Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Messianic Prophecy - Part 7

According to Peter Stoner, Micah 5:2 should be interpreted as making the following prediction:

(1) The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem.

There are three parts to this interpretation:

(a) The Messiah
(b) X will be born in Y
(c) Bethlehem

I have previously pointed out that the word 'Messiah' does not appear anywhere in Micah, and it only appears in one passage in one book of the Old Testament, in certain translations.  Thus, the subject of the interpretation by Stoner (i.e. 'The Messiah') is a matter of inference which can be questioned, and is subject to reasonable doubt.

The general form of the interpretation is also subject to reasonable doubt.  The idea that
'X will be born in Y' is not stated in Micah 5:2.  The word 'born' does not appear in Micah 5:2.  What it states is this:

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
(Michah 5:2, NRSV, emphasis added)

One can be from a city or town without being born in that town.  I am from Healdsburg, California, because that is where I grew up.  But I was born in Santa Monica, California.  I am also from Cambria, California, because that is where I attended High School.  I am from Santa Rosa, California, because that is where I got my first real job, and where I lived when I was first married.  I am from Santa Barbara, California, because that is where I lived for many years while my wife and I attended UCSB.  I am from Kirkland, Washington, because that is where I have lived for the past decade.  Most of us can be said to be from many different towns and cities, because we have lived in a number of different towns and cities over the course of a lifetime.  But each of us was born in only one location.

Micah 5:2 does not specify that the Messiah will be born in a certain town; it states that 'one who is to rule in Israel' will be from Bethlehem of Ephrathah.  The author of Micah might have had in mind the birth of the Messiah, but since he did not say this explicitly, we cannot be sure that is what was intended. 

It doen't matter much what probabilities we assign to these two interpretations, because the only way that Jesus would have been 'from' the town of Bethlehem is by having been born there, which probably was not the case.