Vol. 4, No. 2
~ Page 12 ~
No one knows what day or what month or exactly what year Jesus was born, but his birthday does not matter. What matters, something of eternal significance, is that he was born!
If Jesus was not born, the greatest book in the world, the book that "has done more for the world than all the books that men ever wrote" (William Jennings Bryan), is a book of lies! "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10). "All of the prophets testify to this one" (Acts 10:43), as:
But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, which are little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of you shall one come forth to me who is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2).
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even forever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9:6-7).
If fifty prophecies about the coming of Jesus had been made, assuming an equal chance for their happening or not happening, the law of probability against all fifty being fulfilled "is greater than eleven hundred and twenty-five million to one that all of these circumstances do turn up" (Alexander Campbell, The Evidences of Christianity: A Debate (Cincinnati: Chase and Hall), 1878, pp. 338-339). Then to assume that the fifty events would happen to one person "surpasses the power of numbers to express correctly the immense improbability of its taking place" (ibid.).
But not fifty, but 332 prophecies of Christ have been counted, says Floyd E. Hamilton (The Basis of the Christian Faith, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1946, 3rd edition, p. 157). The happen-chance that all these would settle on one man is one over 84 plus 97 ciphers (ibid.).
Alfred Edersheim (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, New York: Laymans Green and Co., 1900, II, pp. 710-741) lists 456 passages (75 from the Pentateuch, 243 from the Prophets, and 138 from the other books) referring to Christ and his days as used by the Jews in their Talmud and Targumin.
Those 332 prophecies and 456 referrals to Christ and his days are found in 39 Old Testament books which were all written over 400 years before Jesus was born, with some going back to 1500 years before his birth.
The uniqueness of biblical prophecy is seen in that other books pertaining to religion (those of Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, etc.) make no attempts to make predictions. The Bible, as it were, puts itself on a limb and risks being cut off, a chance that other books of religion do not take.
When self-made prophets are placed by the side of Bible prophets, somebody gets embarrassed. For example, D'Israeli predicted that the Southern Confederacy would become an independent nation. Robert Ingersoll predicted that within ten years there would be two theatres for one church building. Cardan, an Italian mathematician, predicted the day and hour of his own death, and committed suicide at the proper time to prove his prediction. Jeanne Dixon, two weeks before Jacqueline Kennedy's marriage to Aristotle Onassis, said she could see no marriage for Jackie in the near future. Another of her predictions was, "Russia will be the first nation to put a man on the moon."
Apparently Jesus thought that there is no excuse for infidelity, for he said: "If anyone wishes to do his [God's] will, he will know the teaching, whether it is from God, or if I speak from myself" (John 7:17).
An odd turn has come about by which Jewish infidels strongly attest to the antiquity and textual accuracy of the Old Testament books. Thus the Jewish unbelievers in Christ unwillingly contribute to the cause of Christ.
But are the New Testament books, which detail Jesus' fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, reliable? How can one know in the 21st century that Jesus, a Nazarene carpenter, actually lived in the first century? There was a time when "the basic trustworthiness of the New Testament records" was challenged, "but that time is long and permanently past" (John H. Gerstner, Reasons for Faith (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1960, p. 86).
The impact of a living, breathing, dying, risen, first century Jesus of Nazareth cannot be offset, for what he did was not "done in a corner" (Acts 26:26). Whatever else about Christ that might be attacked, his actuality must be admitted. Christianity then is historically based and geographically grounded. In contrast to a shadowy Confucius or a doubtful Buddha, Jesus stands forth as real as Julius Caesar or George Washington. As one grapples with the question, "Who do you say that the Son of Man is?," one has something solid on which to stand.
"To assume that he [Jesus] never lived, that accounts of his life are inventions, is more difficult and raises more problems in the path of the historian, than to accept the essential elements of the gospel stories as fact" (N. B. Hardeman, Dallas Lectures for 1943, published by Eugene Smith, 1943, p. 122). "Such modern theories as the 'Christ-myth' are rejected by all the scientific historians" (Frederick C. Grant, "Jesus Christ" (The Encyclopedia Americana), XVI, p. 45.)
If Jesus was not born, then he had no blood, and so the New Testament teaching that Jesus' blood is a cleansing agent for sins (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5; 7:14) is meaningless. Consequently, if Jesus was not born, baptism to "wash away" sins is a mere exercise in getting wet. If Jesus was not born, then the beautiful story of his resurrection is pure fiction, a fiction that means nobody has been raised from the dead and that nobody ever will be raised.
If Jesus was not born, then he "was not lifted up" from "the mount called Olives, which is near Jerusalem," into "heaven" (Acts 1:11-12), which means that nobody will "meet the Lord in the air, and so" nobody will "always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
But if Jesus was born without a human father of the virgin Mary, then he truly was and is Emmanuel, meaning "God is with us," as the prophet predicted (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). And his sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22) blood, by God's "eternal purpose" (Ephesians 3:11; Hebrews 9:22) is powerful: "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18), when you rise from the water of baptism "which now saves you" (1 Peter 3:21). "He [Jesus] paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay. I needed someone to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song: Amazing Grace" (American Folk Hymn).
And if Jesus was born as "God with us," he not only can solve my sin problem, but he can assure me that the cemetery will be no difficulty, for "he has indeed abolished death, and has brought to light life and immortality through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10), saying "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he dies, will yet live! He who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26).
And if Jesus was born as "God with us," not only are dedicated people cleansed "by the precious blood of Christ, as of an unblemished and spotless lamb" (1 Peter 1:19), and not only are they not worried by the grave: "Blessed from now on are the dead who die in the Lord" (Revelation 14:13), but also God "has begotten us again to a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an imperishable and unstained and never-fading inheritance, reserved in heaven" (1 Peter 1:3-4).
Napoleon Bonaparte believed that Jesus was "God with us": "I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. . . . You speak of Caesar, of Alexander, of their conquests, . . . but can you conceive of a dead man making conquests, with an army faithful, entirely devoted to his memory? My armies have forgotten me even while living. . . . Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his empire on love; and, at this hour, millions would die for him" (quoted by James D. Bales, Reasons for Our Faith, VIII, 7, Searcy, Arkansas, n.d., Harding College Bookstore).
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