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Mormonism LIVE: 055: Christmas & The Historical Jesus

Bill Reel and RFM take a look at the Historical Jesus and hit on the main points that Biblical criticism brings into focus and once they are done, your Christmases may never be the same.

Jesus son of Mary – Illegitimate birth. Mark infers. The early church theologian Origen (d. 251 CE) has a polemical tract in which he writes an apologetic for Jesus’ virgin birth against Celsus, a pagan skeptic of Christianity (around 178 CE). Celsus was a proponent of the idea that the virgin birth story was a fiction invented by Jesus, when the truth was (as he apparently believed) Jesus was the biological product of his mother and a Roman soldier named Pantera. Also Virgin births were a common trope and polemic device in ancient mythology.

  • Manger – ACU scholar Stephen Carlson writes that the word “kataluma” (often translated “inn”) refers to guest quarters. Most likely, Joseph and Mary stayed with family but the guest room was too small for childbirth and hence Mary gave birth in the main room of the house where animal mangers could also be found. use the links below from Dan Mcllellan Manger/Inn – Scripture Translation Supervisor for the LDS Church, PhD in theology and religion

More on the nativity – Daniel McClellan Traditional Account of the nativity – Daniel McClellan Scripture Translation Supervisor for the LDS Church, PhD in theology and religion Inconsistencies in the narrative – Matthew and Luke, the only Christian gospels which give us the virgin birth story, contain problematic details-both internally and in comparison to each other. For example, it’s been pointed out often that Luke’s dating of the census (while Quirinius was governor of Syria) in Luke is problematic. There are also difficulties when the accounts are compared to each other. The two genealogies don’t exactly reinforce each other and there are a number of striking differences when compared alongside each other–in particular the migration to Egypt in Matthew (2:13-14) which is completely absent from Luke. In Luke’s account, Mary and Joseph take Jesus home immediately to Nazareth (2:39-40), with no reference to a flight to Egypt or a conflict with Herod. Live in Bethlehem? – According to the Matthean infancy narrative, Joseph and Mary are natives to Bethlehem! They live in their house there! Houses would be part of patriarchal compounds with as many as 50 to 100 people.  There is no Lukan manger mentioned, and definitely no stables! The author “Matthew” expects his audience to understand this, being that he writes for people equipped with culturally-appropriate auxiliary background information. We Western Christians, reading with spurious familiarity, are blind to this. Did the Holy Family go from Bethlehem to Jerusalem and then straight back to Nazareth, as “Luke” tells us? Or did they reside in Bethlehem, give birth to Jesus there, live about two years there until the magi come, then flee to Egypt, then some years after go to a place they’ve never been to before and take up residence there, as “Matthew” says? (No need to read the following but in case someone asks why 2 years – Notably, the magi visit Jesus in a house (not an inn or stable) and their visit is as late as two years after the birth. Matthew 2:16 records King Herod’s orders to kill baby boys up to the age of two based on the report about Jesus’s age from the magi. This delay is why most Christian churches celebrate the visit of the magi on “Epiphany” or January 6) the slaughter of the innocents – given that Bethlehem probably had fewer than 1,000 residents, it’s possible the slaughter of the innocents involved just three or four babies, Witherington said. “We’re not talking about streets lined with dead babies,” Witherington told Live Science. In a world full of brutality and violence, it’s not clear the death of a few no-name babies in a sleepy village would have made the history books. Erroneous History about a Census – A similar situation exists with the Lukan census of the whole world when Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke 2:1–2). This census was presumably made when Herod the Great reigned over Judea (1:5), and who was alive when Jesus was born and for some time after. Copious records exist from the time of Caesar Augustus’ reign (27 BCE—14 CE). These records describe many events during that reign, particularly the most important. None of them mention anything about a worldwide census. And consider how “Luke” describes this census: people must return to the home of their ancestors. Consider what the Empire would look like in order to accomplish that—throngs of millions migrating all over for the census. And yet all historical records remain silent on it? In his own history, Augustus himself fails to mention this achievement! That’s simply not credible.



2 thoughts on “Mormonism LIVE: 055: Christmas & The Historical Jesus”

  1. Dear Bill Reel and Radio Free Mormon,

    I could write a book on the mistakes you made just in this podcast alone.  I know, you have real jobs and families to feed. I had more time for research in such questions than you guys have had.

    There is no problem with Cyrenius (pronounced “Koo-reh-nee-oos” in Greek), whose Latin name was Publius Sulpicius Quirinius (pronounced “Kwee-ree-nee-oos”). At the time of the first census of Emperor Augustus, 8 B.C (see “The Deeds of the Divine Augustus, Written by Himself, verse 8)., Cyrenius (“koo-reh-nee-oos) was the “Procurator” of Syria.  The “Legate” of Syria in 8 B.C. (which included Judea) was a different man:  Sentius Saturninus.

    The Greek name of Quirinius (Kwee-ree-nee-us) was CYRENIUS (Koo-rei-nee-us).  Cyrenius did not become Governor (HEGEMON) of Syria until 6 A.D., long after Herod the Great was dead, and 13 years after Jesus was born in 7 B.C.
    When was Jesus born?  Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.  Augustus decreed his first census as Emperor in 8 B.C. 

    The Urantia Book (written in the 1920s which claims to be a Revelation of God) claims that Jesus was born in 7 B.C.: which would  fit the chronology perfectly, that Mary was pregnant with Jesus when Augustus made his first census as Emperor (8 B.C.).  The Urantia Book was “channeled” by William Kellogg, a son of the inventor of Corn Flakes (Dr. George Kellogg).  He claimed to receive the information from the Akashic Records (i.e. Cosmic Internet). I channeled a book that claims to have come from the same source (The Book of Akash).
     Is there any “proof” that Jesus was born in 7 B.C.?  Like a birth certificate? No, they didn’t use them on those days anyway.  The three Magi visited Herod the Great to inquire which town the Christ would be born in, and the advisors of Herod said “Bethlehem of Judea”. So they went there, and gave Jesus gifts.  Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. So, Jesus would have had to be born AFTER the census decree of Augustus (8 B.C.) and the death of Herod the Great (4 B.C.).  The Urantia Book says it was in 7 B.C.   Not saying that The Urantia Book is true or false, but 7 B.C. would fit the timeline of the Gospel writers.

    Did Luke write that Cyrenius was “governor (hegemon) of Syria” when the census took place, and Mary was pregnant with Jesus?  Answer: NO!!!  The Greek says that Cyrenius was “governing” (hegemoneuo) Syria in 8 B.C.  In 8 B.C.  Cyrenius was Procurator of Syria.

    Syria essentially had two “governors”. All Roman provinces did. They were equal in authority in their spheres of responsibility: the Legate and the Procurator.  The collector of taxes was the Procurator.  Judea was a client state under the rule of Herod of the Great, but as a client state it was under the taxation of Rome.  That is how the Emperor made his money: via taxation on land owners.  The Publicans (tax collectors), and the Procurator, and the Legate, all took a “share” of the collected taxes, and sent the Emperor his share.

    Cyrenius (Quirinius) was not Legate (Greek: Hegemon) of Syria until 6 A.D.  However, he was Procurator of Syria since 12 B.C.  He would have been the Procurator of Syria (including Judea) in 8 B.C. when Augustus ordered his first census as Emperor.  Judea was ruled then by Herod the Great, as a “client state” of Rome, and under Roman taxation. This paragraph is undisputed Roman history.

    So, what is a “Procurator”?

    From Wikipedia (Procurator/Ancient Rome):

    “A fiscal procurator (procurator Augusti) was the chief financial officer of a province during the Principate (30 BC – AD 284). A fiscal procurator worked alongside the legatus Augusti pro praetore (imperial governor) of his province but was not subordinate to him, reporting directly to the emperor. The governor headed the civil and judicial administration of the province and was the commander-in-chief of all military units deployed there. The procurator, with his own staff and agents, was in charge of the province’s financial affairs, including the following primary responsibilities:[3]the collection of taxes, especially the land tax (tributum soli), poll tax (tributum capitis), and the portorium, an imperial duty on the carriage of goods on public highwayscollection of rents on land belonging to imperial estatesmanagement of mines[4]the distribution of pay to public servants (mostly in the military)The office of fiscal procurator was always held by an equestrian, unlike the office of governor, which was reserved for members of the higher senatorial order.[5] The reason for the dual administrative structure was to prevent excessive concentration of power in the hands of the governor, as well as to limit his opportunities for peculation. It was not unknown for friction to arise between governors and procurators over matters of jurisdiction and finance.” (Wikipedia:  Procurator/Ancient Rome)
    Luke wrote that the census took place when Cyrenius was “governing” (hegemoneuo) Syria.  The Roman provinces had two “governors”: the Legate and the Procurator.  The Legate was in charge of Roman troops, and the Procurator was in charge of collecting taxes and other financial matters.  This “two man” system was put in place to lessen the amount of corruption. Both men would be suspicious of the other, and thus be less “tempted” to dip too deep into the taxes, taking more than his rightful share, and thus making sure that the Emperor got his fair share.

    The next question arises: why would Joseph the Carpenter have to go to Bethlehem for the census?  This is because if Joseph claimed to own property in Judea, he would not pay tax on that property in Galilee. He would have to go to Bethlehem in person and pay the land tax in person, to the Publican (tax collector) over Bethlehem. He could not pay taxes on property in Bethlehem, to the Publican in Galilee.  Being a descendant of David, means that Joseph the Carpenter probably inherited land in Bethlehem or very near it, and had to pay the tax on it.  Rome had no “income” tax. Rome taxed land owners only.

    After Herod the Great died, one of his sons was made King of Judea, but this son acted with poor judgment, so he was replaced by Pontius Pilatus, who was “Prefectus” of Judea from 27 A.D. to 37 A.D.  This is undisputed Roman history.  Pilate was later  summoned to Rome and killed on orders of the “Mad Emperor” Caligula. 

    Luke was correct that in 8 B.C., during the first census of Augustus as Emperor,  Cyrenius (Quirinius) was “governing” Syria.  But he was not the Legate, but the Procurator.  Case closed.
    Luke wrote:
    And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2( And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke chapter Two)

    PLEASE READ MY BOOK “From Joseph Smith to Doctor Dahesh” if you have not yet done so. I think you’ll both enjoy it!

  2. Can a virgin birth be proven? That is a very difficult thing to do.

    The only case of virgin birth that I know was witnessed by physicians was the case of Lina Medina in Peru, in the 1930s. She bore a son when she was 5 years old. Her father was arrested, but later released “on lack of evidence”. Did the doctors check her hymen during her pregnancy? I don’t know. Her father was released from jail and never prosecuted. Was it because her hymen was intact? I don’t know. All I know is that she was examined by just about all gynecologists in Lima at the time. These men graduated from medical schools in Spain or Peru, and would have had medical knowledge comparable to any American M.D.

    Was the virgin birth a “later addition” to the story of Jesus, not in the original? Again, impossible to say unless we have the original Gospels, which we don’t have (and never will have). However, in the Gospels, the Pharisees say to Jesus “We are not the sons of fornication”: inferring that Jesus was a “son of fornication” (i.e. his mother committed fornication). This is when Jesus says to the Pharisees: “What makes you think that ye (y’all) will avoid the flames of Gehenna?” Jesus did not like them calling his mother a whore. Again, was this an “addition” put into the Gospels by later scribes? Again, there is no evidence of that.

    There are a few Verses in the Gospels in the KJV that do not appear in the earliest manuscripts, such as the last verses of the Gospel of Mark where Mark writes that Christians should be able to pick up poisonous serpents and not be harmed. That verse is not contained in our oldest manuscripts of Mark: strongly suggesting it is a scribal “interpolation”.

    There is no way to prove or disprove that the Virgin Birth was a later “scribal interpolation” or not: since we don’t have the original manuscripts. However, we do have the writings of the Early Church Fathers, starting from Irenaeus and Justin Martyr, about 150 A.D., and they do attest that Jesus was born of a literal virgin. There was a “fragment” of the Gospel of Mark found with the Dead Sea Scrolls, which dates from no later than 70 A.D. The fragment is extremely small and contains only a few words and portions of words. From this we can conclude that there was “a” Gospel of Mark as early as 70 A.D. or before that, when the Gospel of Mark was buried with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Why would sectarians bury a Christian document? Again, at the time, 70 A.D., the Jews of Palestine did not call themselves “Christians” but rather “Nazari” (followers of The Branch) and possible the “Ebioniym” (Poor Ones) and would have been seen as a Messianic Jewish sect.

    There are Mazdayasnian (Zoroastrian) prophecies the coming of three Sayoshants (Benefactors), all three born of virgins. The Magians were a sect of shamans who descended from the Medes, and these were among the “wise men” that followed a star to Judea. The authors of the Gospels were trying to present Jesus as one of the virgin-born Benefactors that the Magians expected. The Magians existed before Zoroaster, but gradually became Zoroastrians, as did most people in the Mede-Persian Empire. The Jews encounted the Magians during the Babylonian captivity. Cyrus (Koresh) the Great was a Zoroastrian and gave the Jews money to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple, and set them free from captivity in Babylon, about 600 B.C. The Mazdayasnians (Zoroastrians) believed in the resurrection of the dead, and in paradise and hell, doctrines later picked up by the Pharisees and Essenes, but not by the Sadduccees who considered these doctrines to be foreign to the Torah. Indeed, YHWH offers the Israelites no promises of Heaven or Hell, in return for keeping His commandments, but only offers them protection from famine, earthquakes, and invasion by foreign enemies.

    In conclusion: there is NO WAY to prove or disprove the virgin birth, and no way to prove or disprove this doctrine was taught in the original Gospels, which have long turned to dust. However, is there proof of supernatural miracles? I believe there is, in the works of Doctor Dahesh of Lebanon, who died in 1984, and whose miracles were witnessed by hundreds of written eye-witness testimonies. Please read mine below:

    From Wikipedia:

    Lina Marcela Medina de Jurado (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈlina meˈðina]; born 23 September 1933)[1] is a Peruvian woman who became the youngest confirmed mother in history when she gave birth aged five years, seven months, and 21 days.[1][2] Based on the medical assessments of her pregnancy, she was less than five years old when she became pregnant, which was possible due to precocious puberty.

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