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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Know the REAL Yeshua HaMashiach


For centuries, scholars and Christians have debated the reality of Yeshua. They have searched for proof that He walked the earth 2,000 years ago. Many argue that Yeshua is a myth or invention. 

There are hundreds of physical objects in Christian churches that have been linked to Yeshua. But is this evidence reliable? That's questionable and frequently problematic. The alleged fragments of the cross scattered around the churches of Europe are so numerous that, according to what the Protestant theologian John Calvin wrote in 1543, there are enough of them to fill a ship. A similar phenomenon has happened with the nails, which number up to thirty. There's also a crown of thorns and the Shroud of Turin, which has been carbon dated to well after the time of Christ.

But is there evidence of Yeshua outside the Bible? It turns out that the answer is definitely yes. 

Personal Experiences

The First Vision ushered in a revolutionary, transformative paradigm into Christianity: That mankind could approach God directly and have a physical audience with Him. Also, that such experiences need not be limited to an ecclesiastical elite limited by culture, church, gender, genealogy or age.

Since then, I have met or known about many unassuming, reserved, genuine people (both LDS and not) who have also been in the Savior's presence. 

Sadly, their testimonies are frequently discredited because "they aren't church leaders," "they haven't been endowed," "they don't have a temple recommend" and the ever-popular, "they haven't been baptized." What's fascinating is that none of those qualifiers are found in the following scriptures:

  • "Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore" (Psalm 105:4)
  • "When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek." (Psalm 27:8)
  • "He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah" (Psalm 24:5-6
  • "And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life." (D&C 101:38

Unfortunately these days, there is far greater enthusiasm for buying Christmas presents than there is to seek the face of God. I often read that those who do are shunned and ostracized by fellow ward members. In fact, there are some in our church who have even equated seeing the Lord face-to-face in this life with the tactics of the adversary. 

It's no wonder that many have forgotten the central thesis of the restoration and have instead turned into modern-day versions of the ancient Israelites:

"And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die." (Exodus 20:18-19; also see D&C 84:21–26)

Also, it's been my experience that even among those who do seek the face of the Lord, fewer still are those who make establishing and deepening their personal relationship with Yeshua a paramount priority. Seeking His face without seeking a relationship with Him first is like a young adult at a dance, expecting marriage after just looking at that attractive man or woman across the dance floor. It's simply unrealistic.

Historical Evidence

There is little to no definitive archaeological proof that Yeshua even existed. However, we do have the writings of a few unbiased historians who knew His contemporaries and associates.

Tacitus

There is an account of Yeshua which appears in Annals of Imperial Rome, a history of the Roman Empire. It was written by Tacitus, a Roman senator and historian, in 116-17 AD. In recounting the burning of Rome by Nero in 64 A.D., Tacitus said, 

"[N]either human effort nor the emperor’s generosity nor the placating of the gods ended the scandalous belief that the fire had been ordered [by Nero]. Therefore, to put down the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits and punished in the most unusual ways those hated for their shameful acts … whom the crowd called “Chrestians.” The founder of this name, Christus, had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate."

As a Roman historian, Tacitus did not have any Christian biases in his discussion of the persecution of Christians by Nero. 

Bart D. Ehrman, author of Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, said 

“Just about everything he [Tacitus] says coincides—from a completely different point of view, by a Roman author disdainful of Christians and their superstition—with what the New Testament itself says: Jesus was executed by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, for crimes against the state, and a religious movement of his followers sprang up in his wake.”

Lawrence Mykytiuk, a Purdue University library science associate professor and author of a 2015 Biblical Archaeology Review article on the extra-biblical evidence of Yeshua, said “When Tacitus wrote history, if he considered the information not entirely reliable, he normally wrote some indication of that for his readers. There is no such indication of potential error in the passage that mentions Christus.”

Josephus

Flavius Josephus was born a few years after the crucifixion of Yeshua. He was a well-connected aristocrat and military leader in Palestine who served as a commander in Galilee during the first Jewish Revolt against Rome 66-70 AD. Although Josephus was not a follower of Yeshua, he was around when the early church was getting started, and personally knew people who had seen and heard Yeshua.

In one passage of his book Jewish Antiquities (widely considered our best source of information about first-century Palestine), Josephus mentioned the execution of Yeshua’ brother James (Hebrew: Yakob), the leader of the church in Jerusalem: 

"Being therefore this kind of person [i.e., a heartless Sadducee], Ananus, thinking that he had a favorable opportunity because Festus had died and Albinus was still on his way, called a meeting [literally, “sanhedrin”] of judges and brought into it the brother of Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah … James by name, and some others. He made the accusation that they had transgressed the law, and he handed them over to be stoned."

Few scholars have ever doubted the authenticity of this short account. On the contrary, the huge majority accepts it as genuine.

Personal Associates of Yeshua

Wouldn’t it be cool to see a movie of the mortal life of Yeshua? His birth, infancy, teenage years and more?

We know very little about Yeshua’s mortal life; most of that information is found in the New Testament and a little bit in the Book of Mormon. 

Biblical scholars are pretty unified in their agreement that there were many books which were not selected for inclusion in New Testament canon. Known as New Testament apocrypha, these ancient non-biblical documents typically painted a more complete and accurate picture of Yeshua than is had in just the four Gospels. They often exhibited as much authenticity and insight as any canonized New Testament book you’ve read.

As we are told:

“And there are also many other things which Yeshua did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:25).

Do you see that gap there? We know very little about Him, despite there being potentially vast quantities of information about Him.

What if you could learn about these authentic, genuine insights into His life? Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear about His life from those who saw it first-hand (including His mortal family members, the "desposyni," or blood relatives of Yeshua)?

Enter Glenn Kimball.

Although he passed away in 2010, Glenn’s research into ancient Biblical manuscripts, including and especially the life of Yeshua, is fascinating to me. He published two books -- Hidden Stories of the Childhood of Jesus and Hidden Politics of the Crucifixion -- which documents, with source citations, many accounts about Yeshua’s life. Between these two books and dozens of radio interviews, here are some of the things I’ve learned about Him:

Yeshua's birth

  • In-depth details surrounding the "Immaculate Conception"
  • Where was Yeshua actually born?
  • The spectacular story of the midwife who delivered the baby Yeshua.
  • Who were the Magi, and what countries were they from?
  • Why did the Magi visit the baby Yeshua?
  • What was the Star of Bethlehem?

Mother Mary

  • Who were her parents? What were their names? What country were they from?
  • How old was Mary when she married Joseph?

Father Joseph

  • What are the details about the prophetic selection of Joseph as the husband or the Virgin Mary?
  • Was Mary his first or second wife?
  • What was his occupation?
  • How old was Yeshua when he died?

Yeshua's family

  • The story of Yeshua and His family when they were in exile in Egypt.
  • The untold story of the birth of John the Baptist, the murder of his father and the death of his mother.
  • Who were Yeshua’s brothers and sisters?
  • Was his family poor or rich?
  • Who in Yeshua’ family was the 3rd richest person in the world?
  • Whose writings about Yeshua were more popular than those of the apostles?
  • Who in his family was a personal friend of Tiberius Caesar himself?

Yeshua's childhood

  • The childhood playmates of Yeshua, including Judas.
  • Untold stories of miracles that Yeshua performed as a child.
  • What did he do and where did he go for all those years in between when He was 12 (at the temple) and adulthood?

Yeshua's adulthood

  • Did He go to college? If so, who were His classmates?
  • Was He married?
  • Did He have offspring?
  • What did He wear?
  • Did He like music?
  • Who was His best friend?
  • The story of when Yeshua healed the son of the prince of Pharaoh.
  • Yeshua performs miracles with his mother and father.
  • The death of Joseph in the words of Yeshua himself.

Yeshua's death

  • What were the justifications used to execute Yeshua?
  • The story of the first time Yeshua met the thieves who were crucified with him.
  • When was he actually crucified?
  • How old was He when he was crucified?

This last fall, I spent dozens of hours listening to these recordings and doing extensive research into the life of Yeshua. As a result, I feel far more familiar with Him. He is more real to me than ever before.

I know there are many who choose to just be satisfied with knowing only the four gospels and 3rd Nephi accounts of Yeshua. But if you truly desire to be immersed in all things Yeshua, then I invite you to take advantage of these two presents:

  • Listen to those Glenn Kimball interviews (linked above).
  • Join this blog’s Facebook group. It’s a safe, moderated forum where we talk about one thing only: Yeshua -- all about Him, and how to become more like Him. There’s no other LDS-aligned forum on the internet whose sole topic is the Savior. Hundreds have testified that it’s helped them grow closer to Him. Are you pretty tight with Him now, or could you use all the help you can get? 

This holiday season, I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’m excited about what we’ll be exploring on this blog, and discussing in our Facebook group, in 2021!