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Though it has this secondary status, it is by no means either uninteresting or unimportant. Indeed, so important are the issues, and so spectacular is the claim of the Bible, to be the word of God Almighty Himself, that it is for many fitting and useful to follow the methods of science as far as they can be applicable to religion: and in the case of Christianity, this is, as we have seen, very far indeed. Cohesive and complementary considerations continually confirm the preliminary proofs (Chapter 1 supra), and do so with a freedom, a grace and a force which tends to remind one of the New Testament atmosphere itself, of the frank and ardent candour with which the writers speak of what they neither could nor would suppress.
We have touched on scientific method, and it will now be good to give it some slight review before applying it to prophecy. The result is as spectacular as is God's claim to be the inspiring Person, Presence and Power behind the Bible; nor would one expect less when God in Isaiah 48 (cf. Chapters 43 and 41) not merely permitted, not only invited, but provocatively issued challenge to man to survey the scene, and consider if any idol could predict as He predicts, who tells the end from the beginning and things which were not - indeed, He tells them as if they are, in that vivid and narrative, almost journalistic style of so many of the prophets, who are describing what God causes them to see - hence the term 'seer'.
Thus provided in this case, that of Christianity, with what correctly claims to be an objective revelation from God Almighty, we could find that it is equipped with elements capable of test for verification. We do observe that this is so in abundance. The provocatively presented prophecies could, in principle, readily be shown to be false; or else verified.
Should they all be verified, which admit of verification - and some are such as to make the claim extremely vulnerable and hence exceedingly valuable - this, in the line of scientific method in general, becomes exceedingly impressive. Professor Karl Popper in his general coverage of this method does not fail to state this obvious, general and basic fact of scientific method.
If the fulfilled prophecies related moreover to different centuries, different races and to entirely different culture patterns; and if they did so with precision on the one hand, or with significant coverage and foresight of trends over many centuries on the other, this would attest a sovereign stature and a freedom from fear of failure, appropriate to such a Power and Person. Indeed, it would resemble what we know of the Author: there would be a coherence and a composition because of the presiding intellect and conforming spirit, that would be made manifest throughout it all - like Chopin in the field of music, with dancing or lingering notes, in brilliance and in pathos... but still Chopin. Here however we deal with the world of events, to be played by the Almighty with His magnificent touch, neither domineering nor languid, but directive without the removal of the mind and will of man, while securing what He said with a precision that is profound in meaning and particular in accomplishment.
These events, it is to be realised, are played in this profound way, after the score has already been published, so that the predicted pianoforte performance of history is realised just as prescribed. Indeed, now pianissimo, now forte, it proceeds after the score: not kismet but kindness is operative in the God who has planned everything with full allowance for all the ingredients, from the status of freedom (not autonomy, two cannot have that in the same regard in the same system) to the status of servitude to sin for those who prefer it, to the cadenzas of conversion and the codas of salvation, tearing into the heart of the 'audience' with triumphant tenderness or terrible awakening. Thus the word of the Almighty proceeds, the score is written, the score is played and history is its music: so is prophecy fulfilled, and so are men directed to the Creator, through the movement of His salvation, the Divine Mastery Movement, of the Messiah.
In fact, it does all this, the Bible, the Spirit of God working. In parallel, the very cells of our bodies, though, like the books of the Bible, in some ways exceedingly diverse, these also show elements of continuity of thought (see Ch. 2 supra), plan, purpose and code: indeed one code is seen for all life. It is, biologically, as if all the world spoke English, or French, or Russian. After all, the cells did not rebel, as man did. It is God who has spoken their language.
As with the cells, so with the components of the Bible, the effect is cumulative: the intellectual acuity of the divine Biblical predictions, in kind and in detail, in endurance and in scope, in their language and in their operation, would have to be related to a sufficient cause.
With Jesus Christ, a Person pursued in the course of our earlier studies (Ch.'s 6, 8-9), it was seen that according to the evidence of the New Testament and the requirements of the predicted Messiah in the Old Testament, the correct claimant had to appear as God on earth, perform plenteous and even characteristic miracles, be pierced and murdered by His own people, be physically resurrected ('not rot') from the dead: and following His desolation and piercing, He was to give praise and be acknowledged in the great congregation as such (not something secret, Psalm 22:22, 25, cf. Psalm 16). His flesh would rest in hope 'because' God would deliver from rotting (Psalm 16:9-10, Acts 2:26-27).
He was to be a RANSOM for sins of those who received Him as a sacrifice for sin, to be judged as a WRONGDOER being punished by God, and REJECTED BY the Jews nationally. He was then to have this GOSPEL of Himself as Saviour and Lord published among the non-Jews, who world-wide and in great numbers would accept Him as such.
The record of Jesus Christ fulfils ALL these particulars. The Scriptures concerning Him, from Paul and others, were in large bulk received as sacred within living memory of His death, and the 'great congregation' right in Jerusalem arose with great vigour and powerful attestation. From the beginning, there was a testimony found in the New Testament scriptures, without any divergence of teaching, on the status of the person, on the fact of His resurrection, miracles and fulfilment of prophecy. in fact, the emphasis is profound and the whole matter proceeded from, as factual history by these writers in concert, as they deal with the issues arising or relate the matters frankly, with a lack of restriction or contrivance that marks the writings as extraordinarily free as well as lucid.
It could have been otherwise. The mighty power of Rome could have kept the body (if it had not become inaccessible by a power mightier than that of Rome); for it was forewarned in a most clear-cut way, and the issue was dynamite! It did place a guard and regarded with care the possibilities of trouble. The disciples, and those who claimed to witness the resurrection, could have noted that no such thing occurred, or could have failed to agree. The positive occurrences, so precise and interwoven, in scientific method constitute therefore a vigorous verification. In this area, fantastic and contorted theories about what the evidence does not tell us, are not to the point. It is rather what did happen which serves as a base for approaching the claim. In the case, Rome versus Jesus Christ, Rome versus Christ's prediction: Rome lost.
In this field, it is necessary to note the need to be aware of the background of a claim, and to avoid placing into a tested situation, one's own theories, built in other ways, and proceeding from there rather than from verified evidence. In this case, the Messiah is attested by overwhelming evidence, as indeed the scripture predicted of Him, so that He had to meet criteria: a strenuously careful prophet to fulfil every scripture.
His case, His pace, His fame, His power to move rested on His distinction as Messiah, and that rested on the predicted identikit of actions and stature required for Him. A failure to meet any test by learned scribes, challenge by any circumstances, intended or other, to meet any commandment, to perform the miracles predicted, or to rise from the dead meant one thing, scientifically. It meant the end of the road for any sustainable Messiah claim. This was the question: Is He or is He not the Messiah? In that context, we and they indeed, looked. It is precisely this approach which is apparent in the discussions on the road to Emmaus, noted in Luke 24:21, 'We hoped...' Messiah-anity, Christianity, would have ended with an obstinate corpse, and required the body resurrected.
All the ways in which things could have gone wrong are potential negatives, in tests for verification. Not one requirement, however, is not met. This is the basic fact to consider at this level. Both then and now, each of the hundreds of prophecies of Him, as Messiah, and the requirements had to be met; for with God-as-man, there is zero room for error. The test is absolutely simple, and simply absolute.
Similarly, if the Jews had not then lost their territories for a long age, if they had not rejected Him as a people, if Gentiles had not received Him worldwide on the basis of the predicted Gospel, which in turn rests on a basis of requirements never once invalidated; if the Jews had not returned to their land - and this, still not believing in Him, as a race; and if they had not then fought extraordinary wars against vastly superior multinational forces, making Jerusalem a world-wide problem... this too would have falsified the scripture concerned.
We have presented very much in the work on prophecy, and in considerable detail in Chapters 6-9; but even what is here summarised, is clear. We have peered, and pondered, and detailed vast scenarios; it is all there. It is all in order, fulfilled, being fulfilled or in the line of fulfilment. Nothing clashes, contradicts; every single thing proceeds with that same systematic motion that is found in the biological cell work, coded into our construction. Yet while our bodies can be marred, this is not to be postulated of the word of God. If God has spoken, sin is not to the point; so that perfect score is the only apt or appropriate score, for prophetic fulfilment and hence verification.
The point is very simple. Every testable claim is fulfilled where it may be tested; none is not - many are made, and they are diverse in the extreme...
Again, if the Jews had retained even Jerusalem and kept their sacrifices going there, the claims would not be verified; or if they had not for long periods been hideously persecuted, again, non-verification; if they had not been helped back to their land by non-Jewish money in particular (inter alia) the same. In any one of these cases, it simply would not do: the prophetic pass-mark for God, is perfection.
If non-Jews (Gentiles) had not invented for themselves a world in which, with fear, confusion, hatred and endless new religions rejecting Christ while seeking often to substitute others for Him, sometimes indeed new 'Messiahs', while the very continuation of biological life on earth was threatened: if this had not happened, that too would have falsified the Biblical claim. In precisely the same way, these facts verify it.
If the core of Europe had not united to form a super-entity with social, political and economic power (for years scheduled to be further increased with more advanced monetary unity, with resistance from former P.M. Thatcher attesting its significance): that basic fact too would have falsified it.
Instead, it verifies it. But why go on ? The detailed investigation of data is available for inspection by any desiring to be confronted by, and to confront facts (see Ch.'s 1, 6, 8 and 9 supra). The tests are enormous in scope and significance, and the results are consistent and continually confirmatory. The contrary cases are not found. Science properly so-called, the science of scientific method smiles benignly.
Here philosophy always appears a keen battle area. It does not rest, but is always restless in and with itself, like a student who will not regard the authoritative answer. Thus relativism, as noted, contradicts itself. To be able to declare anything to be essentially so concerning the real nature of the universe per se (enabling one to argue and reject or affirm on the stage of knowledge), one must be able to void subjectivity.
Where are those who may do this ? Not for such a person, not for a valid declarer, are the cultural conditioning, the intellectual blindness, the non-existent areas of perception (of what might be crucially important), the failure to know beyond oneself, where and in what categories of all possible knowledge, one's own exists! On chance theory, the limited, irrationally bred piece of meaningless apparatus, called man, is not competent to reach beyond his inter-relationships and self to the actualities, to what in reality is there. Indeed, what would it be, for where is the viewpoint from which to view it ? Indeed if nothing is absolute: then of nothing is anyone absolutely sure, past the category of mere experience... subjectivised experience. Then there is by definition, no objective viewpoint, orientation, perspective. It is not there and you could not grasp it, if it were, subject to and subjecting all else to your own subjectivity, that passes understanding. These are the implications. (See Ch. 3 supra.)
To make objective declaration contradicts the subjective self-imposed status of man, required by this theory. If such claim is made nevertheless, then this contradicts that theory. If it is not, then no world-view can be presented. But self-contradiction is an end to logic. If you contradict yourself, there is no need for anyone else to do so. Either way, it is an impasse.
If we however are interested in reason - wish perhaps to reason for and against - then this is accordingly a wrong way, go back situation. Data, on that basis, are merely meaningless meanders of whatever it is that relates to the experience of whatever it is; and on that basis, no knowledge of what in fact is, is possible through this limited and limiting subjectivity. To assert then, on that basis, that this or that is the nature of things: this is pure contradiction. There is, on that basis, no objective standpoint freed from circumscribing limits, gifted with absolute knowledge. Indeed, to act as if there were, is one further verification of the absolute fact of the absolute Creator, that men do not even logically operate, except with such an (implicit) and (often denied) reality. That sort of conduct, on the part of man as a rebellious rational being, is also in precise accord both with expectations and scripture.
What then ? This impasse is met by the self-revelation of the absolute God. Not merely is this logically required, as shown; it is logically used whether admitted or not. We made reference to the need to check every plausible claimant, scientific per se or other, for its power to meet every due challenge without self-contradiction.
Now of course, reason does not prima facie have to be followed (see further, Chapter 1, Section 1, Part B supra, however); but without it, no challenge in its name can be made. The challenge is there to every theory, scientific, pseudo-scientific or other, and to every religion.
In the scientific aspect, if any claim can be falsified, that is it, finis! The matter is closed at that level. On the other hand, a testable and consistent approach that meets - if unique in this - every single attempt to prove it wrong, each effort to find a non-verification with consistent, positive factual evidence: this must claim rational acknowledgement. A blunt refusal to give this, such as we in fact find in this area from many unrealistic academics, is totally unscientific, and suggests the idol of irrationality. To do so while talking as if plausibly of reason, this indicates the congregation of confusion, signifying the 'sacred mystery' ... service of self-contradiction.
It is useful when talking about things, not to be contradicting yourself at the outset. It is no less admirable to be based on what meets with no non-verification. To be sure, it has a cost which is not merely academic, noted earlier in terms of the distortions and disenablements of sin; and expressible indeed in terms of the need to approach God as sovereign, and Christ as Saviour, being willing to take up one's cross and follow Him as Lord, instead of being one's own authority, and following one's sinful inclinations. To the eyes of sin, this can seem so great a cost that mere self-contradiction and irrationality, a sort of un-creation of one's mind, is a price to be paid (and if possible, clouded over with a vague mist of congenial confusion.)
On the contrary, the rational acknowledgement to which we have referred, of God and His truth, this enables the avoidance of logic-in-chaos, on the one hand, while it is still being used, on the other (a sort of doubly undextrous juggling): a stark failure of reason attesting an aborted attempt at its use. Thus we AVOID MEANING AND TRUTH as protégés of a system which has no truth, no meaning, contradicts itself, uses what it contradicts and affirms what it denies. This avoidance is a peripheral part of the peace of truth; the central feature being its King and His procurement of pardon, so that life might be full, abundant and ordered in all of its paths... such as this one!
We now turn to the objective evidence, in the style for which scientific method shines: concerning the resurrection. While we have treated this in depth much earlier, it is instructive to tarry for a moment, where science can normally act, surveying the evidential scene and giving due note to results which abstractly, could have gone either way (a necessary point for scientific verification). Such an approach may have special value for some, who are more accustomed to such procedures, in isolation.
Actually, the resurrection is found to fit into the necessities of logic concerning Christianity as a religion, with the accuracy of a ship-launched aircraft, landing on the same deck as that from which it became airborne... or, for that matter, of a migratory bird, returning from thousands of miles away in Winter, to the same garden. The One who made the navigational equipment of the bird (now being investigated with wonder), and the mind which makes the navigational equipment of the aircraft, has no difficulty in navigating the ship of history to the points prescribed.
This special point, however, at this level, let us see.
B. The disproportion of Rome's power to that of the disciples is extremely tasteful and apt for an experiment. It makes Houdini seem amateur. It is good, indeed excellent verification test material.
C. The motivation of Rome is intense: it has indicated that it wants this man 'out'. Death is the answer to alleged kingdom ambitions; and the case is a remarkable one because of miracles widely held for numerous public situations, the agreement of this with the predicted performance requirements for the Messiah, together with the difficulty of performing miracles involving the sick and the dead, in a non-failure and overwhelmingly public fashion.
D. Rome is not interested in killing, but in death. It is not a matter of 'Get him!', but 'Keep him dead!' Neither sadism, torture-compulsion nor power-display is to the point. It is just that He must go and stay gone. He must die and stay dead; for the issue is not punishment but threat ... His imagined threat to them. (Actually, there was a far greater challenge to their physical pre-occupations than force could prevent; but this they did not know.)
E. So soldiers, a boulder and an alerted officialdom are in it to see He stays dead and stays clearly dead... is seen to be dead; thus the round of the guard in the first place. No rising; no pretended rising; no trouble, no bad publicity: the Jews are notorious for their national aspirations and this Messiah is close to the heart of the whole stability of the land. He must die, stay dead, be seen to stay dead: no ruse or reality about His being a god of some or any kind, since there is talk of being a king. Any resurrection (cf. Matthew 27:63 ff.), restoration or return is, in the vernacular, 'on the nose'.
The point being taken, the data from the priests (Matthew loc.cit.), a guard is given. In Rome of the day, efficiency under orders was ... expected.
F. Any failure in any of this is a total failure for Rome, sensitive to its name, and proud of its glory.
G. A simple act of power will cover a complex series of problems. Rome is strong on power, is an occupying power, is the world-wide imperial power. It is famous for administration. Thus the 'lab.' is set up.
H. Verification: the body is not kept by Rome.
I. The disciples attest the resurrection in the eminently bodily terms of eating and touching and walking and talking, and in large numbers. No counter-measures for love, money, power or reward are found by Rome... or by the priests, or by the Jewish people, which rejected this Messiah. The whole interlocking mesh of people and occupying power, in joint action, can do nothing: this is a massive verification at the objective level.
J. A massive grouping of Christians begins to arise - a minority but a growing one. These complete further the verification of Psalm 22 (vv. 22, 25, 30-31), not only by constituting a "great congregation" for the witness and consent to the resurrection, as was predictively required, but by being a 'seed' to 'serve Him' (Psalm 22:30). This then would be the "people that shall be born", to whom David referred, who would come to perceive the things denoted in Psalm 22. It is as orderly as any laboratory experiment, as sequential, as exact. It does what is prescribed like a first-year University Chemistry experiment, duly executed.
K. Now the text, texture and character of this Christian community needs consideration. Let us start with the first.
The challenge of God to man is met by the acute apparent vulnerability which God suffered for the format chosen to deal with our sins, in that His Christ was open to assault and murder. The power of God openly prevailed in ensuring that:
i) The death was by penalty as an ostensible criminal, as Isaiah 53:12 predicted.
ii) It involved piercing and protracted waiting in agony, as David (Psalm 22) predicted.
iii) It followed miracles as Isaiah predicted (Isaiah 35) and
iv) The person concerned came at the exact time in history that Daniel 9 predicted (DANIEL FILE, Part A supra), while ... v) It followed remarkable teaching and wisdom as Isaiah 11 predicted.
vi) The Christ came from the tribe Judah as Jacob predicted (Genesis 49) and
vii) He was born in Bethlehem as Micah 5:1-3 predicted.
viii) He was sold for 30 pieces of silver as Zechariah predicted and
ix) He was in 3 days physically raised from the dead as Leviticus indicated and Hosea and David in Psalms 16 and 22 predicted (and also Christ Himself, repeatedly forecast): publicly evidenced, performing amid praise (Psalm 22:22,25), not as a moribund corpse, able to defile for days any touching it (Leviticus 22:4-7, Numbers 5:2,19:11-22); and so on... All these identikit matters had to be fulfilled, to allow any reputable following, short of madness.
No objectively verifiable test is negative; all that can show a direct and positive result, does so.
What then of the texture and character of the Christian community ? We have already seen the candour and force of the apostles' appeal to facts, facts, facts... and in view of the New Testament being written in large degree, within easy living memory of Jesus Christ, and the Christians being under enormous pressure from envious and fearful priests and angered and autocratic 'Emperor worshipping' Romans, who desired no competition in the area of God, there would need to be no opportunity to deny them! The wicket-keeper is sharp. A ball does not need to be clipped.
Even if it were not for this fact-stressing 'loading', there is still the point that people looking for the long-prophesied Messiah, that Prophet predicted by Moses (Deuteronomy 18), are in need of natural and normal verification on all testable points, and these are numerous and prodigious, for they involve the power and knowledge of God.
They assuredly will not get it if the Messiah, having duly and properly announced that He will indeed rise, objectively, factually in three days, then fails objectively, factually and actually to do so. The sanity and sobriety, the self-discipline and enthusiasm, the level-headedness and quiet readiness to sacrifice, the enormous love for and declaration of realities which cannot be denied, as the very feeling of the spirit of their utterance, is not a natural companion for obvious and open fraud. (See p. 466 supra.)
People who have seen the miracles (or, if you will, purely as a point for argument, lack of them) are not going to be impressed by obvious man-handling of the facts; and the facts are stupendous, epochal and unique. In living memory, you will not move into top-gear among a prepared people who know of and are constantly taught in the religion of the very practical, Creator-Redeemer God of Moses who brought them out of Egypt, when your much emphasised facts are not there.
Nor are you likely to consider the desirability of being killed and possibly crucified and unpopular, and living in highly sober style the while... for the sake of trying to persuade people who have no reason to believe you, that history really did not happen as it is well-known it did.
This brings us then to the explicit area of motivation.
L. Motivation in Christians is not a measurable matter here, but it is capable of rational review and evidential enquiry. It does merely confirm what the more observable matters already exhibit. What is the cost to the apostles, if seeking to mislead ?
First, loss of life is likely, loss of property possible; loss of power to earn for the family (by death, performed on the Master, not unlikely for His servants)... unless of course they believed Christ and knew Him to be both true and deity, as they consistently in all circumstances, rejoicing, affirmed... Next, very likely is the loss of prestige, in places of political and ethnic power certain; then alienation of friends, likely.
Further, if any lied (not that a lie would or could have won the day, objective matters being required for which only the power of God would suffice): then
a) such a lying person would undertake to pay the above cost as a penalty for 'joining' Christianity;
b) the person, if wanting something better than hell, would fail to achieve it, and indeed be knowingly sending for tickets to everlasting exclusion from God by wilfully backing the wrong 'horse' - on the basis of believing in the God of the OId Testament; and
c) the party, if a disbeliever in this, pretending merely to believe, would be backing a movement (in that case) proved to have failed, one depending wholly on the God who, for such party simply would not be there: not much of a base for the lying person! It would resemble trusting in or requiring atomic weapons, and knowing you had none.Infiltration moreover (for that is what this would then be) would constitute a weak movement in something exultantly moving on faith. To divert Christianity or pervert it, if an aim, would founder rather obviously, both on the rigorous, factual, Scriptural emphasis, and on the utter rapturous assurance of the people gladly paying with their lives against immense persecution, with words which are on display as the most extraordinary in assurance of life-for-ever. Objectively, the resurrection met every verificatory test; subjectively, its stature is again confirmatory of the objective evidence.
Reflectively, it is further attested by the unsolicited force of the affair, in the freedom, ease and readiness, the rapture, rejoicing and constraint, the sobriety, love, rationality and concern, especially before their persecutors, of those afflicted and treated as refuse. This sort of incremental force is further verificatory in this: that it is constantly being found in the arenas of evidence that we investigate, and not in this one alone!
First we shall focus on the Messiah and the Gospel. Christ could have
i) failed to be born in Bethlehem.
ii) failed to be of the tribe of Judah.
iii) failed to give convincing testimony of miracles (in fact He gave it, even as seen or seized on by the envious, helping create the 'problem' needing 'solution' - cf. John 12:47-50).
iv) failed to master every verbal challenge.
v) failed to show the requisite knowledge relating to His mission as God on earth: something making our knowledge competitions look like kindergarten exercises.
vi) failed in any of the above once, however many positive verifications occurred.
vii) failed to collect prepared executives to fulfil the worldwide prediction of gospel sending, and impact; or collecting them, failed to have them implement their task! an enormous danger on His departure.
viii) failed to provide the basis for this gospel in word, power and personality.
ix) failed in any one moral response to the great array of commandments of the Old Testament (being then 'under the law') - even once.
x) failed to secure agreement among His surviving apostles-to-be.
xi) failed to be killed in such a way that He was left long to public and humiliating exposure (Psalm 22:13-18), or
xii) failed to be pierced (Psalm 22:16, Zechariah 12:10), or
xiii) failed to keep His bones intact and unbroken (John 19:32, Psalm 22:17).
xiv) failed to pray for those who were killing Him.
xv) failed to break Rome's powerful grip on His body - a potentially damning possibility, this one being able to undo all the rest.
xvi) failed to have witnesses to His resurrection of the body.
xvii) failed to convince all the living apostles of this, leaving a divided and ineffective, sensational and discordant camp (contrast Acts 4:23 ff.).
xviii) failed to have one of His intimate associates betray Him (cf.John 13:21, Psalm 41:9-12, with 69:20-25).
xix) failed to have this one come to an end in desolation.
xx) failed to have people deem His death a judgment of God (Isaiah 53:3-5).
xxi) failed to be rejected by His own Jewish people, despite the amazing record He also had to accomplish, being so successful a Messiah in all the requirements that could be tested - rejected by them as a people (Isaiah 49:7).
xxii) failed to have His gospel accepted by a vast number of very varied non-Jews (Isaiah 65:10-13, 49:6, 24:16 ff.).
xxiii) failed to provide in particular an offer to Gentiles that they might be covered in the righteousness of God, their own righteousness being as filthy rags'. (Isaiah 61:10, 64:6, 65:10-13.)
xxiv) failed with all this to be also lowly in demeanour (Zechariah 9:9) and yet robust in meeting challenge (Isaiah 11:1-5, 9:6).
xxv) failed to be sold by a traitor who accepted 30 pieces of silver as the 'price' (Zechariah 11:10-13) - a traitor close to his personal life (Psalm 41:9-12).
We could go on, but the point is that an abundance of factual verificatory elements exists, any one of which constitutes 'fair game' if it is overthrown. None is. Pass mark is 100% as in all such matters; and as with scientific theory, in the way noted. Indeed, Christ could have
xxvi) failed to implement any one of the multitude of prophecies which related to His sacrificial visit to earth and service to man, thereby undoing all the positive verifications (Joel 2:11, Mathew 5:17-19, Isaiah 45:25-28).
In addition, the Biblical claims for the history of the Jews could have been a failure. There could have failed to be
xxvii) a world-wide dispersion of the Jewish people and they could have
xxviii) failed to be persecuted and shockingly treated by many people (Leviticus 26:30-38, Deuteronomy 32:30-38), till it became a characteristic of their world-wide dispersion that they were so treated; and this dispersion could have
xxix) failed to be of long duration and
xxx) failed to have been followed eventually, by a decisive return to their land after all that, heavily assaulted but still a determinate body of people (Hitler helped carry this out, but could go only so far, as the tenor of the prediction allowed. German reparations helped their return - Isaiah 60:11, 49:2-3). Further there could, during the interim, have
xxxi) failed to be no opportunity for the Jews at least to sacrifice, according to the Old Testament command, in Jerusalem (cf. pp. 822-829 supra on Temple).
Further, as to the Gentiles and Jewish people in one world: Gentiles could have
xxxii) failed to give material aid from several nations (Isaiah 49:22-23) for the Jews' return to their land and their general fostering, and Jerusalem could have
xxxiii) failed to become an international 'sore' and problem; while the new Jewish nation could have died in myriad ways (cf. p. 805 supra): or
xxxiv) failed to repel Gentile attacks on their city in dramatic and electric-seeming fashion (Zechariah 12), and indeed
xxxv) failed to act in an utterly astonishing military way against a huge preponderance of attackers; and they could have
xxxvi) failed to take halfof Jerusalem in the midst of it all (Zechariah 14:1-2, with 12:11), and there might have been
xxxvii) failure to have pillage and raping in that war relative to Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:1-2). The Gentiles throughout the world could also have
xxxviii) failed to find the prophecy-fulfilling Christ, or gospel or its church-bearer (q.v.); or failed to receive the gospel with enthusiasm and a sense of the profound majesty of the Lord (Isaiah 24:16 ff., 49:6, 66:20, 42:1, 12, 51:5 with 52-53), and
xxxix) failed to have false Christs and false prophets (Jeremiah 23:16-21, Matthew 24:5,11). The Gentiles moreover could have
xl) failed to bring on a state of massive and varied international wars and
xli) failed to bring in a period of acute fear and apprehension allied with hatred in a developing syndrome (Matthew 24): instead developing into a peaceable, loving and harmonious aggregate of super-people, with super-ways that made superior pathways in a glorious world, as so many (now shown to be) false prophets - like poor Himmler and other Darwinian devotees in the last hundred years - suggested.
There could have
xlii) failed to be a large falling away in such a period of substantial segments of the Christian church relative to the Bible, into a condition which in effect excludes parts of their basic heritage and beliefs (whereas this development is a fascinating and complete, not to say dramatic study, considered earlier cf. II Thessalonians 2); and there could have
xliii) failed to be evidence of people IN THESE LATE TIMES, USING THEIR ALLEGED CHRISTIAN FAITH AS A MEANS OF MAKING MONEY, AND MEANWHILE MAKING MERCHANDISE OF MISLED PEOPLE WHO FOOLISHLY TRUST THEM (II Peter 2). Even if such a phenomenon had happened, then it might have
xliv) failed to be eminently notable, or notorious as required; and eminently notable it has become, especially in the last few years!
With this, there could have
xlv) failed to be a popular attitude refusing to believe that there is coming a time of judgment from God upon the world, amidst a type of uniformitarian philosophy (II Peter 3:1-7), and it could have
xlvi) failed to be arrogantly aggressive, while gratuitously dismissing the earlier flood judgment. Further, there might have
xlvii) failed to arise a cult and a culture engaging in grossly obtrusive self- or pleasure-seeking, that can even dare to mix with religion, in a vain attempt to legitimise itself. This is exactly as attested by much of the hippie-culture, with its form of religion in many phases (II Timothy 3:1-5), its love ... and peace ... and flower ... and unity-culture; and as further exemplified by the self-fulfilment motif, popularly distancing sin in a form of religion. What it does with such concepts contrasts with the Biblical teaching in precisely the predicted manner.
Further the Jewish people could have
xlviii) failed to engage in a vast reafforestation program in their newly revisited land (Isaiah 55:13), some 185,000,000 trees planted in little Israel since 1948 (W.Z.P.S.) and
xlix) failed to make a name for themselves in the abundance of flowers in their former 'desert' land (Isaiah 35). There could, from the Gentile aspect, have
l) failed to be any evidence - for the coming judgment in terms of the 'elements melting in the fervent heat', and in terms of life on earth being subject to serious, or even acute challenge or the heavens and earth ceasing... There could have been failure, or indeed, there could have been a chasm of contradiction.
But in all this and in all matters there has not been one failure.
Each test as it has become relevant has become successful. The pass mark... has been met. Further, it was the Bible which first issued the challenge... in God's name. The Lord has succeeded in doing everything precisely as He said. It could have been far otherwise; but it has proceeded as if history were a test-tube, as if a law were observed in operation. In this case, it is the 'law' of the mouth of the Lord, who has spoken first, and then done.
For good measure: there could have
li) failed to be signs in the heavens (Luke 21:25-27), in particular in the moon (historic, epic U.S. landing in 1969, Luke 21:25) and these could have
lii) failed to have occurred in the predicted setting. That gives one for each week of the year.
History verifies. The fact that numerous elements, early or late, are to be correlative in sequence, or simultaneous, gives a second dimension of verification. The point that any ONE failure is fatal, provides a third. See Endnote *24.
N.B. You may pursue this theme briefly but helpfully, in Member Notes 30 by this hyperlink.
First, let it be noted that discernible data are of much importance in this field. Thus the astronomical data will be mentioned first. If, after all, a great and notable celestial event sufficient both to kindle the imaginations of the 'wise men' and rekindle them were to occur, it might seem likely we would have some other evidence of it in the world of astronomy.
Thus the Chinese datum for B.C. 5, intepreted by Clark, Parkinson and Stephenson in their article in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, 1977, Vol. 18, No. 4, is of great value. Whether it be a comet with a tail or an impressive and radiant nova they are not sure, from the word used, but this they do declare: "only the most spectacular events would arouse sufficient interest to be recorded".
What makes this event the more interesting here is the further Korean entry, concerning another sighting, this time for B.C. 4, each event evidently rather early in the year. Now these sightings could relate to the beginning and end of the journey of the wise men who, as they said, had sighted the Star in the East, through which they proceeded in search of the new king. This they did with such impact that Herod undertook, on seeing himself avoided on their return to the East, to kill children under two, in a vain attempt to net for destruction, this 'new born king'. His famous infanticide has a relation to our date quest which requires further thought.
Why would he make such a broad sweep as that for children of two and under ? Presumably because he felt and wished to be rid of a threat, just as he killed members of his own family, his son indeed just before his death. Why would such an age, two years, be relevant to such an aim as this ? It might relate to a) the length of the journey since the first astral observation by the men from the East - Ramsay considering many months might be involved in their preparation and passage; b) the time from the arrival of the travellers, to Herod's discovery that they had avoided him on their return; and c) a desire for a 'safe' and liberal interpretation of the original sighting's date, so that nothing would escape his net1, and his paranoid seeming pursuit of royal 'peace' might be fulfilled.
This would suggest - since the wise men may well initially have truthfully told him of the date of their astral observation - that they might have been travelling for a good year, to make two seem to have any significance at all! If so, then their first sighting - if it accords with the Chinese one of B.C. 5 - would be around a year before their second sighting, mentioned by Matthew (2:10). That would fit with the Korean sighting on the one hand, and Herod's two year net on the other.
If then there is evidence for a B.C. 4 birth-date for Christ, and we look to see objective astronomical sightings which would both confirm this experimentally, as it were, and help confirm any matters of doubt on the date also: such sightings would be of great assistance. We are now ready to turn to the death date of Herod evidence.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, having noted Herod's death in B.C. 4, goes on to consider the attribution by Josephus the historian, of an eclipse of the moon to a date shortly before his death. One has been calculated as visible in Palestine on March 12, B.C. 4. Now this is just a little before the date of the Korean 'star' sighting, which appears, according to the article, to be either March 23 or 31, B.C. 4. If then, the eclipse came some little time before Herod died, and the wise men were on their way back shortly after it, with the stellar occurrence impacting on them, and this were March 23; then there would be a time for Herod to discover their escape without any relaying to him of the news of the new king, and stung by this, to react ... amply, and to live a short time thereafter. If as the writers of the article suggest, the date of the sighting were February, then the time would be somewhat longer.
Thus it would be that Herod interviewed these wise men at some time perhaps in February or March, and that they then left and made their way to Bethlehem, at which, in due time they arrived. Only later were they warned (Matthew 2:12). Meanwhile, Herod, sick, or made more sick, experienced the rigours of his loathsome disease and horrible end, perhaps in April B.C. 4, though strong argument was made by Sir Robert Anderson for a date some months later, in his work, The Coming Prince (pp. 258-260). The events match the data exceedingly well.
The astronomical writers cited note that the Korean report has less reliability than the Chinese one at this time, and that in fact the Korean date has a day name that does not occur for the month in question. It is for this reason that suggestions are made as to what the date in fact was. What would seem the more clear is that they at least had the year right, this being a more serious error than that of month or day.
With this caveat, we cannot be too certain of the exact date in B.C. 4 for the Korean sighting; but what appears certain is the illustrious character of the B.C. 5 sighting which sent the astronomers off on their journey, and which correlates so magnificently with the death of Herod, following illness, which may have begun before or after their visit. Whether therefore the scenario is comparatively 'tight' with Herod passing away not many weeks after the visit, or leisurely, with an error in the Korean day or month record; or whether Herod in fact died as Anderson maintains later in that year, the Jewish year with its Passover being shortly to follow: the astronomical evidence is strikingly in favour of the B.C. 4 dating of the birth of Christ.
Other data suggesting this follow. They include Luke's reference to the date of Cyrenius rule in the region of Syria, which gives a further index to the birth date.
Sir William Ramsay, having discovered (Archeology and the New Testament, Unger, p.65) Middle Eastern inscriptions relating to a former governorship for Cyrenius (Luke 2:2), set the time for its inception, as by 8 B.C.. If then Herod's death is 4 B.C., we are in the area, 7-4, of the birth. Dr. Zumpt of Berlin had indeed earlier argued for a B.C. 4 inception of Cyrenius' rule. The Korean sighting together with the Chinese one, with this, also moves us towards B.C. 4 as the date most harmonious. The reason for Herod's act confirming the Chinese dating in B.C. 5 is both apt and objective, and the journey itself taking time, we are constrained with considerable force to the normally accepted date of B.C. 4.
Again, the reference, early in Jesus Christ's ministry, to the temple of Herod as being in process of construction for 46 years, fits with B.C. 4, for this reason. A starting date of B.C. 20 (Unger) would with the first year's completion, number one, take us to A.D. 26, and Luke 3:23 gives Jesus' approximate age at the commencement of His ministry - around 30. Depending on slight variables of dating, it is is the area.
Moreover, as J.D. Davis points out in his Dictionary of the Bible, the fifteenth year of Tiberius (another landmark, Luke 3:1), if taken from the time when he was associated with Augustus in rule - during A.D. 11-12, also brings us to A.D. 26, this in turn depicted by Philip Schaff in his eminently detailed, chronological review. Luke 3:1,3,21 show this imperial year as the time Jesus commenced His ministry. On the same matter, Schaff points out in Volume 1 of his monumental History of the Christian Church (p. 119), this dating in Luke for the reign of Tiberius, as taken as from the start of the joint reign, is to be favoured in context because of Luke's use for it of the general term hgemonia rather than monarcia or basileia. This point in progression appears as Schaff proceeds from p. 111 - p. 135 to review in depth the concurrent details relative to dates and their mutual constraints leading to the date of 26 A.D. for the commencement of the Messianic ministry for Jesus Christ. That is likewise the result to be found in the present volume. The Encyclopedia Britannica in particular notes of the joint reign of Tiberius with Augustus, that "from the beginning of 11, when he celebrated a magnificent triumph, to the time of the Emperor's death in 14 Tiberius remained almost entirely in Italy, and held rather the position of joint emperor than that of expected heir." So did his power speak.
The astronomical evidence and the proximity to the death of Herod both are important in this survey. If again, Jesus were about 30 when the temple building program was, as stated, 46, then its commencement would pre-date His birth by 16 years, again giving us B.C. 4. (Luke 4:23). But what time after the A.D. 26 starting point brings us to the crucifixion ?
With the four Passovers (three certain, a fourth 'highly probable'-Davis) of His ministry, we find that the available data will take us to a Ministry for Jesus Christ of 3 years plus the temptation (following His baptism) and the further time before the first Passover.
W.P. Armstrong, in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, notes that John 4:35 attests some 9 months since the Passover (of 2:13) and finds it out of all plausibility for the Galilean ministry to have lasted only 3 months, hence taking it that the next Passover, noted in John 6, must in fact be two years from that referred to in John 2. Certainly, in that period, there is a steadily growing, grandly acknowledged and majestic quiet authority, one belligerently resisted by vested religious interests and challenged with some care, tested, surveyed in a way extraordinarily difficult to reconcile with a period of weeks, and hence verificatory of this concept.
Thus there is a sense of consolidated kingdom and at times meditated resistance found in the John 5:1 feast, the confrontation of John 5, the Galilean feeding of the 5000 and all the extraordinary popularity and immense and gathering impact discernible as one reads, say in Matthew, the account of this Galilean ministry: Matthew 4:12 - 13:53. Armstrong considers it impossible that the grain, standing ripe at the time of the Sabbath controversy (Matthew 12:1) be fitted into one season with the rest of the Galilean ministry. Indeed, before the Passover to come, as noted in John 6, there was intervening the feeding of the 5000, evidently on Spring grass (John 6:4,10) of a mere 3 months. With all that had preceded, there would not be the same state of the grain in the midst of the ministry and at the end; nor would the seasons reverse.
Further, three passovers are mentioned in John, and a fourth is probable in John 5: if this be a Passover, then both the season of the year and the Sabbath controversy would harmonise with the account of the other gospels. The evidence therefore admits of little movement.
Any natural taking of events, not performed in jets and with microphones, advance billing and itineraries and not unhallowed by haste, would certainly need to reckon with a very considerable period for the enormous variety and gathering impact of the multitude of events described, so that it is once again, a fair and reasonable taking of the evidence to agree with the normal attribution - of 3 years plus some addition, for the ministry of Jesus Christ. It is easy to take key episodes and cardinal events, but the building up, the spreading of illumination, the settling of minds, the digestion of significances, the overcoming of settled and odious opposition, these things take time.
What then of the compilation and consummation of these constraints ?
A murder date for Christ, around 30 A.D. is indicated. (Cf. Davis Bible Dict. p. 402.)
Page 946 continued in the next section
1. Matthew 2:7 confirms the point that Herod had enquired diligently the exact time that the star appeared. The King probed ...
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