The second part of our Advent look at Jesus as the greatest Black Swan event in human history. Go here to read part one.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his 2007 book The Black Swan, took a look at the impact of events in history for which our prior experiences give us no inkling. Taleb states three requirements for a Black Swan Event:
First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme ‘impact’. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.
In regard to the first test of a Black Swan event, was the coming of Jesus unexpected? The Old Testament is studded with texts that predict the coming of the Messiah. Go here, here, here ,here, here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, and here to read a handful of them. These messianic interpretations were not merely Christians reading back into Scripture references to Christ. For centuries before Christ Jews had debated and argued about whether a Messiah sent by God was coming and what he would be like if he came. Greatly simplifying a very complex historical debate, most Jews who believed in a Messiah expected a scion of the House of David who would re-establish, with the help of God, the Jews as a great people ruling themselves. A minority of Jews thought the Messiah might be humble and meek, the “suffering servant” of Messiah, while most Jews regarded such passages as a prophetic reference to the weak state of the Jewish nation. A handful of Jews, some of the Essenes, believed that the Messiah had come about a century to a century and a half before the Christian Era and would come again.
Intriguingly some Romans believed about the time of Christ that some great change was about to enter the world. One of the odder stories in the history of Rome is the purported purchase by the last Roman King Tarquinus Superbus. Sybil means prophetess in Greek. Lines of women prophets established themselves at various locations throughout the Greek world and were frequently consulted during times of crisis. As the story goes, the Cumaean Sybil, located near Naples, offered to Superbus nine books of prophecies of the history of Rome written in Greek hexameters at an exorbitant price. When he declined the offer she burned three of the books and repeated her offer. The King declining again she burned three more books at which the King met her price for the final three books. God alone knows what grains of truth are in this story. What is quite historical is that the Roman Senate did have Sybilline Books, or rather scrolls, of prophecies, closely guarded by the Roman state and consulted in times of peril as to the religious observances that must be undertaken to avert the peril. Kept in the temple of Jupiter on the Capitol the original books were lost when the temple burned in 83 BC. The Senate rounded up prophecies from other Sybils to replace them, and the new Sybilline books were placed in the restored temple to Jupiter. Consul Flavius Stilicho ordered these books burned in 408 AD as they were being used by adversaries of the government. Continue Reading