Jesus Never Existed

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Jesus Never Existed

The Birthing of a Godman

The Gospel of Matthew tells of the appearance of an angel to Joseph in a dream, urging him to marry his divinely impregnated virgin wife-to-be; of a new star in the sky and wise men from the east; of the flight of the holy family to Egypt and of the massacre of the innocents of Bethlehem. Matthew invokes ancient Jewish prophecy to validate his surreal claims.

The Gospel of Luke mentions none of these dramatic events but instead reports the appearance of an angel to Mary; a worldwide census; the birth in a manger, a choir of angels; adoring shepherds; and a joyful presentation in the Temple. None of this is mentioned by Matthew.

The lack of mutual support between the two tales, and the fantastic nature of the purported events are damning enough. But what blows the fable clean away from the known universe is the ignorance of any such yarn by the earliest Christians, whether Matthew’s version or the fabrication of Luke. Not Paul, nor any of the epistle writers, know the tale and the gospels of Mark and John say nothing of the birthing of Jesus either. Those who should have known most about these wondrous events know least.

But then, the fable of the nativity is late and fake and was a necessary step in transforming the righteous hero of Mark’s gospel into a demigod and – at length – into a preexistent co-creator of the universe.

The Birth of Jesus Christ – Competing mythologies
  Matthew Luke
Bethlehem: Mary/Joseph already live in Bethlehem Mary/Joseph live in Nazareth
Angelic announcements: to Joseph in dreams to Mary in visions
Birth: Birth in house Birth in manger
Celestial sign: Star in the East Chorus of angels above a sheep pasture
Genealogy: “42” generations back to Abraham (actually 41 names) 42 generations back to David.
Then another 14 generations back to Abraham, and another 21 generations back to God himself.
Royal ancestry: Lineage accentuates Jewishness Extended ancestry now inclusive of Gentiles
Adoration: from Magi
Dream-inspired flight to Egypt
Herod’s murder of the innocents
Move to (new home) Nazareth
from Shepherds
Presentation in the Temple; recognised as a “light to the Gentiles” by prophets; Prodigy in the temple at aged 12.

"Star of Wonder" all right!

Soon after the birth of Jesus, magi from the east arrive in Jerusalem, and ask, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” The word gets around that they had “seen his star in the east”. But why, one wonders, did the magi associate a new star with a Jewish king rather than one of their own, or indeed with some other portent?
In any event, the sky watchers are secretly called into the presence of the current Jewish king, the dastardly Herod the Great, who obviously, is always ready to receive eastern mystics who say they’ve seen stars. But why had not the whole of Judea also seen the star? In the normal universe the same stars are seen across a vast arc of the hemisphere.
Herod asks the visitors when, exactly, the star had appeared. We will subsequently learn that it was two years previous (“according to the time that he inquired exactly from the mages” – Matthew 2.16). Had they followed the star for two years or merely made a bee-line for Jerusalem?
It is the words of the magi – and not the star – that disturb Herod – and, oddly, “all Jerusalem with him.” Was not Herod a brutal and hated king? Should not the people have been delighted by the birth of a new king heralded by a celestial sign – or were the Jews dependent on eastern magi to interpret their own oracles?
But no, Herod asks his own chief priests “where the Christ was to be born” (he surely could have done that at any time) – and the priests provide the answer (Bethlehem, as we all know), information which Herod passes on to the magi. The mystics are redirected by Herod himself towards the town made famous by David, a mere short walk from Jerusalem. Remarkably, rather than accompany with his guards or tag the worship-bound magi, Herod merely asks them to return to him with news of the child “that I may come and worship Him also.” The “wise men” are evidently not wise to the fact that Herod might be a tad displeased with the birth of his replacement. It’s also rather odd that Herod, with all the resources at his disposal, could not have found the holy infant with or without word from the magi – after all, we’re ask to believe he soon after killed all the others!
Thus it seems that the magi first saw the “star in the east” and knew that it was the sign of a royal birth to the Jews – but the Jews themselves did not see the “star”, or simply did not relate it to anything special before the magi showed up.

It also seems that the Jews knew that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem – but the magi, experts on Jewish oracles, did not!


"Westward leading, still proceeding"?

“When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.” – Matthew 2.9-10. (NKJV).

Did the “wise men” follow a star from the east?

Matthew does not say that but many Christians appear to think so, no doubt due to the popularity of the famous carol. But if that were the case, the author of Matthew not only wrote fiction and passed it off as fact, he confused east with west!
To get from the east to the west guided by a star, the star would need to be in the west, not the east.

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” 

– Matthew 2.1-2.
If the “wise men” reached Jerusalem unaided by a star – a journey of up to two years and quite a distance – why did they need to ask Herod, of all people, where to go next?

In reality, Matthew was merely working up a yarn from scripture, “a Star out of Jacob“. A new star was indicative of divine intervention in human affairs and symbolized “the light”.

Following yonder star?

The star “seen in the east” (more correctly understood as “at the rising”) now makes a reappearance (or else a course correction!) This time there is no uncertainty, the star really does lead the magi, not east or west but south! Was the star itself aware of the exchange of vital information between Herod and the magi or had it “known” all along that it would “pick up” the magi in Jerusalem and lead them on the final leg of their journey?
Did no one else in Jerusalem notice this extraordinary phenomenon? Where were the frenzied crowds if “all of Jerusalem” was disturbed?
And just how long might it take a “star” to traverse around six miles? It obviously would not have been long – Bethlehem was a walk of barely an hour or so from Jerusalem, and rather less if our magi were on the camels so beloved of Christmas card vendors.
Remarkably, the star makes a precision stop over a particular house (a maneuver challenging enough for a helicopter).

“They went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.” – Matthew 2.9.

Is the “star” not really a star at all but rather, a guiding angel? 
Aah, that makes it all so much more realistic …


Bearing Gifts?

How remarkable that the oriental mystics brought not just gold (always acceptable, one imagines) but frankincense, an incense used in temples to honour gods; and myrrh, a resin used in embalming and, purportedly, in the burial of Jesus (John 19.39). If this were history, myrrh would be an alarming choice for a new born baby, but this is fable, a “prefiguring” of the climactic finale to the Jesus tale.
Both early and late churchmen have acknowledged that the gifts were redolent with meaning and prescience – gold for kingship, frankincense for deity, and, most mystically, myrrh for sacrificial death. Thus Clement made the connection when he gave the example of the phoenix as a “proof” of resurrection:

“The phoenix makes for itself a coffin of frankincense and myrrh which in the fulness of time it enters and so dies.”
– Clement, Epistle to the Corinthians (2nd century).

In the famous carol by the Reverend Hopkins (1857) the Christian understanding of the symbolism is spelt out in detail:
“Gold I bring to Crown him again, King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign
Frankincense to offer have I, Incense owns a Deity nigh
Pray’r and praising, all men raising Worship Him, God most high
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.”
Thus the macabre gifts from the “wise men” acknowledged the child as both king and god and “anticipated” Jesus’s death and burial. The gifts of the magi graphically illustrate that the whole nativity yarn is no incidental late addition to the fable of Jesus. The redactor of Matthew, well aware of the ending, placed appropriate offerings into the hands of his travelling mystics.

Dream time

Having worshipped and delivered their precious gifts (whatever happened to those gifts, one wonders?) a surreal, collective “dream” deters any thoughts of the magi returning to Jerusalem.

“Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.” – Matthew 2.12.

Quite how Matthew got to know of this “dream” generations later one can but wonder! And the star? Rather like the “wise men” themselves, this most remarkable of celestial objects makes a prudent exit.

If only reality was quite so capricious.


Magi from the East – The Evolution of a Myth

Matthew was intent on convincing wavering Jews that his godman Jesus had been both anticipated by their own prophets and recognised (even) by Gentiles. He found his inspiration in Isaiah, not a single prophet but several, writing from the 8th to the 6th century. So-called “third Isaiah” was writing after the exile, when Judah had been reconstituted within the Persian empire and Judaism was beginning to take shape. In this happy time, the prophet anticipates the subservience of the Gentiles who will bring great wealth and blessings to Zion.
The holy city will become a place of homage and tribute from “the nations” (non-Jews) and God will appear in “light – glory – name.”
In Isaiah 60 Matthew finds all the elements he needs to create a star, “magi from the east” and gifts of gold and frankincense.

“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. 

The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see: They all gather together, they come to you; Your sons shall come from afar, And your daughters shall be nursed at your side. Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy; Because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you. 

The wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you. The multitude of camels shall cover your land, The dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba shall come; They shall bring gold and incense, And they shall proclaim the praises of the Lord.” – Isaiah 60.1-6.

Note that Isaiah 60.6 also refers to camels and kings, not points used by Matthew, who surely has to stress the astrological wisdom of his magi who are able to divine a Jewish king in an oriental sky. But soon enough these details were added by early Christians (thus, Tertullian, Adv. Marcion 3.13., also drawing on Psalms 72.11, “May all kings fall down before him”.) So the magi became kings and travelled by camel.
• Matthew doesn’t number the magi which prompted many early believers to speculate (twelve perhaps? or maybe a multitude?). But by the 2nd century, the magi were identified as three in number, matching the gifts. Thus argued Origen (Homilies on Genesis 14.3, 205).
• Having established a number, pious inventiveness soon provided names. By the 5th century, in the “western tradition”, the kings were named as Balthassar, Melchior and Gaspar. Later embellishment identified Balthassar as dark-skinned and bearded, Melchior as a clean-shaven youth and Gaspar as grey haired and balding. The three thus represented the known world – Africa, Europe and Asia – all coming to pay homage to Christ. And verses could be plucked from here and there in scripture to support the fancy (thus Psalm 72.10–11, “May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts … May all the nations serve him.”)
• The “Revelation of the Magi”, written most probably in the 2nd or 3rd century and preserved in an 8th-century Syriac manuscript, purports to have been written by the magi themselves. It seems that having returned to the east, the magi proselytized the Christian faith and were themselves baptized by the apostle Thomas on his way to India. Alternatively, by providential good fortune (or suspect “tradition”), the bones of all three magi were said to have been found by Helena, the mother of Constantine, in her progress through the Holy Land and taken back to Constantinople. Those bones – or at least some bones – were eventually carried off to Germany and placed into the Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral, where they continue to entertain curious if less gullible pilgrims.

Well, we all like a story with a happy ending.

Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral containing the bones of the magi. Honest.

Born under star" from soothsayer with a talking donkey!

If you’ve ever wondered where the “born under a star” nonsense began it actually comes from the mouth of an Arab wizard supposedly hired to curse the Israelites, who rides a talking donkey:

“And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.

And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.” – Numbers 22.29,30.

Balaam himself is a literary device intruded into the story of Moses. He is a foil used to demonstrate that even Gentile prophets, intent on cursing the Israelites, are obliged by Yahweh to dispense “blessings” instead. A little after his discourse with the donkey, Balaam utters the words wrenched out of context centuries later by Christian novelists:

“And Balaam said unto Balak …

The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly, the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth. Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong. A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.” – Numbers 24.12,17.

Blindingly obvious, the “oracle” refers to a mighty conqueror, not any effete prophet of passivity and “love of enemies”; it also refers to a time when places such as Moab and Edom still existed (in fact, they disappeared into Nabatea and Idumaea centuries before any Jesus).

With its boast of might and vengeance, this particular notion of a “star out of Jacob” resonated with the Jews. Josephus saved his own skin with “an ambiguous oracle” found in Jewish sacred writings – and the presumption is that he was referring to Balaam.

In any event, Josephus flattered the vanity of Vespasian that he would be that “foretold” world ruler (War 6.312).

A messianic claimant of the 130s, Simon ben Kosiba, was also heralded by his followers as a star, as “Bar Kochba”, in other words, as a “son of the star”. But unlike Matthew and his fable of Jesus, there was no attempt made to finesse Simon’s stellar qualities into a fiery object in the sky!


Bethlehem – tribe, town or man?

Where was Jesus born? Was it Bethlehem or Nazareth or even Sepphoris, Tiberias or Jerusalem? We cannot know for sure because the early Christians themselves apparently did not know.”
– Steve Mason, Where Was Jesus Born? The First Christmas, Biblical Archaeology Society, 2009
Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was supposedly “foretold” in the Old Testament prophecy:
“Herod … inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'” – Matthew 2.3-6.
This appears to be from Micah but Matthew does not quote accurately. In fact, he conflates Micah with 2 Samuel and also subtly alters the text. In 2 Samuel “the tribes” (collectively?) are speaking to David at Hebron. It is the occasion of his anointing as king. The 30-year-old has impressed Yahweh with his prowess as a military commander.
“In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel, and you shall become their ruler.'” – 2 Samuel 5.
Micah – one of the quartet of 8th century “prophets” (along with Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea) – refers not to Bethlehem but to Bethlehem Ephrathah and in the Old Testament, Ephrath is not simply a place name but also a description for members of the Israelite tribe of Ephraim.
According to the yarn in Genesis, Ephraim was a son of Joseph and among his descendants was Joshua son of Nun (that’s the guy who led the conquest of Canaan) and Jeroboam, the first king of Israel (1 Kings 11.26). They were thus “northerners” but according to 2 Chronicles, Ephraimites fled south into Judah in the time of king Asa (9th century BC). As northerners, they apparently had a very distinctive accent, a point related in a memorable massacre of the Ephraimites at the hands of Gileadites, east of the Jordan (Judges 12).
“Now Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim … There fell at that time forty-two thousand Ephraimites.” – Judges 12.4-6.
Apparently, in this conflict between the tribes, the pronunciation of shibboleth as sibboleth was sufficient evidence to identify Ephraimites and get them killed! (Judges 12.5-6.) Thus Ephrathite appears to be synonymous with Ephraimite and it seems that surviving Ephraimites settled near to Bethlehem, giving the settlement its double name. And then along came David:
“Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem Judah, whose name was Jesse, and who had eight sons.” – 1 Samuel 17:12
Micah, or whoever wrote in that name, was ostensibly an exile from the northern kingdom, writing in the time of Hezekiah (c.728-698 BC). He makes very clear precisely when in history his hero will “shepherd Israel” to glory:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting …
When the Assyrian comes into our land, and when he treads in our palaces, Then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princely men. They shall waste with the sword the land of Assyria, and the land of Nimrod at its entrances. Thus He shall deliver us from the Assyrian, When he comes into our land and when he treads within our borders.” – Micah 5.2-6.

Nothing here suggests a prophecy of a far-distant future. In fact, it was a pathetic forecast even for Micah’s own age. The tiny theocracy of Jerusalem laying waste the Assyrian empire? Only in the delusional mind of a religious fanatic.


Herod's massacre of the innocents? – The recycled story of a bad Pharaoh!

“Arise, take the young child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy Him.” – Matthew 2.13.
“Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” – Matthew 2.17-18.
The argument is often made that ordering the death of innocent children “would not be untypical” of Herod the Great, given that there is plentiful testimony that he murdered many of his own family. But that falls a long way short of evidence that he did do so and the claim is undermined by the failure of any historian, evangelist, or writer of a New Testament epistle, other than Matthew, to mention this infamous episode.
A more recent “damage limitation” strategy from Christian apologetics – having taken on board that 1st century Bethlehem was a thinly populated village, is to calculate that the number of infants thus murdered was perhaps between six and a dozen individuals. This is a far cry from earlier Christian tradition, where the number of “martyrs” rose exponentially to reach the dizzying heights of 144,000 by the late Middle Ages.
The alleged atrocity, whatever its magnitude, belongs not in history but in religious fantasy. In the real universe, God could have saved everybody a whole lot of trouble if he had brought forward the death of Herod by a few years (he had, after all, hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that “His wonders could be multiplied in the land of Egypt” – Exodus 10.20; 11.9).
But Matthew wanted a drama that forged a connection between his Jesus character and the hero of the ancient Israelites, Moses. By such a link, Matthew strengthened his new hero’s Jewish and messianic credentials and created a figure that was “pre-figured” and could be proven from “prophecy”. Thus the tale of Jesus in a number of key details is patterned after the tale of Moses but with certain important inversions. For Jesus, Egypt is the sanctuary to escape to, not flee from. In the birthing of both heroes, the designs of a nasty king have to be thwarted.
“Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” – Exodus 1.22
“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” – Matthew 2.16.
Baby Moses survived, as indeed did baby Jesus (in each case, while others died). Bizarrely, Matthew chose to buttress his yarn here by jumping forward a century or two among the prophets to a chaotic work known as Jeremiah. The self-defining “prophet to the nations” Jeremiah was in fact the collective pseudonym for a whole group of writers, the earliest from the era of Josiah and the “Deuteronomists”, and others from the Persian period. The selected “prophecy” – a reference to a wailing (but long dead!) Rachel (in her tomb), weeping for her children, at the very time “her children” (the Jews) were returning from exile – is wholly at odds with any Herodian massacre centuries into the future – as indeed it is with any concept of reality at all. Mattthew simply found a reference to children and weeping and threw it into the pot!

As adults, both Moses and Jesus interceded for Israel before God, acted as prophets, gave laws, performed feeding miracles, and so on. Quite simply, Matthew fabricated Jesus as the “new Moses”.

Jesus, like Moses, was to be a “saviour” of his people.

Flight to Egypt? – "Out of Egypt I called my son."

“When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” – Matthew 2.14-15.

After the magi departed, Matthew spins the tale that the holy family made a mad dash to Egypt, having been tipped off by an angel in a dream of King Herod’s murderous designs. The same angel promises to “bring word” when it will be safe to return home. An angel gives this “all clear” just a few verses later, assuring Joseph that now “those who sought the young child’s life are dead” (Matthew 2.20). Oddly, when he does get home to Judea, Joseph is not so sure about the family’s safety and in fact God himself (2.22) agrees: a warning in yet another dream sends the holy vagrants off to Galilee.
The support for this scantily detailed yarn (How did they evade capture? Where in Egypt did they stay? How long were they in Egyptian refuge?) are “prophecies” that Matthew has artfully selected to mirror his words.
The stay in Egypt was matched to a “prophecy” in Hosea. Christians were (and are) able to deceive themselves that the Messiah must come out of Egypt.

“Out of Egypt I called My Son.” – Hosea 11.1.

But what is the context for this convenient tidbit in Hosea?
The book of Hosea is another collective work that pours curses upon the northern kingdom and issues stern rebukes upon Judah. It is a curious parable in which Hosea is himself married to a whore. The symbolism is interleaved with its “real” meaning: Yahweh is wedded to Israel. Hosea’s wife goes whoring, as do Israelites who “go after false gods”. The obscure drivel can be dated by its use of the name Ephraim for the northern kingdom, that is, a time when most of the north had already fallen to the Assyrians, but before the foundations of Judaism have been set (there is no mention of Jerusalem or Zion). Pronounces the stern Hosea:

“They shall not dwell in the Lord’s land but Ephraim shall return to Egypt and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria.” – Hosea 9.3.

The writer concatenates Egypt and Assyria, the one a land of ancient bondage, the other of present enslavement. In chapter 11 (the one pillaged by Matthew) Yahweh is reminiscing about the time his “son” – the tribe of Israelites, and particularly Ephraim – were freed from the yoke of slavery and idol worship in Egypt. But now:

“He shall not return into the land of Egypt but the Assyrian shall be his king … My people are bent to back-sliding from me.” – Hosea 11.5-7.

There is absolutely no connection between the words of Hosea and any Christian godman several hundred years into the future – other than in the creative fiction of Matthew and the naive mind of believers. “He”, the “son”, is not a person at all but an entire people.
“Prophecy” – Late and Fake
Did Micah copy his soothsaying from Isaiah or did Isaiah copy his from Micah – or are the prophets entirely bogus?
Micah 4.1-3. Mary/Joseph live in Nazareth
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And peoples shall flow to it.
Many nations shall come and say,
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say,
“Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
“Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion the law shall go forth,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples,
And rebuke strong nations afar off;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore.
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore.

"And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth"

The author of Matthew started the deceit that the title ‘Jesus the Nazorene’ should in some manner relate to the town of Nazareth, by (as ever) quoting “prophecy”:

“And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” – Matthew 2.23.

Yet Matthew is misquoting – nowhere in prophetic literature is there any reference to a Nazarene. What is ‘foretold’ (or at least mentioned several times) in Jewish scripture is the appearance of a Nazarite and in these precedents there are several echoes of the “Mary story”. For example, in the birthing of Samson, his unnamed barren mother is told (by an angel):

“For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” – Judges 13.5.

In the birthing of the prophet Samuel, his erstwhile barren mother Hannah had given a vow:

“And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” – 1 Samuel 1.11.

That Matthew had Samuel in focus when constructing his nativity yarn is betrayed by his fellow story teller Luke. Now Luke did not require a pretext for placing the holy family in Nazareth (for Luke Nazareth was their regular home) but nonetheless, Luke follows Matthew’s lead by drawing upon the tale of Samuel:

“Now the young man Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favour with the Lord and also with man.” – 1 Samuel 2:26.

Just as blatantly, Luke fashions the virgin’s eulogy to the Lord after the acclamation from the “barren” Hannah at her similar good fortune.
Why waste a good yarn?
Luke copies from Samuel
In her biggest scene, Mary delivers her only set-piece speech, the so-called ‘Magnificat’. Luke has modelled this paean after the so-called ‘song of Hannah’, delivered after her own divinely sponsored pregnancy.
1 Samuel 2.1,10.Luke 1.46,55.
Song of Hannah‘Magnificat’
“And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation …My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden …
The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength … they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.He hath put down the mighty from their seats,
The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust …He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces.”

He hath helpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy…”

Unlike Matthew, Luke had no need to slyly substitute “Nazarene” for “Nazarite”.
By replacing Nazarite (“he who vows to grow long hair and serve god”) with a term which appears to imply “resident of” Matthew is able to fabricate a hometown link for his fictitious hero.
Of such duplicity are dreams made.

Related articles

The Birthing of a Godman – Elaboration of a myth
Nazareth – The Town that Theology Built

Matthew – "Magi but no census"

In Matthew’s fable it is “magi from the east” who traipse to Bethlehem, not the holy family. In Matthew Joseph and Mary already live there.

Matthew knows nothing of the census so important to Luke’s alternative fable.

Raped by a ghost?

In Matthew, angels appear to Joseph in his dreams, advising him of his young bride’s divine impregnation. Nonsense three levels deep.

But Mary herself does not get a tip off until Luke writes in Mary’s own angel in Luke 1.35.

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
– Matthew 1.18-21.

Resistance is futile

Not “wise men”, “astronomers”, “astrologers” or “kings” but Magi – the priests of Mithras.
The Bible in fact condemns sorcery and astrology as black arts (Deuteronomy 18:10–11, Leviticus 19:26, and Isaiah 47:13–14.
The magi’s adoration of the Christ child was a cypher for the submission of Mithraism to the more aggressive religion of Christianity (Justin, Trypho 77- 78, cites Isaiah 8.4. to this effect.
Origen adds that the power of the magi weakened when the star appeared (Contra Celsus, 1.49-50),

Star turn

Bethlehem, around 6 miles due south of Jerusalem. A course correction for the star?

Myrrh? No thanks

“Thanks a lot for the gold and frankincense but, er, don’t worry too much about the myrrh next time.”
The humorous quip from Life of Brian points to the fabricated nature of Matthew’s magi.
Why would they bring a baby a resin used in burial – had they already read the gospel ending?
Adoration of the Magi?

Submission of the priests of Mithras

The Magi – as the early Christians saw them. The clothing is that of the priests of Mithras (see below).
Catacomb of Marcus and Marcellianus. (Rome 4th century).
‘Alcimus, slave-bailiff of Tiberius Claudius Livianus, gave the gift to the sun-god Mithras in fulfillment of a vow.’
(Rome 2nd century)

Not at all like kings

Magi-cum-Mithraic priests (and note the star)
Sarcophagus, Vatican Museum
(Rome 4th century).
Samuel’s father:

Ephraimite = Ephrathite

“There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives.”
– 1 Samuel 1.1-2. (ESV).
Note that several modern translations smooth away this tidbit by substituting Ephraimite for Ephrathite.

Naked and the Dead

Apparently the massacre of the innocents was accompanied by a great deal of nudity.
(Cornelis van Haarlem– 19th century)

Oops! A failed "prophecy"

“In that day, says the Lord, I will assemble the lame, I will gather the outcast and those whom I have afflicted; I will make the lame a remnant, and the outcast a strong nation; so the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion from now on, for ever and ever.
– Micah 4.6-7.
Most assuredly, Yahweh, the god of the Jews, has not reigned over his “remnant” in Mount Zion since the 8th century BC.
Many Egyptian towns claim a connection with the fugitive holy family. A completely bogus story leaves plenty of scope for creative tourism.

Oops! A failed "prophecy"

“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sands of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered.” – Hosea 1.10.
Population of Israel (2011) 7,798,600 of which Jews about 5,865,300.
Jews worldwide (2009/10) 13,421,000.

Role model for Jesus

Samson pleased God no end by avoiding strong drink and never shaving.
That’s the kind of sacrifice that makes a fanatic holy.

Seasoned traveller

That poor old donkey, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards..
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