In America today we have a very highly charged political climate. We have politicized every issue under the sun. One such issue is that of abortion. I’m of the view that the Bible makes a strong case for Christians having the obligation to protect the innocent and that people are people no matter how small (okay, that last part was Dr. Suess, yet none-the-less sure).
We can find ourselves thinking “this is as bad as it has ever been” or you might catch someone saying “our country is more divided than ever!” But is that true? Someone might want to open up an American History book to about 1861.
The fact of the matter is, bad is bad, and the world has always had evil in it (at least, since the fall of Man). Abortion is, I believe, a modern day blight on our generation… but think of Herod.
In Matthew 2 we learn that Herod killed all the boys from Bethlehem two-years-old and under.
Now, obviously Herod is a bad guy, there’s no disputing that, but Israel was a vassal state of Rome. Can you imagine a kind of world where someone can pass a law to kill all the male children two-years-old and under, and there’s no pushback from the broader government? Not a peep!? That’s a harsh world, and all the more amazing God would choose to send His son to us at that time, in that place.
Speaking of time and place, these events really did happen in a time and place! Yesterday I gave the case for translating Luke 2:2 differently than most versions (and, I think, more faithfully to the text) and thus placing Jesus’ birth around 8BC (on the early end). Herod, most believe from historical sources, died in 4BC, so this works out nicely.
We learn from Matthew 2 that Herod sought to kill the boys at 2-years of age based on the timing of the star from the Maji’s testimony. This means Jesus was about 2 years old when Herod made his decree to kill all the young boys in Bethlehem, and because you have to be alive to make a decree, Jesus had to have been 2 years old before Herod died in 4BC.
It’s also highly unlikely that Herod dropped dead the day after he made the decree, that would probably have made it into the story if he did. It also seems like some time had passed in that Joseph was warned in a dream, so he took his family and they lived in Egypt for some time. That seems to be more than a month or two. They had to travel there and then they waited until they were told Herod was dead… though it doesn’t say, this seems to have been at least a year or two, at least when I read it, anything less than that doesn’t really fit.
So Herod’s death in 4BC and Jesus’ age at Herod’s decree puts Jesus’ birth at the latest possible at 6BC, but that gives absolutely no time or reason for Joseph to take his family to Egypt. So if they took a couple months to travel to Egypt and then lived there 9 months or so, that means Jesus was born (again, at the latest) around 7BC.
When you combine this with the census under Augustus in 8BC, I personally find that to be the best fit for the timing of when Jesus was born.
So why all this history… because it underscores the fact that this is real. Jesus really did live, he really did die, you really can have peace with God through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Most of these blogs will not be details like this, I just want you to see, even though “history” was not as careful a science 2,000 years ago, we can see that the Bible is not a collection of fables and nursery rhymes, it’s real life meant to affect how we live and in whom we trust.
I hope to see you Sunday!
*Reading the NT in 2016 plan can be found here