Friday, December 21, 2012

Seven Things You May Not Know About the Nativity

1. Roman Rule. Before the Jews were ruled by Rome, they were ruled by the Greeks who heavily taxed the Jews, erected an altar to Zeus in the temple and tried to end Judaism. Mattathias ben Jonathon, from the tribe of Judah, along with son, Judas, and four other sons, led a powerful revolt. They became known as the “Maccabbees” which means hammer; and they hammered the Greeks for two decades, eventually reclaiming their freedom.

This freedom lasted for almost 80 years until the Maccabbees decided to take control of the high priesthood and that caused internal uproar among the Jews, for the high priesthood had always been reserved for only those from the tribe of Levi. This internal conflict allowed Rome to come in and conquer them in 63 BC.

Christ, from the tribe of Judah, was sent—in part—to restore the freedom and peace lost for all of Israel by the tribe of Judah.

2. Taxes. Rome was the only conquering nation at that time which allowed those under their rule to continue with their own religion. After their successful revolt against the Greeks who tried to control their worship, and with the Jews outnumbering the Romans 4 to 1, it was probably a good idea.

Ancient Jewish records tell us that this decreed tax from Caesar Augustus was periodic and was a religious tax. Those who paid the tax were exempt from the Roman religion of state and could worship how they wanted. It was not a head count tax, or an underhanded way to find the prophesied Christ child. It was a religious tax Rome imposed on all the people under their subjugation—hence the claim that “all the world should be taxed.”

Foreseeing that time when the Jews would have to pay for their right to worship, Isaiah recorded “Everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat: yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isa. 55:1) Christ is the living water, the bread of life, the new wine. He offers salvation freely.

3. Christ’s genealogy. When the angel Gabriel spoke to Mary and told her she was the one chosen to give birth to the son of God, he told Mary, “…and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.” (Luke 1:32). Despite Roman rule and Mary’s poverty, she was a direct descendent of King David and Christ had a family right to the throne.

Furthermore, Luke brings forth a genealogy in Luke 3 that traces Christ back to David through “the son of Heli” (Luke 3:23). The Jewish Talmud records that Mary was the daughter of Heli. (Hagigah 2:4) Joseph was also a son of Heli through his marriage to Mary.

Additionally, Christ had a legal right to the throne through his adoptive father, Joseph who’s genealogy is set forth in Matthew 1 and reaffirmed in Luke 2:4. Joseph was also a direct descendent of King David and stood next in line to the throne through his marriage to Mary. Additionally, the Jewish Hammurabi code, section 188, guarantees that Christ, the oldest son, would have ascended to the throne after Joseph’s death—even though Joseph was not his birth father. The law of adoption was as binding as the law of natural birth in the Jewish world, making Christ first in line over any brothers who came along later.

Cannon Girdlestone stated, “If the crown of David had been assigned to his successor in the days of Herod it would have been placed on the head of Joseph (the carpenter.” (Jesus the Christ, James E. Talmage, pg. 90)

And Mary, his wife, would have been queen; and Christ the legal successor.

“Jesus of Nazareth would have been the King of the Jews, and the title of the cross spoke the truth.”

4. The inn and the innkeeper. “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

Ancient manuscripts show the translation is correct…inn…singular. Ancient texts also confirm that there was only one inn at that time in Bethlehem, a kahn of considerable size built by King David, which housed flocks in the center and the travelers in open-aired stalls around the outside. Not the most private or quiet place to deliver a child.
This kahn, however, was more than enough in the tiny town of 500 people, or about 100 families.

Throughout the centuries, stories have vilified the unknown innkeeper as a hard-heart fool who turned away a woman in her plight but we must understand that he may not have been hard-hearted at all. Hospitality is one the greatest Jewish mitzvahs or commandments. In fact, it is absolutely forbidden to inflict or ignore suffering in another person and imperative that Jews do all in their power to save the life of another. In the Jewish culture and religion, a woman’s life is considered in mortal danger prior to and for three days after giving birth. If the innkeeper was a Jew he would have been required to ask his lodgers to give up their accommodations for the young mother-to-be and they, if they were Jewish, would have been required to do so.

A more plausible answer for the lack of room and the lack of hospitality may have been found with the ancient Romans. They took precedence in the land and had no understanding of, or empathy for, Jewish mitzvahs or another pregnant Jew. The inn, most likely, was being used to house the animals used by the Roman soldiers with Roman stock boys guarding them. Masses of Roman soldiers and officials had been sent to Bethlehem and surrounding areas to quell any uprisings.

It is far more probable that a kind Jew helped them find the privacy of the quiet stable…the last available private space in town since most Jewish home owners in the small town of only 100 families would have been forced to give up their own sleeping quarters to Roman officials, military leaders and soldiers.

5. Delivery.The use of midwives was a standard practice in childbirth. It is interesting to note that the Apocrypha says that Joseph, knowing the birth was eminent, when searching for a midwife to assist Mary. Yet, by the time they returned, the child had already been born and contentedly nursing. (Protevangelion 14)

This coming baby was the living Savior and no earthly hand would or could deliver Him. He also came swiftly the first time, just as He will the second time.

6. Shepherds. “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” (Luke 3:8) Again, the translation is correct. These were shepherds in one specific field, keeping watch over their one flock by night.

Some speculate these shepherds were chosen and set apart to guard the sheep selected for sacrifice in the temple and that the angels came to announce to them that the true Lamb of the world had just been born.

Scriptures bear up that belief.

Micah 4:8 prophesies of the coming Savior and then announces, “And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.”

Bethlehem, only five miles away from Jerusalem, was referred to as a daughter of Jerusalem…similar to our use of the term suburb today.

Furthermore, in Bethlehem was a field that held the temple flocks and this field is the only field with a tower erected to help guard the flocks. This tower and field, known as Migdal Eder, have been affirmed in the Talmud as the sacred location of the temple flocks.

Micah, 700 years earlier, prophesied that, to this sacred temple field watched over by a tower—in the suburb of Bethlehem—would the great birth be announced…the arrival of the Savior’s first dominion.

And, much like His first coming, the Savior’s Second Coming will also involve the sacred temple.

7. Swaddling cloths. Everyone likes to think that swaddling clothes were burial clothes and that Mary brought them because the journey was perilous and it because it also symbolized that she would live to bury her son.

They would be wrong.

Yes, the journey was perilous. Yes, Mary did live to bury her son but whenever swaddling clothes are mentioned in the scriptures they are mentioned in conjunction with newborn babies and not with death and burial.

So why would baby swaddling clothes be a sign to the shepherds, especially if every baby wore them? Because they knew, through prophecy, that the Savior would be born to the House of David.

They also knew, because of their culture, that the swaddling clothes would tell them the baby’s lineage. Much like Scottish kilts, the Jews assigned different colors to the different tribes. The tribe of Judah was assigned the color blue and those from the royal House of David embroidered dark “royal blue” on the edge of their special clothing, including the swaddling clothes they used to enwrap their babies.

When the shepherds saw those swaddling clothes, on a newborn babe lying in a manager, they knew what the angels were saying was true. The King of Kings had come. “The Savior, which is Christ the Lord” had finally been born.

No comments:

Post a Comment