Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, December 6, 2020

Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,

For to us a child is born…. 

Yeshua’s Birth: Scriptural Truths, Man’s Myths – Part 1 of 3

by Dr. Raymond Finney

EXPLANATION: I had intended to continue today the RR started last week about the parallel courses of the Roman Empire and America. Since I have not properly managed the calendar, I must interrupt and finish the Roman Empire-America RR series later. This pause is necessary to accommodate this more timely (seasonal) three-part series on Yeshua’s birth. 

INTRODUCTION: Isaiah gave us an important Messianic prophecy (Isaiah 9:5-6): For to us a child is born, a son will be given to us, and the government will be upon His shoulder. His Name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God My Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and shalom there will be no end– on the throne of David and over His kingdom– to establish it and uphold it through justice and righteousness from now until forevermore. The zeal of Adonai-Tzva’ot will accomplish this. [Adonai-Tzva’ot = “Lord of hosts.”]

Most Believers/ Christians celebrate “Christmas” on December 25 as the day Yeshua was born. SPOILER: If you do not already know, Yeshua almost certainly was not born on December 25. While Christmas carols are constantly playing and people have seasonal thoughts of Luke 2:14 (“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth shalom to men of good will”), now may be a good time to discuss the Bible’s truths and man’s myths about the most important birth in the history of the world– the birth of Yeshua HaMashiach. 

WHAT IS YESHUA’S GENEALOGY? The B’rit Chadashah provides two bloodlines (genealogies) for Yeshua– Mary’s and Joseph’s ancestors:

● Paternal bloodline: According to Trinitarian theology, God is Yeshua’s Father. Yeshua was conceived in the womb of Miriam (Mary) through direction of the Ruach HaKodesh. The implantation of Yeshua in Mary’s womb without a human father is called “the immaculate conception.” An early immaculate conception prophecy was recorded centuries before Yeshua’s birth in Daniel 2:34-35. This prophecy foretold the Rock (Yeshua) would be carved from the Mountain (God), but without human hands (immaculate conception); would destroy the metal  statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (representing successive empires); and would, then, cover the earth (Yeshua’s Millennial Kingdom).

To complete His humanly (Son of Man) life, Yeshua needed an earthly family, including an earthly father– a stepfather, actually. This relationship of a family was first defined in Genesis, when Adonai brought Adam and Chavvah (Eve) together as the model of marriage. Joseph’s bloodline is revealed in the Gospel of Luke. Beginning with God to Adam, more than seventy generations passed until Joseph, betrothed to Mary, accepted Yeshua as his Son. 

SIDELIGHT: This genealogy of Yeshua may present difficulty in establishing Yeshua as the heir to David’s throne. In the Torah (Numbers 1:18), people were registered by their families according to their fathers. Our doctrine asserts that Yeshua had one human parent (Mary), but His Father was Adonai, through influence of the Ruach HaKodesh. Yeshua would have, therefore, been Joseph’s  Stepson and would have been related to David only through adoption by Joseph, who was a descendant of David. Not being an expert in ancient Jewish law, I cannot untangle this matter. Also, there is a discrepancy between the genealogies contained in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Matthew records Joseph’s father as Jacob; Luke records Joseph’s father as Heli. END sidelight.

● Maternal bloodline: In the Gospel of Matthew, the apostle begins with Abraham and passes through several generations until reaching Yeshua. David is included in both bloodlines, and a title for Yeshua is “Son of David.” The Apostle Paul emphasized this royal (Davidic) heritage of Yeshua (Romans 1:3): Concerning [God’s] Son [Yeshua], He came into being from the seed of David according to the flesh. 

● Tables presenting both paternal and maternal generations of Yeshua may be found at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogy_of_Jesus . This source discusses discrepancies in the two Gospel genealogies.

WHY THE NAME CHRISTMAS? Yeshua has several titles. In Hebrew of the Tanakh, He is Yeshua HaMashiach. In Greek of the B’rit Chadashah, He is Iesous ho Christos. Both Mashiach and Christos translate to the same English word– “Anointed.” Yeshua/ Jesus is the “Anointed One (of God).” Neither Mashiach (Messiah) nor Christos (Christ) is a surname, and both titles properly should be prefaced by an article (the) – Jesus the Christ (Greek ho) or Yeshua the Messiah (Hebrew Ha).

“Christmas” is a long-standing Roman Catholic celebration, literally meaning “Christ’s Mass” – a Mass memorializing Yeshua’s birth. The two words were merged into a single word (Christ’s Mass [original] ► Christmas [modern]) in the mid-fourteenth century. We non-Catholics do not celebrate Mass, although we celebrate sharing Communion bread and fruit of the vine.

WHEN WAS YESHUA BORN? The ancients took little note of birthdays.  Everyone has a birthday… so? The B’rit Chadashah records no day for Yeshua’s birth. No one knows the date of His birth, but there are hints:

● It is highly unlikely that Yeshua was born on December 25. The early Catholic Church considered several dates for Yeshua’s birth, ranging from November through May (even while early Church fathers mocked the Romans for celebrating birth anniversaries). Yeshua’s birthday was initially of little interest. The earliest Christian document attempting to date Yesuha’s birth was written in ca AD 200 by Clement of Alexandria, but Clement did not mention December 25. By the fourth century AD, there was growing interest in Yeshua’s birth date. Two dates were considered– December 25 by western Catholics and January 6 by eastern Catholics. December 25 gained more popularity and January 6 was re-named the Feast of the Epiphany to celebrate the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem.

● A December 25 birth date for Yeshua is inconsistent with Luke 2:8 (shepherds watching their flocks by night). Yeshua’s birth (shepherds on the hills at night) would be consistent with the spring lambing season, when shepherds assisted in lambing and guarded the helpless newborn lambs; or, would be consistent with fall. Many scholars suggest Yeshua may have been born during one of the fall feasts of Israel. By December 25, cold, rainy winter nights would find flocks safely corralled and shepherds sheltered in their homes, not perched on cold Judean hills. Also, a Roman census (Luke 2:1-4) would not be imposed in December because of difficult winter travel.

Many early Church rituals were blended with pagan rituals. Roman pagan practices were adopted and re-named by the Roman Catholic Church. The earliest congregation of Believers (Acts, chapter 2) was an offshoot of Judaism, except that Believers held that the long-awaited Messiah had come as Yeshua. When the Christian Church split from its Judaic roots, pagan rituals were incorporated into the fledgling Catholic Church to gain popular support. 

From the first through fourth centuries AD, there was a secret cult religion in the Roman Empire. This religion– Mithraism– worshiped Mithras (Mithra, Mitras, Mitra). Mithras worship was connected with worship of the sun. Mithras was said to be born on December 25, which is a few days after the winter solstice. For a few days around the winter solstice, the sun is near its lowest southern descent, making it difficult to determine if the sun’s southerly migration is complete. By December 25, the sun definitely appears to be again progressing toward the north. (That is, the sun is “reborn” for another year.) The Romans’ mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December, similar winter festivals of barbarians in northern and western Europe, and Mithras’ birth date made December 25 a popular choice for the day of Yeshua’s birth. On December 25 in AD 274, the Roman emperor Aurelian decreed a feast for the birth of Sol Invictus (Latin Sol Invictus = “Unconquered Sun”). Scholarly debate about the choice of December 25 as Christmas is too extensive and complicated to cover further in this RR. 

Now, consider some disconnected (random) thoughts about Yeshua’s birth:

● Caesar Augustus issued a decree ordering “all the inhabited earth to be registered.” Every household head had to register in “his own city,” which might have required a journey of a week or more. That order, probably made to support taxation and military conscription, would have been unpopular at any time of year, but it is unlikely that Augustus would have provoked his subjects further by forcing many of them to make long trips during cold winter months. Fall would be the best time for citizens to follow Augustus’ order (pleasant weather following harvest time).

● Shepherds would not have been tending their flocks outdoors in Israel in late December (too cold). After mid-November, shepherds came in from the pastures. They would have secured their flocks in pens and would, themselves, have been in their homes by a warm fire.

  • Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant with John the Immerser. Assume both Elizabeth and Mary had usual nine-month pregnancies. Start at the conception of John in Sivan (June), count forward six months to arrive at Gabriel’s announcement of the conception of Yeshua in Kislev (December). Then, count forward nine more months for Yeshua’s gestation to reach the fall, Tishri (September), when Yeshua was born– not late December. 

SIDELIGHT: Some interpreters suggest that Yeshua was born during one of Israel’s fall feasts. Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) would seem a logical feast, because it commemorated the time during the exodus from Egypt when Adonai “tabernacled” with (lived with) the fleeing Israelites. Yeshua, then, re-created this time when He came to “tabernacle” once again with mankind. [Tabernacle, used as a verb = “to live with temporarily.”] If we assume this possibility may be correct, consider the B’rit Chadashah account of Yeshua’s birth. I will not quote Scriptures, but you should be familiar with this account:

● There may have been “no room in the inn” because numerous Jews were traveling during this holiday season.

● Did Joseph and Mary place the newborn Yeshua in a feed trough, a feeding crib (manger)? In three verses, Luke recorded that Yeshua was placed in a manger. “Manger” is a correct and common translation of the Greek phatne. Some scholars suggest a suitable translation could also include “stall.” Hmmm… stall? Could this “stall” actually have been a sukkah? Probably not. If Luke had meant “stall,” he knew a word for stall and also for sukkah. But, think about this possibility: Every Jewish home would have had a sukkah during Sukkot. It is possible that a sympathetic innkeeper may have told the young couple something like, “I am so sorry that my inn is full, but you are welcome to take shelter in our sukkah.” Yeshua was the first baby of a young Mary, but I believe she would have resisted placing her newborn infant in the animals’ feed trough. Taking shelter in a sukkah would have been an acceptable substitute for sleeping in the inn. The symbolism of God, through the Son, returning to live among His people Israel in humble surroundings would be complete. I cannot emphasize enough that Yeshua came as a lowly Servant of the people, not as royalty. We lose sight of the miracle and love of God, if we dress Yeshua and the Holy Family in royal robes and jewelry. END sidelight.

WHY WAS YESHUA BORN IN BETHLEHEM? Scriptures tell us that Yeshua was born in Bethlehem, a small village in the hill country of Judah, six miles south of Jerusalem. 

● “Bethlehem,” formed of two Hebrew words (bayit = “house,” and lechem = “bread”), literally means “House of Bread.” Much of Israel’s grains were grown in the Bethlehem region. Yeshua referred to Himself as “the Bread of Life” of whom no one will spiritually hunger if they eat of Him. Yeshua used unleavened bread as a symbol of His broken body in the Communion lesson He taught at the Passover meal shortly before His crucifixion.

● Bethlehem was the city of David, the city where he was crowned. The  genealogy of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke includes David. David was Israel’s ideal king; Yeshua is the perfect King of kings and Lord of lords in the future Millennial Kingdom. Yeshua was called “Son of David.” Yeshua will sit on the Throne of David during the Millennial Kingdom. To honor David, it was appropriate to have Yeshua born in the City of David.

● Prophecies were fulfilled by Yeshua’s birth in Bethlehem. I will provide the Scriptural citation, but to conserve RR space please read the text in your Bible:

** The Messiah is heir to the throne of David: Prophecy: Isaiah 9:7 || Fulfillment: Luke 1:32-33.

** The Messiah was born in Bethlehem: Prophecy: Micah 5:2 || Fulfillment: Luke 2:4-5, 7.

WHY DID ANGELS ANNOUNCE YESHUA’S BIRTH? Note the significance of God’s plan. Yeshua was not born into a family of royalty, the priesthood, or the rich. He was born into a workingman’s (a young carpenter’s) family. Yeshua’s’ birth was announced to “shepherds watching their flock by night” (Luke 2:8-14). The shepherds, then, went to pay respect to the Baby Messiah (Luke 2:15-20). In first-century Judea, a shepherd had the lowest, most undesirable job in society. Imagine sitting in a pasture all day, watching sheep graze. David, Israel’s ideal king, was a boy shepherd, but God appointed him to be king. Yeshua came as Savior for all– not just the rich and powerful, but also the poorest of the poor. By this announcement, God effectively said that Yeshua  was bringing a New Covenant for all people. Throughout His ministry, Yeshua repeatedly reached out to the poor, the disenfranchised, the sinners, and the outcasts of society. The early Church was composed largely of slaves, ex-prostitutes, the poor, and persons shunned in “polite society.” Today, Yeshua is Savior of all, but would He be welcome in some churches/ synagogues?

DID YESHUA MAKE HIS FIRST EARTHLY APPEARANCE IN BETHLEHEM? No. Yeshua was not created (did not first take life) at the time of Mary’s conception, a little more than two-thousand years ago. Rather, the Bible teaches He has existed throughout eternity past and will exist throughout eternity future. There are too many Scriptures about Yeshua’s eternal nature to attempt to list them all, but consider three:

● In the Genesis creation account, we read that God created man, saying “Let us make….” “God “ translates the Hebrew Elohim. Elohim is plural because of the -im ending, which literally could be “Gods.” However, the Israelites/ Jews were uncompromisingly monotheistic (believers in one God– recall the S’hma Yisrael). Some interpret Elohim as a plural intensive word, with singular meaning– God. “Us” is blended into a verb for “make” (coming from the Hebrew asah). Others (Trinitarian Believers) suggest Elohim is “God in Three Persons.”                         

●-We read an inquiry about the Holy One and His Son (Proverbs 30:4): “Who has gone up into heaven, and come down? Who has gathered the wind in the palm of His hand? Who has wrapped the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name and what is the name of His son– if you know?” Why would a monotheistic Tanakh author inquire about the name of God’s Son, if God the Father did not have a Son?

●-The Apostle John began the Gospel of John (read John 1:1-5) by explaining that in the beginning was the Word, who existed with and created all things, along with God the Father. John’s use of “Word” (Greek Logos) is his way of introducing Yeshua. Strong’s Concordance has a brief note explaining the use of “the Word” as describing Yeshua: “… [‘Word’] denotes the essential Word of God, Jesus Christ, the personal wisdom and power in union with God, his minister in creation and government of the universe, the cause of all the world’s life both physical and ethical, which for the procurement of man’s salvation put on human nature in the person of Jesus the Messiah, the second person in the Godhead, and shone forth conspicuously from His words and deeds.”

Yeshua appeared to man in several Tanakh Scriptures. Such an appearance is called a “Christophany.” Multiple verses about Theophany (appearance of God to man) or Christophany (appearance of the Messiah to man before His birth) may be found at: https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Theophany .

By removing Yeshua from the Godhead (the Holy Trinity), who existed from the beginning and who will exist throughout eternity, the basis for our faith would be  destroyed. If Yeshua was a mere man who was born a little more than two-thousand years ago, who died, and who was not resurrected to eternal life, there is no basis for our faith. Even worse, we would practice unforgivable blasphemy against Adonai by worshiping a false god. The Apostle Paul’s simple testimony should be our testimony (1 Corinthians 2:2): For I decided not to know about anything among you except Yeshua the Messiah– and Him crucified. 

TO BE CONTINUED: Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.