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The Odds of Being Jesus

The Odds of Being Jesus

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The Odds of Being Jesus

Lunghezza:
240 pagine
3 ore
Pubblicato:
Dec 4, 2020
ISBN:
9781662407666
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

The purpose of this book is simple: to journey through the remarkable and (literally) astronomically remote events that led to the single, solitary Son of Man walking among us. And in doing so, to take a journey similar to the first authors of antiquity, a journey of everyday language and thought to match ourselves and those who today want to know what all the hubbub is surrounding Jesus.

As you learn about just twenty-four of the prophecies surrounding the Messiah, you will walk through the history, the archaeology, the language, and the life of those who lived thousands of years ago so that you can better know them in terms that you can understand. More importantly, you will glimpse at why they did.

Pubblicato:
Dec 4, 2020
ISBN:
9781662407666
Formato:
Libro

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The Odds of Being Jesus - James Dillon

The Odds of Being Jesus

James Dillon

Copyright © 2020 James Dillon

All rights reserved

First Edition

PAGE PUBLISHING, INC.

Conneaut Lake, PA

First originally published by Page Publishing 2020

ISBN 978-1-6624-0765-9 (pbk)

ISBN 978-1-6624-0766-6 (digital)

Printed in the United States of America

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE

Preface

What are the odds of being Jesus? Well, imagine covering the surface of the earth with people standing shoulder to shoulder. Include people standing across all the oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers as well, for after all, one of the people we’re imagining was said to walk on water. Now stack ninety-nine other people on each person’s shoulders. Such overcrowding would make even a Tokyo resident shudder, but we’re not done.

Next, imagine that there are ten such planet Earths covered in people hundreds of feet deep around our Sun. Then imagine ten such planets surrounding every known star in the universe. How many people would that be? Roughly, 5.37 × 10³⁷, or 5 with 37 zeroes after it. Imagine the odds of finding just one person among that multitude.

This is difficult to fathom, as anytime exponents are involved, the numbers become massive. But we’re not even close to the real odds, yet. Repeat the entire process—shoulders to planets to stars to universe—trillions upon trillions of times.

Now imagine finding one person—a single, solitary person—in that expanse of an overcrowded multiverse teeming with life. That is the odds of being Jesus.

This small question yields an enormous answer that this writing will address throughout. Yet to begin with, there are likely more pertinent questions for anyone opening these pages. Why another book about Jesus? And who am I to write a book like this anyway? Answers to both of these questions, it turns out, are related.

To be frank, I’m nobody, a fact that became clearer with each passing week of research for this writing. I have not been to divinity school, nor have I spent twenty-five years of my life digging through archaeological finds in Jerusalem. Though I’ve read scholarly works, I’m not a religious scholar. I’m simply an everyday person, with an ordinary life.

And to be honest, my relative biblical ignorance concerned me—particularly when reading the biography of one author who has thus far written over twenty books about Jesus. When seeing the volume of books about Jesus that one studied man had done, this effort almost ended.

But then I remembered something important. The first books about Jesus were written by everyday people, with ordinary lives. Specifically, one of the first books about Jesus, and now the first book of the New Testament, was written by a Roman tax collector. This was a man to be hated by most he wrote to. Add to him a personal assistant, doctor, and fisherman, and you round out the four who provide most of the historical description that billions know of Jesus.

Scholars certainly read their books, but their humble backgrounds allowed them to write in a way that could be understood by everyday people—folks who simply wondered what all the hubbub was surrounding the Teacher from Galilee.

Even more than current writers, I am not in the league of the apostles. Yet, when looking at the grace God bestowed on that motley bunch and all that they were able to accomplish for Him, I had to ask myself some questions. Could I write a book such as theirs, as an everyday person for everyday people? Given all that God has given me, could I accomplish something for Him as well? I hope so. And if one person comes to know the content of this writing (other than my family members, of course), then the last few years of my life will have been well spent.

The purpose of this book is simple. To journey through the remarkable and (literally) astronomically remote events that led to the single, solitary Son of Man walking among us and, in doing so, to take a journey similar to the first authors of antiquity, a journey of everyday language and thought to match ourselves, and those who today want to know what all the hubbub is surrounding Jesus.

Achieving this purpose is not simple, however.

For two thousand years, scholars have debated over whether Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah. Just in the last two centuries, great minds like Gabriel Matteson and Thomas Paine assumed the mantle of debate with great fury. Fervor, not fury, drives the pages that follow, however.

As we learn about just twenty-four of the prophecies surrounding the Messiah, we will walk through the history, the archaeology, the language, and the life of those who lived thousands of years ago so that we can better know them in terms that we can understand. More importantly, we will glimpse at why they did.

Nothing on this planet, nor any planet mentioned in the analogy above for that matter, can take the place of faith. For in part, faith is the whole point. God could easily stand on the Mount of Olives tomorrow for all the news networks to see, and garner billions of new followers. But when Jesus asks us to believe in Him, the center of the relationship is trust—trust in the fact that He can do and be something that is simply beyond our comprehension, let alone measure. Having trust like that requires faith.

I hope that after reading this book, such faith will come more easily, because to paraphrase a pastor from Virginia, it would take a lot more faith to go against the scientific odds of being Jesus.

CHAPTER 1

These are the teachings I voiced when I was living with you, that all the Sacred Writings about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms had to be fulfilled.

—Jesus of Nazareth

The ancient prophets who predicted the coming Messiah were buzzkills wrapped in hyperbole. Whether they were rabbis or nags, oracles or lunatics, they’ve had as many possible biographies as they have had biographers over the last three millennia or so. But at their core, they were messengers meant to usher in a New Covenant Messiah. And they were hated for it.

Jeremiah, a priest turned prophet, captured the life of a prophet pretty well, saying,

I have become a laughing stock all the days. Everyone mocks me. For as often as I speak, I have to cry out, have to complain of violence and abuse.

He spoke from experience. Israel’s rulers beat him and alternatively put him in stocks and a hole filled with sewage for the things he said.

It’s hard for us to understand today why any covenant, old or new, could create such strife. After all, the only time we really come across covenants are in house-closing documents we rarely read, or homeowner association packets we never read. But covenants are at the heart of who and what Jesus is—His life, His words, His purpose, and in the chapters that follow, the prophecies that predicted His coming.

At first glance, the Old Covenant was largely symbolic. A rainbow served as a promise to Noah after a flood. Circumcision certified the promise between God and Abraham. But the seemingly simple promises represented life, both literally and figuratively. When Noah emerged from his ark, God promised Noah that he would never again take the life of mankind in such a wholesale fashion. The Old Covenant gained refinement as God established Abraham’s descendants, later called Israelites, as chosen people. These were strong promises from God but reciprocated largely by single gestures from mankind. Noah built his ark though others likely thought him crazy, and who knows what people thought of Abraham when he reached down to circumcise himself. It didn’t take long for the Old Covenant to take shape, though. Specifically, it took the shape of ransoms.

The Hebrew and Greek words for ransom, padah and lutron, appear in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible dozens of times, and the various translations of the word in different Bible versions and locations do a lot to explain just what this word meant to Israelites. In some places, it is grouped with the notion of describing possessions or gifts. In still others, it is even listed as a bribe. Yet in two places, the verbal form of ransom is exchanged with verbal forms of the word redeem.

The prophet Hosea, in particular, shows the depth of these interchanged words: I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. On one side of the equation is a payment being made. In many translations of the Old Testament, including the one used for this writing, it looks like the payment is made in order to escape yet another physical metaphor. But the Hebrew word used for this grave reference is Sheol, or the place we call hell today. So rather than creating an exchange for physical death, the ransom is provided for the soul. The transformation to the metaphysical continues on the other side of the semicolon. Redemption, freedom from what distresses or harms a person, is promised. The definitive prison that distresses and does harm is death, of course, and even more to the point of this exchange, it is spiritual death, or separation from God. Ultimately, the goods and services to be exchanged, to be ransomed, centered around spiritual life. Unfortunately for the Israelites in this particular ransom passage, God promised to bring a lot of physical death in order to redeem the greater soul. In the greater ransom context, though, mankind was to exchange certain gifts, perform certain services, or both in the form of a ritual animal sacrifice, and God would provide redemption in return.

Abraham, Isaac, and their descendants continued this quintessential Israelite exchange for generations, and on a quiet night in Egypt, the quintessential Israelite took it to all new levels.

Moses was a refugee, the adopted son of Egypt’s ruler who had a falling out of sorts after Moses killed an Egyptian slave master. And forty years later, at the ripe age of eighty, God told him to lead the aspiring Israelites out of Egypt with little initial success. Nine plagues to date hadn’t worked. Locusts, frogs, and dead cattle evidently seemed more nuisance than impetus to force Egypt’s ruler to set his Hebrew slaves free. So one night, God enacted His tenth plague. The firstborn of every human and animal family would die, that is unless they hid behind the blood of a lamb. Not any lamb, of course. It had to be a paschal lamb, without blemish and sacrificed by each family with its blood splattered above the doorway to a house. If a family carried out this physical act, God promised to pass over that family and not kill the firstborn.

It worked. The Hebrews became free, and like any major success, it led to an annual holiday to commemorate the event: Passover. It worked so well, in fact, that the literal saving of life on that one quiet night began to define the strident path to redemption under the Old Covenant. Commit a sin? Sacrifice a lamb unto God and your sins will be forgiven. For those too poor to afford a lamb, two doves or pigeons or some flour would suffice. Fires burned regularly in the Jerusalem temple as physical ransoms accounted for physical transgressions.

Then a group of prophets came along voicing complaints about the old way of doing things:

The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me? says the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me.

The group offered a new way instead:

The time is coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, declares the LORD. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Laws moved from the hand to the mind and heart. Suddenly, thinking of committing sin became just as bad as doing it. Jesus Himself hammered home this theme during His famous Sermon on the Mount:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment…You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Even harder, the Israelites would actually have to be sorry for their actions in order to ask for, let alone receive, forgiveness. Their prayers would have to be meaningful, and occur more often than an annual trip to bring a lamb to temple. In short, this New Covenant embraced the spirit and shunned the flesh, something the Israelites had a hard time doing from even their first days as a nation.

Within days of their exodus from Egypt, within relative hours after seeing the Red Sea part for them in fact, the new Israelites began to grumble. "If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! they cried. There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted." The fact that they were oppressed slaves in Egypt was apparently a small detail. Time and again, they complained about the lack of water. They grumbled about the lack of food, then the type of food. They even conspired to kill the man who led them from Egypt after being in the desert without comforts for what they perceived was too long. They apparently preferred the devil, and covenants, they knew.

Can we blame them? Life in the Levant is tough enough today. Yet imagine what it was like for the Israelites’ first millennium or so.

The road to becoming Israelites in the first place had a few potholes. Amalikites, one of history’s first catalogued terrorist groups, snapped at their proverbial as well as literal heels as the Israelites wandered through the desert. The slow and weak experienced many attacks. Perizzites, Canaanites, Amorites, and Jebusites were among the many residents of the Levant that waged various wars through the years. And when they weren’t fighting others within their lands, Israelites passed the time by fighting each other.

While we tend to think of Israel as it exists now, Israel in the time of the ancient prophets was actually under three different monarchies. The land known alternately as Ephraim, Israel, and the Northern Kingdom was closer to modern-day Lebanon, while Judah filled in the south. Jerusalem was under the control of the Jebusites until King David conquered it around the tenth century BC. Three lands had their own kings, and each area fought the other at various times. Even within each land, there was consternation. Israel’s King Zechariah lasted six months before being assassinated by his friend Shallum. Shallum was then killed by another successor, Menahem, one month later. When citizens of a nearby Israelite city did not show appreciation for the act, Menahem killed them all. And these were just the interior threats.

Just about every major empire rolled into or through the Levant during Israel’s first millennia of existence, and each brought various levels of destruction. Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians, and Romans all had their turn as their people sought what the Levant had to offer: water and prospective slaves. It was a rough time. Physical resources were in high demand to stay alive, and everything physical became a point of emphasis in securing them.

So perhaps we can’t blame the Israelites for wanting to hold on to their physical covenants. They were key to survival. The prophets could and did blame them, however, for failing to uphold the Old Covenant.

Like their ties to the comforts of slavery, the ancient Israelites’ lust for random god worship dates to their first days of the exodus from Egypt. A few months after parting and departing the Red Sea, Moses left his fellow Israelites to receive instructions from God. For forty days, he went to the top of Mount Sinai and took detailed notes on all the requirements the Israelites would enact under the Old Covenant. It apparently felt like a long time, for in his absence the Israelites came to Aaron, Moses’s second-in-command, saying, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him." Aaron, who incidentally was Moses’s own brother, obliged. And as Moses carried stone tablets down from the mountaintop, his fellow Israelites worshipped a golden calf.

Two aspects of this situation are amazing and lead to the troubles later prophets had in trying to convey prophecies of the Messiah. First, the Ten Commandments were written on the stone tablets Moses carried, the first of which read, "You shall have no other gods before me." Irony fills all eras. Second, the calf represented an Egyptian god otherwise known as the Apis Bull, showing the Israelite penchant for picking up the religious habits of those around them.

Over time, the broad deity, often named Baal, supplanted most other idols, but the continued worship of local gods alongside the Hebrew God became so widespread that it gained a name: syncretism. Go to synagogue in the morning and be home sacrificing to various idols on the mantel by afternoon. After many generations, idol worship became a natural way of doing things, with the notable exception of a dozen prophets or so. And they were not quiet in their dissent.

Each prophet discussed the idea, but perhaps King David wrote it most clearly:

They mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. They worshiped their idols which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons…whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan.

The prophet Hosea may have conveyed it most succinctly: You have now turned to prostitution; Israel is corrupt.

From the average Israelite’s point of view, it was probably hard to hear the diatribes, or especially to glean the good news of the coming Messiah from them. You’re degenerate scum, but God will send someone to save you is always hard to hear. And the prophets didn’t make it any easier for themselves.

Jeremiah, for one, seemed downright obstinate. When the Babylonians were poised to ransack Judah, the Israelites likely hoped their prophet would have good news from God. Jeremiah didn’t deliver it:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Listen! I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned sacrifices in it to gods that neither they nor their fathers nor the kins of Judah ever knew.

A temple priest had Jeremiah beaten and put in stocks in

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