Jason Bayless is a life-long activist and is currently working at The Pachamama Alliance. When he is not working he spends, working with Center for Farmworker Families and spending his time recording shows, writing blogs, collecting 3D movies, and playing VR games.
So this week we cover a question regarding last week’s discussion about the Bible and its authors. Namely our viewer wanted to know about Old Testament predictions regarding the coming of Jesus Christ. This is always a sticky subject as the whole thing is based in Christian reinterpretation of Jewish scripture. The Christians didn’t write the Old Testament, also known as the Tanakh in Hebrew and for that reason much of the Jewish scripture becomes misinterpreted when the latter arising religion comes to apply its own meaning into the words. The first place to start is always at the beginning so it seems, thus we start with the birth narrative of Jesus. Since this only appears in two gospels we must then choose which to read from. Matthew is always the better choice as he relies almost entirely on prophesy for his christology. For Matthew everything was about Jesus being prophesied in the scriptures. From the time of Jesus’ birth right through to his death it is all about Jesus fulfilling something from the Tanakh.
The first and most common prophesy is that of the miraculous conception and virgin birth (Matt. 1:23) as supposedly foretold in Isaiah 7:14. If one checks back in a reliable translation (I suggest either the Oxford Revised Standard Version or the Jewish Publication Society Translation) one finds that the verse doesn’t say virgin, but young woman (Hebrew: almah). Reading further shows that this isn’t even prophesy; it is a segment of story occurring in Isaiah’s time with a woman who is already pregnant. On top of all of that, in order to fulfill this prophesy Jesus would need to be called Immanuel, a name which he is never once addressed as.
The second biggest prophesy is the slaughter of the innocents (Matt. 2:17-18) by Herod supposedly foretold in Jeremiah 31:15. The problem with this is again, this is a piece of narrative, not prophesy. This section of Jeremiah (as with all of Jeremiah) refers to the Babylonian captivity and not the Jewish Herodian dynasty. The neat part of this prophesy is that it is a two parter, the second being the flight into Egypt and subsequent calling out of Egypt (Matt. 2:15). This refers back to Hosea 11:1, but again, this has to do with the retelling of theexodus story where God calls Israel, his son, out of Egypt.
Not all of the prophesy is simply a reinterpretation of scripture, some of it is simply made up whole cloth. In Matt. 2:23 Matthew states that “And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” The problem is that the word Nazarene occurs only twice in the bible, once in Matthew and once in Mark 14:67. Very simply, there is no prophesy to be found about being called a Nazarene. Then there is a passage in Matt. 12:5 where he says “Or have you not read in the law how on the sabbath the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless?” despite the fact that there is no such Law anywhere in the scriptures.
Finally, there is the time Jesus misquotes from scripture. In Matt. 13:35 Jesus says, “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.’” But Psalm 78:2-3 actually reads “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.” So have the sayings been hidden from us since the foundation of the world or were they always known?
This is just a small handful of problems presented with reading the Old Testament as prophesy for Jesus, enumerating them all would be far too long for this post but if you would like more examples or want us to cover some of them on the air please feel free to contact us at [email protected], like us on Facebook or call the ZPN hotline at (757) 337-2195. We may just address your questions or concerns on the air.