It seems almost incredible the Jews rejected Jesus Christ when He came. They had been looking for the Messiah for hundreds of years. It had been four hundred years since the completion of the Old Testament writings, and TIMES WERE RIGHT for His appearance. More than ever, the Roman suppression caused the Jews to look for their prophesied Savior. By the time Christ was born, the Jewish people had served the Romans sixty years. They, more than all the other nations in the empire, desired to be free — not only free — but to be THEMSELVES rulers of the world. The prophets had written of a KING who would deliver them from bondage and set them on the pinnacle of world government. Yet, when the prophesied Messiah began His ministry, the Jews completely and totally REJECTED HIM — not only rejected Him, but became so insanely enraged they caused Him to be put to death by Roman crucifixion. They refused to believe the Messiah, the King of the Jews, could come as a humble carpenter from Nazareth. They were not willing to accept HIS MESSAGE, and they were not willing to change from their own preconceived ideas, customs, and traditions. In rejecting Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Jews had to turn their backs on the very prophecies of their own Sacred Writings.
Prophesied Five Hundred Years in Advance
Many of the Jews knew early in the first century A.D. (as we now count time) the Messiah should appear. It had been recorded centuries in advance in the book of Daniel. The archangel, Gabriel, appeared to Daniel:
And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. Seventy weeks are determined upon they people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and three-score and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.1
This prophecy, commonly known as the SEVENTY WEEKS PROPHECY, pinpoints EXACTLY the year for the BEGINNING OF Christ's ministry and the exact year of His death. Let's understand it. Obviously, Daniel is speaking in prophetic symbolism. In two separate places GOD REVEALS how to INTERPRET prophetic times. These scriptures prove that one day in a prophecy is equal to a year in fulfillment:
After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.2 And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year.3
Daniel was inspired to write it would be exactly sixty-nine prophetic weeks from the commandment to build Jerusalem until the Messiah would appear. In order to understand this prophecy, then, we need to know exactly how many days there are in sixty-nine weeks. Since there are seven days in a week, multiplying seven times the sixty-nine weeks equals 483 days. A day is equal to a year in prophecy — the prophesied time lapse is a total of 483 years. Now, all we need to know is when the decree was made to restore and build Jerusalem. There were three separate decrees issued by the Persian leaders to aid the Jews in their return to Jerusalem. These decrees were in 536 B.C., 457 B.C., and in 444 B.C. The principle decree, however, the one upon which the Seventy Weeks Prophecy is based, is understood by almost all historians to be 457 B.C.
The date from which the 70 weeks was to be counted was the decree to re-build Jerusalem. There were three decrees issued by Persian kings for this purpose... The principal one of these was 457 B.C.4
A matter of simple arithmetic projecting forward 483 years from 457 B.C. will show the date of Christ's appearance. That date is 27 A.D. This was the year THE MESSIAH WAS TO APPEAR. It is of special notice here that this is not the birth of Jesus Christ — but His appearance as the Messiah. Daniel's prophecy clearly reveals this date. There is no other possibility. In addition to establishing the date the Messiah would begin His ministry, Daniel's Seventy Weeks Prophecy also reveals the ministry would last for one full week — that is seven years. But, he also reveals the Messiah, the Prince, would be CUT OFF in the midst of the week, causing the sacrifice and the oblation to cease. He was to have an earthly ministry, then, that would last one-half week or exactly three and one-half years. Since His ministry began in the year 27 A.D., His death must have occurred in the year 31 A.D. — exactly three and a half years after He began to preach. Now notice the account in Luke's gospel of the beginning of Christ's ministry, "And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph,...5 Since Jesus, then, was just about thirty years of age, as Luke shows, we can easily determine the year of Christ's birth by simple going back thirty years from the date His ministry began — 27 A.D. Again, simple mathematics brings us to the conclusion Christ was born in the year 4 B.C. Thus, evidence WITHIN THE BIBLE plainly shows Christ was born, as we now cont time, in the year 4 B.C. He began His ministry in 27 A.D. He was crucified in 31 A.D.
From Secular Writings
But the Bible is not the only proof. In addition to the accounts written in the gospels by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, there are many proofs from SECULAR HISTORY. It is very common knowledge that Christ was born in the period of time in Roman history when Augustus was Caesar at Rome, Herod was governor in Judea, Cyrenius was governor in Syria. There are numerous other references to figures in Roman history which certainly corroborate and demonstrate the authenticity of these times. Let's examine just a few. Augustus was Caesar from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. This was a broad span of time, but we know from the gospel accounts of Christ's life that His birth must have taken place within these years. The reign of Augustus can by no means pinpoint the exact time. However, there are two very important dates which can be determined through the life of Herod the Great and Cyrenius (alternate spelling Quirinius), the governor of Syria.
First, Herod the Great
The Jewish historian, Josephus, whom we have already frequently quoted, gives a single, but most important KEY TO DETERMINE the date of Herod's death. It is important to confirm this date since Jesus Christ was born some time PRIOR TO THE DEATH OF HEROD. The key was a decree issued by Herod which causes scores of infant children in and around the area of Bethlehem to be killed after Herod was told by the wise men from the East they were looking for the Christ, the King of the Jews.6 Let's read Josephus' account of Herod:
When he had done these things, he died, the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain; having reigned, since he had procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven.7
These two dates are readily recognized by all historians to be 37 B.C. and 40 B.C. respectively. Since Josephus generally reckoned reigns from the spring to the spring of the year, this places the last year of Herod's life from the spring of 4 B.C. to the spring of 3 B.C. To really clinch the date of Herod's death, Josephus records an earlier event, sometime before Herod's death, "AND THAT VERY NIGHT THERE WAS AN ECLIPSE OF THE MOON."8 The footnote in the works of Josephus clearly dates this eclipse of the moon, which can be determined by astronomical computation to have occurred on March 13, 4 B.C. Some confusion has resulted in this account because Josephus further adds that Herod died prior to a Passover. The Passover in 4 B.C. fell in the second week in April. Josephus further adds to the account of Herod's death, that after the eclipse of the moon he was put under the care of physicians for a severe case of distemper which caused him a great deal of pain. He also took a trip beyond the Jordan to find a cure for his illness in the warm baths which were at Collirrhore. After that, he ordered the execution of numerous political leaders and had his own son put to death only five days before he died himself.9 It would be impossible for all this to have occurred between March 13, and early April of 4 B.C., less than one month. The Passover Josephus mentions in connection with the death of Herod, then, MUST BE the Passover of 3 B.C. — thirteen full months after the eclipse. This would certainly allow time for his trip and for the atrocities he ordered to be carried out. The date given by Daniel and the secular accounts are in complete agreement, for those who are willing to accept the TRUE FACTS of history. Christ was born in 4 B.C., some six months prior to the death of Herod. There is no doubt about it. He lived thirty-three and one-half years on earth, at age thirty He began His ministry, carried it out for three and a half years, and died in the spring of 31 A.D.
The Taxation of Cyrenius
Only the gospel account by Luke records the taxation and census taken by the governor of Syria.10 Historians in many cases have not been willing to admit this taxation ever existed, therefore many have doubted the reliability of the Biblical accounts and dates. However, archaeological evidences and historical discoveries have PROVED there really was a governor at this time named Cyrenius and that were was a taxing and census taken by him. Roman records which have been found dating back to the time of the Emperor Julian (about 360 A.D.) certainly verify what Luke wrote. Julian is often called "the Apostate" because he turned back to paganism from Christianity.11 In attempting to destroy the Christianity which had developed in Rome, he said:
Jesus, whom you celebrate, was one of Caesar's subjects. If you dispute it, I will prove it by and by; but it may as well be done now. For you yourselves allow that he was enrolled with his father and mother in the time of Cyrenius.12
To be certain, Julian was not trying to prove the authenticity of Christ and Quirinius — he was trying to stamp out Christianity. Yet, this very record in itself proves there really was a governor in Syria named Cyrenius who did record the birth of Jesus Christ — it was in the Roman civil records — and it was common knowledge. In addition, archaeologists in Rome, in the year 1764, discovered Roman records in stone which mentioned the name of Cyrenius, governor of Syria and stated that he not only served as governor of Syria at one time, but twice.13 This solves a very great enigma some historians have had in understanding the Biblical account. Part of the problem lies in the proper translation of Luke 2:2. It should read, "This was THE FIRST ENROLLMENT, when Quirinius was governor of Syria" (RSV). It seems apparent there was yet another enrollment made at a later date, probably in 6 A.D. This must be the enrollment referred to by Luke in the book of Acts, "After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing..."14 This taxing mentioned in the book of Acts must be the later taxing — but we can clearly see there was a taxation made in the time of Augustus, specifically when Quirinius was governor of Syria. For this reason, as the Biblical account then shows, Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, since the Roman requirement was for all women over twelve years of age (and slaves also) to be subject to a head tax, as well as men over fourteen, until the age of sixty-five.15 Each individual had to return to the land of his forefathers' heritage for the taking of the census. Joseph and Mary had traveled to Bethlehem, the city of David, and were there when Jesus Christ was born. Once again, we see both the Biblical and secular accounts fit hand-in-glove and irrefutably prove the EXACT TIMES for the events mentioned in the Bible. And from the quote we just read regarding the Emperor Julian, this taxation and the birth of Jesus Christ were a part of Roman records at least up until the fourth century A.D. — after which the records must have become lost. In the writings of the early Church Fathers after the first century A.D., Justin Martyr wrote concerning this same taxation in about the year A.D. 105:
Now there is a village in the land of the Jews thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Jesus Christ was born, as you can also ascertain from the registers of the taxing under Cyrenius your first procurator in Judea.16
The authenticity of these times and also the dates are, then, corroborated first and foremost by God's Word, the Bible, secondarily from the writings of the early Church Fathers, and thirdly by official Roman records. Certainly irrefutable proof of Christ's existence, birth, and the dates of events mentioned in the Bible. Jesus Christ was the Messiah — He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.
The Prophecies Fulfilled
Since we have already historically proved Jesus Christ was a literal figure of history — and there will be more on this in a later chapter — let us now look into the prophecies of the Old Testament and their fulfillment in the New Testament to prove the writings of the New Testament did fulfill in every detail everything the prophets wrote of Jesus Christ. The following is a chart showing these prophecies and their fulfillment in the life of Jesus Christ. You will see how in every minute detail the Jesus Christ of the Bible and history fulfilled the scriptures. An interesting study was undertaken by a mathematics instructor in California some time ago. He and his class figured the mathematical probability of one man fulfilling forty-eight of the major prophecies of the Messiah out of the Old Testament. Each student was given one prophecy and had to calculate the probability of its fulfillment. The result of all forty-eight problems added together shows a nearly unbelievable probability on ONE MAN meeting the requirements of every single one of the forty-eight prophecies. The chance that such a person would ever be born and fulfill each step of the life prophesied is 10180. Let me write that out — that would be one chance out of 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000. That's ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY-ONE ZEROS!17 Yet Christ fulfilled all forty-eight — and even many more than the particular ones chosen for this math problem. Here, then, are a representative number of fulfilled prophecies.
Fulfilled Prophecy of the Messiah
Birth of the Messiah
Isaiah prophesied that a virgin would bear a son and call him Emmanuel.
Isaiah 4:7 Isaiah 7:14 Isaiah 9:6-7
While He was yet in the womb He would be called by His name.
The Messiah would be the begotten Son of God.
Matthew 1:16-20 Luke 2:46-48, 52
Gifts of gold and incense would be brought before the Christ after his birth.
Isaiah 60:6 Psalms 72:10
It was prophesied that Christ would be born in Bethlehem.
Christ would come from the line of David.
II Sam. 7:12-16 Jer. 23:5
Christ would be of the seed of Jesse.
Life of Christ
God's Son would be called out of Egypt
Christ would have a spirit of wisdom and understanding.
Herod would kill all male children in an attempt to destroy Christ.
The Messenger of Christ
A messenger would be sent to prepare the way for the Messiah.
The messenger would cry in the wilderness to prepare the people.
Luke 3:3-4 Matthew 3:3 Mark 1:3-4
The messenger would have the power and spirit of Elijah.
Luke 1:15-17 Matthew 11:7-14
The Ministry of Christ
God would send a prophet to minister to His people.
The year Christ's ministry would begin was prophesied.
A light would come to Judah and the world.
Isaiah 60:1-2 Isaiah 9:2
John 1:9,14 Luke 1:7-9
Christ overthrew Satan and proved Himself the ruler of the world.
Matthew 4:10 Mark 1:12-13
The Messiah would heal the sick, restore the sight of the blind, and open the ears of the deaf.
Isaiah 42:7 Isaiah 61:1 Isaiah 35:5-6
Matthew 11:5-6 Luke 7:22
The Messiah would be a leader and commander of men.
The Messiah would be as a shepherd to His flock.
John 10:11-16 John 21:15-17
The Messiah would not come as a conquering warrior, but merely to be a witness to the people at that time.
Christ would speak in parables so the world would not understand.
The Death of Christ
The Messiah would enter Jerusalem lowly, riding on the colt of an ass.
Matthew 21:5 John 12:15
The Messiah would be a man of great sorrow and suffering.
Christ bore our sins and was wounded that we might be healed.
I Peter 2:24
One of the Messiah's friends would be the one to betray Him.
Psalms 41:9 Psalms 55:12-14
John 13:18-27 Luke 22:47-48
Christ would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver.
His own disciples would deny Christ.
The Messiah would be delivered up to the council and given false witnesses.
Though they speak lies against Him, Christ would not open His mouth.
Christ would be condemned to death.
Christ would be scourged before He was taken to be crucified.
Mark 15:15 Matthew 27:26
The Messiah would be mocked and laughed to scorn.
Christ would be given vinegar and gall to drink.
Psalms 22:18 Psalms 69:21
Matthew 27:34 John 19:33
The soldiers would cast lots for His garments.
The Messiah would be put to death with sinners.
While on the stake Christ would cry out, "My God my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
Matthew 27:46 Mark 15:34
Christ would be cut off in the midst of the week.
John 19:30-31 Matthew 28:1,6 Matthew 12:40
None of the Messiah's bones would be broken.
Christ's hands and side would be pierced.
Zechariah 12:10 Psalms 22:16
John 19:34 John 20:20,25
It was prophesied that the Corner Stone would be rejected by the builders.
Ephesians 2:20 Matthew 21:42 Mark 12:10 Luke 20:17
The Messiah would be buried in a rich man's sepulcher.
Mark 15:43-46 John 19:38-40
The Resurrection of Christ
The Messiah would be in the grave three days and three nights, as Jonah was in the belly of the fish.
Matthew 12:40 Mark 8:31 Matthew 28:6
Chapter V - Footnotes
1. Daniel 9:22-27 2. Numbers 14:34 3. Ezekiel 4:6 4. Halley, Bible Handbook, p. 312. 5. Luke 3:23 6. Matthew 2:1-23 7. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, xvii. 8. 1. 8. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, xvii. 6. 4. 9. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, xvii. 6. 5.-8.1. 10. Luke 2:2 11. Bourne, A History of the Romans, p. 550. 12. Lardner, Works, vol. VII, pp. 626-627 13. Ramsay, Was Christ Born at Bethleham?, pp. 227-228, 273 14. Acts 5:37 15. Schaff, History of the Christian Church, p. 121. 16. Martyr, I Apology, 34. 17. Morris, The Bible and Modern Science, pp. 118-119