27 Sep 2015

Jesus and Old Testament Prophesies

Religious 27 Comments

What outsiders may not realize is that the Old Testament really does contain passages that remarkably foreshadow Jesus’ ministry. As Jesus Himself says in Luke 24:

44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

Here is a list of OT prophecies concerning Jesus. Some of them you could say are fuzzy, but others aren’t. For example Micah 5:2 says:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.”

I love that one in particular, because during His life some doubted Jesus could be the Messiah, since He grew up in Nazareth (but He was actually born in Bethlehem).

27 Responses to “Jesus and Old Testament Prophesies”

  1. Harold says:

    There is some debate about where Jesus was born. Many biblical scholars apparently believe he was born in Nazareth, or Bethlehem of Galilee (not Judea). The census story is not very credible. It is possible that being born in Bethlehem was made up to fit the prophecy.

    • Steve says:

      Why should the census story be implausible? It is well known that Caesar Augustus issued an empire wide census in circa 8 BC, and that Quirinius was a lead official in Syria at that time. It also just so happens that the dates and ages of Jesus given by Luke match well with an approximate birth around 15 Tishri (8 October 8 BC). It is well within reason that Joseph and Mary would have been in Bethlehem on account of this census in the autumn of 8 BC when Jesus would have been born.

      • knoxharrington says:

        The purpose of the census story is to set the birth of Jesus in David’s reputed hometown of Bethlehem. This is also the reason for the recitation of Mary’s lineage. Ironically, Joseph’s lineage is given as well to show that he is in the Davidic line which is weird for obvious reasons.

        Jesus death is estimated to have occurred in 30 AD at the age of 33. If he was born in 8 BC then he would have been closer to 38 years of age. Most scholars agree that (I’m not appealing to the majority here just stating the consensus opinion) that Jesus was not that old when he died.

        One of the major problems with the census story is the requirement to return to your “hometown” for the tabulation. It defies credulity to think that the Romans would require people to return to a “hometown” of 1,000 years earlier. Why not have them go all the way back and return to the Euphrates river delta? It is so convenient that it is absurd. The upheaval that would have ensued, the lack of necessity for this procedure and the utter lack of historical precedent show that the return to the hometown business is made up and never took place. Don’t get me wrong – I know you WANT it to be true – but that doesn’t mean it IS true. There is no reason to believe that this event, the census, took place as depicted in the gospels.

        • knoxharrington says:
          • Bob Murphy says:

            Thanks knox, interesting. In general, I am curious to know what you think of the OT prophecies. E.g., were the gospels “fudged” to make it appear that Jesus fulfilled them, or were the OT documents fudged, etc.

            • khodge says:

              While I very strongly agree with your sentiments in this post, I, similarly disagree with the gross mischaracterization of the gospels as “fudging.” Unquestionably, large portions of the gospels were written to show an exact, literal match to the OT but none of the books of the Bible (OT or NT) were written as history the way a post-renaissance, western European person understands history.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                khodge, maybe you know this, but just to be sure: *I* don’t think the gospels were fudged. But when I see what seems to be eery (because so accurate) prophecies of Jesus’ life and death in the OT, I wonder how a well-informed non-believer (like knox) deals with that. So that’s why I asked him.

              • Harold says:

                “Unquestionably, large portions of the gospels were written to show an exact, literal match to the OT but none of the books of the Bible (OT or NT) were written as history the way a post-renaissance, western European person understands history.”

                Not sure what you mean. To my casual reading, you seem to be describing a fudge here. The NT was written to match the OT prophesies, but that is OK because it is not supposed to be a literal history, i.e. was not supposed to describe what actually happened?

              • knoxharrington says:


                khodge thinks that the method of historiography in use today is so fundamentally different from the method in use in ancient times that it is impermissible to judge the ancient product by current standards.

                When we criticize the OT and NT using today’s methodology we are committing an error because we are holding those authors to a different (in my mind higher) standard.

                If that is an accurate portrayal of his position – he is free to correct it – I will let others judge whether or not that it holds water. Obviously, I do not.

              • khodge says:

                Knox, that is what I mean, moreover, by this interpretation, a literal interpretation is both anachronistic and a disservice to the gospel writers who lived by allegory.

              • knoxharrington says:

                Does this mean that the Bible is “theologically” reliable but not historically reliable?

                If the gospel writers are communicating a “higher truth” but not “the truth” where does that leave us in terms of making judgments? Are we left to believing a noble lie? Is the actual truth perverted in service of a higher cause?

                If the Bible claims are not literally true what is the point? Don’t they have to be true in order for us to know that the tree of our worship bears fruit?

              • khodge says:

                I don’t think that I’m making too radical of a statement by saying Google, newspapers, and books with current events were not readily available in 1 AD.

                I’m hesitant to say it too loudly in current company, but it is within the realm of possibility that universal literacy among Calvinists did not exist until the 20th century, so, yes, I think that the more difficult task is proving step-by-step chronology during biblical times.

            • knoxharrington says:


              This is an article by Robert M. Price on this very topic.

              I think the gospels are largely rewritten OT stories. One reason I think this is a possibility is the lack of gospel-like material in the epistles that were written prior to the gospels. In case the reasoning isn’t obvious I think the gospels were written to appeal to the larger community, Jew and Gentile, by incorporating various mythemes and fulfillment stories as conversion material. The stories from the OT were rewritten for theological purposes and are not historical accounts. As I have pointed out on here repeatedly the lack of external sourcing backing up the Bible stories is a real problem. By way of example, Wallace, in the above piece, acknowledges that the historical accuracy of the census story is in doubt but he downplays it as a problem. If external sourcing indicates the Bible is incorrect in some cases and we have no external sourcing backing up the other stories the Bible is in a world of hurt.

          • Jim says:

            Hey Knox,

            As much as I like Dan Walace, I have a couple of articles on this that settles the issue for me.

            Jesus was born in 3-2 BC.
            1) I have a published article that makes, to me, an iron clad argument that Herod died in 2BC. 2) We don’t know who was prefect in 3-2 BC, oddly enough … a gap in secular history. At one point many believed Quirinius was prefect in two non-consecutive terms but this is no longer thought to be the case.
            3) The only source we have for the date for the taxing of Quirinius as 6BC is Josephus. Basically Josephus manages his dates by reference to Olympic games and it wasn’t the first time he associated events to the wrong games. He was off by 1. I have an article (if I can find it) that walks through the error.

            I usually ask people who was Prefect in 2 BC … there’s never an answer because no one knows. I know, it was Quirinius 🙂

            I can’t really argue on the credulity of requiring a home town visit. Perhaps it’s absurd. It’s not really addressed by Dan Wallace in that article though.

            • knoxharrington says:


              I agree that the best date of Jesus’ birth is around 3 BC. I was responding to Steve’s claim that is was in 8 BC.

              The criticism of the hometown idea is my own and not anything drawn from the Wallace reading. When I say “my own” I don’t mean that I originated that criticism just that I asserted it and not Wallace. The point of the Wallace article was to show that a very conservative, evangelical scholar from Dallas Theological Seminary agrees that the census story raises questions. I included his piece because it is in essence a “statement against interest” and not some axe-grinder. Wallace would probably agree with most Christians who post on here and I wanted to show that a widely read and respected scholar of their own ilk agrees with my assertion that the census story is problematic.

              Assuming that David ruled around 1,000 BC and Christ was born in 3 BC that thousand year gap is significant in the sense that who remembers their hometown from 1,000 years ago? I can’t tell you my great-grandparents hometown in Germany and that was only back to the 1890s. Are we really expected to believe that the Romans would require people to uproot their lives, leave their homes and crops, travel long distances to ancient hometowns and engage in a census of this variety? It is simply too absurd to believe to be true and we have no evidence for this proposition outside of the gospels. The gospels may be true but there is no way to determine that because there is no outside source verifying the manner and method of this census.


        • guest says:

          The New Testament is Archaeologically Verifiable

          “But archeological findings have now revealed that the Romans regularly recorded the enrollment of taxpayers and that they held censuses every 14 years (beginning with Augustus Caesar). In addition to this, An inscription found in Antioch tells of Quirinius being governor of Syria around 7 B.C. (evidently he was governor twice!) And a papyrus found in Egypt says the following concerning the administration of a census (confirming the tradition recorded in the Bible):

          ““Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their home should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment…””

        • Steve says:

          Jesus most likely died in AD 27, not 30. This is evidenced by Luke’s assessment that Jesus began his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius’ reign. Tiberius was appointed co-regent by Augustus in AD 10. Thus, Jesus’ ministry began in AD 25, and his three years of ministry concluded at his death in April, AD 27 when he was 33 years and 5 months old. As for the requirement to return to the “land of their fathers” there was a papyrus found that indicates Roman censuses required just that.

          “Early in the twentieth century, a papyrus was discovered which contained an edict by G. Vibius Maximus, the Roman governor of Egypt, stating:

          Since the enrollment by households is approaching, it is necessary to command all who for any reason are out of their own district to return to their own home, in order to perform the usual business of the taxation… (Cobern, C.M. 1929. The New Archeological Discoveries and their Bearing upon the New Testament. New York and London: Funk & Wagnalls, p. 47; Unger, M.F. 1962. Archaeology and the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, p. 64).”

          • Steve says:

            Forgive me, I’ve been saying 8 BC, when I’ve been meaning 7 BC. The census of 8-7 BC would have still been underway in October of 7 BC, making Jesus 6 months shy of his 33rd birthday in April AD 27 at his death. I remembered the date incorrectly. It changes little in our disagreement, however.

        • Gregory S. Gill says:

          What you have given are only just mere guesses on your part as to why you don’t believe the gospels. You have not given any fact as to why the gospels are wrong. The whole bible is 100% correct and accurate. Its God’s 100% perfect word.

        • Gregory S. Gill says:

          Part of the problem is that too many people misread Luke 3:23 as saying Jesus started His ministry when He was 30 yrs (and thus base on that misreading of the text assume the timing or date of His birth which may or may not be wrong). Luke 3:23 does not say He was 30 yrs rather it say He was about 30 yrs, so He could of actually been 34 or whatever.

          The disciples committed a similar misinterpretation of what at the time they thought they heard from Jesus, see John 21:20-23.

        • Gregory S. Gill says:

          We need to remember the authors of the gospels were people of that time living with people of the time. They were not people 2000yrs removed from that time like me and you are. So I think that they knew more about things of that time than me and you 2000 yrs removed. Plus their bitter enemies (whose bread and butter was on the line because of the Christians) of that time never accuse them of the errors you are accusing them of and they had a much greater interest for doing such and they never did, that in and of itself speaks many, many volumes.

  2. Harold says:

    Genesis 3: 14-15 does not seem to relate to Jesus being born like other humans.

  3. Innocent says:

    You have to remember as well that the entire purpose of writing the gospels was to help the people at the time ( mainly Jews ) realize that the Messiah had come, and fulfilled all the prophecies of old.

    Saul, the biggest persecutor, became the biggest advocate once he realized his mistake.

    Of course then like now if you could not prove something it cannot be true. Never mind that God tells people how they can know the truth of all things. For ask and yea shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.

    • Harold says:

      “Of course then like now if you could not prove something it cannot be true”

      Godel might not agree.

    • knoxharrington says:

      “Saul, the biggest persecutor, became the biggest advocate once he realized his mistake.”

      Did Saul have authority to travel to Damascus to persecute Christians? In case the point of the question isn’t clear the Bible makes it out that the Pharisees were like a hyper-powered Interpol that had the ability to cross boundary lines in order to persecute Christians and that any authority would step aside to allow them to do so. Is there any basis, other than the Bible story, to believe this? Are there any indications that the Pharisees were all-powerful in this manner? In a present-day analogy would the a Mormon authority from Salt Lake City be allowed to come into Texas to persecute Warren Jeffs and the polygamy fundamentalists? The Saul-Paul story seems odd to me in that regard.

  4. jdb says:

    The Micah passage refers to “Bethlehem Ephrathah,” an old tribal group distinct from the town of Bethlehem. And as is often the case, the artificial division of Biblical texts into chapters and verses gets us moderns into trouble: the ruler in Israel was also military leader who would respond to the Assyrian invasion of Israel by laying “waste the land of Assyria with the sword,” not a spiritual teacher and dissident.

    If you read the rest of the Micah chapter, it’s a story of divinely sponsored vengeance against the Assyrian invaders, who would have lots of unpleasantness inflicted on them for their sins.

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