“WHO WAS THAT CHILD IN A MANGER – The Evidence from Science and History?”

A Savior Who is Christ the Lord . . . A Babe Wrapped in Swaddling Cloths, Lying in a Manger (Luke 2:11-12)

Bible critics and unbelieving skeptics would convince us that the Bible is wrong and that Jesus Christ is a myth because if the Bible is right and Jesus is the Son of God, then He is our rightful Lord to whom we owe our allegiance, our worship, and our very lives.  Jesus said this:  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (John 3:19-20 New King James Version)

Jesus said people hate Him because He exposes the sin they love; they hate God altogether; and their hatred is contrary to the evidence and against good reason:  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (John 15:22-25 NIV)

Also, those who hate Jesus and God actually hate us (Christians) because His light that shines through us, through our message and lifestyle, exposes their sins:

  • Those who hate God without a cause do not speak peaceably, but devise false accusations against those who live quietly in the land (Psalm 35:20 NIV). They tell lies about those who desire peace and quiet in the land.
  • The first murder occurred between brothers because the one’s righteous works provoked the other whose works were evil (1 John 3:12). Abel’s only crime was living a godly life; but Cain felt convicted by it and so killed his brother.
  • This is why everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12 New Living Translation). The truth hurts those intent on living contrary to it; and they will stop at nothing to suppress that truth  (Romans 1:18).

Critics charge that science and the Bible don’t mix; or, science is for thinking people and the Bible is for the superstitious; or, science contradicts the Bible.  But true science actually confirms the Bible and who Jesus Christ is.  “Science is defined as ‘the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.’ Science is a method that mankind can use to gain a greater understanding of the natural universe.”[2]  True science does not contradict the Bible; rather it has confirmed the Scriptures’ integrity again and again.

Geology (the science of the earth’s physical structure) agrees with the biblical chronology of Earth’s development:[3]

  1. Earth began in a confused/chaotic condition which gave way to a more developed state (Genesis 1:2)
  2. A life sustaining atmosphere was formed (Genesis 1:6-8)
  3. Dry land appeared (Genesis 1:9-10)
  4. Plant life appeared (Genesis 1:11-13)
  5. Sea life appeared (Genesis 1:20-23)
  6. Animal life appeared (Genesis 1:24-25)
  7. Human life appeared last (Genesis 1:26-28)

The evidence is exactly the same, but creationists and naturalists (believers in evolution) interpret it differently. You have to wonder though – how did a fifteenth century B.C. nomadic shepherd named Moses know the order of Earth’s geologic development so well that he got it sequentially spot-on in writing his creation epic in Genesis chapter one?

Archaeology (the science of human history and prehistory by studying artifacts and remains) corroborates much of what we know about Jesus from the Bible.  Dr. Edwin Yamauchi (The Scriptures and Archaeology and the World of the First Christians) says that even without the Bible we know a lot about Jesus from other ancient sources:

“We . . . know that first, Jesus was a Jewish teacher; second, many people believed that he performed healings and exorcisms; third, some people believed he was the Messiah; fourth, he was rejected by the Jewish leaders; fifth, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius; sixth, despite his shameful death, his followers, who believed that he was still alive, spread beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of them in Rome by AD 64; and seventh, all kinds of people from the cities and countryside – men and women, slave and free – worshiped him as God.”[4]

Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, wrote about Jesus: 

“At this time Jesus, a wise man (if it is appropriate to call him a man), appeared.  For he was a worker of incredible deeds, a teacher of men who happily receive the truth, and he drew to himself many Jews – and many Greeks, too.  This man was the Christ.  And when Pilate had executed him at the instigation of the leading men among us, those who had first loved him did not give up.  For he appeared to them on the third day alive again (the divine prophets had spoken concerning him of these and countless other wonders).  And to this day the tribe of “Christians” (named after him) has not vanished.[5]

And Tacitus, great Roman historian writing approximately in AD 115 about Christians said they were wrongly accused by Nero for starting the fire that destroyed much of Rome in AD 64.  Also, of the term “Christian” he stated – “The author of this name, Christ, suffered the ultimate penalty at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilate during the imperium of Tiberius.”[6]

Jesus did miracles as evidence of who He is – a Savior who is Christ the Lord.  On one occasion He posed the question whether it was easier to forgive someone’s sins or heal them from a disease.  He then said:  But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . .Get up, take your mat and go home.”  (Matthew 9:6-7 New International Version)  Jesus’ did miracles as evidence that He could save people from their sins – His purpose for coming into the world.  Modern skeptics say it is unreasonable to believe in miracles; but Jesus said to the skeptics in His day that it was unreasonable to witness miracles (which He did in abundance) and not believe.

A Miracle on 34th Street is an all-time favorite Christmas movie classic at our house.  You may recall the ending how all those watching Santa on trial were encouraged by his supporters to just BELIEVE!  Jesus encourages us to believe in Him, not just because He wants us to, but because of the miracles He did which were observed by many witnesses (Matthew 13:53-56).    The Apostle John wrote in concluding his gospel:  Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31 New International Version).  Based on the evidence, believing really is the most reasonable thing you can do!

[1] From The Case for Christmas by Lee Strobel [Zondervan, 2005].

[2] https://www.gotquestions.org/science-God.html

[3] Gleason L. Archer, Jr. in A Survey of Old Testament Introduction p.193.

[4] In The Case for Christmas, p.57.

[5] Josephus in Antiquities 18.63-64.

[6] Tacitus in Annals 15:44

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