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CPCC Bible Study: The Life of Christ (with focus on Miracles)

Produced by TheMediaDesk, ©2023
Posted on CCPC's website 2023

Introduction: A quick look at the times and places of the Life that changed the world.

The Beginning of the Story:

      There is no date in the text. The period is identified by the verses that name the rulers at the time. The most notable being who was in charge in Rome.
      We'll go with the biggest name first.

Luke 2 : 1 “And it came to passe in those dayes, that there went out a decree from Cesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made whe Cyrenius was gouernor of Syria)”
(All Gospel quotes from the 1611 KJV, see first link below)

      Gaius Octavius, also known as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, or later as: Augustus Caesar, lived from 63 BC to 14 AD. He was the first Roman Emperor and the great nephew (through his mother's side) and adopted heir of, Julius Caesar. Which made him the undisputed rival of Senate favorite (and 'special friend' of Cleopatra, ruler of Egypt), so upon Caesar's assassination in 44 BC, Octavian ended up in an actual battle with Marcus Antonius, which eventually ended up with the Second Triumvirate, splitting rule of the empire three ways, with Anthonius ruling the east, including the Holy Land for a time.
      The Triumvirate didn't work out and was completely obliterated after another war between forces loyal to Rome, and Octavian, and those from the East under Anthony and Cleopatra. The famous romantic pair lost, badly, everything. With both Mark Anthony and the Queen of the Nile taking their own lives. Leaving Octavian without rival.
      In 27 BC Octavian became Augustus by proclamation of the Senate, which he had bought (or threatened into submission), and the First Emperor, although he never used the title himself. Instead, Augustus called himself the “princeps” (first citizen) of Rome.
      Augustus significantly increased the size of the empire, ended up in control from the shores of Britain, into Germany, and into today's Saudi Arabia, with an uneasy truce and diplomatic relations with the Parthian empire. Which, in turn, was part of the remnants of the Seleucid empire that began as Alexander the Great's empire was divided. Which we discussed in our look at the Minor Prophets and the time of the Maccabees.

Side Note from the East:
      It was that stalemate with the great Eastern power that allowed a certain party of travelers to journey west in the period 8 - 6 BC (or so), and cross the DMZ into the Roman territories and then make their way to Jerusalem.
      If it were not for the work of Tiberius, Augustus's stepson and heir (yes, he was That 'Tiberius'), who was an excellent diplomat, Rome would have still been in open warfare with the Parthians, as they had been under Julius Caesar, and the Astrologers from the East would never have been able to play their part in the drama. And we'll come back and watch their camels walk across the desert in a few minutes.

Further Note:
      The area of Judea had passed back and forth between the Parthians and their Seleucid predecessors, and Egypt, and then Rome so often you wonder how the locals kept straight who was in charge at any one time. Just before the period we're discussing a Parthian invasion had taken most of Judea and Herod had to hole up in his fortress at Masada until a Roman counteroffensive under Triumvir Mark Anthony, pushed them, and indeed the entire western border of that realm, back to east.
End Notes

      Under Augustus, the famous Roman Road building projects really began throughout the empire. In Rome itself he worked to improve the lives of the people, even down to instituting a dedicated fire department, and building the aqueducts to supply it.
      And so it was in the period under discussion for the Life of Christ, as his stepson Tiberius would come to the throne in 14 AD and rule until 37.

“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble....
.... Have I played the part well? Then applaud me as I exit.”
- Augustus's last words

      Now for the other name in Luke 2.

      “Cyrenius” or Publius Sulpicius Quirinius lived from about 51 BC to 21 AD and is well documented in outside sources as having been some sort of official in Roman Syria. Most English translations make his job out to be ''governor”, however, the Greek word in Luke is “hegemoneuo” which simply means 'authority', and as Quirinius was in Syria to 'settle accounts' for Augustus according to Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews, see link below, he most likely was a Legate, which is a position of authority perhaps best understood as a military governor.
      It is known that Quirinius had sufficient authority to appoint a new Prefect of Judea after Herod II died in 34 AD.
      It is his census, as the new military governor in or about about 7 to 6 BC, that starts Joseph on his trip. Although, as with everything else with this period of history, actual dates are up in the air. A problem compounded by the speed of travel of both people and information. Something that some scholars seem to forget. See Liberty University article, linked below, as an example.

      On to Matthew's account.

Matthew 2 : 1
     “Now when Iesus was borne in Bethlehem of Iudea, in the dayes of Herod the king, behold, there came Wise men from the East to Hierusalem,”

And then

Luke 1: 5
     “There was in the dayes of Herode the king of Iudea”

      There were several 'Herod's.
      This one was most likely Herod the First, also called Herod the Great. The first Roman appointed client king of Judea. We'll check the scorecard in a moment for rest of them.
      Herod was born (about) 73 BC in what was then Hasmonean controlled Judea to an Edomite family, under what had been a series of puppet kings for the Seleucid empire. Rome moved in about 60 BC. In spite of a bit of drama with the new kids to the east for a couple of years while the Romans fought amongst themselves, Rome succeeded in installing its own puppet king for keeps in about 36 BC. Which happened to be the Herod that was even then a favorite of several ranking official in Rome for keeping his corner of Judea quiet as a minor official.
      And yet, as a 'halfbreed' Jew, Herod was always considered an outsider by the locals, even after converting to mainstream Judiasm.

A Tangent that Sorts the Herods
      Herod the Great had at least 10 wives that we know of. That is, official wives. And an untold number of others. And so he had a number of children, only a dozen of which we have names and associations for.
      Of Those, at least three of them had the name “Herod” attached to them in some way.
      His oldest son, called Antipater II, from Herod's first marriage to his first wife Doris, who he divorced, then 'recalled' (it gets complicated! See link below to Josephus Antiquities 18. 5. 4), was executed by order of Augustus under charges of planning to assassinate Herod the Great so he could take the throne.
      Herod's next wife, a Maccabeean 'princess' named Mariamne I bore him four children, including two sons who were executed as part of Antipater II's plot against his father. Mariamne had already been dispatched not long before on the same charge. Their two sisters, Salampiso and Cypros evidently got out of town with their skin intact.
      Herod II was the son of Herod's next wife Mariamne II, the daughter of the High Priest Simon who was NOT the Maccabee Simon, but instead was from Egypt. Number Two was removed from the direct line of succession for the full kingdom by his father. This may or may not be the Herod Philip from the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.
            - Hang on, there's more. -
      Herod the Great's next wife, Malthace, was the mother of Herod Archelaus, and Herod Antipas, both of whom saw the thrones of parts of “the Great”s kingdom during their lives. Their sister Olympias survived and was married off to a distant relative.
      Cleopatra of Jerusalem was his fifth wife. Even Josephus has no information about her other than she was a local and not related to the more famous Cleo from Egypt. Her first son was called Herod, with no number or other distinguishing title, and may not have lived to adulthood. Her second son was named Herod Philip II who was later the Tetrarch of the area north of Galilee.
      Then there was a handful of other wives, and a few more children, but most of those managed to stay out of the history books. It should be noted here that Herod's daughter by his seventh wife was named Salome, but this is NOT the Salome of John the Baptist infamy.
End Tangent

“It's better to be Herod's pig than his son”
- Augustus (see attribution below)
      Herod I 'the Great' is known to have died in 4 BC.

      Which means the birth of Christ had to have happened in the window between when Quirinius arrived in office and Herod the Great assumed room temperature. Which narrows the historic window to a period of about 9 BC down to about 6 BC to allow time for the 'Wise Men' to get to town, Joseph to run off to Egypt with his family, and then Herod to croak and the angel to let Joseph know it was safe to come back.

Now about those “Wise Men” and the Shepherds.

[WARNING: If you base most of your beliefs surrounding
the birth of the Messiah on Christmas Carols,
and are happy with that, you may wish to skip this part.]

      Never mind what the Christmas song says, the Magi WERE NOT “Kings”. They were Astrologers (see major essay on that topic as linked below) because they had noticed something odd in the sky, and knew what old thick book look at see what it meant. Which also means they had access to things like the Babylonian Talmud, the oral then written teachings from displaced Jews that had been collected for the last five or six hundred years.
      That they were “from the east” and had a significant trip to make means they were from somewhere in what was then the Parthian Empire. And most likely made the journey with a significant party of 'helpers' (slaves) and assistants, and probably as part of a larger trade caravan.
      That 'the three kings' had a long trip and Persian Airlines wasn't running a reliable schedule at that time, means that while the shepherds got the news and were there within hours of the birth, the Magi were somewhat late comers. So late that the new parents had made the trip to Jerusalem and presented the baby, who was then a few days old, at the temple, then went home to a House in Nazareth, and lived there, perhaps for as long as a couple of years.
      Something else, the star did not lead their party to Bethlehem, it reappeared after their audience with the king, and led them in a new direction, which we'll come back to later, to see the “child”.

      Also, all other Christmas Carols, and TS Elliot poems (see link below), aside, there is no indication in the text that it was the “dead of winter” when the birth occurred. In fact, from the textual evidence involving the shepherds, indicates it was either spring or fall.
      And while we're at it ...

“Israel’s central hilly region, including Jerusalem, gets snowfall once every few years, though forecasts of snow often don’t pan out.”
- (link below)
           ... so you don't need to put fake snow around your “manger scene”.

Where was He born?
      Ignore the fact that there were at least two other towns called 'Bethlehem', one of which was in Nazareth, and the other elsewhere, the only one that counts is the one prophesied in Micah 5 about the one that was the “least of Judah”. And that was known as where King David was from.
      According to the text. He was born in Bethlehem, however, when our wandering band of Astrologers arrived on the scene, He was found in a house. Which most likely means Joseph had gone back to their hometown with his family as both Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth, which is some seventy miles almost due north. And as they were traveling with a newborn, they didn't make record time.
      That the Holy Family were in Nazareth, north of Jerusalem, and on the usual trade route back to the East, that would have made it easier for the Magi to avoid Herod because they were already at least a couple of days out from the capital, and would have been a week gone before he realized he'd been had.
      To get to Egypt, Joseph's group could have easily blended in with the north - south traffic running along any of the main roads. Knowing that Herod had an APB out for anybody with a young child, he may have swung out and followed the coast down. Either way, they got out before Herod mustered his private army and committed the atrocity he is most remembered for.

“Thus says the Lord, 'A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.'”
Jeremiah 31 : 15 (NASB)
      Ramah is the ancient name for the region southeast of Jerusalem, where Bethlehem is located.

"The Silent Years"
      Very little is known of the early life of Christ, except for the famous trip to Jerusalem when He was about twelve, and He astonished the teachers there with His understanding. See Luke 2, beginning at verse 41.
      The next time we see anything about Him, is the marriage feast with Mary who says the only thing in Scripture related directly to her Son as related in John 2 : 5 (ESV).

“His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.'”

      It is also of note that even before His public ministry began, there was a group of disciples with Him, see verse 2.
      It is also in John 2 that we see that Christ had siblings that requires some amazing contortions by some to deny. Verse 12 uses two words key to this idea. The first is “adelphoi” which is the plural of “adelphos” which means 'brother' and is used to designate a member of a religious community, and is used as such by Paul in several spots, see Colossians 1 : 1 for an example.
      However, it is also used to designate a sibling as is seen in Matthew 1 : 2 discussing Jacob and his brothers and then in Matthew 4 :18 with the calling of two brothers.
      The next descriptive term for those that accompanied them makes the point. “mathetai” the plural of “mathetes” (disciple (a religious student)). Why use different terms to denote the same group?
      Also of note along this same idea is that five of the Twelve Apostles were never separately called in the Gospels and may have been with Him at the feast. We can use Thomas and James 'the son of Alphaeus' as examples. See link below to a discussion of “The Fourteen Apostles” for more, including who was called when and what may have happened to them later.
      The next appearance is at the Baptism. And as that begins the Public Ministry on which this study will focus. We'll take our leave of that and look at another question.

How much of this is archaeologically proven?
      Not much, but enough to raise some interesting questions when you face those that say that it is all made up and that the entire story is little more than an early version of the stories about Prester John. The Great Ruler from the East that was going to march into Europe in about 1100 AD and straighten out the hopeless mess he found there. See link below to more about him and his legend.
      First off, there is no objective archaeological evidence of the existence of the man named Jesus of Nazareth. Which isn't that extraordinary when you consider that He was not a member of the nobility or the political class, which we confirm in a quote from in the links section below, nor did He own any property, and that His entire public life only lasted three years, and most of that was spent in the rural areas of the country.
      Let's look at somebody of note that was a member of the nobility and apparently owned property. Pontius Pilate.
      Pilate was the Prefect / Governor of Judea appointed by Tiberius in about 14 AD. He ruled for just over twenty years. And yet there is no more evidence for his existence than would fit in the trunk of a small car. One engraved stone lists him by name and title in Latin, his Greek name and monogram have been found on one signet ring and some small bronze coins, and he's mentioned in a handful of Roman records. See link below for a video and article. All of the known statues and other images of him were done centuries after his death.
      And that's the Roman ruler who played a central role in the drama of Holy Week.
      How would a carpenter who left the shop to wander around the countryside and preach to the poor and the socially unacceptable make a mark that could be found two thousand years later? Even some of the towns and settlements mentioned in the Gospels have been lost over time.
      Others have fared no better. Grave items have been found that may or may not be the high priest of the time. Others include family names that could be related to the characters in the story, but those family names also cover centuries of history.
      The fact that we have what we have is remarkable considering how many millions of people from the time lived, and worked, and then died without any indication they were here. Not to mention the endless stream of building, occupation, destruction, rebuilding, through the innumerable wars that have been fought all through the Holy Land.

"Tradition states this is the site...."
      In 2019 excavations at the site of a destroyed Byzantine church near Hippos uncovered a mosaic floor that depicts the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. The site was instantly hailed as the location where the miracle had occurred.
      There's only one problem, there are several other locations along the shores of Galilee that are proclaimed to groups of tourists that they are the site of the event, such as another church at Tabgha where you'll find the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes (see link below). The same holds true for the Sermon on the Mount, or where Christ walked on the water, or any of the other events from the Gospel. That, and that when the floor was laid in the church, the event was already over a thousand years in the past.
      Even in Jerusalem, the pavement "Where Jesus Walked" is usually several meters below where those same tourists from Galilee are standing taking pictures of each other. There's a link below to the excavations of the pilgrimage road to the temple from that time that is five meters (about 16 feet) under the modern city streets and neighborhoods.
      Even the famed Via Dolorosa (literally 'way of suffering') in Jerusalem has more to do with what Christian Pilgrims expect to encounter in Jerusalem as they re-enact the events leading up to the Crucifixion than it does where Christ was actually taken. For example, when the guides stop under the Ecce Homo arch and quote the phrase from John 19 - “Behold the Man”, they may forget to mention that the arch was built some two hundred years after Pilate made his statement and after most of the Jerusalem that Christ was familiar with was all but leveled by the Romans.

“.... so, then, what is real?”
      The Promise from GOD was and is very real.
      The history and people of the Holy Land are real in spite of the tourist attractions.
      And even if the Shroud of Turin someday is proven to be a very old, and very elaborate hoax (see link below for a discussion of a few other scientific hoaxes on that scale), the Man known as Jesus Christ is still real.
            Yes, HE, is.

      We'll end it right there and go stand in the temple next to Zacharias, light some incense, and wait for somebody unusual to show up and make a speech. See Luke 1...
The 1611 KJV online

References and Links.
All links were working as of date of posting.


An Archeological Biography

Quirinius's reason to be in Syria: Josephus, Antiquities, 18.1.1
Also See Book 18 Chapter 5, 4 for more about the Life and Times of Herod the Great's kids.

That Liberty University article mentioned above: The Census and Quirinius

Augustus's quote about Herod.from:

The early life of Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius)

A somewhat hostile review of the Babylonian Talmud

TS Elliot's poem ”The Journey of the Magi

SNOW! Rare covering of white delights residents as schools, kindergartens stay shut.

“Pilate's Ring found in Herodium”

The archaeological evidence of Pontius Pilate

Video: Pontius Pilate inscription; the original stone, now located in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem -

The quote as mentioned above:
"There’s nothing conclusive, nor would I expect there to be. Peasants don’t normally leave an archaeological trail."
More at:

The real 'feeding site' found....
-or not-
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes

With Video: Jerusalem's 2,000-year-old Pilgrimage Road preparing for modern revival
”an ancient road to the temple...”

Jerusalem's Via Dolorosa

Ecce Homo Arch


Media Desk Articles related to the above topic:
ASTROLOGY, and all that goes with it.

As Mentioned: The Fourteen Apostles

Prester John

Scientific Hoaxes

NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.

With the assistance and cooperation of The Media Desk.