The Real Jesus
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The Real Jesus

Chapter 1

The Birth of Jesus:

The Greatest Story Never Told

   Jesus was born sometime in the late summer or early autumn of 4 B.C.
   The first time I ever made this statement to anyone I was viewed with a combination of doubt, incredulity, hostility and outright pity.
   "How in the world could Jesus have been born before Christ?" I was asked.
   It so happens that the present system in the Western Christian-professing world of counting years either prior to or subsequent to the event of our Savior's birth was not established until the work of Dionysius the Little, many, many centuries this side of the event.
   In the events surrounding Jesus' birth, God managed to move a whole empire by causing the world leader of that time to establish an entirely new government bureau (the taxing and census bureau) which finally resulted in Joseph and Mary ending up in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth! Part of the requirement of the vast worldwide census-taking was each family returning to the city of its origin ("And all went to be taxed everyone (into) his own city" (Luke 2:3-4), so since the Bible claimed Joseph was of the lineage of David (as both genealogical records in Matthew and Luke prove) he had to journey with his wife who was in an advanced state of pregnancy from Nazareth to Bethlehem, which is called the "city of David." The census in Palestine took place in our faulty chronological reckoning about the year 4 B.C.
   From early on, Mary understood that she was pregnant. She knew the meaning of the interruption of the normal menstrual cycle; after all, hadn't an angel actually told her this would happen?
   Though it must have been nearly unbelievable, and there surely must have been moments of doubt, Mary's training and deep religious education, including the quality of her own character and the deadly seriousness of the impending persecutions and her knowledge of glances of those in her own community, must have all been weighing heavily upon her mind as she contemplated her gradually changing form, slightly swelling belly, and growing breasts.
   Even though there probably had been many sessions between husband and wife, poring over those prophecies they knew referred to what was happening within the body of Mary herself, explaining why this shocking transformation in their own private lives had turned their little world upside down, they did not have perfect understanding of many vague references later revealed by the gospel writers, and by Jesus Himself.
   Naturally, Joseph and Mary had been living with the pain of growing notoriety ever since friends and relatives learned of Mary's pregnancy. They were fully prepared to accept it, as Mary's humble statement, "Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord," clearly shows.
   Still, it was tough, and they were as human as you and I.
   Oh, there were close friends and relatives who knew the truth. After all, Elizabeth and Mary were cousins, and Elizabeth was carrying the baby who would grow up to become John the Baptist — both remembered the remarkable occasion when the two babies had reacted so obviously when the two expectant mothers met. Joseph and Mary could spend time with such people, away from the smirks and knowing stares of the hypocrites.
   But they suffered when friends talked behind their backs; they hurt when former friends shunned them; they probably had second, or even third, thoughts about the tremendous burden they had assumed, as would any other normal human beings. But they had the courage to see it through.
   It may have seemed a cruel twist of fate, to be required by the Romans to travel all that distance during the final, crucial month of pregnancy. It is clear that Joseph and Mary were not acting out any special predestined fulfillment of prophecy, or they would have seen the predictions that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, and would have tried to travel earlier, at an easier time, and to have arranged accommodations more suitable than the hasty, last-ditch improvisation of a manger.
   Neither could they have known that what had appeared to be a terribly difficult trip at best, would end up with their being exiles in a foreign country, waiting until Herod the Great had died.
   Christ was not born on Christmas. Those who do not yet know this, or do not wish to know it, are either too firmly dedicated to tradition, no matter how pagan, or are too lazy to bother with simple research.
   Abundant evidence exists which proves Christmas is utterly pagan in origin; as pagan as belief in Dagon, Vishnu, Baal, or Isis and Osiris.
   Jesus was born in the autumn, though the exact date is kept carefully concealed. Look at the eyewitness accounts, written by those who were there. Even Herod didn't know exactly when Christ was born, or he could not have risked a massive uprising by his brutal edict to butcher helpless babies up to two years of age!
   Most people have never heard the true facts surrounding Christ's birth; and lodged in their minds is only a purely mythological tale which exists only in fantasy and erroneous religious tradition.
   The traditional view of Jesus' birth, with the loveliest manger imaginable on the face of the earth; sadly smiling shepherds leaning on their crooks; the Magi, gorgeously arrayed in obviously kingly robes with funny-looking crowns, opening up little gold boxes wherein are contained precious spices; a tiny baby nestled in the arms of a mother who stares sadly at him with a halo around her head and a sweet smile curving her mouth; maybe naked little babies flitting through the heavens, and a bright star seen in the distance outside — all this is repeated endlessly in millions of Christmas cards, religious books, journals and magazines, illustrated pages in Bibles, and on people's front yards, rooftops, in their driveways, along roadsides, and in displays in churches at Christmastime.
   But the shepherds were not there at the birth. They came later. And there is no reason to suspect that the shepherds and the wise men ever crossed trails.
   But let's ask a few questions concerning Jesus' birth. How did God manage to convince the lowly and humble classes that in fact a Savior was this day being born?
   He did so by the most intricate collection of divine miracles, carefully interwoven into the fabric of history, extending so far back in time that it boggles the mind.
   Few realize that Michael the archangel spoke to Daniel and delivered to him the longest single prophecy in the Bible (Daniel, the 11th chapter is personal testimony from the archangel Michael) informing him of a great struggle going on among arch-demons, and perhaps Satan himself. These were influencing the mind of the "Prince of Persia" in order to bring about some disruption in God's plan to cause Artaxerxes to allow the Jewish captives under Ezra to return to their homeland and reestablish the religious state.
   Though it deserves a great deal of space, the miracles having to do with the precise moment of Jesus' birth, the decree of Augustus, the building of the temple, the beginning of His ministry, the decrees of Cyrus and Artaxerxes, and many other related events are tightly interwoven into a careful system of intricately fulfilled prophecies to form a network of incontrovertible evidence: the fact that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was in truth the Son of God.
   All the religious leaders knew, and the common folk believed intensely in, Isaiah's prophecy, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (which means "God with us" in Isa. 7: 14). They knew Isaiah had said, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined ... for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor [Wonder of a Counselor], the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
   "Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this" (Isa. 9:2-7).
   But how would God manage to avoid the contemptuous slander of "impostor" heaped upon Jesus not only by His detractors, persecutors and religious antagonists, but even by His own closest disciples and personal friends? How would the common people, the meek, lowly shepherd and laboring class be convinced utterly that Jesus was in fact fulfilling the many prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel and others and was in fact the promised Messiah, that "Prophet" who should come to deliver Israel, and to qualify to inherit the throne of David?
   First, God sent a humble group of shepherds from sufficiently far away that no one could claim collusion.
   An angel appeared to them and said, "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). They were not given any address, only a "sign" that they would find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, meaning He would be so newly born that there would have been no opportunity for either the purchase or the making of clothes for Him, and He would still be wrapped in a soft blanket, not yet moved inside an inn or a private home, but lying in a bed of straw.
   Obviously, then, the shepherds in journeying around the streets and the marketplaces of Bethlehem were asking from time to time where they could find a baby who had been born in a manger.
   They were no doubt quite excited about the vision they had seen, and it is inconceivable that they were not elated with that combination of awe, fright, and yet subdued joy over having actually heard the voice of an angel, and seeing an overwhelmingly bright light seemingly coming very near to them out of the heavens. Thus they fully expected to find the Savior of mankind lying in swaddling clothes in a manger. They probably asked any number of people, and repeated time and again to the excited questions they were asked precisely what had happened.
   Finally, with the question having been asked sufficiently about the town, perhaps one servant at a nearby inn recalled that Joseph or a friend had come, urgently begging the use of some basins and some heated water; that one of the females in the kitchen had rushed off to help during the birth; and that several of the women had been exclaiming about the fact that a poor woman had to be turned out in such an advanced state of pregnancy, when a lot of other people had been put up in more suitable accommodations, and were clicking their tongues about the unfortunate happenstance that the poor lady had given birth in a stable.
   Actually, the Creator was succeeding in announcing the birth through three separate groups of individuals: the shepherds themselves; all the citizenry and the townfolk they asked and who subsequently became involved; and Joseph and his own family.
   The events of the first few weeks after Jesus' birth caused widespread attention. It is evident that the Idumaean Herod (he was only partly Jewish) was terribly shaken by what he had heard.
   The Bible says he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him (Matt. 2:3), and claims he gathered all the chief priests (who probably were Sadducees) and scribes of the people together and demanded of them where the Christ should be born (Matt. 2:4). All of the scholars were aware that this very likely was the time of the birth of Christ.
   Pious frauds and sincere scholars — astronomers, astrologers, seers and soothsayers alike — were almost universally expectant that some great event would occur at about this time, and were looking for the Messiah.
   When Herod called together the "chief priests and scribes of the people," this was tantamount to the President of the United States having a combined cabinet and Supreme Court meeting.
   The "Supreme Court" of the Jewish nation was the Sanhedrin, and the greatest religious body of the nation declared in unanimity that Jesus the Savior would be born in Bethlehem, a city of David!
   There is no evidence whatever of the length of time that elapsed from the moment the "star" (an angel, as shown by scriptures) appeared to the Magi in "the east" (most authorities believe Persia) until their arrival in Jerusalem; it could have been several weeks, or even months.
   Following their interview with Herod, and his request that they "search out carefully concerning the young child," they went outside, saw the "star" again, and followed it until "it came and stood over where the young child was" (Matt. 2:9). This was in Bethlehem, a short distance over steeply plunging trails from Jerusalem. Contrary to the assumption of millions, Jesus and His parents had found more permanent accommodations following the hasty emergency quarters in the stable, and the Magi "came into the house, and saw the young child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshipped Him ... " (Matt. 2:11).
   That night, the wise men had a "bad dream," a warning from God, and sneaked out of the country without going back into Jerusalem. After they left, Joseph also had a dream. "Now when they were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise and take the young child and His mother, and flee into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him."
   Joseph got up, hustled Mary and the baby, and any other servants or family members who might have been with them, into their clothes, packed and loaded the animals and took off that same night, hitting the caravan route to Egypt, probably swinging further into Arabia. They probably stopped at little-known campsites, avoiding the usual water holes and towns or villages along the way. Little did Joseph know that inadvertently he was fulfilling another prophecy which said, "Out of Egypt did I call my son" (Hosea 11:1 ).
   Herod waited a few days, and then, in a fit of insane rage, "sent forth, and slew all the male children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had carefully learned of the wise men" (Matt. 2:16).
   Since it was the major trade and commercial capital, Joseph probably had business interests in Jerusalem. His own building trade required that He deal from time to time with importers, distributors and craftsmen who were located there. So he and His family may have remained in Jerusalem up to about one year following Jesus' birth, though there is no actual proof. However, the murder of the children by Herod, risky even for a despotic king, offers some proof that Herod suspected the child would have been about one year of age, or even slightly older.
   After Joseph and family had been somewhere in Egypt for a time, another dream occurred; an angel said to Joseph, "Get up and take the young child with his mother, and go into Israel: for they are dead that sought the young child's life" (Matt. 2:19-23).
   The following verse indicates Joseph's first choice as a place to live probably would have been Jerusalem or its environs. "But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither; and being warned of God in a dream, he withdrew into the parts of Galilee, and came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, that He should be called a Nazarene."
   Being a "Nazarene" merely meant He was a citizen of the city of Nazareth. He is called "Jesus Christ of Nazareth" several times in the Bible. Jesus was not an uncommon name (only the Greek form of Joshua); no doubt there were any number of individuals bearing the same name; it was quite common to name children after various attributes of God, or to include names of God (the prefix "El" and the suffix "Yah" were very commonly applied) in a person's name. The real Jesus was a Nazarene in the same sense a citizen of Chicago is a "Chicagoan," or someone living in Los Angeles is an "Angelino," or those in Paris are "Parisians." It was not a "religious" title of any sort, but a geographical and political term.
   From the time of the young lad's return with His parents from Egypt to the city of Nazareth, there is no further mention of Jesus until the moment He is seen sitting in the temple, both listening to questions and asking His own questions of the most learned doctors of the law, and astonishing them with His understanding and His answers (Luke 2:46-52).

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Publication Date: 1977
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