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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, February 04 2021

Jesus Christ, victim of stolen identity

Jesus Christ was put to death because of jealousy and false charges and rose from the dead after three days and nights. But over the centuries what Jesus was really like and how He lived His life has been replaced by fable and pagan traditions.

by David Treybig

Over time, Jesus Christ has received a total makeover altering His look, changing His birthday and blurring His cultural background. Many unknowingly worship a counterfeit Jesus and believe an altered gospel, which was never taught by the Son of God when He was on earth, and cannot be found in the Bible.

Jesus' Appearance

Jesus Christ is most often pictured as a long-haired, effeminate-looking man walking around with a halo. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The real Jesus had no halo, which is an artistic invention, He looked like other Jewish men of the time.

The Jews of the first century considered it shameful for a man to have long hair: "Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonour to him?" (1 Corinthians 11:14). The fact Jesus had short hair like other Jewish men made it possible for Him to disappear into the crowd and escape His pursuers on two different occasions (Luke 4:28-30; John 8:59).

Jesus’ Birth

Jesus was also given a new birthday. December 25 was selected to coincide with the day pagans celebrated the birth of the sun god. Religious leaders thought this date would help people leave paganism and, after a transition period, it was assumed the celebration would be dropped. This, of course, never occurred. Christmas is now one of the biggest annual celebrations.

Jesus couldn't have been born on December 25 because of two key events recorded in Luke 2. Firstly, a Roman census was taking place (verses 1-6), and this would never have been conducted in the winter when it was difficult to travel. Secondly, the shepherds were still in the fields watching their flocks by night at the time of Jesus' birth (verses 7-8). Since December is cold and rainy in Judea the shepherds would likely have kept their flocks in shelters at this time of year, rather than spending the night in the open.

Scholars who carefully consider all the evidence of Luke's account realise it is likely Jesus was born in the autumn. A careful study of the birth of John the Baptist and the account showing John was born six months before Christ (Luke 1:26, 36) indicates Jesus was likely born in September or early October.

Jewish Lifestyle Obscured

Accounts of Jesus’ life have largely ignored His Jewish background and culture. He went to the synagogue on Saturday, the weekly Sabbath (Luke 4:16), observed the biblical Holy Days (Leviticus 23; Luke 2:41; Matthew 26:17; John 7:2, 10) and did not eat pork or shellfish (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14).

After His death, the disciples continued to follow His lifestyle and taught believers to do the same. Paul exhorted, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1), and worshipped on Saturdays (Acts 13:5, 14; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4) as Jesus had done. Note that when the gentiles (non-Israelites) of Antioch wanted to hear Paul, they assembled with the Jews on the Sabbath (Acts 13:42-44).

Several centuries later the Catholic Church established Sunday as the weekly day of worship, with church leaders declaring as anathema (separated or cut off from the church) anyone who "Judaized" by observing the seventh-day Sabbath.

A False Message About Grace

Jesus told His followers, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15), but first century teachers taught it was no longer necessary to obey God's laws, resulting in a false teaching about God’s grace. Jude described these false teachers as ones "who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness [license to sin] and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (Jude 4, New American Standard Bible).

Instead of living in accordance with God's laws about such things as the Sabbath, Holy Days and food laws, people are mistakenly taught anyone who follows Jesus' example is rejecting God's grace and practicing legalism—that is, trying to earn his salvation by works.

While the Bible clearly teaches salvation is by grace through faith rather than works (Ephesians 2:8-9), it is also clear "we are...created in Christ Jesus for good works" (verse 10). The Bible shows it will be "those who do His commandments" who will be granted access to the tree of life representing eternal life (Revelation 22:14).

It is important not to follow cleverly designed myths without biblical basis, but to be convinced of the example Jesus set us all by the life He led and how He worshipped His Father in heaven.