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A short guide to seeing prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament

July 1, 2014

jesus-believeThe gospel authors started the original trend. Since then, Christian bookstores have sold untold number of books outlining hundreds of biblical prophecies, all supposedly predicting the life of Jesus. Clearly then, Christians take great comfort in believing that the appearing of Jesus and the events of his life were prophesied long ago by Israelite prophets, all of whom wrote about him in the “Old Testament”.

There’s also another trend. Whenever I talk to some of the most ardent worshipers of Jesus, it quickly becomes apparent that most of them have not read those “prophecies” in their context. They just took the authors’ word for it and used the supposed “proofs” to prop-up their own faith in Jesus and to evangelize the “unbelievers”. I did exactly that when I became a Christian in my late teens. Many of these Christians have become quite proficient at lifting various passages out of the Hebrew Bible, most often as one sentence proof-texts, much the same way the New Testament authors had done. Few care about the violence they do to the original authors’ intent since they believe that this was the authors’ original intent in the first place. In their mind, they sincerely believe that they are doing what G-d wants them to do and that there’s nothing unethical about their methods.

On the other hand, not all of the Christians are that naive. Some of the those who do read these texts in their original context have long realized and acknowledged that most of the supposed Jesus prophecies do not actually foretell the events surrounding the life of Jesus at all nor do they even speak about a messianic king. Rather, by studying those texts closely, they see that these writings speak of wholly different individuals and events, most occurring during the lifetimes of the prophets, many hundreds and even thousands of years prior to Jesus’ birth.

You are probably familiar with books such as All the Messianic Prophecies of the Bible. They list hundreds of Old Testament “prophecies” and their New Testament “fulfillments.” But when we look more closely, we are disappointed because many of them do not seem to predict that Jesus is the Messiah of Nazareth. No wonder many charge that New Testament writers unfairly mined or sloppily plundered the Old Testament for prooftexts to demonstrate Jesus is the Messiah. (Paul Copan, Christian theologian 1)

How then do devout Christians, sincere believers in Jesus like the Dr. Paul Copan, reconcile glaring contradictions that they themselves see between what the prophets actually said and how Christianity later came to use (Jews would say, misuse) Jewish biblical writings to support their belief in Jesus? As it turns out, they have developed various methods and have many explanations at their disposal. Here are but some of them:

  1. The prophets were indeed predicting people and events wholly different from and completely unrelated to what happened to Jesus, but Jesus still “fulfilled” them, somehow, but in his own way. To these Christians, what is important is not the relevancy or accuracy of original prophecies themselves in regards of the real person of Jesus, but the fact that the “inspired” New Testament authors thought it to be pointing to Jesus and that they were comfortable with using the seemingly unrelated text to fit the unrelated people and events into the life of Jesus. Since the New Testament is “scripture breathed by G-d” on par with the Hebrew Bible,  G-d too must have thought such use of the “Old Testament” is perfectly legitimate. Indeed, for them this is the only way to read the Bible as G-d intended!
  2. Jesus is Israel. Since Jesus is “Israel” personified, he was merely “fulfilling” various Old Testament events pertaining to Israel the nation or assorted Israelites. No matter of whom the context originally spoke, Jesus can be made to fit, allegorically if need be. Therefore, with Jesus being Israel, he was “fulfilling” all the Old Testament and all prophecies can apply to him, no matter the original intent of the writers.
  3. True, the New Testament writers consciously knew that Jesus didn’t actually fit the original contexts of the “prophecies” that they cited as proofs (even if they prefaced their words with “as it was written”), but they were not really after literal facts. Instead, the New Testament authors were merely writing “midrash” about Jesus, fanciful stories “just like the rabbis” wrote, trying to extract from an unrelated biblical text some deeper hidden meaning.
  4. The authors of the New Testament viewed the whole of Jewish writings “Christocentrically”. Meaning, even if the original Jewish writers of the Hebrew Bible didn’t mean to write about Jesus, Christians came to believe that they wrote about him anyway, in a mystical way, unbeknownst even to themselves. In fact, for those who hold this view, all of the Old Testament is one big sign post pointing to Jesus. In this way, every single word can be a hidden prophecy or shadow of Jesus, no matter how seemingly unrelated to the original context. It’s all about Jesus.

Of course, the Jewish people, the progeny of the prophets and the original interpreters of the biblical texts who can read them in their original language, the inheritors and keepers of G-d’s Word, have always pointed out these contradictions to Christians. Christians invariably retorted that Jews do not see Jesus in the biblical texts because they have been spiritually blinded, unable to see Jesus “hidden” in the pages of their own scriptures. Modern Christians are not original in such thinking. Indeed, we find that this is exactly the sort of claim made in the New Testament by Apostle Paul:

But their [Jewish] minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts [of Jews]. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (2 Corinthians 3:14-16)

Yes, some Christians will admit, the Hebrew Scriptures quoted in the New Testament do not actually speak or prophesy of Jesus or of the events of his life as put forth by the gospels. They acknowledge that the Jewish Bible describes other people and other events, as Jews and skeptics always pointed out, and only indirectly or allegorically can be said to speak of Jesus. To Jews who are intimately familiar with their own scriptures this is an unmistakable sign that the claims made by Christianity on behalf of its god are false. To them, Christianity is a false religion that taught millions to worship a man as a deity, a religion that  wasn’t averse to misusing Jewish scriptures to achieve its goal.

But does this disturb most Christians? It does some, and many have exited Christianity, especially in the last decade, when alternative sources of information have become readily available on the internet. Ultimately, however, for most Christians belief in Jesus is not about “proofs” – it’s a matter of “faith”, even blind faith based not on investigated facts but on feelings. Millions have become Christians after hearing a convicting message by a preacher and coming up for altar call, or after their family member or a co-worker assured them that Jesus forgives their sins and that without him they are damned to hell. They believed Christian claims without deeply studying and investigating Hebrew scriptures from which Christianity purports to draw its authority. To be a true Christian, one must suspend and fight disbelief and make a sincere effort to believe that Jesus is who Christianity claims him to be. If one does so, he or she has stepped into the light and out of darkness of Satan. Believing makes you believe , and disbelieving or even questioning whether New Testament misuses the Hebrew scriptures can place you into the hands of the devil himself.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Disbelief in Jesus = eternal damnation (Mark 16:16). It’s little wonder that Christians have an especially strong incentive to “keep the faith” at all costs or that they resort to the methods described above to “prove” Jesus to themselves and to “unbelievers”.

In a future post, I will delve into some of the New Testament’s “prophecies” about Jesus in their original Bible context.

1 Paul Copan, Did New Testament Writers Misquote the Old Testament? (link)

27 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2014 10:40 am

    Don’t forget to go through the Epistle of Barnabas and the dialogue between Justin Martyr and Trypho the Jew. You want to be thorough.

  2. July 1, 2014 10:57 am

    Not exactly sure what you mean, Brian. Can you elaborate?

  3. July 16, 2014 12:45 am

    Boy, how smart those NT writers were, they managed to dupe billions of people…Smart Jews were those guys, don’t you think?

  4. July 16, 2014 7:34 am

    Dan, the various assorted people who wrote, edited and canonized the NT, many decades after Jesus and his original followers were long dead and the Christian Church made up of Gentiles was well established, were not Jews.

    But let’s imagine that the writers were born Jewish. Karl Marx, the apostle of Communism (who absolutely despised Judaism and those Jews who chose to remain within Judaism), was born an ethnic Jew (his Jewish parents converted to Evangelical Lutheran Church and left Judaism, baptizing Karl when he was 6). Marx’s writings were able to dupe billions of people into believing that Communism was the truth that will lead to “freedom” from oppression of capitalism and religion (of which Judaism was the worst, according to Marx). We know how that idea played out. One man was able to do this, although like later Christianity, he acquired many willing helpers to take up the cause. Don’t underestimate the power of wicked (and also well-meaning but deceived) men to delude themselves and billions of others.

  5. July 17, 2014 2:17 pm

    The Numbers speaks for themselves. You have no argument. how many nations was Marks able to woo to Communism?

  6. July 17, 2014 2:39 pm

    “The Numbers speaks for themselves. You have no argument. how many nations was Marks able to woo to Communism?”

    They certainly do! Between the former Soviet Union, Soviet satellite countries in Eastern Europe, China and other Asian countries, African countries and South American socialist countries, Cuba, Marxism-Leninism not too long ago covered probably 1/3 of world population and there was fear it would take over the whole world. Pretty impressive, considering how long it took Christianity to accomplish the same feat – two thousand years to achieve roughly the same ratio (1/3 of world’s population).

  7. July 18, 2014 12:25 am

    You are mixing apples and oranges (politics and religion) and you know it, but your are doing this because you have no argument.
    Take two Jews…
    How many people are following Yeshua?
    How many people are following the “Rebbe?”

  8. July 18, 2014 12:55 am

    Communism is a religion, a belief system with its own idols. Rebbe was not a god, so you are the one comparing apples and oranges. Jesus is a god.

    As far as JC goes, I don’t care how many idolaters are there bowing down to that man as to a god. Their great numbers prove nothing, since even before JC all of the world was worshiping creatures, sun, moon, stars, kings and demigods, and only Jews knew better. Little has changed. The prophets tell us that one day all of the nations will come to realize their sin, that they made gods for themselves, including JC.

  9. July 18, 2014 1:51 pm

    You are shooting yourself in the foot. If you “don’t care how many idolaters there are bowing down to that man as god” and yet you say that Communism is a religion, then how come you left the USSR? So, who is mixing apples and oranges?

  10. July 18, 2014 2:06 pm

    “So, who is mixing apples and oranges?”

    Whatever! The original point is that it takes only a few, even one person, to deceive billions. To quote another liar (Hitler) who deceived millions, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

  11. July 18, 2014 2:42 pm

    Yah, Yeshua did it in only 3 years…..

  12. July 18, 2014 3:15 pm

    “Yah, Yeshua did it in only 3 years…..”

    What Jesus accomplished was to initiate an idolatry of man-worship. Although, I doubt that he ever intended that, although who knows what he was really like. Just by reading the NT and knowing Church history, Paul, the prolific propagandist and religion-builder, accomplished a lot more than Jesus or his immediate followers could ever dream of doing. Yes, Christianity came to worship Jesus as a god, but it did so primarily because of the efforts and spin of one man: Paulus from Tarsus.

  13. July 18, 2014 3:32 pm

    Right, one man without super natural powers….How come the “Rebbe” could not do it? Everyone knows that the “Rebbe” was a lot smarter than Paul, no?

  14. July 18, 2014 3:41 pm

    Why are you talking about Rebbe? He’s was not a messiah (although it’s not a sin or blasphemy to believe that he was – in Judaism a messiah is not a deity but a human being).

    The sin of Christianity is idolatry of worshiping a mortal creature as god. That Paul accomplished something like that, while simultaneously creating a religion with an especial hate for Jews, is no great credit but a shonda.

    Are you impressed with great numbers of followers as being signs of supernatural accomplishments of a religion’s founders? Then you must be really impressed with both Islam and Buddhism, both started by one person. Both religions have 2 billions followers combined, and many of them are more devout to their religions than the billions of nominal Christians.

  15. July 18, 2014 4:27 pm

    I talk about the Rebbe because other people thought he was messiah, how many followers he has? On the other hand, one man Yeshua, had only 12 followers and look what God did. You might not think so but you cannot argue with the facts.

  16. July 18, 2014 4:32 pm

    “On the other hand, one man Yeshua, had only 12 followers and look what God did.”

    G-d did that? Do you actually believe that the G-d of Israel wanted billions and billions of Gentiles to focus their worship on a creature, a mortal human being, on a man who was born and who died and around whom a new antisemitic religion sprang up focused on the worship of that man, instead of ONLY HASHEM and HIM alone?

    Before Him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by Him as worthless and less than nothing. To whom, then, will you compare G-d? What image will you compare him to? (Isaiah 40:17-18)

    Are you impressed by all the nations worshiping a creature as a god? To whom would you compare the G-d of Israel, a mortal man? What image would you give him? That of Jesus?

    “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15)

  17. July 18, 2014 4:49 pm

    Of course God did that. Look how many people in the world are worshiping the God of Israel, do you think He is not pleased? Because you are having an identity crisis does not take this fact away.

  18. July 18, 2014 5:05 pm

    No, I don’t think that G-d is pleased with worship directed at a creature. G-d is not pleased with idolatry. He is also not pleased with what Jesus worshipers did to His people. And I don’t have an identity crisis. Identity crisis is what Jewish Christians live. When I was a Jesus-worshiping Christian, though born a Jew who was to worship Hashem alone, THAT is the very definition of identity crisis. You chose to deal with it by denouncing Judaism, pouring hatred on rabbis and your Jewish religious heritage and by focusing on Jesus as the object of your loyalty and worship. But G-d will not turn a blind eye to a Jew worshiping an idol. I thank Him for taking me out of idolatry, out of my “Egypt”.

  19. July 18, 2014 5:09 pm

    Shabbat shalom!

  20. July 18, 2014 5:28 pm

    I worship Hashem alone. I worship a burning bush. I worship the pillar of cloud. I worship the pillar of fire. I worship the man Abraham worshiped in Alonei Mamreh, Do you think I am an idolator?

    Shabbat Shalom!

  21. July 20, 2014 5:53 pm

    “I worship Hashem alone. I worship a burning bush. I worship the pillar of cloud. I worship the pillar of fire. I worship the man Abraham worshiped in Alonei Mamreh”

    Dan, the problem for you and other Christians who use this excuse is that G-d didn’t become a bush, pillar or fire. He simply spoke from the midst of these things, without becoming those things or taking on their nature. (Did G-d become a bush???) Yet the New Testament claims that G-d became a man, that divinity took on flesh and that now G-d is a man for all eternity, that that man is who we must call “Lord and Savior”, that to him we must direct our worship and prayers. Your worship of this creature to you has become more important than anything else – your heart has led you astray after a god of the nations. Such things are nothing but idolatry.

    Let’s analyze your comparisons further. The New Testament makes a claim that Jesus wasn’t just the Father, but that he had his own personality. He supposedly has a unique relationship with G-d and is, according to Christianity, the “Second Person of the Godhead”, part of a tri-headed god that the Christians worship. The burning bush didn’t talk to G-d, the pillar of cloud never prayed to G-d and the fire on the mountain never worshiped its Maker. Israelites never prayed to the bush, the pillar or the fire, and to this day the Jewish prayers are never directed to those phenomena. (Your Alonei Mamreh Abraham’s alleged man-worship example I already addressed in our previous discussion. Besides being a twisting of what the Torah actually says, it would have required Jesus to have been incarnated before he actually “incarnated” as Mary’s baby).

    “Do you think I am an idolator?”

    You freely admit that you worship a man (who is a creature by nature, who was born and who died) whom you consider a deity, even though Hashem clearly warned us many times in His Torah that he was not a man nor that he had a form of a man or any other creation. According the Bible and the Jewish people you are committing idolatry.

  22. Bruce permalink
    August 5, 2014 9:14 am

    Are you familiar with FFOZ’s resource material?

    Have you spoke with the leaders (Boaz, Lancaster, Eby etc…) there to help you with some of the difficulties regarding Yeshua?

  23. August 5, 2014 9:41 am

    Hi Bruce… Yes, I am VERY familiar with FFOZ (I became their supporter after they dropped their One Law theology). Boaz reached out to me when my “de-conversion” from Christianity became public knowledge, but he has not tried to change my mind. About those “difficulties regarding Yeshua”. Besides realizing that Jesus/Yeshua was not and couldn’t have been a Jewish Messiah, as a Jew, I have difficulties regarding worship of a human being as a god, which I consider to be idolatry, no matter the Christian apologetics to convince Jews otherwise.

  24. Bruce permalink
    August 5, 2014 10:01 am

    Call me the odd one of the bunch but I don’t worship Yeshua I worship Hashem, when I pray, I pray in the Merit or Virtue of Yeshua instead of myself [this is somewhat similar to what Chabad teaches]…. Since your familiar with FFOZ I’m sure you know then they don’t teach we should worship Yeshua over the Father….You would have also seen that they FFOZ have a somewhat glanced approach, as far as I’ve noticed they don’t misrepresent Jewish sources such as Talmud, Midrash, Tosefat etc….. In addition How can G-d be Yeshua and die? G-d can’t die. G-d can I believe manifest His Word (Torah) into a physical manner, which I believe Yeshua was/is the Torah made flesh.

    He [Yeshua] even prayed to G-d, He bled, does G-d bleed? No. But since He Never broke Torah and was more righteous even then Moses, G-d saw fit to raise Him from the dead after 3 days.

    I know christianity may have a different outlook but I don’t represent Christians since I’m not in their “circle” or a “member”.

    I like your blog though, very thought provoking and sometime humorous (the part where you said Yeshua’s disciples stole a donkey lol. His disciples also broke the sabbath commands at one point, but Yeshua never did.)

    Yeshua even said he didn’t come to bring shalom but a sword

    The prophet Micah spoke of this in His day:

    Micah 7:6 – For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.

    The Talmud connects such family disloyalty to the time of Messiah:

    Soncino Talmud 49b – In the footsteps of the messiah, insolence will increase and honour dwindle; the vine will yield its fruit [abundantly] but wine will be dear; the government will turn to heresy and there will be none [to offer them] reproof; the meeting-place [of scholars] will be used for immorality; galilee will be destroyed, gablan desolated, and the dwellers on the frontier will go about [begging] from place to place without anyone to take pity on them; the wisdom of the learned will degenerate, fearers of sin will be despised, and the truth will be lacking; youths will put old men to shame, the old will stand up in the presence of the young, a son will revile his father, a daughter will rise against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household; the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog, a son will not feel ashamed before his father. So upon whom is it for us to rely? Upon our father who is in heaven.

  25. August 5, 2014 10:19 am

    Well, Bruce, you’re welcome to stick around, to read and comment on what I’ve already posted. I’ve written extensively on the subjects of both Jesus’ messiahship and worship of him (or through him). Also, I have written quite a bit on whether the New Testament can be trusted in the first place.

  26. Bruce permalink
    August 5, 2014 10:28 am

    Was it the sense of community that lacks in the Messianic movement and the way as a whole people argue or debate over things like Gentiles wearing kippahs etc..That caused you to say to heck with this?….. I will say the Orthodox and Reform communities look out for their own in a tremendous way, whether they be Jews by Choice or by Birth… Something I do wish the Messianic communities would model after.

    Also whats your thoughts on people who’ve have become Jew by choice (converted) but in the process of conversion never denied Yeshua?

  27. August 5, 2014 10:53 am

    “That caused you to say to heck with this?”

    The “mishegas” and the reigning confusion of the Messianic movement was not the reason I left Jesus and returned to Judaism, although it certainly contributed to my openness to explore outside of it, to see how the REAL (not in quotes) Jewish community functions.

    “Also whats your thoughts on people who’ve have become Jew by choice (converted) but in the process of conversion never denied Yeshua?”

    When I was still a messianic I was somewhat open to this idea, if very reluctant (since MJ is not really a Jewish community, but primarily a Gentile community with some ethnic Jews, and their converts to their idea of what “Judaism” is would never be accepted ANYWHERE). This is because I didn’t yet realize the incompatibility of remaining a Jesus-worshiper (or worshiping G-d through Jesus), or even accepting the basic tenets of Christianity (even in those rare cases where Jesus was not considered a deity or “divine” in some way) and becoming a true halachic Jew. Beside all that, no legitimate Orthodox (or even a liberal one) rabbi will knowingly – without being deceived – convert someone who chooses to remain a Christian and retain belief in Jesus.

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