Part one of the life of Jesus.
What was Jesus like? Who was Jesus? What made Jesus do and say the things he did?
To know Jesus you have to learn a little of is life, before you can try to understand his teachings and beliefs. Also the main recorded events of Jesus life are in a three year period in which he gathered together his disciples [imagine Mohammed’s companions] Taught his disciples and preached to the mass of the people mainly in Galilea, regardless of religion, nationality, or sex.
He was despised by some for mixing with gentiles, people who were seen as members of the occupying powers [Romans] seen as collaborators to the Romans [Jewish Tax collectors] people who were failed Jews, who had married outside of the Jewish faith or did not follow the strict Jewish laws [Samaritans]
His teachings used everyday language and events that were of the day and that most people could understand. His parables [stories] depicted these teachings and were used to show that people in authority had a duty to God to administer wisely, fairly and most of all to put into practice what they preached. He was not slow to ridicule members of the Jewish elite who made an open show of practicing their religion and yet showed little or no sympathy for their fellow man.
Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem, as there was no room for him in the inn. A story that as formed the basis of countless school nativity plays, born of a Virgin Mary who was told by an angel that she would have a baby who would be the Messiah, and also stories that Jesus was a refugee, his parents were homeless and destitute etc. These stories appear in only two of the four gospels [Mathew and Luke] The other two Gospels Luke and John take up the life of Jesus when he starts his three year ministry leading up to his death and events that happened afterwards.
Let us take the traditional version, the Virgin Mary is told by Gabriel, she'll give birth to Jesus who would be the Messiah that Israel was waiting for. Mary was also betrothed to marry a man called Joseph, who she may have met but according to the Gospels she was a virgin?
It was said that Mary was most upset by this; I bet she was, pregnant before marriage and the baby was not Joseph’s? A recipe for disaster, shame and possibility of being kicked out by both In-laws and family members at the least, Honour killing at the worst.
Joseph, who it was said was a kind and thoughtful religious man thought that after a quiet wedding? He would divorce Mary to save her shame? Then Joseph had a dream [lot’s of dreams in ancient times] and in it he was told, Yes, Mary your future wife is with child and it’s not yours, he was conceived by the holy spirit and will be the chosen one [the Messiah] that Israel had been waiting for. So don’t worry, things will work out all right in the end. To which Joseph replied, “fine God, if it is your will I shall do the right thing and marry Mary”. I bet he did, but let’s press on.
So I presume he Joseph and Mary got married, and to make things even worse, those lousy Romans who had not long taken over the country passed a law, “That every citizen must return to their family town, where they would be counted for the purpose of taxation to the Emperor in Rome. [If you are going to trouble of conquering a country you might as well make it pay, nothing new there then]
So of they set to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem [about 100 miles, or 4 days walk] not an easy journey especially with a pregnant wife in the latter days of pregnancy. I can imagine the chaos of all these people moving round. [IMHO not very likely, the Romans were very efficient administrators and would have made use of local synagogue records to identify a] who was who and b] who had the ability to pay taxes and if so how much] But never mind, let us not ruin a good story by using logic, as the story as been told many times and as been the basis of many other tales.
So of they trot like good Roman subjects [note subjects, not citizens. There is a big difference, [Google it]] to register for taxation. They arrive in Bethlehem and there is no room at the Inn [there would not be, very few ordinary people travelled more then a few hours walk from were they lived, so there was very little need for a Travelodge] plus we have all these people travelling back and two to register for taxation?
So they check in at the Inns annexe [a stable] at least it was warm and dry, even if the neighbours might have been a bit smelly. So in the place Mary has a baby, presumably delivered by Joseph [no one else was there?] But if you again use logic, Bethlehem was Josephs home town, so he must have had cousins, uncles and aunts living there [if not parents, or grandparents] So at a stroke out goes all those poor refugee stories based on Joseph and Mary used too make us Christians feel guilty.
Next we have the visitors to see the newborn baby Jesus. We are told the first ones to arrive were shepherds who had been looking after the sheep in the fields, when an angel appeared and told them, “The Messiah had been born, come take a look.” So off they go leaving their sheep and goats to fend for themselves? Most likely they came a few at a time after all it was their job to guard the sheep from predators [both animal and human]
After this along came the three wise men, or magi. Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia and Gasper of India, according to Armenian traditions. Who had learnt of this special birth by looking at the stars, [it appears that they were astrologers or astronomers,] it was a useful profession of their day. If you watched the stars, kept records of star positions, the times of annual floods caused by winter rains in far off mountains. Or when an eclipse would happen if you also shared this information [pooled your knowledge] with other astrologers etc even keeping this knowledge within the family, you could make a good living out of it. [Hence the Arabia, Persia and India connection] Information is not only power but it can give you a good living!
But before they went to the stable they called in at the palace of Herod the Great, to ask if he knew the place where the Messiah was born. This came as a bit of a shock to Herod, while as a Jew he was aware of the prophecy that a Messiah would be born sometime and that he would rule over the Jews. He had two major problems 1] All his highly paid officials could not really help apart from saying that the prophecy said, “that the Messiah would be from the house of King David and would be born in Bethlehem.” 2] As Herod was thought to be a puppet King for the Romans the occupying power [nothing new there then] if it was true, then this Messiah would be a direct threat to Herod’s rule.. Once you have achieved power there is always someone who wants to take it from you [again nothing new] So after speaking to the magi, he asked them if they found the Messiah to let him know where the baby was born, has he should like to visit and bring him gifts also. [Lies and deceit the oldest weapon in power]
As the story goes the star that they, the Magi had been following reappeared and guided them on to the stable where Jesus slept. On their arrival they looked at the baby Jesus and left him gifts of, according to the story. Of Gold a symbol of his future Kingship, of Frankincense a symbol of deity, of myrrh as symbol of his death. All in all it must have been very busy in that stable?
The Magi bid their farewell to Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus heading back to their homes. Deciding not to tell Herod where Messiah was born. Whether they had doubts about Herod’s integrity [they were wise men after all] or as the story goes they had a dream and in it they were told leave by a different route to which they came.
The next bit of the story is a bit gruesome, the fact that Herod had been deceived and did not learn of the whereabouts of Jesus’s birth. [Even with all these coming and goings he never found out?] He decided to get rid of the Messiah and with it, the threat to his Kingship by slaughtering all the male children born on or around the time that the birth took place [the slaughter of the innocents. Google it] Whether this slaughter was fact, or fiction is still open for debate, but Joseph and Mary was told, in a dream, to leave Bethlehem and go to Egypt, to escape the slaughter, and not to return till after Herod’s death.
Now a few questions, did the Holy family flee to Egypt? Where in Egypt did they flee too? When did they return? And lastly when was the date, and year of Jesus’s birth?
Too be continued