THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JESUS THE MESSIAH PART 1:

FROM THE MANGER IN BETHLEHEM TO THE BAPTISM IN JORDAN

By Alfred Edersheim, M.A. Oxon., D.D., PH.D - adapted/edited by Glenn Davis

Welcome to the beginning of our Life of Christ course. This course is adapted from Alfred Edersheim's famous The Life And Times Of Jesus The Messiah. This course is not for everyone as it involves detailed reading, although each lesson also has a study component where Feed Yourself students can practice the Bible Study skills they have learned. Below is a short example of what you will find in the lessons. There are 12 lessons in total.

The short winter’s day was probably closing in, as the two travellers from Nazareth, bringing with them the few necessaries of a poor Eastern household, neared their journey’s end. If we think of Jesus as the Messiah from heaven, the surroundings of outward poverty, so far from detracting, seem most congruous to His Divine character. Earthly splendor would here seem like tawdry tinsel, and the utmost simplicity like that clothing of the lilies, which far surpassed all the glory of Solomon’s court. But only in the East would the most absolute simplicity be possible, and yet neither it, nor the poverty from which it sprang, necessarily imply even the slightest taint of social inferiority. The way had been long and weary, at the very least, three days’ journey, whatever route had been taken from Galilee. Most probably it would be that so commonly followed, from a desire to avoid Samaria, along the eastern banks of the Jordan, and by the fords of Jericho.

Although passing through one of the warmest parts of the country, the season of the year must, even in most favorable circumstances, have greatly increased the difficulties of such a journey. A sense of rest and peace must, almost unconsciously, have crept over the travellers when at last they reached the rich fields that surrounded the ancient ‘House of Bread,’ and, passing through the valley which, like an amphitheater, sweeps up to the twain heights along which Bethlehem stretches (2,704 feet above the sea), ascended through the terraced vineyards and gardens. Winter though it was, the green and silvery foliage of the olive might, even at that season, mingle with the pale pink of the almond — nature’s ‘early waker’ — and with the darker coloring of the opening peach-buds. The chaste beauty and sweet quiet of the place would recall memories of Boaz, of Jesse, and of David. All the more would such thoughts suggest themselves, from the contrast between the past and the present. For, as the travellers reached the heights of Bethlehem, and, indeed, long before, the most prominent object in view must have been the great castle which Herod had built, and called after his own name. Perched on the highest hill south-east of Bethlehem, it was, at the same time magnificent palace, strongest fortress, and almost courtier-city. {Jos. Ant. 14:13. 9; 15:9. 4; War. 1:13. 8:21, 10.} With a sense of relief the travellers would turn from this, to mark the undulating outlines of the highland wilderness of Judaea, till the horizon was bounded by the mountain-ridges of Tekoa. Through the break of the hills eastward the heavy molten surface of the Sea of Judgement would appear in view; westward wound the road to Hebron; behind them lay the valleys and hills which separated Bethlehem from Jerusalem, and concealed the Holy City.

But for the present such thoughts would give way to the pressing necessity of finding shelter and rest. The little town of Bethlehem was crowded with those who had come from all the outlying district to register their names. Even if the strangers from far-off Galilee had been personally acquainted with any one in Bethlehem, who could have shown them hospitality, they would have found every house fully occupied. The very inn was filled, and the only available space was, where ordinarily the cattle were stabled. Bearing in mind the simple habits of the East, this scarcely implies, what it would in the West; and perhaps the seclusion and privacy from the noisy, chattering crowd, which thronged the khan, would be all the more welcome. Scanty as these particulars are, even thus much is gathered rather by inference than from the narrative itself. Thus early in this history does the absence of details, which painfully increases as we proceed, remind us, that the Gospels were not intended to furnish a biography of Jesus, nor even the materials for it; but had only this twofold object: that those who read them ‘might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,’ and that believing they ‘might have life through His Name.’ {St. John 20:31; comp. St. Luke 1:4.}…

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God bless,

Glenn Davis

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