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Jesus and the Messianic Prophecies – Did the Old Testament Point to Jesus?

In my previous post I started to explain why, based on the testimony of Paul, it appears that most Jews (the vast majority) rejected the Christian claim that Jesus was the messiah. I have to say, that among my Christian students today (most of them from the South, most of them from conservative Christian backgrounds), this continues to be a real puzzle. "But there were prophecies of Jesus being the messiah," they argue. "Hundreds of Old Testament passages, such as Isaiah 53, describe him to a tee." They genuinely can’t figure it out. What About Old Testament Messianic Prophecies? In their view, the Old Testament makes a number of predictions about the messiah: he would be born in Bethlehem his mother would be a virgin he would be a miracle worker he would be killed for the sins of others he would be raised from the dead These are all things that happened to Jesus!  How much more obvious could it be?  Why in the world don’t those Jews see it?   Are they simply hard-headed [...]

2019-10-30T15:05:21-04:00November 8th, 2015|Canonical Gospels, Early Judaism, Public Forum|

Bethlehem and Nazareth in Luke: Where Was Jesus Really Born?

Yesterday I discussed Matthew’s account of how it is that Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem, if in fact he “came” from Nazareth. Of course, critical scholars suspect Matthew has placed Jesus' birth there to fulfill Michah's prophecy (5:2) that a great ruler (the supposed messiah) would come from Bethlehem. For Matthew it is because Joseph and Mary were originally from Bethlehem.  That was their home town.  And the place of Jesus’ birth.  Two or more years after his birth, they relocated to Nazareth in Galilee, over a hundred miles to the north, to get away from the rulers of Judea who were thought to be out to kill the child.   (That in itself, I hardly need to say, seems completely implausible, that a local king is eager to kill a peasant child out of fear that he will wrest the kingdom away from him….) Luke has a completely different account of how it happened.  In Luke, Bethlehem is decidedly not Joseph and Mary’s home town.  The whole point of the story is that [...]

2020-04-03T13:58:56-04:00March 6th, 2015|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Was Jesus From Nazareth?

QUESTION: Do you think Jesus was born in Nazareth? A few weeks ago I went to both Bethlehem and Nazareth. I always thought Jesus was born in Nazareth but most there focused on Bethlehem as Jesus’s birth place. Is there strong evidence for either?   RESPONSE Yes, when you visit Israel today, or when you ask any Bible-believing Christian, or when you ask most any Christian, or most any other human being, you will hear that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.   The reason is not hard to find: the only references to Jesus’ birth in the New Testament squarely place his birth in Bethlehem.   There are, as many of you know, only two passages of the New Testament that narrate the events surrounding Jesus’ birth: Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2.  And they both agree in placing it in Bethlehem. And yet there are compelling reasons for questioning that view, so that a large number of critical scholars – even prominent Roman Catholic scholars – think that it is more likely that Jesus was born in [...]

2020-04-03T13:59:12-04:00March 4th, 2015|Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions|

More Responses to My Newsweek Article

When the editor at Newsweek ask me if I would be willing to write an article on the birth of Jesus, I was hesitant and wrote him back asking if he was sure he really wanted me to do it. I told him that I seem to be incapable of writing anything that doesn’t stir up controversy. It must be in my blood. Still, he said that they knew about my work and were not afraid of controversy, and they did indeed want an article from me. What’s interesting to me is that I’ve been getting it from all sides. I don’t know why that should surprise me. It seems to be the story of my life. For years my agnostic and atheist readers were cheering me on from the sidelines as I talked about the problems posed by a critical study of the New Testament: there are discrepancies and contradictions, the Gospels are not written by eyewitnesses, and the stories they contain were modified over time, and many of them were invented, in the [...]

2020-04-03T19:08:44-04:00December 15th, 2012|Bart's Critics, Historical Jesus, Religion in the News|

Matthew’s Version of the Birth of Jesus

Yesterday’s blog was about the account of Jesus’ birth in Luke; today I talk about Matthew. Even a casual reading shows that these are two very different accounts. Matthew has nothing about the birth of John the Baptist, the Annunciation, the census, the trip to Bethlehem, the shepherds, the presentation in the Temple. Matthew’s version, as a result, is much shorter. Most of his stories are found only in his account. And some of the differences from Luke appear to involve downright discrepancies, as I will try to show in another post. For now: Matthew’s version. Matthew begins with a genealogy of Jesus. Luke also has a genealogy, but it is given after Jesus is baptized in ch. 3, instead of where you would expect it, at his birth in ch. 1. I’ll explain my view of that in a later post. After the genealogy of Matthew in which Jesus is traced to David, the greatest king of Israel, and to Abraham, the father of Israel, we move right to the birth story. Mary has [...]

2020-04-03T19:09:12-04:00December 8th, 2012|Canonical Gospels|

Luke’s Version of Jesus’ Birth

Now that I’ve had several preliminary posts about the accounts of Jesus’ birth, I can get into some of the details from the surviving texts. As I’ve indicated, it is only Matthew and Luke that tell the tales of the infancy narrative, and the annual “Christmas Pageant” that so many of us grew up seeing is in fact a conflation of the two accounts, making one mega-account out of two that are so different up and down the line. And so, the Annunciation to Mary is in Luke, the dream of Joseph in Matthew; the shepherds are in Luke, the wise men in Matthew; the trip to Bethlehem is in Luke, the Flight to Egypt is in Matthew, and so forth and so on. You can compare them yourself, up and down the line, and see the differences. In this post I want to focus on Luke’s account. Then I will look at Matthew’s. And then I will compare the two in a couple of key points in order to show that the differences between [...]

2020-04-03T19:09:19-04:00December 8th, 2012|Canonical Gospels|
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