Written By Thomas Perez. February 4, 2017 at 9:54pm. Copyright 2017.
This article is devoted to the analysis and critique of ‘Zealot.’ A book written by Reza Aslan. The book, written in 2013, and was number one on the New York Times Best Seller list. The book is divided as follows;
A map of 1st Cent Palestine xiii. – An artists rendering.
The Temple in Jerusalem xv – an artist’s rendering.
Authors Note xvii – Here Aslan gives a brief testimonial concerning his conversion at the age of 15 to the, as he coins the term; “Bedrock of evangelical Christianity” until his “formal study of the history of religions” where he began his “academic work.” “No longer chained to the assumptions that the stories I (he) read were literally true.” It is here that the author admits to distancing himself “between the Jesus of the Gospels and the Jesus of history.” Moreover, it is also the reason, as Aslan puts it, “in keeping with scholary designations,” his book “employs the CE or Common Era instead of AD in its dating, and BCE instead of BC.” Aslan also cites that “It (his book) also more properly refers to the Old Testament as the Hebrew Bible or Hebrew Scriptures.” In other words, the reader is immediately teleported away from any notion of the New Testament as being the fulfillment of the Old Testament or Covenant. A seed is thus planted. Any reader with a sense for the foundational, will almost immediately spot the subtleties (repetitive word pharses, elements of truth, coupled with ommissions of completed truths and affirmations – more on this later) in which Aslan so delicately provides us with throughout the book – the subtle process of grooming. To groom a potential reader, an author must either willingly admit their particular stance or have us undergo the subtleties of their already foregone conclusions – Aslan provides us with both.
Introduction xxiii – Here Aslan provides us with an introduction in reference to what he will cover throughout the following pages of his book. Of course, we all know what an introduction is. An introduction is a synoptic overview of what a particular book will be all about. A sort of “sneak peak.”
Chronology xxxiii – In his chronology, Aslan provides a brief outline of history, starting from; The Maccabean Revolt in 164 BC to 398 AD – The Counsel of Hippo. In his introduction, Aslan cites; “the Christians felt the need to distance themselves from the revolutionary zeal that had led to the sacking of Jerusalem, not only because it allowed the early church to ward off the wrath of a deeply vengeful Rome, but also because, with the Jewish religion having become pariah, the Romans had become the primary target of the church’s evangelism. Thus began the long process of transforming Jesus from a revolutionary Jewish nationalist into a peaceful spiritual leader with no interest in any earthly matter. That was a Jesus the Romans could accept, and in fact did accept three centuries later when the Roman Emperor Flavius Theodosius (395 AD) made the itinerant Jewish preacher’s movement the official religion of the state, and what we now recognize as Orthodox Christianity.” “This book is an attempt to reclaim, as much as possible, the Jesus of History, the Jesus before Christianity: the politically conscious Jewish revolutionary who, two thousand years ago, walked across the Galilean countryside, gathering followers for a messianic movement with the goal of establishing the kingdom of God but who’s mission failed when, after a provocative entry into Jerusalem and a blazing attack on the temple, he was arrested and executed by Rome for the crime of sedition. It is also about how, in the aftermath of Jesus’s failure to establish God’s reign on earth, his followers we interpreted not only Jesus’s mission and identity, but also the very nature and definition of the Jewish Messiah…”
Aslan claims that Jesus was just one of many messiahs that came and went. Thus the reason for his chronology. But by the end of his book (in his Epilogue; True God From True God, pages 213-216), Aslan cites; “… Jesus of Nazareth – Jesus the man – is every bit as compelling, charismatic and praiseworthy as Jesus the Christ. He is in short, someone worth believing in.” Notice the subtle coined phrase, “the Christ” as opposed to Jesus Christ? For Aslan, this rendering makes all the difference in the world, as he discusses in chapter 14, pages 188-190.
Aslan divides his book into 3 parts.
Part 1: Prologue: A Different Sort of Sacrifice
Chapter 1: A Hole in the Corner
Chapter 2: King of the Jews
Chapter 3: You Know Where I am From
Chapter 4: The Fourth Philosophy
Chapter 5: Where is Your Fleet to Sweep the Roman Seas?
Chapter 6: Yeal One
Part 2 Prologue: Zeal for Your House
Chapter 7: The Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness
Chapter 8: Follow Me
Chapter 9: By the Finger of God
Chapter 10: May your Kingdom Come
Chapter 11: Who Do You Say I Am?
Chapter 12: No King but Caesar
Part 3 Prologue: God Made Flesh
Chapter 13: If Christ Has Not Been Risen
Chapter 14: Am I Not an Apostle?
Chapter 15: The Just One
Epilogue: The True God from True God.
In this article (Part 1) we will discuss Aslans Prologue – up to Chapter 9. Chapters 10 – up to Aslan’s Epilogue will be concluded in Part 2.
With the “Authors Note” and “Introduction” pretty much covered, we are now fully aware of the author’s conclusions and where he stands in reference to both; the Jesus of the Gospels and the Jesus of history. It is a scism, so to speak. Let us now examine if there is such a thing as a separate “both.” Obviously the term in which Aslan uses the phrase, “the Jesus of history” is not to be confused with a denial of a real physical Jesus that walked on earth two thousand years ago, it is Aslan’s association with the denial of Jesus’s Christology, as put forth by the Gospels as a unified historic person, that is being denied by him. Let us now look into some of his quotations. Quotations that fail to take into account various variables (the ommited truths spoken of earlier) that, if uttered, can cause Aslan’s foundation to crumble. But utter them we shall; beginning with some of the details found in Aslan’s introduction and some of his chapters that are worth exposing and critiquing.
In his introduction: Aslan cites, two decades after Mark, between 90 and 100 C.E., the authors of Matthew and Luke, working independently of each other and with Mark’s manuscript as a template, updated the gospel story by adding their own unique traditions, including two different and conflicting infancy narratives as well as a series of elaborate resurrection stories to satisfy their Christian readers. Matthew and Luke also relied on what must have been an early and fairly well distributed collection of Jesus’s sayings that scholars have termed “Q” (German for Quelled or “Source”). Although we no longer have any physical copies of this document, we can infer its contents by compiling those verses that Matthew and Luke share in common but that do not appear in Mark. Together, these three gospels – Mark, Matthew and Luke – become known as the synoptics (Greek for “viewed together”) because they more or less present a common narrative and chronology about the life and ministry of Jesus, one that is greatly at odds with the fourth gospel, John, which was likely written soon after the close of the first century, between 100 and 120 C.E.”
Did you notice the error? Aslan cited that Matthew and Luke was composed a full two decades after the Gospel of Mark, at 90-100 C.E., this is an error. It is an error based upon a contradiction, his own. According to Aslan, all the Gospels, including Mark, were written after 70 CE – this of course is to lend crediblity to his statement that the prediction of the Jewish Temple destruction (in 70 AD) predicted by Jesus, as recorded in Luke 19:43-44 and Matthew 16:28, 24:29-34 – especially verse 34 and Mark 13:23-26 was, as Aslan puts it, placed into the mouth of Jesus after the fact. Moreover, the term “Q Source” is speculative at best. It is an attempt by scholars to bolster the claim that Matthew and Luke got their information from Mark, but proceeded to add on detailic oral accounts, like the Sermon on the Mount, etc. Yet in chapter 3 – page 29; Aslan contradicts himself by declairing that the Q material was compiled around 50 C.E. to prove a point pertaining to what happened before Jesus’s baptism. What Aslan also fails to comprehend are the similies in which the term “Heaven” and “Earth” are compared to.
Heaven and earth are often compared to Jerusalem and her Torah, more precisely the Temple ritualistic ceremonial laws, laws like circumcision, sacrifices and offerings, not it’s ethical and moral codes. The Temple itself – representative of God on earth, behind the veiled curtain that was ultimately ripped in two after Jesus gave up His spirit, was no longer bound to one ethnic group. Some might argue that the passages pertaining to the Temple destruction – as in the “Heaven” and the “Earth” “passing away” were in reference to a physical destruction, an apocalyptic catastrophy to come about after 70 A.D. – even up to our present day. It never occured – and therefore serves as a failed Messianic prophecy by Jesus, validating a failed prophetic utterance merely inserted by the authors of the Gospels after the Temple destruction to bolster Jesus as the One True Messiah. This too is an error.
Let us remember, God set the literal heaven (Psa 148:4-6) and the literal earth to be a constant (Psa 104:5). He established them forever (Psa 78:69). In Genesis 8:21, God said he would never again destroy every living thing. Thus, the earth abides forever (Ecclesiastes 1:4). Let us remember Isaiah 9:7, “of the increase of His Govenment and peace there shall be no end.” If the earth is to be destroyed, then that would be the end of the increase of Christ’s government? The destruction of the heavens and earth are spiritual in nature, and should be seen as such. Moreover, almost every Biblical scholar knows that the terms “Heaven” and “Earth” are sometimes used to symbolize Israel and their Temple.
The the prophecy pertaining to the destruction of the Temple was written to the people of that generation (Matt 24:34). That generation, in which Jesus is referring to, surely did see the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70AD. But Aslan denies this by dating the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke after 70AD. Therefore casting doubt upon its validity. Therefore it behooves us to ask the question; “When was the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke truly written?”
In reference to the Gospel of Mark, Justin Martyr, writing at about 150AD in Rome, confirmed that Mark wrote down Peter’s recollection of events. He quoted Mark 3:17 as being in “the Memoirs of Peter.” in addition to recording Peters memories, Mark may have added his own memories and consulted other documents. Most agree that Mark with his gospel in Rome under Peter’s supervision. A second century document, called the ‘Prologue to Mark’ states that the Gospel was composed in Italy. Furthermore, Irenaeus, writing about 180AD, specifically stated Rome. Since Mark was with Paul in Rome around ad 60-62AD and may have returned around 65AD at Paul’s request (II Tim 4:11), there is little reason to doubt this evidence. Several important early sources including the Anti-Marcionite Prologue and Irenaeus, stated that Mark composed his Gospel after Peter’s death. In fact, Irenaeus dated its composition after both Peter and Paul’s Death Around 67AD. However Clement of Alexandria and Origen, writing a few years after Irenaeus, insisted Peter was still alive during the Mark’s writing of the book. Moreover, a later tradition, recorded by Eusebius about 340AD, stated that it was written earlier during the reign of Claudius 41-54AD. Finally an inscription on later manuscripts dated Mark’s composition at even an earlier date around 39-42AD. These early dates, however, seem doubtful because Mark probably would not have written the Gospel before his first failed missionary journey, Peter most likely was not in Rome until after 60AD and Paul’s epistle to the Romans around 56-57AD greets many believers, but mentions neither Mark nor Peter. The most thoughtful estimate would place Mark’s work sometime after Peter’s death in 64AD or 65AD, yet prior to 70AD, when Jerusalem was destroyed. In any event, the Gospel of Mark was penned within only three or four decades after the events it records.
In reference to Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew was a Palestinian Jew (Matt 2:20, 4:5, 5:35, 10:6, 15:24, 17:24-27, 18:17, 27:53). Other details Point specifically to Jesus’s disciple Matthew as the writer of this gospel. As a tax collector, Matthew would have been literate and familiar with keeping records of money. Appropriately, this gospel contains more references to money than any of the others. Furthermore, Matthew’s Hometown was Capernaum, a village that is given special attention in this Gospel. When Capernaum is mentioned is mentioned, some special description is usually attached to it (4:13 and 11:23). Matthew wrote the Gospel before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. He describes Jerusalem in the book as the “holy city” as though it was still standing (4:5 and 27:53), and he speaks of the customs of the Jews as continuing until this day (27:8 and 28:15). Furthermore, Jesus’ prophecy recorded in 24:2 of Jerusalem’s destruction includes no indication that it had already occurred when Matthew wrote Jesus’s words. In light of all this, it is reasonable to conclude that he book was written sometime between 50 and 60AD.
In reference to Luke’s Gospel, Luke is not an eye witness to the events surrounding Jesus but had gathered reports of others about Him. Luke is present with Paul as indicated in the “we sections” of Acts (Acts 16:10-17, 20:5-15, 21:1-18, 27:1-28:16). Luke was capable of writing in Greek as Colossians 4:10-14 (a book written by Paul) indicates. He is the only Gentile author of the New Testament. Early Christian writings, from the works of Justin Martyr to Tertullian, identify the author as Luke, and indentification that was frimly in place by the 3rd Cent. Luke was an educated man by ancient standards. Neither Luke nor his other book, the Book of Acts indicate when they were written. However, the last event recorded in the the Book of Acts is the first Roman imprisonment of Paul; therefore, the earliest Acts could have been written is 62AD. Moreover, since the sequel to Luke, the Book of Acts, does not record either Peter’s death, Paul’s death, or even the fall of Jerusalem (in the face of Jesus is Clear prediction of it), it is most likely that Luke was written in the early to mid sixties a date in the late sixties is also possible.
Chapter 1: Aslan begins this 7 page chapter by discussing some of the ancient conquests pertaining to Jerusalem’s fall by the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians and Rome. The customs, expectations and religious ceremonies of the time. Their Life styles and so forth. Nothing to critique in this chapter.
Chapter 2: Aslan discusses some historical information on Herod, but holds back on Herods documented atrocities, in favor of the political motives on Rome’s behalf making him – their “client king” for the stiff necked stubborn Jews who awaited their Messiah/True King. Nothing to critique in this chapter.
Chapter 3: On page 26, Aslan cites, “The Hamlet Hillside of Nazareth is so small, so obscure, that its name does not appear in any ancient Jewish source before the 3rd Cent CE – not in the Hebrew Bible, not in the Talmud, not in the Midrash, not in Josephus. It is, in short, an inconsequential and and utterly and forgettable place. It is also the city in which Jesus was likely born and raised.”
As we continue to read this chapter, Aslan, while denying the appearance of the term Nazareth before the 3rd Cent, doesn’t actually say it never existed, but that if it did exist, it would be the only likely place in which Jesus was born – and as such, not in Bethlehem. Bethlehem, according to Aslan was concocted by Matthew and Luke, as well as the flight into Egypt, the slaughter of the innocents by Herod and the Bethlehem star, to bolster Jesus’ status as divine.
This is an error. Aslan claims that there are no secular documents to validate the slaughter of the innocents. However, he is mistaken. According to Macrobius (400AD), one of the last pagan writers in Rome, in his book Saturnalia, wrote: “When it was heard that, as part of the slaughter of boys up to two years old, Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered his own son to be killed, he (the Emperor Augustus) remarked, ‘It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son.” Even Augustus knew of Herods tyrannical reign.
Documented historical records portray Herod as killing Temple priests, military men, his family, wives, and even his own son(s) in a vain effort to keep his Kingdom – though he had none. He was merely a king of a people – the Jews – a pacification by Rome to keep the Jewish people in check. A political arrangement during a most turbulent time of rising false messiahs and various revolts. It would of made very little difference to Herod, as history portrays, if one male child had died under his orders, or if a whole town of male children up to two years, were put to death in order to secure his earthly throne, who was to live or who was to die. Therefore, a flight into Egypt is highly probable and Bethlehem’s star, as Josephus makes mention of, did burn and shined bright for quite sometime, even up to the Temple destruction, but then faded after its fall.
In reference to Nazareth:
According to the Oxford Dictionary of World Religions page 689; “Nazarene is a term used in various senses. 1. It is an epithet for Jesus, usually understood to mean “of Nazareth” – Acts 10:38. This is how Matthew interprets the prophecy “he shall be called a Nazarene” – Matthew 2:23, but it’s origin and meaning of obscure. 2 Nazarenes, or Hebrew – Noserim – appears as a Jewish term for Christians in early times. 3. Jewish Christian groups called Nazarenes, perhaps related to the Ebionites, are mentioned by some 4th Cent writers. 4. The Mandeans are described as Nasoreans in some of their early writings.”
And while Nazareth appeared during the 3rd Cent AD, the minor variants, Nazarat and Nazarath are also attested before that. Nazara (Ναζαρά) might be the earliest form of the name in Greek, going back to the Q Document. It is found in Matthew 4:13, Luke 4:16. The Textus Receptus – TR – (King James Version) translates the passages as Nazara. And rightly so. The TR is based upon the precededing versions and ancient manuscripts:
A. Tyndale’s first New Testament (1526)
B. Miles Coverdale’s Bible (1535)
C. Matthew’s Bible (1500-1555)
D. The Great Bible (1539)
E. The Geneva Version (1560)
F. The Bishops’ Bible (1568)
G. and the King James Version (1611)
Moreover, the various versions above follow the style and linguistics of these ancient versions;
2. Ancient Versions
The Peshitta Version (AD 150) The Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated into Syriac from the Hebrew in the 2nd century AD. The New Testament Peshitta became the standard in the 5th Century.
The Old Latin Vulgate (AD 157)
The Italic Bible (AD 157)
The Waldensian (AD 120 & onwards)
The Gallic Bible (Southern France AD177)
The Gothic Bible (AD 330-350)
The Old Syriac Bible (AD 400),
The Armenian Bible (AD 400 There are 1244 copies of this version still in existence)
The Palestinian Syriac (AD 450)
The French Bible of Oliveton (AD 1535)
The Czech Bible (AD 1602)
The Italian Bible of Diodati (AD 1606)
The Greek Orthodox Bible (Used from Apostolic times to the present day by the Greek Orthodox Church)
Chapter 4: On page 35, Aslan cites the following; “whatever languages Jesus may have spoken there is no reason to think he could read or write in any of them, not even Aramaic. Luke’s account of the twelve-year-old Jesus standing in the temple of Jerusalem debating the finer points of the Hebrew scriptures with rabbis and scribes (Luke 2:42-52), or His Narrative of Jesus at the non-existence synagogue in Nazareth reading from the Isaiah scroll to the astonishment of the Pharisees (Luke 4:16-22), are both fabulous concoctions of the evangelist’s own devising. Jesus would not have had access to the kind of formal education necessary to make Luke’s account even remotely credible.”
This is an error. While Aslan is quick to cite the history pertaining to the intertestamental period between the Old and New Testament, he chooses, or mistakenly omits the case for the Bet ha Midrash (House of study). Houses of study in Judaism go back at least to the 2nd Century BC, when Simon Ben Sira asked people to dwell in my Bet ha Midrash. They were the community center where Jewish culture and learning were preserved and disseminated. Attendance at a Better ha Midrash was ameritorious act, and he who goes from the synagogue after prayer to study at the Bet ha Midrash is considered worthy of enering synagogues and battei ha midrash (pl) in the world to come. It was often merged with the synagogue, but a distinction was maintained between the function of prayer and the function of study” – Oxford dictionary of world religions page 138.
Moreover; when we couple this fact with the geneologies of Jesus, we will find a family of kings, and priests steeming from Juda and Levi. One might be inclined to even say that Jesus, as well as someone else from His immediate family, could have taken up the matel of Synagogue Rabbi or Temple priest. So, ingnorant and illiterate, Jesus and His family was not. Probably wetnessing temple corruption keep them away from such lofty positions. But who can blame them, eh?
Chapter 5: In this chapter, Aslan discusses, in some detail, the many various messiahs and rebellions that took place nearing the fall of Jerusalem, etc, and gives a good historical background on the Sicarii, Pontius Pilate, Ananus and Caiaphas – the one who would conspire against Jesus – beholden to Aslan’s chronology shown on page xxxiii. Nothing to critique or expose here, more or less.
Chapter 6: In this chapter Aslan provides us with details on the various Governors and Zealots preceding and proceeding Pontus Pilate and the Sicarii nearing the Temple destruction and after 68-70AD. Aslan also discusses the brief 2nd Jewish war against Rome in 132AD, led by Simon son of Kochba. Aslan also points out on page 69 that the “Jews would begin to distance themselves as much as possible from the revolutionary idealism that had led to war with Rome. They would not altogether abandon their apocalyptic expectations.” “They would come to view the Holy Land in more transcendent terms, fostering a messianic theology that rejected overt political ambitions as acts of piety and the study of law took the place of Temple sacrifices in the life of the observant Jew.”
What Aslan is declaring here is nothing short than a messianic makeover. This makeover, according to Aslan, became the Jesus of the Gospels and is not representative of the real historical Jesus of Nazareth. This is a flagrant attempt, by Aslan, to further cast doubt upon Jesus’ prediction of the Temple destruction. Aslans teaches that since Jesus didn’t live up to the expectations of “Messianic conquest” – and being put to death, they (the Apostles) had to give Jesus a Messianic makeover – making Him the Messiah of peace and love to validate their belief and disappointment of a so-called non-delieverance from captivity. But as we have seen above, these Gospels were already in circulation before the Temple destruction in 70AD.
In Part Two of Aslans Prologue: Zeal For Your House (Pages 73-79), Aslan again cites that the NT “Gospels were all written after the Temples destruction in 70CE.” This position has been dealt with already above. Also in this chapter we will find, what Aslan believes to be, midigating circumstances that Jesus was, at heart, a Zealot like those who preceded and proceeded Him – like Hezekiah and Judas, Theudas and Athronges, the Egyptian and the Samaritan, Simon son of Giora and Simon son of Kochba. To convince us, Aslan uses the verses of John 2:17 in conjunction with Psalms 69:9, Leviticus 25:23 in conjunction with Mark 12:14 and Luke 20:22. He also uses Luke 22:36-38, 23:2, being crucified with bandits – Matt 27:38-44, Mark 15:27, and the title of Jesus’ crime; sedition – KING OF THE JEWS – which leads to his next chapter – ‘Chapter 7.’ It is here, in this chapter, that I will critique Aslan’s Prologue and 7th Chapter together.
Chapter 7. In Keepping with his continuity in his Prologue II, Aslan reduces Jesus to a mere follower of John the Baptist, and as one that is submissive under John’s ministry due to, according to Aslan, these Scriptural citations as seen by him – they are as follows:
1. Jesus was one of many followers that needed repentance – Mk 1:5, 9.
2. Jesus in never acknowledged by John the Baptist to be the Christ – Mk 1:7-8. But is acknowledged two decades later by Matthew and Luke to be superior to the Baptist. While the Gospel of John omits the baptism all together by placing Jesus with the Father and Holy Spirit – Luke 3:21. With John decreasing and Jesus increasing – Jn 3:28-30.
3. Aslan also claims that Jesus copied the Baptist’s message, and he uses these verses to justify this claim – Mk 1:15, Matt, 12:34.
The 3 suppositions, as set forth by Aslan above, have all one thing in common; they all place the compositions of Matthew and Luke two decades later. As already covered above, some of the historical evidence written in the Pauline epistles refute a “latter date.” Moreover, the early dates, in reference to I & II Thess 51AD, Phil 54-55AD, Philemon 54-55AD, Gal 55AD, I & II For 56AD, Rom 57AD and Col 60AD; all declair the supremcy of Jesus. Not only is His supremcy over John the Baptist indicated, but His supremcy over every single individual of creation is also highlighted (Rom 10:9-13, II For 5:19, Col 1-12-19, Phil 2:2-11, along with all of Paul’s salutations). Early dates for these particilar epistles are the consensus of most scholars today and, believe or not, even for Aslan himself. Their dates are unfutable.
Paul was declaring, “Jesus, God in the Flesh” already, even before the Gospels were written. Therefore the Gospels are written testamonials to an already growing consensus taking place in the early Church. The Gospels are an affirmation of truth, as opposed to “add on’s” as Aslan insists. Moreover, Aslan admits that the epistles, though he doesn’t mention which ones, were all written 30 years before the Temple destruction in 70AD, but willfully or mistakenly refuses to accept the pre-70AD Temple destruction Gospel dates as valid, when clearly the evidence indicates an early Gospel date as cited above. But he supposedly has an answer to this dilemma in reference to Paul and what he says about him. More one this later.
Chapter 8. Here Aslan covers Jesus’ early ministry pertaining to His rejection in Nazareth and His setting of Capernaum as His home base of ministry and headquarters, so to speak – to His branching out through the acts of healings and Miracles. Nothing of questionable material to critique here.
Chapter 9. In this chapter Aslan pictures Jesus as the itinerant preacher, as he often describes Him – who performed magical and miraculous wonders, no different than the other wandering magicians and miracle workers of His day who made a living in exchange for healings and exoticisms. To bolster this claim, Aslan mentions many names on pages 105-06 – there was Honi the Circle-Drawer, Abba Hilqiah, Hanan the Hidden, Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, and Apollonius of Tyana, a holy man who also healed the lame, the blind, and the paralytic. He also raised a girl from the dead.
All of these men lived c. 1st Cent until late 1st, or up to the early 2nd Cent. And as such, by virture of their virtues, I can not sit here and type that such men were heretics, false teachers, or workers of “Beelzebub.” All of these men can be found in the Mishnah and Tulmud, except for Apollonius of Tyana – a Greek Neopythagorean philosopher. What we do know of Apollonius came from Philostratus (170/172AD – 247/250AD), who wrote a lengthy life summary of him. What is said of Apollonius is considered fictitious by most scholars today. However, what is said of the others cited by Aslan can be found in the Jewish writings mentioned above, even in Josephus’ Antiquities.
Neopythagoreanism was a school of Hellenistic philosophy which revived Pythagorean doctrines. Pythagorean doctrines consisted of mathematics, mysticism, the invisible/incorporeal, virtues, and higher principles, not seen by man. And a such, Pythagoreans emphasized the element of the soul as a distinct entity; interchangeably rendered in Greek with the spirit and body, similar to the Hebrew Scriptures and Septuagint (the Hebrew Scriptures in Greek) – longing to be united with “Uni Mystica” – the Divine/or the Father as indicated in John 17.
Neopythagoreanism was influenced by Middle Platonism and in turn influenced Neoplatonism. It originated in the 1st centBC & flourished during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Neopythagoreanism is “a link in the chain between the old and the new” within Hellenistic philosophy – Britannica 1911. Similar to the Old Covenant of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Covenant of of the New Testament. And as such contributed in bridging the barrier between Jew and Gentile, polytheism and monotheism.
This is a good thing. I will accept this claim. But to place such men in the same category with Jesus is overlooking the case of Obadiah, Daniel and Nehemiah. Obadiah declared saviours will come – this can be seen twofold – as confirmation in Nehemiah’s day (Neh 9:27-38) and/or perhaps the many holy men that lived during Jesus’ time. Prophecy is, after all, sometimes twofold. But none of these holy men have nothing in common with Daniel 9:24-27 – a chapter in the Bible that Aslan, either willingly or mistakenly ignores. But he is quick to cite Daniel 7 to bolster his claim of what a Messiah should be, but fails to keep the book (Daniel) in its continuity. The continuity of simple mathematics and prophecy.
The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9:24-27.
From the New International Version:
21. while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice.
22. He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding.
23. As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision:
24. “Seventy `sevens’ (or Weeks in the King James Version) are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.
25. “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven `sevens,’ and sixty-two `sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
26. After the sixty-two `sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.
27. He will confirm a covenant with many for one `seven.’ In the middle of the `seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. ”
A week in the Bible is often referred to as week of years – each day in a week, which is 7, means 7 years, not days (Gen 29:18-28). Therefore, the prophecy of 70 Weeks = 490 years (Vs 24).
Seven Weeks = 49 years. Sixty Two Weeks = 434 years for a total of 483 years (Vs 25) thus far, with the remaining week (1 week = 7 years) cited in verse 27.
When did the degree (permission or prophecy) to restore and rebuild Jerusalem take place unto “Messiah the Prince?” Well, there are four contenders and four notable dates (Cyrus – 536BC, Darius – 518BC, Artaxerxes – 458BC and Artaxerxes – 445BC). These are historical secular figures of antiquity. They are mentioned outside the Bible and in the Bible.
1. Cyrus – Ezra 1:1-4.
2. Daria – Ezra 6:6-12.
3. Artaxerxes’ 1st degree (during his 7th year of reign) Ezra 7:11-26.
4. Artaxerxes’ 2nd degree (during his 12th year of reign) Nehemiah 2:1-8.
445BC: Nehemiah leads more Jews back to Israel. He carries with him letters of authorization to rebuild Jerusalem. The first 49 of 490 years begins here (7 “sevens”). See Dan 9:25; Neh 2:1–8.
396BC: After the 49 years end and Jerusalem is partially rebuilt, Jerusalem continues to be rebuilt for the next 434 years (62 “sevens”). Unlike the first 49 years, Gabriel describes these 434 years as “a troubled time.” See Dan 9:25.
5BC: The traditional date given by conservative Biblical scholars for the birth of Jesus is 4 or 5 BC. AD30: The traditional years given by conservative biblical scholars for the ministry of Jesus is AD 30 to 33, approximately ages 35 to 38 for Jesus (Luke 3:23, ministry begins not exactly but “about thirty years of age”).
33AD: The Messiah is cut off at the end of a “troubled time,” 434 years after the first 49 years, totaling 483 of the prophesied 490 years. Jesus dies at about 38 years old. The traditional date by conservative biblical scholars for the death of Jesus is AD 33. If Daniel’s 490 years began in Neh 2:1–8 in 445/444 BC, 483 years of 360 days each would have ended at this time when the Messiah was cut off.
Virtually all Christians believe that the first 69 weeks of the “70 Weeks of Daniel” represents fulfilled prophecy of the ministry of Jesus Christ. The difference of opinion is on whether the 70th Week (the last week) represents a fulfilled prophecy or a prophecy of a time to come. Here I will leave it to the readers to decide for themselves that issue. However what I do find compelling is that by starting with the date of 458BC, the first Decree of Artaxerxes, and by using solar years (365 days) you come to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ. However if you start with the date of 445BC, the second Decree of Artaxerxes, and use prophetic years (360 days – 30 days to a month) you come to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I have reached the conclusion that this is not a coincidence and that God intended it to be that way, that no matter where you start with the prophecy, you always end up pointing to Jesus. To be precise the Encyclopedia Britannia sets the date March 14, 445BC.
Thus 490 (70 weeks) – 49 (7 weeks) = 441 – 434 (62 weeks) = 7 (1 week)
445BC – 49yrs = 396BC – 434yrs = (-) a 38yr old Jesus who was born in 5BC, is “cut off” – crucified. That is exactly 33AD. Or if you prefer the 444BC degree with a 4BC date of birth, then He was crucified at the age of 39 in 33AD. Either way, the prophecy points to Him.
Chapters 10-15 and Aslan’s Epilogue to Be Continued in Part 2.