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Overview > Was Jesus who he claimed to be? > Prophetic Evidence

A Brief Note on Prophetic Evidence

Summary

Common objections
  • The prophecies were written at or after the time of Jesus.
    Response: 450BC is the historic date, and in 250 BC a Greek translation was made.
  • Fulfilled prophecy was deliberate.
    Response: many were beyond the Messiah's control e.g. place, time and manner of birth; betrayal; death
  • Fulfilled prophecy was coincidental
    Response: Maybe one or two, but taken together, no one but Jesus could fill them all. The chance of just eight of the main prophecies being fulfilled in one man is 1 in 1017
Important Old Testament Prophecies about Jesus
  • Born of a virgin
  • Born in Bethlehem
  • Preceded by a forerunner
  • Entered Jerusalem on a donkey
  • Betrayed for thirty pieces of silver
  • Spat on and struck
  • Crucified with other prisoners and made intercession for his persecutors
  • Pierced through hands and feet
  • Pierced through His side
  • Soldiers gambled for clothing
  • Buried in a rich man's tomb
  • Would be resurrected
One of the important evidences for the truth of Jesus' claims to be God is that of fulfilled prophecy. The early followers of Jesus Christ often appealed to fulfilled prophecy as proof that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. [31 p. 78] In fact, the Old Testament, which was written over a 1000-year period, contains a few hundred references to the coming Messiah. All of these were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, thereby establishing a solid confirmation of His credentials as the Messiah. [5 p. 141] Although we will not cover this topic in any great depth, it is worth having a quick look at some of the prophetic evidence.

Firstly, what are some common objections to predictive prophecies?

Common Objections

The prophecies were written at or after the time of Jesus

If you are not satisfied with 450B.C. as the historic date for the completion of the Old Testament, then take into consideration the following: The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, was initiated in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.). It is rather obvious that if you have a Greek translation initiated in 250 B.C., then you had to have the Hebrew text from which it was written. This will suffice to indicate that there was at least a 250-year gap between the prophecies being written down and their fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. [5 p. 144]

Fulfilled prophecy in Jesus was deliberate

The above objection may seem plausible until we realize that many of the prophecies concerning the Messiah were totally beyond the human control of Jesus. He could not deliberately fulfill prophecies such as his place of birth, time of birth, manner of birth, betrayal, manner of death, piercing, burial and people's reactions. [5 p. 144]

Fulfilled prophecy in Jesus was coincidental, an accident

One might argue that some of the prophecies may be fulfilled by any number of historical figures. This is partly true, one might find one or two prophecies fulfilled in other men. However, if one examines all the prophecies together, no one but Jesus could fulfill them all. [5 p. 144]

Peter Stoner and Robert Newman, in their book Science Speaks, demonstrate the statistical improbability of any one man, accidentally or deliberately, from the day of these prophecies down to the present time, fulfilling just eight of the hundreds of prophecies Jesus fulfilled. They demonstrate that the chance of this happening is 1 in 1017 power - 1 chance in 100000000000000000. [31 p. 78]

Stoner gives an illustration that helps to visualize the magnitude of such odds: [31 p. 78]

Suppose that we take 1017 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time, providing they wrote using their own wisdom.

It is mathematically absurd to claim that Jesus accidentally or deliberately fulfilled Old Testament prophecy.

Important Old Testament Prophecies About Jesus

The Bible contains several hundred prophecies relating to the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and future return of Jesus Christ. Some of the most important prophecies about Jesus are as follows: [31 p. 79] [5 p. 144]

  • Born of a virgin

Prophecy - Isaiah 7.14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel [means God with us]

Fulfillment - Matthew 1.18,24,25: … she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. And Joseph …had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

  • Born in Bethlehem

Prophecy - Micah 5.2: 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, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times

Fulfillment - Matthew 2.1: … Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea… (see also Luke 2.4-7)

  • Preceded by a forerunner

Prophecy - Malachi 3.1: "See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the Lord Almighty.

Fulfillment - Matthew 3:1,2 …John the Baptist came, preaching in the desert of Judea (see also Matthew 11:10)

  • Entered Jerusalem on a donkey

Prophecy - Zechariah 9.9: Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Fulfillment - Luke 19:35,36,37: They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen" (see also Matthew 21.4-5)

  • Betrayed for 30 pieces of silver

Prophecy - Zechariah 11.12: I told them, "If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it." So they paid me thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord to the potter.

Fulfillment - Matthew 26.15: "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" So they counted out for him thirty silver coins

Fulfillment - Matthew 27.5,7: So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. … So they decided to use the money to buy the potter's field as a burial place for foreigners

  • Spat on and struck

Prophecy - Isaiah 50.6: I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting

Fulfillment - Matthew 26.67:Then they spat in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him

  • Crucified with other prisoners & made intercession for his persecutors

Prophecy - Isaiah 53.12: because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Fulfillment - Matthew 27.38: Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left

Fulfillment - Luke 23.34: Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

  • Pierced through hands and feet

Prophecy - Psalm 22.16: a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet

Fulfillment - Luke 23:33 …they crucified him… - John 20.25-27: Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hands into his side, I will not believe it.

  • Pierced through His side

Prophecy - Zechariah 12.10: They will look on me, the one they have pierced

Fulfillment - John 19.34: one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear

  • Soldiers gambled for clothing

Prophecy - Psalm 22.18: They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing

Fulfillment - Luke 23.34: And they divided up his clothes by casting lots

  • Buried in a rich man's tomb

Prophecy - Isaiah 53.9: He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and the rich in his death

Fulfillment - Matthew 27.57-60: there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph… Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock

  • Would be resurrected

Prophecy - Psalm 16.10: because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay

Fulfillment - Matthew 28.6: He is not here; he has risen, just as he said

Conclusion

These are only some of the many prophecies that support Jesus' claim to deity. In the Old Testament, there are 60 major messianic prophecies and approximately 270 ramifications that were fulfilled in one person, Jesus Christ. [6 p. 212] No wonder Jesus and his early followers appealed to fulfilled prophecy to substantiate His claim!

 

 


(c) 1999 - Richard Helsby

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