Bethlehem birth prophecy?

by peacefulpete 8 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • peacefulpete

    The following excerpt is from and article by Till at the infidels website. The idea that Gospel authors fudged OT passages to appear to be prophecies is nothing new but this thought was to me significant. Many times I have read that the author of Matthew was compelled to add the birth narrative, as it is not in the earlier Mark, to compete with the mystery cults birth stories and to add prestige to his main charactor by having him be born in the "City of David". The following information makes the matter even more interesting. First lets read the Micah verse. These following is an excerpt from the website I mentioned........

    But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands
    of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in
    Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting (Micah
    5:2, NKJV).
    In the context of the passage in which Micah made this statement, he was
    speaking of "many nations [that] have gathered against you [Israel]"
    (4:11). Inparticular, there seemed to be concern about "the Assyrian
    com[ing] into our land" (5:5), so it makes good sense to assume that
    Micah, rather than predicting the coming of a Messiah in the distant
    future, was talking about a "ruler" who would arise to help Israel
    during the present threat to its national security. There is serious
    doubt, then, that Micah even intended his statement to be a Messianic
    prophecy beyond the sense of someone arising to lead Israel through its
    present crisis.
    For the sake of argument, however, let's just assume that Micah did
    intend this to be a prophecy of the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. Even if
    this were so, there would still be serious problems to overcome before
    Ross or anyone could prove that a birth in the town of Bethlehem
    fulfilled this prophecy. First, it is questionable that Micah 5:2 was
    even referring to the *town* of Bethlehem. Several translations suggest
    that he meant a tribal clan and not a town. Many people who cite Micah
    5:2 as a case of amazing prophecy fulfillment don't realize that a
    person named Bethlehem was an Old Testament character who had descended
    from Caleb through Hur, the firstborn son of Caleb's second wife,
    Ephrathah ( 1 Chron. 2:18; 2:50- 52; 4:4). Young's Analytical
    Concordance, p. 92, identifies Bethlehem as the name of this person as
    well as the name of two different villages.
    The NIV translates the relevant part of Micah 5:2 like this: "But you,
    Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the *clans* of
    Judah...." A clan, of course, is not a town, so if this translation is
    accurate, the prophet was speaking not of a place but a tribal family
    that would give rise to a ruler. The RSV, NRSV, NAS, NAB, NEB, REB, the
    Amplified Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, and others give similar renditions
    that agree that Micah was referring to a family clan rather than a town.
    Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible refers to the Bethlehem
    Ephrathah in this passage as something that is "little to be among the
    chiefs of Judah," another implication that the prophet was speaking of a
    person or clan, but even more damaging to Matthew's attempt to apply
    this statement to the town of Bethlehem is the Septuagint translation of
    the passage:
    "And thou, Bethlehem, *house of Ephrathah*, art few in number to be
    reckoned among the thousands of Judah: yet out of thee shall one come
    forth to me, to be a ruler of Israel "(Brenton Translation).
    Three statements in this version are significant. First it was said that
    Bethlehem was "few in number to be reckoned among the thousands of
    Judah." If this was a reference to the town of Bethlehem, then indeed it
    would have been "few in number." *One* is about as "few" as you can get.
    Secondly, this Bethlehem was too few to be "reckoned among the thousands
    of Judah. The towns in Judah could not have been reckoned in terms of
    thousands; the country was just too small to have "thousands" of towns.
    The statement, however, makes sense if interpreted as a reference to the
    family clans in Judah. Finally--and this is the clincher--this Bethlehem
    was described as the "house of Ephrathah." When we encounter expressions
    like "house of David" or "house of Levi" in the Bible, we immediately
    recognize them as references to family clans, not towns or cities, and
    we should do the same here. Matthew obviously distorted Micah 5:2 to
    try to make it a reference to the town of Bethlehem, and this becomes
    more apparent when we consider that Matthew usually quoted the
    Septuagint version when he referred to the Old Testament. But he didn't
    here, possibly because the Septuagint shows too clearly that Micah 5:2
    was referring to a family group or clan.

  • Gamaliel


    Very good information. Matthew is the only NT writer, who although writing in Greek, seems to have a couple quotes and several phrases that tend to the Hebrew/Aramaic rather than the Greek and Greek LXX that he used everywhere else. There are some interesting attempts at explaining this, which I'd love to discuss later.

    That said, I don't see how the LXX makes such a big difference here. Apparently, even though really skilled LXX-literate Christians could probably have turned any combination of verses from the LXX into an "obvious" Messianic prophecy. The LXX was believed to be the Oracle about Jesus. Everything in it predicted Jesus at some level. But this particular verse would easily have been a "Level One" Messianic prophecy even to the most unskilled literate Christian. The reason is that it referred to Bethlehem and it wouldn't matter whether it was a clan or a village. In fact, that particular Bethlehem was identified with David's city. (Although a similar name would have been enough.)

    Just to quote a few of those verses that mention Bethlehem with Ephrathah, I put them below. In fact, I think these were such obvious prophecies that this is why Matthew used the story that put Jesus birth in Bethlehem even though Mark didn't know about it and Luke doesn't have him born there.

    1 Chron 2:50 These were the sons of Caleb the son of Hur, the firstborn of Ephratah; Shobal the father of Kirjathjearim, Salma the father of Bethlehem, Hareph the father of Bethgader.

    1 Chron 4:4 And Penuel the father of Gedor, and Ezer the father of Hushah. These [are] the sons of Hur, the firstborn of Ephratah, the father of Bethlehem.

    1 Sam 17:12 Now David [was] the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem judah, whose name [was] Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men [for] an old man in the days of Saul.

    Ruth 4:11 And all the people that [were] in the gate, and the elders, said, [We are] witnesses. The LORD make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem:

    Psalm 132:5 Until I find out a place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty [God] of Jacob. [6] Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood.


  • peacefulpete

    Your right Gamaliel that it would have been possible to utilize the passage regardless of the translation, but the Hebrew text was more condusive to the illusion the author wished to make. Namely that a city called Bethlehem was identified in prophecy as the birthplace of the Messiah. It seems apparent to unbiased readers that the intent of the Micah passage was simply to repeat the long held belief that a Davidic king (ie:out from family clan of David) would yet arrive to restore Israel. It is interesting how often Jewish authors of the laters centuries interpreted passages the same way as the Christian writers did. This could reveal the source of the Christian spin on these verses. In other words the writer of Matthew may not have been original in viewing Micah 5:2 as referring to a city and not a person or clan, he may have in fact included it in his story BECAUSE the Jewish opinion of the time interpreted the verse that way. This of course simply means they both were wrong. The Jews guilty of reading into a text, the Christian guilty of opportunistic mythmaking.

  • Hamas

    Forget it guys,

    as it is all bollocks.

  • Gamaliel


    lol. I guess some of us (like me) will never get real closure unless we perform the autopsy ourselves.


  • JCanon

    Interesting read......thanks for the post.

  • Gamaliel


    I just noticed I left out a big chunk of what I wanted to say in that post I rushed to send on my last minutes of auxiliary power (during the blackout). I said:

    this is why Matthew used the story that put Jesus birth in Bethlehem even though Mark didn't know about it and Luke doesn't have him born there.

    I'm sure you already knew better, and have probably already mentioned this somewhere else...but I'll correct it here anyway: What I meant to say was that both Mark and John didn't seem to know or care anything about a Bethlehem birth, and although Luke has him born in Bethlehem, just like Matthew, they came up with completely different stories to put him there.

    Matthew says that Bethlehem was Mary and Joseph's home. (and has Joseph move to Nazareth on account of a dream). Luke thought their original home was always in Nazareth, so he comes up with a story about a census that makes no sense according to Roman law. Then he has him born out back of the NO VACANCY sign at the Bethlehem Holiday Inn (at least I think it was a Holiday). Matthew wouldn't have thought of that since he thought they already lived in Bethlehem.

    It just shows how the traditions shaped the stories. Mark was deficient because he didn't account for the new traditions that Jesus had to fulfill some important prophecies about being born in Bethlehem. It didn't matter to Mark whose Christ was no doubt completely human until baptism. Mark didn't even have a good resurrection story so that a couple more had to be tacked on over the next couple hundred years.


  • peacefulpete

    I knew what you meant. Nice to speak with someone with similar bent.

  • UnDisfellowshipped

    I'll comment more on this as soon as I can, but for now, here is a little bit of info on Micah 5:2.

    I just did a little research, and according to the research, towns or cities of Judah were organized in thousands.

    For example -- 1,000 people living in the same area was called "a thousand", and that was one town.

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