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in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to
Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel
and death and burial in Srinagar] by Khwaja
> Chapter 3: Name, Date and Place (of Jesus
Books Section > Jesus in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel and death and burial in Srinagar] by Khwaja Nazir Ahmad > Chapter 3: Name, Date and Place (of Jesus Christ's Birth)
As foretold to both Joseph and Mary, in separate apparitions (Matt., 1 : 20-25; Luke, 1 : 28-31), the name should have been, and was in fact, Joshua (Aramaic: Jesu; Arabic: Isa) which in Greek is Jesus. Among the Jews of Palestine, the name Joshua was exceedingly common. It was as if one were to be called Karl among Germans, Louis among Frenchmen, Nicholas among Russians and Smith or George among Englishmen. Jesus is also referred to in the Gospels as Christ, the Anointed; Messiah, the Wanderer; and Nazarene, the Warner. Joshua or Jesu, Isa or Jesus was his name, Christ his designation, Messiah his descriptive rank and Nazarene his significant title as a Prophet of God.
It has always been taken for granted that Jesus was called the Nazarene because he belonged to Nazareth. The declaration of the evangelists (Matt., 2 : 23, etc) on this point is so definite that even present-day commentators and historians have accepted it almost universally. But, like so many other Christian beliefs, it has no foundation at all.
The word Nazarene appears in the Gospels in three different forms - Nazarenos, Nazoraios and Nazorenos - which the evangelists have taken to be interchangeable. But none of these forms is capable of being derived from Nazareth: the S or Ts (Aramaic tsade, which is represented by the Greek letter sigma) in Nazareth, makes it impossible to connect these three forms with Nazareth. Moreover, the Greek letter zeta in these three words points to the contrary.
The theory that the word Nazarene was merely to indicate that Jesus belonged to a sect of that name is equally devoid of force; for no one has so far been able to prove that this sect existed at the time of Jesus. The reference to the word Nazarite or Netser (Isa., 11 : 1; Jer., 23 : 5), a branch, signifying the Davidic descent, an offshoot of the stem of Jesse, likewise has no application. Here, again, in both cases the presence of the letter is (tsade of Aramaic) and the absence of zeta will stand in the way. We will have, therefore, to look for another solution. In the word Nazir in Arabic (same in Hebrew, and Aramaic was only a dialect) we find the zeta of Greek, the zain of Hebrew or the zal of Arabic. Nazir means holy, chosen, guard or warner. Thus Nazir would be a fitting title for Jesus who was holy in character, a chosen man, a Prophet of God, a guard over the Lost Tribes of Israel and a Warner from God to them. The Greek equivalent of Nazir is Hagios: the Holy one of God.
Now, let us see if this word has been applied in this sense in the Gospels to Jesus. In Mark we have an account of one of the first miracles of Jesus, the healing of a demoniac who, on seeing Jesus, exclaimed:
"What have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy one of God" (Mark, 1 : 24; cf. Luke, 4 : 34).
In John we find Peter addressing Jesus thus:
"And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy one of God" (John, 6 : 69; also see next note).
In Luke the angel which appeared to Mary informed her:
"That the thing which shall be born of thee shall be called holy" (Luke, 1:35).
I will quote but one more passage from the Acts:
"Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus the Nazarene a man chosen of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourself also know" (Acts, 2 : 22).
I have given the translation of the Codex Syriac Sinaiticus.
Similar passages (Acts, 2 : 27; Rev., 3 : 7) can be cited to show that the early Christians knew and applied the word Holy One to express the title of Jesus, and, at the same time, to impress upon the minds of others the idea of his character as the Messiah.
I have here only very briefly set out the grounds for holding that Nazir was the special descriptive title of Jesus. The compilers of the Encyclopaedia Biblica say:
"Therefore, Nazarene must have taken the place of some title of the Messiah. The right reading must be Nazir, the Holy One, which is the title of the Messiah" (Enc. Biblica, Col. 3360).
It is interesting to note that Professor L. Salvatorelli also came to the same conclusion, though on somewhat different grounds. In his wonderful work: Il Significato di Nazareno, he opined that the Promised Messiah must also bear this descriptive title of Nazir.
Both Matthew and Luke place the birth during the reign of Herod, the King of the Jews. He reigned from 707 to 740 of the era of Vero, that is, from 37 BCE to 4 BCE Herod, according to Matthew, sometime, not more than two years, after the birth of Jesus, ordered the Massacre of the Infants, and, consequently Joseph fled to, and remained in Egypt for the rest of the King's lifetime (Matt., 2 : 1, 13, 16, 19, 22). Thus, according to Matthew, Herod's death is the terminus ad quem for the birth of Jesus. The birth of Jesus must have, therefore, taken place two or, if the period of Joseph's stay in Egypt and his journey are taken into consideration, three or four years before 4 BCE, the year of Herod's death; and it must, therefore, be placed between 8 to 6 BCE.
The appearance of the Star of the Magi causes further confusion. Voigt has proved that this star was really Halley's comet, which appeared in 12 CE (Voigt, Wig Die Gesch Jesu und die Astrologie, 611). The compilers of the Encyclopaedia Biblica dismiss this incident by remarking:
"The star shines only in the legend and derives its origin from Numbers 24:17 and the apocryphal imagery" (Rev. 12:1) (Enc. Biblica, Col. 808).
Luke dates the birth of Jesus by a general census ordered by Augustus and carried out in Syria by the legate Quirinius (Luke, 2 : 1-2. The Authorised Version gives the name of Cyrenius), but he also places, in the reign of Herod, an event which preceded it by six months, the birth of John the Baptist (Luke, 1 : 5, 24, 26, 57, 60). The only census carried out by Quirinius, as Governor of Syria, was in the reign of Augustus and could only have taken place after the deposition of Archelous in 6 CE. This date (6-7 CE) is in point of fact also mentioned by Josephus (Josephus, Antiq., 13, 13 : 2, 5). In any case, this census would not have affected the Galileans, who were subjects of Antipas. Luke, therefore, is not only in contradiction with Matthew but also with himself.
Dionysius Exiguus, the sixth century Scythian monk, was the author of the Christian Era, which is sometimes called, after his name, the Dionysian Era. He has, however, never been relied upon as a sound mathematician, for he miscalculated the birth of Jesus and thus started the year of the Lord in 754 AUG, that is, 1 CE.
The question is further complicated when we test the date of birth with the date of baptism. Luke says:
"Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea and Herod being tetrach of Galilee . . . Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness" (Luke, 3 :1-2).
Tiberius ruled from 14 to 37 CE and, therefore, the event narrated by Luke must have taken place in 29 CE. According to Matthew and Luke, the ministry of Jesus lasted for one year, i.e., up to 30 CE. This gives the clue why the Dionysian Era fixed 1 CE as the year of birth of Jesus, for its author merely deducted thirty years, the age of Jesus given by Luke (Luke, 3 : 23) when his ministry started. But Luke mentions another event: the murder of John the Baptist. This happened during the ministry of Jesus (Luke, 9 : 9-11). The execution of John is also related by Josephus. He connected it with the defeat of Antipas by Aretas, who waged war because Antipas had divorced Aretas' daughter in order that he might marry Herodias. This took place about 36 CE (Josephus, Antiq., 13, 5 : 1). If we make allowance for the preparation of war, we can safely say that John was murdered in about 34 CE. If this is correct, the ministry of Jesus must have started later than 30 CE. Again, Luke mentions that these events took place when Annas and Caiaphas were high priests. Annas was appointed high priest in 7 CE by Quirinius and deposed in 15 CE by Valerius Gratus (Ibid., 18, 2 : 1-2). Caiaphas on the other hand was appointed by Gratus in 18 CE and was removed by Vitellius, the successor of Pilate, in 37 CE (Ibid., 18, 2 : 2-3).
Luke is not, therefore, a safe guide to follow, and any attempt to reconcile his statements with chronology is futile and, in fact, would be to do this evangelist too much honour. "He wished." says Schmidt, "to place Mary at Bethlehem and, therefore, time and circumstances had to suit his pleasure (Schmidt, Bibli fur Kritik and Exegese, 3 : 1, S. 124).
It is equally futile to work out this date from the date of crucifixion. The Synoptics put the crucifixion on Friday, the 15th of Nisan (Matt., 27 : 62; Mark, 15 : 42; Luke, 23 : 54). John places it on the 14th of Nisan (John, 19: 31). We have, therefore, to find the year in which 14th Nisan fell on a Friday, because the Jewish Passovers always fell on the 14th of the first Jewish month and the Feast of the unleavened bread on the 15th of that month (Lev., 23 : 5-6). After making allowance for the intercalary month, we come to the Sabbatical year of 35-36 CE, which may account for the three or four years of the ministry of Jesus as indicated by John in his reference to the three Passovers attended by Jesus (John, 2, 13-25; 7 : 8-14; 11 : 55). The reference of Jesus to the fig tree for three years also supports John's version (Luke, 13 : 7).
The Synoptic Gospels speak of one visit of Jesus to Jerusalem, and confine the ministry to one year. If John's version is rejected, it becomes inexplicable how Jesus, in the short span of the feast days in one year, could have brought himself into such decided hostility to the ruling parry in Jerusalem that they contrived his arrest and death. John certainly is more convincing when he says that this hostility was gradually aggravated during his frequent visits. Besides, the Synoptics record an expression of Jesus which tells against their view. The words: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! ... how often have I gathered thy children together" (Matt., 23 : 37; Luke, 13 : 34) would be meaningless if he had seen Jerusalem once only during his ministry. Further, Jesus had no right to curse Jerusalem and its inhabitants if he had preached his Gospel to them for but a few days. All these presuppose many previous visits.
The date of the crucifixion would therefore fall in about 35 CE.
We can check our data by the fact that Pontius Pilate held office until 36 CE. He was recalled, it is said, because of the crucifixion of Jesus. It would be natural that it should have occurred soon after the crucifixion. One or two years is not a long time to elapse, especially when it is said that Pilate had, in the first instance, to send his explanation to Caesar. Pilate's successor, Vitellius, also removed Caiaphas, the high priest, in 37 CE, because of the same event. Thus, if the Matthean tradition regarding the date of the birth of Jesus is correct (as already indicated, i.e., 8 to 6 BCE) Jesus must have been 41 to 43 years old at the time of his crucifixion and must have started his prophetic career at about or over the age of forty. Irenaeus, who lived in the second century and was a Bishop of Lyons, noted that the Presbyters in Asia Minor had ascribed to Jesus an age of forty to fifty years. He also recorded a tradition, testified to by the elders and said to have been directly derived from "the beloved disciple of the Lord," to the effect that Jesus was not crucified at thirty years of age, but that he passed through every age, and lived on to be an oldish man (Haer., 2 : 2 : 5, 1). John records an incident which confirms this conclusion:
"Then said the Jews unto him. Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham" (John, 8 : 57).
Taking for granted that the Jews were talking in round figures, Jesus must have been over forty years of age. Had he died in 29 CE, he would have been between 30 and forty years of age, and the Jews would have then said forty and not fifty years.
The birth of Jesus, therefore, took place in about 8 BCE, he started his ministry in about 32 CE and was put on the Cross in about 35 CE.
The question regarding the date and month of the birth of Jesus is impossible to answer.
There is every justification for believing that the evangelists or subsequent redactors freely copied or reproduced events from the Mythus and presented them as historical in the Canonical Gospels. For the more hidden and uncertain the meaning or significance of the Gospel history, the more satisfactorily and easily is it explained by the Mythus: the more mystical the Christian dogma, the more clearly can it be proved to be mythical. It may, by way of illustration, be pointed out that the birth of Christ is really astronomical: and that his birthday can be determined by the full moon of Easter. This event, as illustrated by the Epact or the Golden Number of the Prayer Book, can only occur once in every nineteen years. Thus Jesus, or rather Christ, can in accordance with the Metonic Cycle, have a birthday, or resurrection, only once in nineteen years.
Casini, the renowned French Astronomer, has demonstrated that the date assigned to Jesus is an Astronomical epoch in which the middle conjunction of the moon with the sun happened on March 24, at half-past one in the morning, at the meridian of Jerusalem, the very day of the middle Equinox. The following day (the 25th) was the day of Incarnation according to Augustine, but the date of birth according to Clement. Thus, two birthdays are assigned to Jesus by the Christian fathers: one at the Winter Solstice, and the other at the Vernal Equinox. These, which cannot both be historical, can only be explained by the two birthdays ascribed to the double Horns in Egypt. Plutarch has recorded that Isis was delivered of Horns, the child, about the time of the Winter Solstice, and that the festival of the second or adult Horns followed the Vernal Equinox.
Likewise is the difference in the date of the crucifixion. John asserts that it was on the 14th of the Nisan, while the Synoptics allege it to have occurred on the 15th Nisan. This difference can also be explained on the same basis. In lunar calculation, it would be the 14th in a month of twenty-eight days, but in a solar month of thirty days, it must fall on the 15th of the month. If we unite the two on astronomical, and consequently on mythical bases, the difference disappears and is easy to understand.
Jesus' birth in the manger and the reference to the Caves remind one of the cave of Jupiter and other mythical gods. Mithras is said to have been born in a cave. But the Cave of Mithras was the birth-place of the Sun in the Winter Solstice, when this occurred on December 25, in the sign of the Ram. The Akkadian name the month, which roughly answers to December, as Abbauddu, that is the Cave of Light.
Justin Martyr says: "Christ was born in the stable, and afterwards took refuge in the cave," and he goes on to vouch for the fact that Christ was born on the same day that the Sun was reborn in Stabulum Augiae, the stable of Augias. And we find that the stable and the cave both figure in the same Celestial sign of the Lion. Again, the birthday of Horns was figured in Apta, but Apta is also the name of the Crib and the Manger. The same incident is repeated with Christ. This is also pointed out by the Star in the East: and we are told that Orion, the Star of the Three Kings, also called the Star of Horns, rose in the East and guided people to the newly born Sun-god. This birth then passed into the sign of the Fishes. The Talmud also said that the coming Messiah will be called Dag, the Fish, and connected his coming with the sign of the Fishes. The evangelists or redactors made Jesus perform the miracle of the fishes to meet this demand. This discussion, though interesting in itself, is beyond the scope of this book, and I must leave it here. Those who wish to study the subject in greater detail would do well to read The Sources of Christianity by the late Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din.
Before I close this discussion, I must point out why the thirtieth year was fixed by Luke as the year of the commencement of Jesus' ministry. Dean Milman gives the excuse:
"The law prescribed the period of thirty years for assuming of the most important functions, and it was, therefore, not till he had arrived at this age that Jesus again emerged from his obscurity" (Milman, Life of Christ, 135).
In the Old Testament we find the age given between 30 to 50 years (Num., 4 : 3, 47); and of course, Luke could not make Jesus wait much longer, and he fixed the minimum years for the commencement of the ministry of Jesus.
Luke attributed the journey of the family to Bethlehem-Judah because of the census of Quirinius, which, as I have already mentioned, did not take place in the time of Herod. Both Matthew and Luke agree that the nativity took place during the reign of Herod, and this must be accepted. The reasons of Luke, therefore, for the journey of Joseph to, and the consequential birth at, Bethlehem-Judah also disappear.
Christian apologists object that, if Joseph did not belong to Bethlehem-Judah, why did Matthew, like Luke, not create an excuse for the presence of the family at the crucial time in that town? The answer is a very simple one. Matthew knew what he wanted to establish and was better informed. To explain the real position, I must mention first that in Galilee there was a very small village called Bethlehem. It is mentioned in Talmudic literature as Bethlehem en Nosiriyyah, which according to the Old Testament fell to the lot of Zebulun (Jos., 19: 10-16). This village was situated in the valley of Esdraelon, about seven miles north-west of Nazareth. While most evangelists correctly stated that Jesus was born at Nazareth, Matthew, for reasons already mentioned, took advantage of the fact that Joseph belonged to this Bethlehem, and dishonestly stated in his narrative that Jesus was born at Bethlehem, knowing that the mere mention of this name would be construed as if Jesus was born in Bethlehem-Judah. While discussing the question the compilers of the Encyclopaedia Biblica say:
"Bethlehem, without any explanatory addition, was supposed to be the Southern Bethlehem, and the well-known narratives, so poetic, so full of spiritual suggestion ( and may I add: so full of lies) in Matthew (Chapter II) and in Luke (II : 1-20), which are not supported by any other Gospels, have arisen in consequence" (Ency. Biblica, Col. 3362. Words in brackets are mine.).
I will now show from the evangelic and other records that Jesus was born in a small town in Galilee called Nazareth. In the Evangelium de Nativitate de Maria we are told that Joachim and Hanna (or Anna), the parents of Mary, lived in a small town called Maiden en Nasara, (it was from this name that the epithet Nasrani originated; which has been and is still today applied to Christians by Jews and Arabs alike. Nazareth is called by the Arabs to this day Nasara), or, as it has come down in Western history, Nazareth. (The present-day Nazareth does not stand on the site of this ancient town. It was destroyed and rebuilt at a place below the old town.)
This little town was cut off from the rest of the world, being far removed from the great "highways of the Seas" and the caravan routes. It was a peaceful Galilean town, half way up the hills, cultivating its own fields and orchards, busying itself in all manners of handicraft. It was, as it were, sunk into its own self-seeing visions, dreaming its dreams. This was a fitting place for the birth-place of a moralist and reformer, for his visions and dreams. It was to this town, her parents' old residence, where her sister lived, that Mary returned, from the village Bethlehem, to give birth to her first-born.
Nowhere in the New Testament, apart from Matthew and Luke, whose assertions have already been shown to be false, is the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem-Judah mentioned; nowhere does Jesus subsequently appear within his alleged birth-place; nowhere does he pay any visit, except on his last journey to Jerusalem; nowhere does he appeal to this fact as concomitant proof of his Messiahship although he had direct inducement to do so: for many were repelled from him by his Galilean origin and defended their prejudices by referring to the necessity that the Messiah should come out of Bethlehem-Judah, the city of David (John, 7 : 42. See also Mica., 5 : 1-2; Jer., 235; Ps., 132 : 11). Insults were flung to his face; his mission was being denied: the disputants were challenging:
"Can there any good come out of Nazareth?" (John, 1 : 46).
"Out of Galilee ariseth no prophet" (John, 7 : 52).
But he never asserted his being a Bethlehemite, and only complained:
"A prophet is not without honour save in his own country and his own house" (Matt., 13 : 57; Mark, 6 : 4).
John records an incident which throws a flood of light on the subject. When certain people heard Jesus preach, they said:
"Of a truth this is the prophet. This is the Christ, but some said, shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not scriptures said that Christ cometh out of the seed of David and out of Bethlehem the village where David was. So there arose a division among the multitude regarding him" (John, 7 : 40-43. See margin of Revised Version, p. 1179. The Authorised Version uses the phrase "out of the town of Bethlehem.").
I have quoted from the Syriac manuscript to show that it was acknowledged by all that Jesus had come out of Bethlehem in Galilee. It may be explained that amongst Jews the residence town of a father was always attributed to be also that of the son. The denial of his mission was pointedly based on this fact, so much so that it caused a division among those present at the time. John must have accepted the fact that Jesus was born in Galilee and not at Bethlehem-Judah, for he also, like Jesus, did not try to contradict those who asserted otherwise.
Mark directly gives us to understand that Jesus was born in Galilee. It is true that he does not name the town, but since Jesus was wandering at the time when he is said to have preached in "his own country" (Mark, 6 : 1. The proper translation is "his native place.), it is clear that Mark styled Galilee as "his own country." Luke from the very beginning gives Nazareth as the abode of Mary (Luke, 1 : 26). It was to this place, when circumstance permitted, that the parents of Jesus returned as their own city (Luke, 2 : 39). Thus, according to Luke, Nazareth is evidently the native place of Jesus.
Matthew says Jesus was born at Bethlehem-Judah; no doubt, as already stated, to fulful a prophecy. But he is in conflict with himself for he speaks of the prophetic advent of Jesus in Galilee (Matt., 2 : 23; 4 : 14-15), basing his claim on the well-known passage in Isaiah (Isa., 7 : 14; cf. Ju., 13 : 5). It would be an interesting pastime to trace all the strained coincidences in the life of Jesus, with the prophecies of the Old Testament: but which by themselves, because of this peculiarity, do not inspire the least confidence in the incidents which they are supposed to corroborate). Besides, if Joseph belonged to Bethlehem-Judah, as Matthew would have us believe, he has no right to call Nazareth, as he does, the home of Joseph (Matt., 2 : 23) like his predecessor was able to do (Mark, 1 : 24).
Now and again, Jesus is spoken of in the Gospels as Jesus of Galilee (Matt., 26: 69),8 Jesus of Nazareth (Matt., 26: 71; Luke, 4 : 34), and sometimes as Jesus, Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee (Matt., 21 : 11), but never as Jesus of Bethlehem-Judah or as the Bethlehemite. There are various passages which speak of Galilee as Jesus' "own country" (Matt., 13 : 54, 57; Mark, 6 : 1, 4; Luke, 2 : 39).
It is from Nazareth that he set out to meet John the Baptist (Matt., 4 : 13; Luke, 2 : 51). Nazareth is the place from which he goes out to preach (Matt., 3 : 13; Mark, 1 : 9) and returns to it time and again (Matt., 9 : 1; Luke, 2 : 51). In short, as Luke says, Nazareth was his own city, the city in which he was born and brought up (Luke, 4 : 16).
Before concluding this chapter, I will quote a passage from the Encyclopaedia Biblica wherein its compilers are compelled to admit that:
"The discrepancies of the evangelists compel us to make some hypothesis: Jesus was born in Nazareth and not in Bethlehem-Judah, and the transmitters made a mistake - some said Bethlehem and some said Nazareth" (Ency. Biblica, Col. 3361).
It is, therefore, evident that the evangelical statement that Jesus was born in Bethlehem-Judah is destitute of all valid evidence; nay it is contravened by positive facts as stated in the Gospels themselves.
in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to
Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel
and death and burial in Srinagar] by Khwaja
> Chapter 3: Name, Date and Place (of Jesus