P1 – Critique of Episode 4 of Bible Secrets Revealed: The Real Jesus

Note to Reader: The reader is invited to read a new blog series on my other blog site entitled: “Discovering the Identity of Jesus Christ” at http://pastormahlon.blogspot.com/2013/12/p1-discovering-identity-of-jesus.html.         To God be the glory!

Introduction:                                                                                                                                   On Wednesday December 4, 2013 the History Channel aired its fourth episode in its series entitled: “Bible Secrets Revealed”. The past blog posts that have evaluated and critiqued the past three episodes of the series will be listed at the end of today’s blogpost for the reader’s reference.  In the fourth episode the slate of radical critics took aim at the New Testament’s portrayal of Jesus Christ as depicted in the four Canonical Gospels.  In watching the episode five discernible segments were featured:

1. Jesus’ birth and early life                                                                                                                 2. Beginnings of Jesus’ ministry                                                                                                         3. The overall identity and purpose of Jesus’s life                                                                           4. The trial and crucifixion of Jesus                                                                                                   5. Jesus’ resurrection

Once again we are told that the four Gospels of the New Testament are either in error or reinterpretations of Jesus’ life by his followers and instead we should consider the testimony of the Gnostic Gospels as material for filling in the gaps.  In this post the aim is to take each of the five segments and answer or critique each major point brought out in episode 4 of “Bible Secrets Revealed”. My hope is that these blog posts equip readers and set the record straight in contrast to the persistent errors being promoted by the “Bible Secrets Revealed” panel of radical, critical scholars.

1. Evaluation & Critique of Bible Secrets Revealed portrayal of Jesus’ birth and early life                                                                                                                                    a. After starting out with a quibbling point over the year of Jesus’ birth, the episode launches into the issue of Jesus’ birth place.  According to the scholarship of “Bible Secrets Revealed”, there is no way Jesus could had been born in Bethlehem as recorded in Matthew 2:1-16 and Luke 2.  Of course their assertion begs the question: why not? Clearly the critics assume the four Gospels of the New Testament to be inaccurate, without saying why? According to one of the show’s “experts”, Dr. Raza Aslan, the Roman Census issued by Caeser Augustus would have had people counted in their place of residence, not the place of their birth.

However what Dr. Aslan fails to take into account is the fact that there was a time lag between the issuing of the decree by Caeser and the implementation of it by Quirinius. Some estimates are at least two years.  There is no reason to doubt the validity of Luke’s narrative and the historicity of the facts recorded. Furthermore the purpose of the census was for the sake of taxation, not just head-counting. Despite the best efforts of the critical scholars, nothing in Luke’s Gospel nor the facts of history preclude the fulfillment of Micah 5:2 and Jesus’ birthplace being Bethlehem Epaphratha.

b. The critical scholars move onto criticizing what they believe to be Matthew and Luke’s misinterpretation of Isaiah 7:14 and Jesus’ virgin birth.  Isaiah 7:14 states:  “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” The word for virgin in the Hebrew text of Isaiah 7:14 is ‘alma and as one of the “experts” even admits, the word can be translated virgin, even though he prefers the translation is “young maiden”.

What the radical scholars don’t tell the viewer is first of all, Matthew and Luke both would had been quoting Isaiah 7:14 from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Spetuagint, which uses the Greek word parthenos (παρθένος), which explicitly and exlusively means “virgin”.  Secondly, in looking at the Hebrew word ‘alma (עַלְמָ֗ה) in the Hebrew text, we know that in Genesis 24:43 for instance, Rebekka, a virgin, is described by this term (compare  http://biblehub.com/hebrew/5959.htm ):

Isaiah 7:14 
HEB: א֑וֹת הִנֵּ֣ה הָעַלְמָ֗ה הָרָה֙ וְיֹלֶ֣דֶת
NAS: Behold, a virgin will be with child
KJV: you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive,
INT: A sign Behold A virgin child and bear

Isaiah 7:14 
HEB: א֑וֹת הִנֵּ֣ה הָעַלְמָ֗ה הָרָה֙ וְיֹלֶ֣דֶת
NAS: Behold, a virgin will be with child
KJV: you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive,
INT: A sign Behold A virgin child and bear

Now compare the Septuagint (also called the LXX) text of Isaiah 7:14 to that of Matthew’s quotation of Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23.  Note the bold print words and how similar the quotation is to Isaiah’s text:

Isaiah 7:14 in the LXX ….ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ εμμανουηλ                                                                                Matthew 1:23 in Greek   Ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν, καὶ καλέσουσιν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἐμμανουήλ· ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον Μεθ’ ἡμῶν ὁ θεός.    

Even if one does not know Greek or Hebrew, the point is that the English translations of Matthew 1:23 that reflect “virgin” are accurate and demonstrate that Jesus’ birth fulfilled prophetic expectation.  The virgin birth of Jesus Christ in His humanity is a cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith that no amount of scholarship has been able to consistently or exegetically dismiss.

c. As the first segment rounds out its presentation, the issue of Jesus’ early life and childhood are addressed.  The History Channel experts suggest that the four Gospels are incomplete, and that we really don’t have a full account of Jesus’ early life.  Again the response to give to this accusation is that extended details of Jesus early life would not suit the chief point of Matthew and Luke’s Gospels.  Whenever we take into consideration the amount of material the four Gospels devote to the final week of Jesus life leading up to His crucifixion, resurrection & ascension (roughly 30%) compared to the remainder that overviews His birth, 12th year of life and 3.5 year ministry, its understandable that the Gospel writers were showing the main point of why Jesus came: the cross & resurrection.

The panel of critical scholars point the viewer to the so-called Gnostic infancy Gospel of Thomas.  I have read the document personally and a few observations can be made.  First of all the dating of the document places it at least 100-150 years after the events of Jesus’ life. Why rely on a document written over a century after a said event versus a document (like Matthew or Luke) written only two to three decades after the fact? Makes no sense. Clearly Thomas was not the author, but rather a second century Gnostic writer who was speculating and promoting his own brand of heresy.

Secondly, the infancy Gospel of Thomas is not a Gospel, but a fanciful short story. Thirdly, as Norman Geisler and William Nix note in their book “A General Introduction to the Bible”: “These accounts reflect a dimension of personality in Jesus that is utterly at variance with that as set forth in the New Testament Gospel accounts.”  (Page 302)

More tomorrow………..

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About pastormahlon

By the grace of God I was converted to saving faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 10 and called into the Gospel ministry by age 17. Through the Lord's grace I completed a Bachelors in Bible at Lancaster Bible College in 1996 and have been married to my beautiful wife since that same year. We have been blessed with four children, ranging from 7-18 years of age. In 2002 the Lord enabled me to complete a Master of Arts in Christian Thought at Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield PA. For nearly 25 years I have been preaching and teaching God's Word and have been studying the original languages since 1994. In 2016 God called my family and me to move to begin a pastorate at a wonderful Southern Baptist Congregation here in Northern New York.
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