One of the recurring themes that skeptics of the Bible offer is they challenge the idea that the Bible wasn’t written by man. Christians believe that the Bible was written by men who were divinely inspired by God. In effect, Christians such as myself believe that God told biblical authors what to write.
As I began reading the Bible daily, I was immediately struck by how both the good and bad deeds of the main characters of the Bible were recalled. Men such as Moses, Abraham, David, were all showcased as being righteous men of God, But each man had his moments of weakness where he gave way to sin, and those moments were detailed in minute detail.
Several months ago I heard a biblical scholar make a wonderful point: If man had written the Bible, would he include his own shortcomings? Moses is thought to be the author of multiple books of the Bible. Yet in those books, the sinful behavior of multiple men who the Bible details as being righteous are detailed. Including Moses. So the biblical scholar offered this as evidence that man had help in writing the Bible, and I agree with that line of thinking.
Another strike against the theory that man wrote and invented the Bible comes in the Christmas story involving the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at this story logically, assuming that man was going to simply invent a messiah that was destined to save the world. What would such a person’s origin story be, if conceived by the imagination of man? If man was going to create the story of its own savior, what would that story look like?
I suspect the savior of mankind, according to man, would likely be born to a prestigious family. Likely, the most powerful family in the world. And he would likely grow up to be a great military leader, who would conquer the world, creating one unified empire through nothing more than a swath of brilliant military conquest after conquest. And he would spend his life being beloved by all that knew him. He would be a hero from day one of his existence and everyone would hail him as the hero that was coming to save all the world.
That could likely be the origin story of the savior of mankind, if man invented such a person.
Contrast that with the true story of Jesus Christ. Jesus was born to a virgin teenager who was married to a carpenter. His mother Mary gave birth to Him in a manager because His mother and father were in Bethlehem for the census. Joseph attempted to purchase a room at an inn so Mary could give birth, but the owner told him there were no rooms available. The wife of the owner took pity on the couple, and let them stay in the manger.
The savior of the world was born in a manger next to livestock. He was berated and vilified every where He went, all His life. He was told to leave communities because He was healing the sick and it was ‘causing a disturbance’. He was eventually crucified even though He was guilty of no crime, and He was betrayed into Roman custody by one of His trusted apostles.
Does all this sound like an origin story that was invented by men?
Also, remember the Three Wise Men who came from the East? They were tracking the stars and knew that the King of Kings had been born. But they went to Jerusalem looking for the Messiah, they assumed that the larger city of Jerusalem, central to the Jews, would be the King’s birthplace. Not tiny Bethlehem a few miles away, and certainly not in a manger!
I think there’s so much that we can take from the story of the birth of Jesus that tells us why God came to this world in the form of a man, and for what purpose.
Recall the story of Jesus eating dinner at Matthew’s house. The attendees are described as ‘tax collectors and sinners’. The religious leaders in the area rebuked Jesus for eating with sinners, to which Jesus said that sinners are the very people He came for. It’s a theme that Jesus repeated throughout the Gospels; He didn’t come for the righteous, He came for the lost.
Jesus’s entire life was spent lifting up the smallest, the weakest. Most of his Good Works recounted in the Gospels center on His healing of the sick, the weak, the sinners. It’s as if the savior of the world made a conscious effort to first help the lowest of the low.
He first helped the people that needed Him the most. I think about that as we celebrate Christmas around the world. The birth date of Jesus Christ.
I think about how Jesus came into this world bearing gifts for us all. Usually when we celebrate birthdays, we give gifts to that person. But Jesus did the opposite, He gave everyone else the gift.
Let us accept and treasure the gift we have been given
The Gospel of Luke may be my favorite of the four Gospels. While all 4 Gospels tell of the birth of Christ, Luke also explains to us how John the Baptist was born, and how he literally ‘cleared the way’ for the coming of Jesus. First, Gabriel, the herald of Good News, appeared to John’s father, to let him know that he would be given the gift of a son who would be John the Baptist:
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
Because Zechariah doubted the word of Gabriel, Zechariah lost his ability to speak for a time. When his son was born, the family’s neighbors asked what name he should be given. His mother wanted to name him John, but others asked him why that name, no one in their family was named John! They turned to Zechariah and asked him what name the child should be given. Zechariah asked for a tablet to write, and he wrote “His name is John’. Immediately, Zechariah regained his ability to speak.
After delivering the Good News to Zechariah, Gabriel then visited the virgin Mary and told her that she would birth the future savior of the world, Jesus Christ:
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Whereas Zechariah questioned because he didn’t believe, it seems Mary questioned because she didn’t understand. Then Gabriel assured her that “For no word from God will ever fail’, and Mary did not question further, she accepted the gift she had been given.
We all have been given a wonderful gift in a savior, Jesus Christ. I pray that I, along with everyone who reads this, will accept that gift, and use it as God intends for each of us.
I hope you have a wonderfully magical Christmas, and may God bless us each and every one.