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Is the portrayal of our Saviour consistent with the Bible?

Is the portrayal of our Saviour consistent with the Bible?

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EDITOR: Our Christian traditions portray our Saviour as a man who was born on December 25th, given a Greek or Latinized name, died on a cross and resurrected at Easter. But is this portrayal consistent with scriptural evidence?

In the Old Testament scriptures, Our Saviour was revealed by way of prophecies and ‘types’ long before his appearance on earth. He confirmed this in the book of John 5:v39 where he stated: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me”. The apostles, including Philip and Shaul (Paul) also used the Old Testament scriptures to declare and preach the Messiah (Acts 8:35 and 28v23).

This article looks briefly at four areas presented to us through our traditions that do not appear to be consistent with the writings of our scriptures.

1 Our Saviour’s birth.

In the Old Testament, you will find many prophecies regarding the birth of our Saviour such as Isaiah 9:6-7. The New Testament records our Saviour’s actual birth. According to Luke chapter 2, he was born during a period of taxation and his family travelled from Galilee to Judea where he was born in the city of Bethlehem. It was also at a time when shepherds were out in the fields at night tending their flocks.This suggests that his birth occurred when the weather conditions were conducive to travel and extended exposure.

Yet our Saviour is presented as being born in the heart of winter on December 25th. The celebration of Christmas has now become the biggest event on the Christian calender. Even though winter conditions in the land of Israel are not as severe as North America, it was not the norm for shepherds to be out in the fields at night tending their flock at such time of the year.

There are no biblical sources which support a specific date for the celebration of our Saviour’s birth and we know that the early apostolic assembly did not celebrate his birth.
What is known from historical records, however, is that December 25th was celebrated as the birthdays of pagan deities of ancient cultures such as Tammuz of Babylon, long before the time of our Saviour.

2. The name of our Saviour

Our Saviour was of the lineage of David, an Israelite of Hebrew stock. He was born into a culture where names were regarded as significant as one’s name served to define one’s character. For example we read in 1 Samuel 25, v25’… for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him…’. It was therefore inconceivable for our Saviour to have been given an English name or a Greek name or a Latin name.

We know that our Saviour was given the same name as the General who led the children of Israel into the promise land. That name was the Hebrew name Yahshua (Joshua) and it means Yahweh’s salvation. Note also Matthew 1:21: ‘And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name ‘Yahshua’: for he shall save his people from their sins’.

One clue that confirms that our Saviour was given the same name as Yahshua (Joshua) the General, can be found in Acts 7,v45 where the King James translators mistakenly insert ‘Jesus’ when a clear reference is being made to Yahshua (Joshua) the General. “Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom Yahweh dravevout before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David”.

It is interesting to note that the apostle Shaul (Paul), while recounting his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, said he heard the voice of our Saviour, calling his own name, in the Hebrew tongue ( Acts 22,v2-8, and 26,v14-15). That name was Yahshua, the Hebrew name that he was given at birth. It could not have been ‘Jesus’ or ‘Iesous’ a Latinized or Greek name that has been presented to us by our Christian tradition.

Acts 4,v12 highlights the importance of the name : “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved”.

3. The instrument of our Saviour’s death.

Our Saviour spoke of the manner of his death and purpose in the book of John 3,v14-15 : “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life”.

He referred to the ‘type’ in the book of Numbers 21,v5-9. Verse 9 states: “And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived”.

The two Greek words used in the text to represent the instrument of our Saviour’s death were ‘stauros’ and ‘xulon’.

The Strong’s Concordance defines, ‘stauros’ as: a stake or post (as set upright) that is (specifically) a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment). ‘ Zulon’ is defined as: timber (as fuel or material); by implication a stick, club or tree or other wooden article or substance:. Notice the consistency of these definitions with the reference made by our Saviour to Numbers 21.

Cepha (Peter), referring to our Saviour in Acts 10,v39 stated: And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Shaul (Paul), in Galatians 3,v13 stated: Messiah hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: This reference was made to Deuteronomy 21:22-23.

While the King James translators favoured ‘cross’ when translating the Greek word ‘stauros’, there are no Old Testament prophesies or ‘types’ that refer to the cross. Yet the cross has been presented as the instrument of our Saviour’s death and as an object of adoration.

4. Resurrection of our Saviour at Easter

The scriptural records indicated that Our Saviour was resurrected during the feast of unleavened bread. He died on Passover day and remained for three days and three nights in the grave..(Mark 14:1, Matthew 12,v38-40). Passover was a separate day of celebration which preceded the feast of unleavened bread, a seven day period where the people of the most high were instructed to put away leaven from their dwelling Leviticus 23,v5-7). Leaven symbolized sin. It was therefore significant that our Saviour who cast away our sins at his death, was resurrected during the period when symbolically sin was no more.

Our Christian traditions, however, celebrates Easter Sunday as the day our Saviour was resurrected.

We know that the celebration of Easter is not found in the Scriptures and is of pagan origin.

Ironically, even in our local setting, it is a celebration which features the eating of hot cross buns (leaven cakes), a practice which stands in stark contrast to the sanctity of the holy season.

We are therefore encouraged not to allow our traditions to nullify the word of Yahweh (Mark 7,v8-13).

S.N Thomas