Life of Jesus - A Short Course

(This work bears no resemblance to the heretical "Jesus Seminar")

Secular Historical Background:

 

Greek Hellenization of Israel

During the rule of the Persians Xerxes made an attempt to attack Macedonia and destroy any potential resistance to his power. He was detained at the Battle of Thermopile by 300 Spartans and 700 Thebans. They held off the entire Persian army at this small pass while resistance could be organized in Greece. Later Alexander the Great would come to power and lead the smaller and swifter forces of the Greeks against the Persians and defeated them. This was prophesied by Daniel in: 8:5-8

 

5  And as I was considering, suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.

6  Then he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing beside the river, and ran at him with furious power.

7  And I saw him confronting the ram; he was moved with rage against him, attacked the ram, and broke his two horns. There was no power in the ram to withstand him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled him; and there was no one that could deliver the ram from his hand.

8  Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven.

Written approximately 536BC, this prophetic word, when shown to Alexander the Great  by Levitical priests caused Alexander to spare Jerusalem (unlike the destruction he had caused to Tyre).

 

THE DESTRUCTION of TYRE 

Zech 9:3-4 “For Tyre built herself a tower, heaped up silver like the dust, And gold like the mire of the streets.

Behold, the Lord will cast her out; He will destroy her power in the sea, and she will be devoured by fire.”

 

Alexander destroyed Tyre. After wasting the newer part of the city, he ordered his troops to scrape the porcelain off of the streets and throw them into the harbor so that a rampart could be made for his troops could cross over to the older part of the city and to utterly destroy it by fire. No mention of Tyre is made again, only of its sister city, Sidon.

 

After Alexander’s untimely death at the age of 3, his empire was divided among his 3 generals (Alexander’s infant son, Alexander IV, Ptolemy who governed Egypt, Seleucid who governed Syria, Persia and Israel, and Antigonus who governed Macedonia)

From the Seleucids is descended a king who was particularly evil in his domination over Israel. Antiochus IV, (176 – 163BC) who took the title of Epiphanes (Epiphanes means :”God manifest”)(176-163BC) forced Greek culture on to the Jews. This Greek slaughtered a pig and sacrificed it to Baal Shaminin the Holy of Holies. This was known as the abomination of desolation (or the abomination that makes desolate).  

The king’s emissaries called upon Mattathias, a priest & head of the Hasmonaean family, to assist in another heathen offering. Mattathias drew a sword and killed one of the apostate Jews who had accompanied the Greeks. This began revolution in Israel. Mattathias, who was in his 70’s at the time of this incident, died and bequeathed the mantle of leadership to his son Judas (called Maccabaeus or “the hammer”). Judas inflicted one defeat upon the other to the followers of Antiochus. Since he was troubled with threats of war from his eastern front, Antiochus sought an armistice with the Jewish rebels. Judas kept his forces together and went into Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple  and destroyed Greek adornments that had been added to it. This event of the temple cleansing and dedication became the Feast of Lights or the Feast of Hanukkah.

The rebellion continued sporadically after Judas’ death. For a brief time John Hyrcanus ruled in Israel. To keep the Greeks at bay he dispatched envoys to Rome for assistance (122AD).

 

Two groups later developed in Israel, the Sadducees who were interested in maintaining political alliances in a worldly way and a smaller group, the Pharisees (from the Hebrew for “separate”) who taught and maintained the Torah, the Law. These Pharisees used scribes (lawyers) to interpret the Torah in light of oral tradition into applications in every day life. The Pharisees formed the group called “Rabbis” or teachers.

 

Under the Maccabaean kings, there was a group so dissatisfied with the worldly attitudes in their society that they withdrew into their own community – The Essenes of Qumran. Pompey conquered Israel along with Syria. He set up Hyrcanus as a puppet king through whom he established Roman rule. After Hyrcanus’ death the throne passed to an Edomite, Antipater, whom the Jews despised. His son Herod took the throne in 43BC and reigned until his death in 2BC. The people also hated Herod, an Edomite (or Idumean), however Herod, to win the favor of the people, had the temple rebuilt into its former splendor.

 

After his death the Romans installed Archelaus (who ruled Judea, Samaria and Idumea), Antipas received Galilee and Perea, Philip became “tetrarch” of Transjordan. Herod Antipas is the one referenced in the Gospels. This Herod ordered the death of John the Baptist at the request of his sensuous daughter-in-law, Salome who had been prompted to this by her mother, Herodius, formerly the wife of Antipas’ brother, Philip. A Roman Procurator or Governor actually governed the area from Caesarea Philippi, Pontius Pilate (from 26AD to 36AD).

 

Roman Emperors:

Pompey headed Roman legions as they conquered Syria and defeated Israel in 63AD thereby placing Israel again under the dominion of gentile power.

  • Julius Caesar – 60BC formed a triumvirate consisting of himself, Pompey and Crassus. Later Caesar defeated Pompey – Caesar later moved against Pompey after the death of Crassus. January 11, 49BC Caesar crossed the Rubicon River as he advanced toward Pompey and the army he commanded. In 48 BC Julius Caesar defeated Pompey. – March 15th, (Ides of March) 44BC.

 

January 1, 42BC Caesar was declared divine in a proclamation entitled Divus Julius. Emperor worship was then established with its own temple and priests.

Octavian (Caesar’s great nephew) defeated Antony (aftermath Antony & Cleopatra committed suicide)

Brief periods of the rule of the Roman Senate and internecine warfare.

Octavian became Caesar Augustus  30BC – 14AD

It was Augustus who called for the census which required Mary & Joseph to register in their native Bethlehem.

 

  • Tiberius Caesar – 15AD – 36AD during the period of Jesus’ ministry. Tiberius was perverted and described by historians as “profligate”.

  •  Caligula (37-41AD)

  • Claudius (41-54AD)

  • Nero (54-68AD) murdered his mother who had obtained the throne for him through intrigue. Nero sought to construct beautiful new buildings in the older part of Rome. To engage in this urban renewal, a fire was started that burned the older part of the city built with homes of wood. The Christians seemed to represent a convenient excuse for Nero, who ordered their persecution 64 – 68AD. Both Paul & Peter were martyred during this persecution. Nero had Christians impaled on large poles, dipped in tar and lit on fire. Christians were tortured and killed in this manner. Some were put to this death in Nero’s own garden so he could enjoy their torment. Nero finally committed suicide

 Period of conflict for the throne with three emperors in one year, 69AD.

  • Vespasian, who had begun to put down the rebellion in Judea (66AD) became emperor. He needed a stunning victory to solidify the confidence of the Roman people. Therefore he ordered his son, Titus, to raze the city of Jerusalem and thoroughly destroy everything in it. This was accomplished 70-72AD)

  • Titus followed his father to the throne 79-81AD.

  • Domitian (82-96AD) persecuted Christians, had John the Apostle boiled in oil. When he did not die, through a miracle, Domitian exiled the last Apostle to Patmos, a desolate island off the coast of Asia Minor.

 Unlike the Greek Hellenizers, the Romans brought law & order (Lex Romana), roads, and aqueducts. Roman law was enforced by the invincible Roman Legions. The Romans required only two things:

a.      loyalty & obedience to the law

b.     taxes collected by Tax Farmers (who received no pay. They collected a certain percentage for Rome and got to keep any excess that they could get.) The Apostle Matthew came from this despised group.

Capitol of the empire was Rome

Greek society: three prevalent philosophies of the time were Epicurean, Stoic and Gnostic. Center of Western culture was Athens.

 Jewish Society at the time of Jesus

         1.      Sadducees – did not believe in the literal meaning of the Word of God, denied the resurrection, angels and miraculous interventions                   of God in the daily affairs of men. These were the wealthy majority of the Sanhedrin.

2.     The Pharisees: believed in and taught the Torah, added to the Law of God with oral tradition, were anticipating the Jewish Messiah who would lead them in victory over the hated Romans.

3.     Scribes were in the employ of the Pharisees. These codified Jewish Law taking from both the Torah and the oral traditions. They compiled the Midrash, a collection of 613 Jewish laws.

4.     The Zealots: a political party of revolutionaries who wanted to overthrow Rome. One of the Apostles, Simon, had been a Zealot.

5.     The Herodians who favored compromise, political alliances such as that with Rome and opposed actions of the radical zealots.

6.     The Essenes, a separated group that lived in Qumran and who devoted their lives to the Scriptures and to keeping unstained from the world around them.

7.     The Sicarii would develop more numerously during the early ministry of Paul. These were assassins with the knife. Acts 23:12-14

“And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.

Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy.

They came to the chief priests and elders, and said, "We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul.”

Theophanies

Jesus told the religious leaders of His day: "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." John 5:39 (KJV)

There are three methods used by God to point to the coming of Messiah:

1.     Messianic Prophecies such as that used by Daniel.

 

2.     Types of Christ 1Cor 10:11 “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” Ensamples or “types” of Christ are examples in the Old Testament that point to the promised Saviour. The two most complete types of Christ are the Tabernacle and the Life of Joseph. The Passover Lamb is an example of one of the principal types of Christ.

 

3.     Theophanies “A Theophany is a visible or auditory manifestation of God.” (Walter Elwell. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.)

 

Jesus chastised the religious leadership of His day that they should have discerned the signs of the time:

Matt 16:1-3 “The Pharisees and the Sadducees came to Him, tempting Him. And they asked Him that He would show them a sign from Heaven. He answered and said to them, When it is evening, you say, Fair weather; for the sky is red. And in the morning, Foul weather today; for the sky is red and gloomy. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky, but you cannot see the signs of the times!”

 OLD TESTAMENT THEOPANIES

 

1. The Priest-King with no beginning:

Gen 14:18-20 “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.

And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:

And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.”

 

Psalms 110:4  “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”

 

Hebrews 7:2-4  (Speaking of Melchizedek)“To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;

Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.”

Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.

 

This man, Melchizedek, is both priest and King of Salem, King of Salem (which means “peace”). His name means “my king is righteous”. He has no beginning. Salem is synonymous with Jerusalem (Psalm 76:1-2 “In Judah is God known: his name is great in Israel. In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion.”) Jerusalem means “foundation of peace” and “teaching of peace” (ST 03389 and pronounced yer-oo-shaw-lah'-im).

 

In speaking about Jesus as compared to angels, the author of Hebrews states in “Hebrews 1:8  But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” The priesthood of Jesus is compared not to the Levites but to the order of Melchizedek.

 

2. The Fourth Man in the Fiery Furnace

Daniel 3:15-25 “Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?"

16Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, [1]and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

19Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22The king's command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

24Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?"

They replied, "Certainly, O king."

25He said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a Son of the God." (ST 0426 Hebrew Elaw meaning God singular.)

 

3. The Captain of the Armies of Heaven

Joshua 5:13-15 “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Are you for us, or for our adversaries?

And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?

And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose your shoe from off your foot; for the place whereon you stand is holy. And Joshua did so.

 

THOSE REFUSING WORSHIP

A. The angel Gabriel refuses worship Daniel 8:16-18 “And I heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.

So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.

Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright.”

 

B. Another angel refuses worship from the Apostle John Revelation 19:10  “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God:”

 

C. Paul & Barnabas refuse worship

Acts 14:11-15 “And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.

And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.

Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.

Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,

And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:”

 

There are two observations at this point. The Person who met Joshua on the Plains of Jericho and identified Himself as the Captain of the Host of the Lord is the Pre-Incarnate Christ.

 

The other point is that Jesus accepts worship.

(7 recorded instances in Matthew, and 1 unique instance in Mark, Luke and John.)

 

Matthew 2:11  And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

 

Matthew 8:2  And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

 

Matthew 9:18  While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.

 

Matthew 14:33  Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

 

Matthew 15:25  Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

 

Matthew 28:9  And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

 

Matthew 28:17  And when they saw him, they worshipped him:

 

Luke 24:52  And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:

 

Mark 5:6  But when he (the Gadarene demoniac) saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,

 

Jesus’ enemies, the Pharisees and Sadducess understood well Jesus’ claim. John 5:18  “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.”

 

 

The Gospels are the Holy Spirit’s picture of Jesus

 

ISA 42:1 as an example “Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; My Elect, in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit on Him; He shall bring out judgment to the nations.”

 

As a contrast:

John 5:43 “I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me. If another shall come in his own name, him you will receive.”

 

The Lamb of God was prophesied by Abraham in Genesis 22:8 “And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself  a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.”

 

Fulfilled

John 1:29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming unto him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

 

The Offices of Prophet, Priest & King could never be filled by the same man. For example David was a prophet, however, since David was King of Israel, Nathan was the acknowledged prophet. Note that  Saul did not obey God and offered a sacrifice to God on his own without going through the priests. In 1SAM 15: 23 “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idol-worship. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king!”

 

Jesus as Prophet

Fulfilled Matt 23:37-39 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

38        Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

39  "for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, `Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!”

 

Matthew 24 the Mount Olivet Discourse

 

Rev 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

 

“The LORD has sworn And will not relent, "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."

 

fulfilled in           “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”Hebrews 9:11-12

 

 

 

2 Samuel 7:12  "When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.”

 

To be fulfilled in Rev 19:11-16 “And I saw Heaven opened. And behold, a white horse! And He sitting on him was called Faithful and True. And in righteousness He judges and makes war.

12  And His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head many crowns. And He had a name written, one that no one knew except Himself.

13  And He had been clothed in a garment dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

14  And the armies in Heaven followed Him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

15  And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, so that with it He should strike the nations. And He will shepherd them with a rod of iron. And He treads the winepress of the wine of the anger and of the wrath of Almighty God.

16  And He has on His garment, and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

 

 

 

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