In our first part in this series we examined the supposed “virgin birth” and “Immanuel” prophecies. We found that they were not messianic prophecies, but rather comprised a botched “sign” attached to a failed prophecy concerning the king of Assyria rescuing the King of Judah from the clutches of Syria and Israel.
We surmised that the writer of Matthew wrote of it as a messianic prophecy due to the word “maiden” being mistranslated as “virgin” in the Septuagint version he used (we were being kind; the alternative would be to accuse the writer of Matthew of deliberate fraud.) So, yes: at the very start of our investigation we have found a mistake in the supposedly “inerrant” Bible.
In this second part we’re going to begin examining the five “prophecies” the Watchtower lists as having been fulfilled by Jesus. This list is from the introduction to their recently revised New World Translation of the Bible. We will quote them exactly as they appear there.
1. Born in Bethlehem
“You, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, … from you will come out for me the one to be ruler in Israel.”
— Micah 5:2
“After Jesus had been born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, look! astrologers from the East came to Jerusalem.”
The ellipsis in the “prophetic” quote is important, as is its context. First, here is the quote from Micah in the NIV with the missing phrase restored:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel”
So, first of all: the ruler was to be of the clan of Bethlehem: not just someone who happened to be born in the town of Bethlehem. [The 12 tribes of Israel were further subdivided into clans of a thousand or more people.] There is no evidence that Jesus was of that clan, nor does any Bible writer claim that he was.
Luke tells us that the family’s hometown was Nazareth: not Bethlehem (Luke 2:39). In his story, he has the family journey to Bethlehem for the sole purpose of taking part in a census (Luke 2:1-7)–not that they had any family ties there (especially since they ended up searching in vain for an inn with a vacancy, rather than spending the night with family.)
It wouldn’t make much sense to hold the census-taking in Bethlehem if it was a small town–how could it handle the influx of people?–but it makes more sense if it was just the clan of Bethlehem that was small. In fact, Bethlehem the city does not seem to be small according to Mt 2:6: “And you, O Bethlehem of the land of Judah, are by no means the most insignificant city…'”
We know that the census took place in the second term of Cyrenius (aka Quirinius): between 6-9 CE. Yet the visit of the “astrologers” to Herod (when they told him of Bethlehem) would had to have taken place at least eight years earlier–since Herod died in 4 BCE! Someone is lying somewhere, and it’s either Matthew or Luke, or more likely: both.
So, having our hero born in Bethlehem does not fulfill a prophecy about the messiah being of the clan of Bethlehem. But, what if it did? Writing at least half a century after the supposed time of Jesus’ death, the writer of Matthew could have written that Jesus had been born anywhere he pleased, to whatever clan he liked, without fear of contradiction. [If he’d understood Micah, no doubt he would’ve written that Jesus was of the clan of Bethlehem, rather than having him born in the city of Bethlehem.] But there is no record that Jesus was of the clan of Bethlehem or that he was born in Bethlehem or anywhere else.
In addition: Jesus never was a ruler over Israel. So, he did not fulfill any prophecy regarding a “ruler over Israel.” (Duh!)
Let’s put it in a non-religious context for a moment. How convinced would you be if I were to show you a prophecy about a future President of the United States being a member of the Native American Peoria Tribe, and then I claimed that Joe Blow fulfilled that prophecy by being born in Peoria, Illinois (though I don’t have any record of his birthplace, and he has since died and never was President of the United States)? Such a statement would make me appear rather foolish–which is how I now find myself regarding the writer of Matthew: mistaken and foolish.
Just as in the first “proof-text” of the supposed prophecies fulfilled by Jesus, this second one has been a complete disappointment, and has just served to reveal still more errors in the Bible.