the wise men to return. If any star had led them for that length of time, it would have been more than a miraculous event. This we contend not because of the Magi’s delay, but Herod’s willingness to wait that long.

He also had seen the, ‘star’. It would seem that the author demanded that in some way, this epic event follow the story of Moses and the murder of all the male children of the Jews. But if we look at recorded history, and Herod’s command concerning the firstborn of Israel, this period of two years becomes essential.

In the Gospels, with the exception of Luke, we are bereft of Herod’s order to murder, “…all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region.”

In fact, there is no such tale recorded in any history, by the Idumeans, the Romans, the Jews, or anywhere else in biblical or secular history. For whatever reason, the birth narrative of Luke as introduced by verses 1-3, does not exist in the real world. Regardless of the acclaim we might give to the child, it did not take place in the historical setting that Luke gives it. Much doubt is raised as to its authenticity.

Is Matthew then to be believed when it states, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King…”

Yes, it can be believed because it is true, and in this case several records tell us of an event that did occur in history and that is recorded by historians, but it did not involve the murder of the ‘children’, but of the ‘first born children of Israel’, the chief men of Palestine. This event will be discussed at length.

“Herod the Great was made King of the Jews by the Roman Senate in 40 B.C., and gained control of his realm a few years later. He died in 4 B.C.”

One may investigate any history of the world and discover this fact recorded in numerous volumes.

Simple reasoning, guided by the Gospel itself tell us that Jesus was born according to Matthew, prior to 4 B.C.. Note the story of the Magi, if Herod was tricked by the wisemen, the scriptures tell us he only found out two years after he sent them out to search for the male child. Why? Matthew recounts just enough of this story to wet out appetites, and cause us to make some astute observations

“Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him. When Herod the King heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.”

The Gospel forces us to assume that some prophecy or legend existed which made Herod believe that a king had been born into the world, one who would eventually take over his throne and his kingdom. In this story, the writer of Matthew has hit upon a theme of great importance, which later becomes one of the chief reasons for the crucifixion doctrine. If Matthew would have its way, the child began as King of the Jews, and the Christ died as King of the Jews.

Fearful of this prophecy, Herod sends the Magi to find the child, and report his whereabouts for the obvious purpose of ending the threat to his crown. Knowing the history of Herod, and as the Gospels report his character, he was fully capable of believing such a tale.

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all the region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men.”

Jesus had to have been born, at the latest, in 6 B.C.. The wise men had obviously evaded Herod for two years.” (Note the age of the children Herod ordered murdered.) “And being warned in a dream, not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.”

“The adoration of the Magi, like other narratives in this chapter, has no parallel in any of the first century Christian writing. There is thus, no way to ascertain whether it has been embellished or indeed, whether it happened at all as a matter of literal fact.”

Many unsolved problems present themselves within the conflict of the Gospels, for neither Mark, the oldest of the four, or John, purportedly written by one of the very Apostles who were with Jesus, even mention his birth. Such a wondrous event certainly could not have escaped the attention of the Gospel writers. And, as we have already mentioned, Luke does not expound on the virgin birth other than to remark, in the Greek, that ‘Joseph, who had been espoused to a virgin…..’ As theologians state, he had no other comment to make about Jesus birth, nor does he intend the idea that Mary was a virgin when he was born.

No where else in scripture or history, is Herod’s act of murder recorded, not even in Jewish history. The events of Herod’s reign are recorded in factual history that outlines the perverse acts of that madman, but nothing other than Matthew’s tale echoes a legend of the murder of the children which would parallel the story of Moses.

“…and he said (the king of Egypt) ‘When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, ye shall look upon the birthstool: if it be a son, then ye shall kill him… And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying; ‘Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.”

Luke certainly does not record it, and in fact, contradicts Matthew by telling us that at the birth, Joseph and Mary took the child and went to the Temple, “…to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the Law of the Lord…”

And following that Luke reports, “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.”

Certainly Joseph and Mary were pious Jews for they observed the Law of Moses. They performed the circumcision and all the rituals of the Passover, according to Luke, every year. And all this in the open, in Jerusalem, with Herod still alive and searching for ‘the child’, and worse, after Joseph had been warned to flee. Whether in conflict with Herod’s order to arrest all the first born of the House of Israel, or in non-compliance of the angel’s warnings, Joseph is in and out of Jerusalem at least once a year. Luke seems to have no knowledge of Matthew’s Christmas story, or of Jewish history.

Putting aside Matthew’s story of the nativity, Luke may be correct in his statement that Joseph brought his family to Jerusalem every year to celebrate the Passover. It was not by choice but was obligatory for all males to attend. We have two courses to investigate if Joseph, as it would appear, was not affected by Herod’s order. He was either not a first born, or he was of the priesthood and was not obliged to follow the king’s command. This however, does not seem likely, and does not comply with history’s dictates.

At this point, we lose all trace of that family until the year 6 A.D. Jesus is noted to have appeared in the temple in Jerusalem at the age of twelve. That would seem to validate both religious and secular history as to dates and places. It is the year in which Archelaus was arrested and taken to Rome to be tried for the crimes he had committed, and the money he had stolen from the Roman treasury in Jerusalem and Caesarea. Before this time, as Matthew would have us believe, going to the temple in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover would have been insane. But now, with Archelaus gone, it would have been safe.

We are torn between two legends concerning the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, Matthew with its dramatic scenario of a life and death adventure, and that of Luke’s exacting, history-laden documentary. Then which is correct? In part, both. Taking Matthew’s indicated date of birth of 6 B.C., let us turn once again to Luke.

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius (Quirinius) was governor of Syria.”

Luke is correct as far as the names of the historical character is concerned. He is in error concerning a tax, and his material is out of chronological order. I must repeat information already explored, and for good reason.

“Caesar Augustus ruled from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D.. No other source makes mention of a census of all the world -a hyperbole for the Roman Empire- during his reign… …it would appear that the evangelist has been guilty of an anachronism.”

“The installation of Coponius and the setting up of the necessary machinery for enrolling the citizens as provincials and for assessing the taxes were conducted by Quirinius, then governor of Syria. The resulting census, an echo of which is to be found in Luke 2:1-5, though apparently in error- it is dated a decade too early…”

Note that ‘assess’ means to, determine the rate or amount of, a tax. It means to, make an official evaluation of property for the purpose of taxation’. Neither this nor a census would involve a movement of an entire nation. That latter would, in fact, be of the greatest detriment to such an endeavor.

Luke could be forgiven his ‘anachronism’ if only Luke 2:1-3 had been put into its proper place with verse 42.

Again, I have no idea why theologians who manufactured the text just quoted, have such an aversion to recorded history. The date of the enrollment, actually an audit, is correct, but the purpose is lacking. The works of Josephus, Roman history, and the Papal library tell us why and when the audit took place.

“…and Cyrenius, one that had been consul, was sent by Caesar to take account of people’s effects in Syria, and to sell the house of Archelaus.”

Luke, unwittingly refers to it also. Compare.

According to Matthew, Archelaus took over the throne of Herod when the King died, which was 4 B.C.. Joseph and his family leave and go to Nazareth when they find that Archelaus has taken the place of his father.

“But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod…”

What nature of man was, Archelaus? Worse than his father, for he was not mad, only ruthless.

At the death of Herod, certain Jews came to Archelaus with a petition. During the last years of the king’s reign, he had allowed a Roman symbol to be erected in the Temple at Jerusalem. It was a golden eagle, the sign of Rome’s Emperor. Taking exception to this blasphemous act, a few young men were chosen to pull it down and remove it from the Temple proper. Upon hearing of this, Herod had the young men arrested and killed. During the melee, innocent blood was also spilled, including that of Judas and Matthias. These two men had been teachers of the law, Rabbi’s of the highest order and much respected by the people.

They petitioned Archelaus to arrest and punish the men who had killed these two teachers, and also to do away with the High Priest who had been appointed during the end of Herod’s reign. Archelaus was outraged. He had just begun the mourning of his father, and had not yet been verified as king by Rome. So, he implored these people to wait until a more appropriate moment to hear and consider their petitions. They refused to wait and demanded that he hear their case. This was considered, sedition.

“Now upon the approach of that feast of unleavened bread, which the law of their father’s had appointed for the Jews at this time, which feast is called the Passover, and is a memorial to their deliverance out of Egypt….. and when an innumerable multitude came thither out of the country, nay, from beyond its limits also, in order to worship God, the seditious lamented Judas and Matthias, those teachers of the laws, and kept together in the temple, and had plenty of food, because these seditious persons were not afraid to beg it.”

Archelaus tried to soothe their anger, not by pleadings, but by sending a regiment of troops to suppress what he feared would be a violent uprising. The Jews assaulted the troops and drove them away, including their captain. Archelaus then sent his entire army, cavalry and foot soldiers, to quell the riot.

“Now Archelaus thought there was no way to preserve the entire government, but by cutting off those who made this attempt upon it; so he sent out the whole army upon them, and sent the horsemen to prevent those that had their tents without the temple, and to kill such as ran away from the footmen when they thought themselves out of danger; which horsemen slew three thousand men, while the rest went to the neighboring mountains.”( See footnote 50)

After killing three thousand people during the Passover feast of 4 B.C., “Archelaus ordered proclamation to be made to them all that they should retire to their own homes; so they went away, and left the festival, out of fear somewhat worse which would follow, although they had been so bold by reason of their want of instruction.” (See footnote 50)

Three thousand killed in the very shadow of the temple, and the wilderness that John and Jesus were to visit became less than empty for it was filled with the remnant of armies and seditious uprisings. It was inhabited by untold numbers, all hiding and waiting.

Ten years later, events take place in the Empire that far overshadow the moment, and lead us to the next recorded event in Jesus’ life.

Judea is given over to the province of Syria and Archelaus is banished. This was accomplished when Octavian sent Cyrenius to audit the treasury held in Jerusalem by Archelaus. This was an audit of the value of the treasury and not a taxation or census that required the Jews to travel to, ‘the home of their birth.’ Josephus lays further claim to the unrest in Palestine.

“Now at this time there were ten thousand disorders in Judea which were like tumults…”

Josephus also speaks of a ‘taxation’ which was undertaken in Syria, but this was to value the holdings of Archelaus, and not the Jews. The audit was finished in 6 A.D., in the 37th year of the Battle of Actium, which took place in 31 B.C., another historical fact that attributes to the accurate age of Jesus and his birth.

“Now Cyrenius, a Roman Senator, and one who has gone through other magistracies, and had passed through them till he had been consul, and one who, on other accounts, was of great dignity, came at this time into Syria, with a few others, being sent by Caesar to be a judge of that nation, and to take an account of their substance: Coponius also, a man of the equestrian order, was sent together with him, to have the supreme power over the Jews. Moreover, Cyrenius came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus’ money…”

“When Cyrenius had now disposed of Archelaus’ money, and when the taxings were come to a conclusion, which were made in the thirty-seventh year of Caesar’s victory over Antony at Actium…”

This statement proves two points for us, as if it were necessary. Who opposed Marc Antony and Cleopatra VII in the battle? None other than, Octavian, who was pronounced by the Senate, Caesar Augustus. What year was this naval battle fought? In the year 31 B.C. The thirty-seventh anniversary would have been 6 A.D..

For those who hunger for the history of Jesus, this is the most factual data that recorded history can offer up to us, whether we choose to believe it or not. The reason for this audit over Judea and Archelaus? Obviously, he had been pilfering the Roman’s tax money, using the labor of the Jews for his own purposes. Noting Archelaus’ violent activities in Palestine, Caesar had him deposed and ordered an audit to find out how much of Rome’s wealth he had stolen .

Archelaus was taken to Rome in disgrace, never to return in power to Judea. He was banished. To study the biblical and historical dates important to this work, please refer to Appendix A.

Now let us repeat the Gospel story in order to underline a point.

“And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream saying, ‘Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.'”

“But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Arise and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.’ And he arose and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee.”

Without need of dates, these events did take place. History validates the Gospel story, and the Gospel story agrees completely with secular history. Much of the time this is true. The contradictions exist only in the hearts of the blind.

Despite some bad traffic management on the part of an angel, which I have never heard of before, we are once again exposed to the fact that their is a contradiction in the thought that the Bible is a totally ‘inspired’ work. Joseph and family, however, escape the clutches of Herod’s son.

“But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither; notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee.”

I was not aware that angels made mistakes! Especially errors that could easily cause one’s death. Here, the writer compounds his error by entering another dream, this time from God Himself, telling Joseph to flee the danger, and also in order that prophecy might be fulfilled.

“….. that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Unfortunately the prophets that Matthew refers to did not say that, they said:

“For lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come upon his head; for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb…”

This statement, of course, was made to Manoah’s wife concerning the calling and birth of Samson. He also was called as a, Nazarite.

That is one who is called of God before his birth, set aside, a chosen of the Lord, the God of Hosts, one who is of a special calling and mission, an anointed. It would appear that the writer, much the same as Luke, had little or no knowledge of the ancient history of the Jews. We need only see the calling of Jeremiah for another confirmation of Jesus birth and calling.

And here again, even noted Christian theologians doubt the very words of the text used in the Gospel story.

“Nazareth would then be just invented as a false historization… The reference to ‘the prophets’ (plural) is somewhat vague. It is not impossible that this vagueness is intentional and allows the double reference to neser (sprout) in Isa. 11:1 and nazir in Jg 13:5, the former with explicit reference to Messiah in the Targum.”

But the event is noteworthy in that Jesus is shown returning to Jerusalem in 4 B.C., at the age of two, at the time of Herod’s death. He flees again, and in Matthew’s, Mark’s, and John’s stories, we never hear from him again until he appears in John’s camp to be baptized.

But now we have an alternative to this story and its myriad contradictions. It is part of a recorded history that fully explains the reason for Mary’s journey with Joseph, to the very edge of Jerusalem. It gives us a valid comparison to the stories in Matthew and Luke, but it raises a shadowed mystery that precipitates a search for answers concerning the main subject of these two Gospels.

Let us move to the time of Jesus’ birth, 6 B.C., for in this year, a momentous event took place in recorded history. For the most exacting account we must turn once again to, Josephus.

It is common knowledge that in his last days, Herod the Great was extremely ill. He was driven to madness, which the people of Judea believed was inflicted upon him by God as a punishment for his cruel deeds. One who has murdered two of his own wives, his wife’s brother, and three of his own sons, would seem deserving of divine punishment. However, the most horrific deed was yet to come.

“….. again to Jericho, where he grew so choleric, that it brought him to do all things like a madman; and though he were near his death, he contrived the following wicked designs. He commanded that all the principal men of the entire Jewish nation, wheresoever they lived, should be called to him. Accordingly, there were a great number that came, because the whole nation was called, and all men heard of his call, and death was the penalty of such as should despise the epistles that were sent to call them.”

This would have entailed a massive movement of people throughout all Palestine. Many of these people may have traveled with their families, for they had no idea why the king had ordered them all to Jerusalem. Little did they know that it was to see to their murder.

“And now the king was in a wild rage against them all, the innocent as well as those that had afforded him ground for accusations; and when they were come, he ordered them all to be shut up in the Hippodrome, and sent for his sister Salome, and her husband Alexas, and spake thus to them.”

And why plan to commit such a crime against the first born of Israel?

“I shall die in a little time, so great are my pains; which death aught to be cheerfully born, and to be welcomed by all men; but what principally troubles me is this, that I shall die without being lamented, and without such mourning as men usually expect at a king’s death.”

In fact, Herod knew that he was hated and despised by the Jewish people, so much so that they would celebrate his death as an act of deliverance. Thus he gave this order to his sister.

“He desired that as soon as they see he hath given up the ghost, they shall place soldiers round the Hippodrome, while they do not know that he is dead; and that they shall not declare his death to the multitude till this is done, but that they shall give orders to have those that are in custody shot with darts; and that this slaughter of them all will cause that he shall not miss to rejoice on a double account; that as he is dying, they will make him secure that his will shall be executed in what he charges them to do; that he shall have the honor of a memorable mourning at his funeral, and such as never any king had before him; for then the whole nation would mourn from their very soul, which otherwise would be done in sport and mockery only.”

This order was made edict in 6 B.C., the year of Jesus’ birth, and made necessary the journey that is so famous concerning Joseph and his betrothed Mary, who was heavy with child. This pilgrimage was not made in 6 A.D., as Luke would have it, when Cyrenius came to Judea to discharge Archelaeus of his rulership and to audit the treasury.. There was no order given that is documented in history, to murder all the children up to the age of two, but the two years time in which the principal men of the Jews were gathered and placed in prison to be murdered at Herod’s death, is historical. This was the murder of the innocents, the first born of all Jewery, which was to be accomplished in the year 4 B.C.

Jesus was two years old at the time. In Matthew we are given an account of the family fleeing from Jerusalem.

“And when they were departed (the wise men), behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.”

They stayed in exile until the death of Herod, which came to pass in the year 4 B.C. But if Joseph and his family were safe, what of the others who were imprisoned in the hippodrome?

“But then Salome and Alexas, before the King’s death was made known, dismissed those that were shut up in the Hippodrome, and told them that the King ordered them to go away to their own lands, and take care of their own affairs, which was esteemed by the nation a great benefit; and now the King’s death was made public, when Salome and Alexas gathered the soldiery together in the amphitheater at Jericho; and the first thing they did was, they read Herod’s letter, written to the soldiery, thanking them for their fidelity and good will to him, and exhorting them to afford his son, Archelaus, whom he had appointed for their king, like fidelity and good will.”

All the chief men of Israel were called to come to Jerusalem from their own homes, the first born of every house, the ‘children’ of Israel. They were to make an accounting to Herod! All of them came under penalty of death, traveling from every corner of Palestine. Could this be the germ of a cult legend which later became Matthew’s vehicle for a birth narrative? It is the perfect reason for the family to be going through Bethlehem, but for one fact.

Matthew has had to deal with a cult myth that makes the ‘child’ the main vehicle of his tale, historical statement makes ‘Joseph’ the main character of its narrative.

We are, in fact, bereft of any material concerning Joseph, Jesus’ father, except for Matthew’s genealogy. Tradition has it that he died while Jesus was a child. What is the basis for this statement? There seems to be none. Joseph has been conveniently disposed of so that no remnant of his being exists. Why? Because if it did, we might find that the line of history goes through his character, giving rise to the idea that he was the principal of Herod’s search, not the child; that he was the one fleeing for his life; and that Mary was set aside as a virgin due to Joseph’s status in life, and not the child’s.

History denies the cult legend of Christianity, for it was Joseph who was in danger of his life, not the child. And had he arrived in Jerusalem under the king’s order, he would have been imprisoned and sentenced to death with the other, ‘principal men’ of the Jews. Obviously he was the first born of his house or he would not have been on this dangerous journey with a pregnant wife.

Luke also presents a nice tale of adventure and danger, to the child rather than to the father, as a result of the Roman, audit. In fact, it was due to Herod’s edict, twelve years earlier. The Roman ‘taxation’ did not create a movement of people, Herod’s edict did! For certain, there is more here than meets the eye.

Joseph and his family fled the scene of Herod’s insanity and retired into Galilee, and again I must insist that it was not because of any danger to the child, but the danger obviously threatening Joseph. We must also be aware that there is no mention of any ‘Christmas’ narrative anywhere in biblical text other than this one Gospel, and certainly not in the original. And there is no knowledge of such a tradition in the Jerusalem Church, Paul’s teachings, or Christianity until the late third century when the worship of Mithra began to die out in the Roman world.

For now, the nation was indebted to Salome, Herod’s sister, for saving the lives of many. At this point, Salome, Philip, and others were prepared to go with Archelaus to Rome, for only through permission and edict of the Roman emperor, Octavian, who was titled Caesar Augustus, could Herod the Great’s son become king as was announced in Herod’s will. Strangely enough, those who traveled with him were to oppose him.

The story we receive from the Bible, however, is totally different, diverging from history as though the events and people involved had never been.

“Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise…”

Of the original text left to us today, only Matthew and Luke deal with the nativity. The, Q, manuscript from which the synoptic Gospels are purported to have derived much of their information, does not deal with Jesus birth. Mark and John both begin with John preaching in the desert, and Paul never mentions any birth tradition. Of Matthew and Luke, the writer of Luke admits that he is receiving third hand information, resolving a combination of existing legends.

“For as much as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word…”

The writer of Luke does not attempt to hide the fact that he was not an eyewitness to the events described, and that he never saw the man, Jesus. He admits openly that others have already written of, “…those things which are most surely believed among us.”

Oddly, he does not say, “…those things that are most surely known among us.” Luke is obviously writing to a society which had neither seen, nor heard, the earthly, Jesus. Even those he is getting his information from are not witnesses to the fact, but the tradition he builds on came from those who received it from others, “…who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.” His own writing gives Luke away.

His is the last in a series of reports whose narrative he attempts, “… to write unto thee in order,” (in precise chronological order), “most excellent, Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed.”

We note here again that the word used, “…in order…” is the Greek, kathexes. Its exact meaning is to, place things according to the order, or succession, in which they happened. Luke, therefore, becomes the compilation of events in Jesus’ life, as they are reported to have happened by earlier text and oral tradition. On top of this, we are cautioned to note that the evangelist does some literary work of his own.

“Luke believed himself peculiarly fitted to improve on the story of his predecessor.”

With this information afforded us by the author, is it necessary to date Luke? It is not a prime consideration save to note the antiquity of the text. Being a compilation of earlier accounts from some unknown period of time, plus its having been tampered with, dating it would seem to serve little purpose. Its real importance is the relationship it may show between the writer of Luke, Saul of Tarsus, and the extent to which this particular cult legend had already spread into the world at large.

That Luke and Acts are of common authorship, is generally accepted by Christian theologians, and others of equal esteem. The vast majority agree that Luke and Acts are consecutive works which should be read in that order. The introduction we have noted, is an opening comment to both. They attest to historic events that had taken place far before Luke’s knowledge of them. Oddly enough, Luke exhibits a total lack of education in Jewish history, or ignores it deliberately.

This Gospel, in fact, dates somewhere between 70 A.D. and 90 A.D., which sets it some few years after the travels of Saul. Acts then, must predate the Gospel for it does not draw on the Gospel story but totally ignores it.

Matthew, as does Luke, uses sources from the, Q manuscript, and Mark. Mark is acknowledged as the earliest synoptic Gospel, dating between 50 and 70 A.D.. Matthew falls into the same general period as Luke, predated by Acts. Both contain obvious later additions and editions which have contaminated the original text, and in some instances contradict each other and recorded history.

We must ask ourselves again, under the circumstances, if dating two thousand year old manuscripts is productive to our search. We may state, without fear of rebuttal, that no one who was alive in 6 B.C., wrote anything about Jesus’ birth. In fact, no one seems historically aware of Jesus’ existence for at least thirty years after the fact.

Only one event is recorded between Jesus’ birth and his ministry, and it fits historical needs rather than being a valid theological event in his life. Our immediate question is who, with a full knowledge of the episode, would have kept records of the birth of a supposed carpenter’s son, especially at a time of extreme danger which the Gospels report.

Mary and Joseph, close relatives like Elizabeth and Zachariah, but certainly not the Romans or the Herods. This leaves only mother and father, to be told to relatives, and to later additions of the family, sisters and brothers.

Would the Magi have told anyone? Luke’s narrative has no wisemen, no search by Herod for the usurper of his crown. There is no legend of the murder of male children up to the age of two. There are only the shepherds. Angelic presences are offered up by Luke announcing the glory of Mary’s first-born child, and attesting to all who would hear;

“And this shall be a sign unto you: ye shall find the child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

This passage had to have been added centuries after the original text, for the language used, to one who lived in the first century, would have been ludicrous.

A perfect example of the trepidation we are facing in the matter of language, is the simple hymn, ‘Away In A Manager’. Today, the ‘manager’ is a stable where animals are housed. Not so in the first century. A ‘manger’, phatne in the Greek, was a, ‘crib’. And so our little ‘Christmas Carol’ becomes a rather nonsensical bit of poetry that is pitifully awkward, rather than a hymn of praise.

Swaddling was normally used for new born infants. It gave firm support to internal organs, arms and legs, and the naval wound. It supported the baby’s newly formed bones and is still a custom in the Orient today.

Strong’s definition: swaddling; sparganoo from spargonon. A strip meaning to strap or wrap with strips, to swathe an infant after the oriental custom “…wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a, phatne.”

Phatne, a crib! Manger: phatne (fat’-nay)

From: Pateomai (to eat) A crib for fodder. Used extensively in an agrarian society as a crib for new born infants. It was neither strange nor a mark of poverty in Bethlehem at the time.

In the first century, feeding cribs were used for the feeding of animals. When a child was born, one of these ‘cribs’ would be cleaned and used as a bed for the infant. There was nothing strange or unusual for Jesus to be provided with such care. The only strange occurrence is our modern use of the word, manger i.e.; a stable. This is completely out of context with first century usage of the word, and is an improper idiom.

Topos; room (but not a room as such, but to have room, space.)

Apparently a primary word, a spot (general in space, but limited by occupancy) There was no space, no place, for a crib in the room. Inn’s during the first century were generally composed of several large rooms, one in which the general population used for sleep or relaxation. It was not a Holiday Inn with individual sleeping compartments. Certainly there was no area in the room in which a woman giving birth would have the privacy, or the general mendicants, that she needed to birth a child.

Inn/kataluma: A dissolution (The breaking up of a journey) by implication a lodging place. No stable is involved in this story. The shepherds, and the Magi, found Joseph and Mary at the Inn, and the baby lying in a ‘crib’.

As Matthew attests, the Magi follow the star, and when their search was completed, “… and going into the house… ”

Note that the scriptures do not say, ‘and going into the stable, (or manger)’, but, ‘and going into the house’.

Unfortunately, the angelic appearances portrayed in Luke are very Greek in nature, much like their gods who were prejudicial, human in nature, and apt to make human error.

At this point, the shepherds go to Bethlehem, visit the scene, and leave, giving great honor to God for what they have seen. And indeed, what have they seen? The message itself holds nothing special for the world. In the society prevalent at the time, all children would have been found in this situation, wrapped in swaddling and laying in a crib.

There is much to consider here that is not normally brought out in a study of the Gospels. Jesus has an uncommon birth, as very few children would have been born away from home in his day. The circumstances are strange, and exceptionally dangerous, but somehow the agony being suffered by the Jews in the first century is only one more incident that recalls many such events in their history.

FEATURE: Celtic Myths

Visit the ancient mythology of Ireland and their celtic legends in Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race, an excellent free resource that covers not least the Ultonian and Ossianic cycles of Irish lore.

 

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