Category Archives: Prophecy

The Magi – The Closest Thing to An Atheist in the Christmas Story…And They Worshipped!

Matthew 2 “Now, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold Maji from the East arrived in Jerusalem saying, `Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the East and have come to worship him.’”

Matthew’s gospel is very Jewish. And in this Jewish story, no one’s going to expect a non-Jewish star-gazer (possible atheist) to enter the sacred Christmas story as a major character and give a gift to the Jewish Messiah. After all, they’re not Jews. But that’s what happened. The Magi have no vested interest in this baby, the prophecies related to him, or to the religion in which he was born into. And yet, they find themselves in the story. Imagine – an atheist in the Christmas story!

We do not know the number of the Magi, nor their names, nor the size of the party which traveled to Jerusalem. At best, they were wise men from the East, i.e., Persia, Arabia, or Babylonia, who had heard from either Daniel (who was in captivity for a time in their region) or other Hebrew prophets about a King being born to the Jews. Perhaps they had read Numbers 24:17 which states “A star shall come forth from Jacob and a scepter shall rise from Israel…” Or, perhaps, it was their own prophecy that set them up for this fulfillment. We can’t be sure though.

At worst, they were students of science, philosophy, medicine, astrology and world religions, or even atheists, curious about a star. They were pagan astrologers that took their cues from the stars! Their theological content was limited at best. They weren’t practicing Judaism nor were they living in the Holy Land nor were they part of God’s chosen nation. Yet, God supernaturally revealed to these heathen (perhaps, atheistic) people what He was up to in Jesus. A prophecy outside of the Jewish nation, and a Jewish writer without any proprietary reason to write “pagan astrologers” (or atheists) into the Christmas story, argues for the authenticity of the Matthean account.

This whole thing was started by the appearance of a star. The “star of Bethelehem” has been the subject of scholarly discussion ever since the first centuries after the birth of Jesus. Some have suggested that it was a nova or supernova, a white dwarf star that literally explodes and gradually fades out. Some have suggested that it was a moving comet. Some have suggested that it was a triple conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. Some have suggested that it was the same Shekinah Glory (visible presence) of God that was revealed to Moses in the burning bush, to Israel in the desert (Ex.13:21), to Jesus when he was transfigured, and to Saul on the road to Damascus. We cannot know precisely what phenomenon took place.

But we can safely say that the Magi were men who had an interest in astronomy and expressed what they observed in terms that were consistent with the scientific development of their time. They exhibited a great faith in the evidence they did have that resulted in a worship experience that changed their lives. Is it within the realm of possibility, that they moved from atheism to theism after their long, arduous journey and after seeing the Christ-child? I think it is.

In the context of Matthew’s Messianic Gospel, this part of the birth narrative hints at the eventual spread of the Gospel beyond the nation of Israel to include all people of the world. Men and women in every age, whether premessianic or postmessianic or even atheistic, have been able to fling themselves on to God’s mercies, regardless of the level of their theological content, and there find grace and peace and salvation. Even an atheist has a place in the manger this Christmas.

Atheist, you don’t have to go through a world religion to encounter the Christ-child. No specific religion brokers to you God’s love and favor. No one group has a monopoly on God’s grace. No oppressive, religous establishment can dictate to you this Christmas. Why? You are invited to go straight to the Christ-child. Atheists are welcome in his birth narrative.

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The Old Testament Summed Up for Atheists

I have found that many people, especially atheists, struggle with a comprehensive understanding of the Old Testament Bible books. In this post, I mention each of the 39 Old Testament books by name; I succinctly in one sentence or less sum up that particular book or authors argument; and I tie it all together in a flowing, historical narrative that reflects the chronology of when books were written. This is literally the product of years of study. I offer it to you free.

By the way, don’t listen to Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. They don’t know the Bible.

So, here we go…

In a world with much suffering and meaninglessness (Job & Ecclesiastes) and in a world where we have to be trained how to love and enjoy those closest to us because of sin, especially our spouses (Song of Solomon), God promised that a special Seed (Genesis) would come through Abraham, whose family evolved into a national race (Exodus) of Yahweh worshippers (Leviticus) who after a period of disobedience (Numbers) finally inhabit a distinct land (Deuteronomy) under Joshua’s leadership (Joshua), maintain control of the land under the leadership of the Judges (Judges), realize the curse associated with leaving the land (Ruth), and endeavor to rule the land with kings (1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles), the greatest of which was King David who was promised a Messianic heir to his throne (Psalms).

However, the people of Israel divided into two nations, Israel [10 tribes] and Judah [2 tribes – Judah and Benjamin] after the death of wise King Solomon despite his wisdom sayings (Proverbs) and were disobedient despite tearful prophetic warnings (Jeremiah) which were mixed with prophecies of eschatological judgment, immediate hope should they repent, and future Messianic hope regardless of what they may do at the present (Amos, Micah, Isaiah, Zephaniah, Joel) and a dramatic story of His faithful love for them (Hosea).

To keep God’s covenant people from being blinded by their Jewish nationalism in this period, God demonstrated his love for the entire world when He sent an Israeli prophet (Jonah) to preach repentance to the pagan nation of Assyria. Even though Assyria repented, they still took Israel into captivity in 722 BC from which few, if any Jew, ever returned to their Jewish homeland. As a result of this and other atrocities, Assyria was conquered by Babylon about 150 years later (Nahum) in 612 BC. Nevertheless, Judah refused to repent of her wrongdoing, and though it was hard to understand how God could use a pagan nation to discipline His people (Habakkuk) and having no neighbor to help them against their enemy (Obadiah), they were sadly taken into captivity by Babylon in 586 BC (Lamentations) where, despite visions of hope and encouragement of future religious and political restoration (Ezekiel, Daniel) their identity and existence was threatened by this pagan culture (Daniel), as well as the Medo-Persian culture (Esther).

Judah’s residents were finally able to return (Ezra, Nehemiah) to their land in 539 BC. Even though they delayed rebuilding their temple (Haggai) and even though they eventually lapsed into the same sins that sent them into captivity in the first place (Malachi), they were assured of final national victory and prosperity, accompanied by peace and justice under the coming Messiah’s reign (Malachi, Zechariah). They were ever mindful that “the Promise” would come from a virgin (Isa. 7:14) from within the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10) and the family of Jesse (Isa. 11) and David (2 Sam., 1 & 2 Chron.) and from the town of Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2) and in the lineage of Zerubbabel (Hag. 2:23); a righteous Branch (Jer. 23:5; Zech.3:8; 6:12,13), a tender twig (Ezek. 17:22-24), a King-Priest (Zech. 6:13), and He shall be a great ruler/judge for a Scepter shall rise out of Israel (Num. 24:17) as well as a Suffering Servant (Isa. 53) who will eventually implement an incredible kingdom on earth (Mic. 2:12-13; 4:1-8; 5:4-5).

So God has self-disclosed over the centuries, all the while, keeping the promise of the Messiah alive in each generation.

Then, there are 400 silent years, where no prophetic, written word is heard. Then, Jesus is born. In the OT, Messiah is coming. In the New Testament Gospels, he’s here. In the New Testament Epistles, he’s coming again.

Don’t waste your time with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. They don’t know the Bible.

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Filed under Atheism, Atheist, Christianity, God, Jesus Christ, Larger Story, Messiah, Old Testament, Prophecy