Friday, December 22, 2023

A Response To Religion For Breakfast On Jesus' Birthplace

The YouTube channel Religion For Breakfast recently put out a video about the birthplace of Jesus, arguing that he probably wasn't born in Bethlehem. Some of the claims in the video are inaccurate, but the problems with it are largely a matter of omission. There's a lot of relevant evidence that isn't discussed.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

The Connections Between Christmas And Easter

They're connected in a lot of contexts, such as theology, but I want to focus here on what I addressed in my last post, prophecy. It's difficult in some ways to choose what Biblical passages to include in a post on a subject like Christmas prophecy. So much of what's primarily about Easter also has backward implications for Christmas. And Christmas prophecies have implications for Easter.

We can separate the two if we want, for organizational purposes, to be more concise, or for whatever other reason, but we need to be careful to not think of them in too much isolation. Prophecies fulfilled in Jesus' adulthood add credibility to his fulfilling prophecy in his childhood. And the reverse is true, of course. That's also true of other things, not just prophecy. The resurrection of Jesus makes the virgin birth more plausible and so on.

I've been arguing for many years now that the evidence for a traditional Christian view of Jesus' childhood is significantly better than people usually think. But the other evidence for Christianity is good as well, and Christians should guard against thinking of Christmas issues in too much isolation. It can simultaneously be true, and it is simultaneously true, that the direct evidence for a traditional Christian view of the childhood of Jesus is better than people usually think it is and that the evidence for other aspects of Christianity gives us reason to hold a high view of his childhood. People are sometimes quick to change the subject at Christmastime, trying to direct attention away from Jesus' childhood and to his adulthood, especially his resurrection. I don't have a problem with bringing up his adulthood and the resurrection in particular in the context of Christmas. But we should also argue for a high view of his childhood directly, discussing the evidence for the historicity of the infancy narratives and such. We can, and should, do both.

I've commented before about the fact that the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus' birth, Augustus, didn't think much of the Jewish people or their Messianic hopes. Like other politicians, he would sometimes cooperate with the Jewish people or pay homage to the Jewish deity as one god among others, but "he revered the ancient and approved [foreign cults], like the mysteries of Eleusis in Attica, but despised the rest, taking no notice in Egypt of the bull-cult of Apis, and congratulating his grandson for passing by the temple in Jerusalem" (Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Suetonius [London, England: Bristol Classical Press, 2004], 189-90). But Jesus would visit that temple, both as a child (Luke 2:22-38, 2:46-50) and as an adult. The Lord came to his temple (Malachi 3:1), and he established a kingdom that would overcome and far exceed the kingdom of Augustus. And Augustus would unknowingly prepare the way for Jesus' adulthood, including his fulfillment of other prophecies. See my post here for a brief overview of how the Roman empire was involved in the fulfillment of prophecies closely associated with Jesus.

There wouldn't be a death of Jesus in line with Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophecy without a birth at the right time. There wouldn't have been a great light shining in Zebulun and Naphtali if a child hadn't been born in the line of David. The penal practices anticipated in Isaiah 50 and Psalm 22 had to be invented and developed over the course of time leading up to their application to Jesus in his adulthood. "I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, and I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations…Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it….The LORD called Me from the womb; from the body of My mother He named Me.…It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth." (Isaiah 42:6, 46:11, 49:1, 49:6)

Sunday, December 17, 2023

The Hopes And Fears Of All The Years

I want to have a post that collects some links to our articles on prophecy fulfillment related to Christmas, so that they can be found in one place. I'm not trying to be exhaustive. For example, Steve Hays wrote many posts on prophecy over the years, including prophecies related to Christmas, and I can't link all of them here. Anybody who's interested can search our archives for more material. But some of the relevant posts are linked below. I expect to supplement the list when warranted. You may want to periodically check for updates.

Many of the posts include responses to objections to Jesus' fulfillment of the passages. For other responses to objections, see our collection of posts on prophecy here.

Genesis 49:8-12
Ruth 4
2 Samuel 7:8-16
Psalm 89
Isaiah 7:14, 8:8
Isaiah 9:1-7
Isaiah 42:1-13
Isaiah 49:1-13
Isaiah 50:4-11
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Daniel 9:24-27
Micah 4-5
Malachi 3:1