Index/Table of Contents
Old Testament and New Testament
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JESUS' BIRTH AND INFANCY
I. Introductory Issues
A. Date of Jesus' Birth - The New Testament provides no precise information conceding the year, the month, or the day of Christ's birth. ~
1. The death of Herod the Great (4 BC) is very important in determining Jesus' date of birth.
Matthew and Luke tell of certain events that occurred between his birth and Herod's death, including the presentation at the temple forty days after his birth, the vivit of the wise men, the fight to Egypt and the murder of the male children which leads us to the assumption that the birth of Christ took place no later than 4 BC.
2. December 25 was probably not the time of Jesus birth. The custom of celebrating December 25th as the birthday of Jesus did not come until much later. Some ~ have thought that the choice of December 2 5 was an accommodation to a pagan celebration. It may be that the early church chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus on this ~ in order to provide Christians with an alternative festival.
B. Two Viewpoints on the Birth of Christ
1. Matthew's Perspective - the narrative seems to be told from Joseph's point of view. Matthew wanted to establish the legitimacy of Jesus' claim to the messianic throne by taking Joseph's standpoint and showing that Joseph "adopted" Jesus into his Davidic family.
2. Luke's Perspective - Luke apparently tells the nativity story from the stand point of Mary. He emphasizes her feelings and emotions as the mother of the Messiah.
3. Events common to both Matthew and Luke:
a. Mary was a virgin at the time of the birth. (DQ2)
b. Joseph, to whom Mary was betrothed, was a descendant of Kind David
c. Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit.
d. Jesus was born In Bethlehem during the reign of Herod the Great.
e. In accord with an angelic command, the Child was named Jesus, signifying that He would save his people from their sins.
II. The Birth of Christ.
A. From Matthew 1 & 2 - Joseph's Perspective
1. Joseph's struggle with May's pregnancy (1:18-24)
In Jewish society, betrothal was as bindings as marriage. Only divorce or death could break it. Joseph and Mary were betrothed. When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, he determined to divorce her as privately as possible to avoid a public spectacle. Joseph probably felt many things at this point, but whatever his feelings, an angel of the Lord instructed him to proceed with the wedding and to call the name of the Son, "Jesus" (the Lord is Salvation). Matthew adds that these events fulfiued Isaiah's prophecy of the Virgin Birth.
2. Birth in Bethlehem (2:1) under King Herod who ruled between 37 and 4 B.C.
3. Visit of the Magi (2:1-12)
Matthew records such incidents of the infancy that would sustain his thesis that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Magi came from the East (Persia, Arabia Babylon) . They were probably astrologers who also studied science, philosophy, and medicine.
One of the strangest proofs of His Messiahship was the homage of the Gentiles and the universal expectation which prevailed; not only in Palestine, but in other in surrounding regions.
4. Flight into Egypt (2:13-18)
This event was not recorded in Luke. It finds its fulifllment in two Old Testament prophecies:
a. Hosea 11:1 - Egypt was nearest place of safer for the deliverance of the infant Messiah.
b. Jeremiah 31:15 - Herod decreed that all male children in Bethlehem under two years of age should be killed.
5. Return to Nazareth (2:19-23)
An angel intervene told Joseph to go back to Galilee and live in Nazareth - not to go back through Judea where Herod's son Archelaus was now reigning. This fulfilled the prophecy that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53).
B. From Luke 1 & 2 - Mary's Perspective
1. Conception and Birth of John the Baptist (1:5-25)
a. Gabriel described to Zachariah the character and work his son would perform after being born to his wife, Elizabeth (a relative of Mary . (1:1 1-17)
b. Zachariah's unbelief brought a rebuke by Gabriel. Zachariah lost his ability to speak until after his son's birth (1:18-19).
c. At the birth of John the Baptist Zachariah regained his voice and prophesied concerning his son (This song is referred to as the ''Benedictlus'') (1:57-80)
2. The Announcement to the Virgin Mary (1:26-38)
Six months after Gabriel's announcement to Zachariah, Gabriel visits Mary and explained to her amazement the coming events leading to the birth of Jesus. Mary responded in faith and trust even though she could not fully comprehend what was about to happen. Her song of response is usually called "Magnificat" and is taken largely from the song of Hanna in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.
Compare Mary's response to Gabriel with Zachariah's response.
3. The Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (2:1-20)
a. Luke relates Jesus' birth to a census taken during the administration of Quirinius in Syria. Joseph and Mary were required to enroll in Bethlehem, their ancestral town (2:1-6)
Quirinius probably served twice - one term being 6-4 B.C. There was a census associated with each term.
b. Mary gave birth to Jesus and laid him in a manger (possibly a stone cattle trough or a clay depression in a cave) because there was no room in the inn (2:6-7).
c. Praise the Angels to the Shepherds (2:8-14).
d. The Shepherd's Visit (2:15-20) (DQ3)
4. Events Immediately Following the Birth of Christ (2:21-39)
a. Name and Temple (ceremonies (2:21-24)
The Law of Moses was zealously honored and observed in Jesus' life. When eight days had past, he was circumcised according to the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 17, Lev 2) At that time He was named "Jesus" (equivalent to the name "Joshua" of the Old Testament which means "The Lord is Salvation"). This experience underscores the completeness with which Jesus fulfilled the Law and identified with his own people.
b. Confirmation of His Messiahship by Simeon and Anna (2:25-38). According to Luke, these were the only ones at the temple who recognized Jesus as the Messiah.
Return to Galilee (2:39)
(Luke doesn't mention the flight to Egypt or the visit of the Magi.)
TN 1 (Introduction aken from The Life and Teaching of Jesus by James S. Stewart) Most everything discussed to this point leads to the fact that God was preparing for that time when he would put himself into history as a man -Jesus Christ. The world was prepared -there is a sense in which that corner of the earth's surface called Palestine is the geographical center of the world. It was no haphazard chance that made Bethlehem and Nazareth and Calvary, the cradle of the Christian faith. It was the best possible place for the launching of a world religion. Not only the right place, but the right time. Galatians 4:4 says, "But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his son, born of a virgin, born under the law. When the world conditions were exactly ripe, then God's supreme revelation came.
1. It was the fullness of time Politically. Caesar had united the world. Barriers had been broken down, the world was one neighborhood. Three factors contributed to this:
2. It was the fullness of time Economically. Two out of every three men on the streets of Rome were slaves. It was at the blackest hour that a voice of hope came from Galilee.
3 It was the fullness of time Morally. There was a sense of moral helplessness. Many Gentle God-fearers were attracted to the Jewish synagogues in their moral search.
4. It was a fulness of time in Religion. The old gods of Rome were either dead or dying. What could a whole house of gods be worth if they had nothing to say to a broken heart. The stage is set for a man from Galilee to change the world.
DQ2 What is the significance of the Virgin Birth of Jesus? How essential is this doctrine? Why?
DQ3 What is the significance of the role of both the Shepherds and the Magi in the birth of Jesus?
Last updated Thursday, February 24, 2000
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