Editor’s note: Below is a paper submitted by Randy Hroziencik as part of his work on the ARS Apologetics Certificate. It was of a quality we are proud to publish at the web site.
“Refuting the Skeptical Case against Fulfilled Messianic Prophecy”
Randall L. Hroziencik Prophecy & Christian Apologetics October 2013
When it comes to the various lines of evidence in the case for Christian theism, some categories of Christian apologetics seem to fit more of a supporting role, such as archaeology, whereas other categories may be classified as “major weapons.” Fulfilled prophecy is one of those major weapons, and fulfilled messianic prophecy may be what most convinces an open-minded seeker that Scripture originates from the mind of God. The Old Testament messianic prophecies were fully realized in the person of Jesus Christ, which for many people has been the “tipping point” in their examination of the evidence for Christianity.
An Overview of Prophecy as an Apologetic
Ralph Muncaster places fulfilled prophecy in the “hard evidence” category. Hard evidence inevitably involves mathematics that either defines a truth by definition, often as an equation, or as a highly probable statistical event. The hard evidences come from the realm of mathematics and the physical sciences. “Prophecy can provide hard evidence of God, Jesus, and the Bible because it can be evaluated using “absurdly conservative” assumptions and still prove (statistically) the supernatural inspiration of the Bible.”
Muncaster maintains that the value of prophecy as a line of evidence for Christian theism lies in its value to perform two functions, as follows:
- Assess the probability or improbability of random occurrence as the explanation for a specific event prophesied in Scripture. This is known as the “specificity” of prophecy, and for some apologists this is where mathematical probability and statistics come into play on an individual prophecy basis.
- Assess the number of consecutive correct prophecies made without error. Once again, for some apologists mathematical probability and statistics provides the final outcome of probability or improbability for the number of examined prophecies as a whole.
Muncaster also lists the criteria for statistically evaluating prophecy. These criteria are as follows:
- The prophecy under question must be of sufficient specificity, and unlikely that a person of reasonable intellect would conclude that the fulfillment would yield a probability of 1 in 10 or smaller. This criterion eliminates the vagueness that some of the non-biblical prophecies (Nostradamus, Jeanne Dixon, etc.) put forward.
- The prophecy must be from one source and confirmed by a separate source that would receive no benefit from the prophecy being fulfilled. This criterion eliminates malevolent, “ulterior motives” that could be used to benefit the party claiming a fulfilled prophecy.
- The prophecy must be based upon a reliable source. This includes both the source and the confirmation of the prophecy. Since Scripture is the source (Old Testament in this work) and the confirmation (New Testament in this work), it must be demonstrated that Scripture is a reliable source of information.
Number Crunching: The Good and the Bad
It must be acknowledged that mathematical-statistical proof is not 100 percent certain. However, “scientists generally accept a standard that anything with a probability of less than 1 chance in 1050 is regarded as impossible.” Therefore, if the probability of Jesus having fulfilled numerous Old Testament prophecies approaches a number similar to this figure, then we can exclaim with confidence that Christ really is “God made flesh” (John 1:14). That is the useful aspect of assigning numbers to prophecies: Some people are “hard-wired” to more readily respond to the evidences from the hard sciences (e.g. mathematicians, physicists, engineers, cryptologists) and may find the “number game” to be quite convincing.
However, on the flip side of the coin is the very valid argument, “Just how accurate is that number which was assigned to the probability of the individual prophecy?” On a personal note, I found the “number crunching” in the work of both Grant Jeffrey and Ralph Muncaster to be a little unsettling. It seems to me, and likely to many others, that the probability or improbability of an event happening that was foretold in Scripture is something that should be obvious to us, just as the “Case for an Intelligent Designer” is something which we inherently understand, whether we acknowledge it or not (Romans 1:20). But, in the spirit of fairness, I also have to point out that those who assign numbers for prophetic probability most likely have “done their homework” and utilized a significant degree of research to back-up the numbers. So, in the end, we will likely have some who are bowled over by the numbers while others are skeptical of their accuracy.
Building the Case for Fulfilled Messianic Prophecy
The “Case for Fulfilled Messianic Prophecy” relies upon two foundational points. First, the messianic prophecies examined must fulfill the first two criteria above, in that they need to be specific (non-vague), statistically improbable by purely natural (non-supernatural) means, and historically confirmed, and secondly these prophecies can only come out of documents which can be demonstrated to be historically verifiable in terms of dating, so that no one can reasonably claim that these prophecies have been “rigged” after the fact.
As will be demonstrated in this work, the Bible has a remarkable track record when it comes to fulfilled prophecy. Perhaps most amazing of all of the prophecies found in Scripture are the messianic prophecies that were completely fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
Foundational Point #1: Messianic Prophecies Fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ
The Old Testament is filled with prophecies about the coming Redeemer, who was initially foretold at the time of the fall in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15). These Old Testament messianic prophecies include many details about the life and death of the coming Messiah. The following Old Testament prophecies concerning the future Messiah were completely fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ:
The Ancestral Line of Christ
Prophecy: Messiah would be descended from the lines of Shem (Genesis 9-10), Abraham (Genesis 22:17-18), Isaac (Genesis 26:4-5), Jacob (Genesis 28:14), Judah (Genesis 49:10), Jesse (Isaiah 11:1-5), and David (2 Samuel 7:8-16).
Fulfillment: Luke 3:23-38 (Joseph’s Genealogy); Matthew 1:1-17 (Mary’s Genealogy)
Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melki, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josek, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melki, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon,the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Kenan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God (Luke 3:23-38, NIV).
Matthew’s genealogy, which covers Mary’s ancestral line, also demonstrates Jesus’ connection to the above names, minus Shem’s as it only goes back to the time of Abraham:
This is the genealogyof Jesus the Messiahthe son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiahand his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah (Matthew 1:1-17, NIV).
Throughout history the Jewish people have been noted for their attention to genealogical record-keeping. If there had been any contention regarding the ancestral lines of Jesus as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, the people of that time would have been quick to point out those discrepancies and effectually bury the case for Jesus’ messianic claim. That did not happen, however, because no issues had been found.
Probability or likelihood: Muncaster lists the following probabilities that Jesus would have descended from the following men:
Abraham: 1 chance in 150 million, as based upon the estimates of the world’s population of men at the time of Abraham.
Isaac: 1 chance in 2, since Abraham had only two sons.
Jacob: 1 chance in 2, since Isaac had only two sons.
Judah: 1 chance in 12, since Jacob had twelve sons.
Jesse: 1 chance in 240, since Judah had five sons, Perez had at least two sons, Hezron had three sons, Ram had four sons, Amminadab had at least one son, Nahshon had at least one son, Salmon had at least one son, Boaz had at least one son, and Obed had at least two sons (5 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 2 = 240).
David: 1 chance in 8, since Jesse had eight sons.
When one multiplies the above probabilities (150,000,000 x 2 x 2 x 12 x 240 x 8 = 13, 824,000,000,000) it becomes obvious that statistically the chances of Jesus fulfilling the messianic genealogy requirements recorded in the Old Testament were incredibly small (1 chance in 13.824 trillion) unless a supernatural explanation is offered. Grant Jeffrey only goes back to Christ being a descendant of Judah in his work, but he connects that with the next prophecy to be covered: That Christ would be born in the small and somewhat insignificant village of Bethlehem Ephrathah. He assigns a figure of 1 chance in 2,400 for this combined prophecy, a much smaller figure that is attributable to the fact that he only went back to Judah in his probability estimate, and was not necessarily concerned about Jesus’ ancestry in the big picture of the world as a whole.
Beyond the numbers, it should be obvious that Jesus fulfilled the ancestral requirements as outlined in the Old Testament. As will be demonstrated later in this work, the dating of the Old Testament books is much earlier in history than the books of the New Testament, which means that this prophecy was truly fulfilled.
The Birthplace of Christ
Prophecy: Messiah will be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah, and he will have origins “of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2), and there will be a very unusual, and prominent, “star” connected to his birth (Numbers 24:17).
Fulfillment: Matthew 2:1-2; John 1:1-2, 14
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea [Bethlehem Ephrathah], during the time of King Herod, Magifrom the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1-2, NIV).
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-2, 14, NIV).
Matthew correctly identifies the birthplace of Jesus, as well as describing the “star” over the land of Judah that was connected with Jesus’ birth. Additionally, John describes the eternality of Jesus (origins “of old, from ancient times”).
Probability or likelihood: Muncaster maintains that the probability of Messiah being born in Bethlehem Ephrathah is 1-2 chances in 100, since the estimated population of Bethlehem Ephrathah at the time of Christ was 2,000-4,200 while the estimated population of Palestine as a whole was 209,000. However, he then states that we should actually consider the probability in terms of the world’s population as a whole, which renders a probability of 1 chance in 100,000,000. Needless to say, despite the numbers it is obvious that no one would have been expecting Messiah to come from the small village of Bethlehem Ephrathah had it not been foretold in Scripture.
“God with Us”
Prophecy: Messiah will be called Immanuel, or “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14).
Therefore the Lord himself will give youa sign: The virginwill conceive and give birth to a son, andwill call him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14, NIV).
Fulfillment: Matthew 1:22-23
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet [Isaiah]: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (Matthew 1:22-23, NIV).
Probability or likelihood: Forget about probabilities and “number crunching” on this one: The fact that God became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14) is an amazing prophecy. God may have supposedly come into the world according to the myths and legends of other cultures, but to do so exactly as outlined in Scripture is unique: That God would enter the world as a vulnerable baby and grow up in a normal manner – and, even more incredible – be a man of peace and not a warrior set on righting the injustices of the world through violence is nothing less than mind-blowing.
The Miracles of Christ
Prophecy: Messiah will have the power to calm the sea (Psalm 107:29) and perform many other special miracles (Isaiah 35:4-6).
Fulfillment: Matthew 8:23-27 (Calming the Storm); Matthew 15:29-30 (Miracles in General)
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27, NIV).
Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them (Matthew 15:29-30, NIV).
Probability or likelihood: What are the chances of these miracles being accomplished apart from divine intervention? Zero, since only God can work true (supernatural) miracles.
Teaching in Parables
Prophecy: Messiah will utilize parables in his teaching (Psalm 78:1-2).
My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old…(Psalm 78:1-2, NIV).
Fulfillment: Matthew 13:10-13
The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand” (Matthew 13:10-13, NIV).
Probability or likelihood: Muncaster does not assign a numerical probability to this prophecy, and neither would this author. Although it is possible, and probably even likely, that other religious teachers in the ancient world taught in parable-form, it is one more piece of evidence in the overall case for the divine messianic status of Jesus.
The Betrayal of Christ
Prophecy: Messiah will be betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13).
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 the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter” – the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord (Zechariah 11:12-13, NIV).
Fulfillment: Matthew 26:14-16
Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over (Matthew 26:14-16, NIV).
Probability or likelihood: Jeffrey assigns a probability of 1 chance in 50 to this prophecy, a number which he maintained was conservative. However, one could just as reasonably assign a probability of 1 chance in 25 or even 1 chance in 100; the numbers often seem random and without strong support or rationale. Let it simply be said that it is possible for a religious leader to be betrayed by one of his or her closest followers – it certainly has happened before – but the fact that Zechariah foretold of this betrayal of the Messiah hundreds of years before the event happened, even mentioning the exact monetary value behind the betrayal, is nothing short of amazing.
Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant”
Messiah will be a sin offering, a “Passover lamb” who will fulfill several prophecies (Isaiah 53). This is one of the most truly amazing passages of Scripture concerning the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Isaiah’s “suffering servant” is of special interest to the Christian believer, as these verses were written over seven centuries before the birth of Christ, yet Jesus – and Jesus alone – fulfills this passage of Scripture perfectly.
Prophesied & Fulfilled: Suffering for the Sins of the World
The New Testament is clear that Christ bore the sins of humanity; compare this to Isaiah’s revelation:
Old Testament: Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4, NIV).
New Testament: This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17, NIV).
To further corroborate this point, one only needs to consider the next verse:
Old Testament: But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5, NIV).
New Testament: He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24, NIV).
The punishment that Christ endured on the cross was for the salvific benefit of humanity, exactly as described by Isaiah. Christ suffered for fallen humanity:
Old Testament: We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6, NIV).
New Testament: For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:25, NIV).
Prophesied & Fulfilled: Silent before His Accuser
The silence of Christ during his trial is mirrored in these passages:
Old Testament: He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7, NIV).
New Testament: The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.” But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed (Mark 15:3-5, NIV).
Prophesied & Fulfilled: An Unusual Burial
Christ was buried in the family tomb of a rich man, although Christ himself was not considered to be a wealthy man:
Old Testament: He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth (Isaiah 53:9, NIV).
New Testament: As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 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. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away (Matthew 27:57-60, NIV).
Christ, crucified with two criminals, would have been buried in a very common fashion if Joseph of Arimathea had not successfully requested that Jesus’ body be entrusted to his care. Joseph, a wealthy man, had Christ’s body placed in his own family tomb.
Prophesied & Fulfilled: The Sinless “Sin Offering”
The New Testament makes it clear that Christ did not sin; his mission was truly that of a “suffering servant”:
Old Testament: Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makeshis life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand (Isaiah 53:10, NIV).
New Testament: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18, NIV).
Prophesied & Fulfilled: Bodily Resurrection
After Christ’s death on the cross, he was bodily resurrected. This resurrection is the hope of all believers:
Old Testament: After he has suffered, he will see the light of lifeand be satisfied; by his knowledgemy righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:11, NIV).
New Testament: So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him (Hebrews 9:28, NIV).
Prophesied & Fulfilled: The Intercessor
There is only one intercessor between God and humanity: the man Christ Jesus. Isaiah described Christ’s work of intercession for fallen humanity:
Old Testament: Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,and he will divide the spoils with the strong,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 (Isaiah 53:12, NIV).
New Testament: For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5, NIV).
Probability or likelihood: This amazing passage from Isaiah is found in Jewish Bibles today, though it is generally left out of the weekly synagogue readings. When people read Isaiah 53 without knowing which part of the Bible it comes from, they often wrongly assume it is from the New Testament. Isaiah clearly foresaw the sufferings of Jesus to pay for our sins. Many modern rabbis, as well as some ancient ones, say the sufferings described are those of the nation of Israel. However, most ancient rabbis said the passage referred to Messiah’s sufferings. This includes ancient rabbinical commentators from the Babylonian Talmud, Midrash Ruth Rabbah, Zohar, and even the great Jewish thinker Rabbi Moses Maimonides.
Isaiah 53 cannot refer to the nation of Israel, or any mere human being, but only to Jesus – who was, and is, fully God and fully man. This conclusion is based upon several points. First, the servant of Isaiah 53 is an innocent and guiltless sufferer, yet Israel is never described as sinless. Secondly, the prophet said: “It pleased the LORD to bruise him.” Has the awful treatment of the Jewish people really been God’s pleasure, as is said of the “suffering servant” in Isaiah 53:10? As based upon God’s justice, surely this is not the case. Thirdly, the person mentioned in this passage suffers silently and willingly. Yet all people, even Israelites, complain when they suffer. Only Christ, in the New Testament, goes to his death quietly and in full submission to God. Fourthly, the figure described in Isaiah 53 suffers, dies, and rises again to atone for his people’s sins. Isaiah 53 describes a sinless and perfect sacrificial lamb who takes upon himself the sins of others so that they might be forgiven. The terrible suffering of the Jewish people does not in any way atone for the sins of the world. Isaiah 53 speaks of one who suffers and dies in order to provide a legal payment for sin, so that others can be forgiven. This cannot be true of the Jewish people as a whole, or of any mere human being. Fifthly, the prophet speaking is Isaiah himself, who says the sufferer was punished for “the transgression of my people,” according to verse 8. The people of Isaiah are Israel, therefore the sufferer of Isaiah 53 suffered for Israel. Sixthly, the figure of Isaiah 53 dies and is buried, according to verses 8-9. The people of Israel have never died as a whole. They may have come close during the Holocaust, but a very significant remnant of the Jewish people survived even this horrific period in history. Seventhly, if Isaiah 53 cannot refer to Israel, can the passage refer to Isaiah himself? Isaiah said he was a sinful man of unclean lips (6:5), therefore Isaiah could not die to atone for our sins. Nor could it have been Jeremiah or Moses. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Moses were all prophets who gave us a glimpse of what Messiah would be like, but none fit the description of Isaiah 53, for all were sinners and fallen in nature. Beyond any doubt, Isaiah is referring to Christ.
The Torture on the Cross
Prophecy: Concerning the particulars of his death, Messiah’s hands and feet will be pierced (Psalm 22:16), and he will thirst while being put to death (Psalm 69:20-21). Despite the horrific torture he will undergo, he will not have a single bone broken during his execution (Psalm 22:17).
Fulfillment: Matthew 27:32-56; Mark 15:21-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:17-37
As described in the above New Testament crucifixion passages, Jesus was crucified in the usual manner, which entailed nails being driven through the hands (or wrists) and feet. Likewise, Jesus thirsted while on the cross, and yet for all of his suffering not one bone was broken.
Probability or likelihood: Being that crucifixion was not devised as a means of torturous death until the sixth century B.C., and not used specifically by the Romans until the fourth century B.C., it is very unlikely to have been described by the psalmist in such detail. David is considered to have authored all of the psalms in Book One (chapters 1-41), and David lived approximately 1,000 years before Jesus. Even if this particular psalm were to be dated to 450 B.C., the latest date for the psalms, it is still half a century before the Romans began using crucifixion. Even then, why would anyone suspect that the Messiah, or at least a person acknowledged to be the Messiah by countless Jews, would undergo crucifixion?
In addition to the prophecies described above, several other prophecies are used as part of a “cumulative case” for the deity of Christ. Some of these are as follows:
- The prophecy of the “passing of the scepter” (Genesis 49:10). The Jews “scepter of control” was passed to the Romans when the Jews no longer had the right, under Roman rule, to stone to death blasphemers. This event happened in A.D. 11. In order for this prophecy to be fulfilled, the Messiah had to be born before the scepter was passed (A.D. 11), and the death of Messiah had to happen sometime after that event. Although the date of Jesus’ birth is a point of contention among historians and biblical scholars, it is well-accepted that Jesus was born sometime between 7-2 B.C., and his death on the cross is generally considered to have taken place sometime around A.D. 32, give or take a few years. History has shown that this prophecy was fulfilled.
- Although maybe not the most convincing prophecy when taken on its own, the prophecy of being “called out of Egypt” is nonetheless quite intriguing. Hosea wrote, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Granted the prophet was referring to Israel the nation, yet Jesus – God the Son – was also called out of Egypt, from his brief journey there as a child in hiding (Matthew 2:13-23).
- The prophecy of a king on a donkey was recorded in Zechariah (9:9), and fulfilled near the end of Christ’s life (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-38; John 12:12-16). Although it is true that Jesus could have “rigged” this prophecy to conform to the writings of the prophet Zechariah, when put into the context of the fulfilled messianic prophecies as a whole it becomes one more significant piece of evidence in the “Case for Christ.”
- The prophecy of the messenger who precedes the Messiah is interesting; Jeffrey noted that, to his knowledge, no other king “was preceded by a messenger to herald his arrival.” Although some may protest that the religion known as Baha’i includes such a teaching, Jeffrey is essentially correct since the “Bab” claimed to be a major manifestation of God – albeit his successor, Baha’u’llah, claimed to be the final manifestation of God within this cycle of human history and also claimed that the “Bab” was his forerunner, in the manner of John the Baptist. Isaiah recorded the prophecy (40:3), while Matthew recorded the fulfillment (3:1-3).
Although the list of prophecies examined in this work is not exhaustive by any means, the list is more than adequate to demonstrate that the Old Testament messianic prophecies were completely fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. The only potential obstacle remaining is to show that the accepted dates for the books of both the Old and New Testaments are, in fact, correct. Since many skeptics are quick to argue that the messianic prophecies were “rigged” after the fact, i.e. the Old Testament messianic prophecies were recorded after the corresponding fulfillment was described in the New Testament, it is imperative to address the lines of evidence which render the proper dates for the writings found in both testaments. Once it is shown that several hundred years have, in fact, transpired between the Old Testament messianic prophecies and their New Testament fulfillment, it becomes apparent that the Bible truly is a collection of books inspired by God.
Foundational Point #2: External Verification of the Old Testament’s Traditional Dating
As mentioned, many skeptics of Christianity charge that the fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies in the New Testament has occurred only because the Old Testament is not nearly as old as believers claim it is; according to many of these skeptics, the Old Testament prophecies of the coming messiah that were seemingly fulfilled in the New Testament were, in fact, added into the various books of the Old Testament at a later time (i.e., first century). However, this skeptical claim can easily be refuted upon examining the evidence for the almost complete-immutability of the Old Testament throughout its history.
External verification of the traditionally-accepted dating of the Old Testament comes from two major areas: The Dead Sea scrolls and the Septuagint. As it turns out, these two lines of evidence offer an impressive degree of support for the historical continuity of the Old Testament.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea scrolls, discovered in 1947 near Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea in Israel, have verified the reliability of the Old Testament. Every Old Testament book, with the exception of Esther, was found among the scrolls, either in its entirety or in part. The scrolls, written between 250 B.C. and A.D. 65, corroborate the Masoretic version of the Old Testament text; in fact, the two versions are nearly identical.
A complete copy of Isaiah was discovered among the Dead Sea scrolls. Even though this copy was dated a thousand years earlier than the oldest manuscript previously known, it has proven to be word-for-word identical to the standard Hebrew Bible in more than ninety-five percent of the text. The five percent variation consists mostly of very minor deviations in spelling, and none of these minor deviations carry any doctrinal changes whatsoever.
The Dead Sea scrolls prove that the biblical scribes took great care in going about their work of copying God’s Word. These scribes knew they were handling the Word of God, so they carefully counted every syllable, word, line, and letter to ensure their accuracy. Even so, it is human nature to make mistakes, no matter how minor they might be; that is why we have some variants in the text. Nonetheless, overall we can have a high degree of confidence that the Old Testament which we possess today is that which God intended us to have.
The Septuagint, which is the Greek version of the Old Testament that is dated to sometime between the second and third centuries B.C., is important for two reasons. First, the Septuagint was the version of Scripture commonly available during the time of Jesus, and therefore is of special importance to Christians. Secondly, the Septuagint establishes that the messianic prophecies were foretold before the time of Jesus, so that no one can say the prophecies were “rigged” after the life of Jesus.
The Septuagint was translated from Hebrew Scripture during the time of, or even slightly earlier than, the Dead Sea scrolls. Therefore, we may use the Septuagint to clarify matters of biblical doctrine and history. Concerning the two points above, the fact that the Septuagint establishes the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies through Christ is of utmost importance, as this strengthens the case for fulfilled prophecy.
The New Testament
The books of the New Testament are considered by most reliable scholars to have been written within the first century A.D. Interestingly, the debate over dating within New Testament studies seems to be centered in the idea that maybe some of the books were not written until the second century A.D., which in this case spreads the gap between the Old and New Testaments even further but also allows for the likelihood that the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life and ministry would have died by then, allowing the authors of the New Testament texts a chance to include “facts” that fulfill the Old Testament messianic prophecies but were in reality not historically accurate. However, as mentioned the bulk of reliable scholars place the New Testament autographs within the first century A.D., in most cases within the lifetimes of many who witnessed Christ’s ministry firsthand. In general the books that are assigned an original date in the second century or later are the so-called “Gnostic” writings, which are not orthodox Scripture and have no place in a study of fulfilled messianic prophecy.
The Old Testament’s messianic prophecies were completely fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, exactly as Christians have claimed since the time of Christ himself. Being that the accepted dates for both the Old and New Testament are well-established, and reveal a time span of hundreds of years between them, the only way out for the skeptic who refuses to consider the possibility of divine guidance and inspiration is to assert that the prophecies were inserted into the Old Testament at a later date, after the time that the corresponding prophecies were fulfilled in the New Testament. However, there is no way that devout Jews would ever allow their Scripture to be tampered with – they were, and are, truly zealous guardians of Hebrew Scripture, the “People of the Book.” Likewise, devout Christians – especially the early Jewish Christians who maintained the utmost respect for the Jewish holy writings – would also have prevented this from happening. The evidence is clear: Fulfilled messianic prophecy is a fact that can only logically be attributed to supernatural oversight, despite the best efforts by skeptics to refute this line of evidence for Christian theism.
George, Jim. The Bare Bones Bible Handbook. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2006.
Jeffrey, Grant R. Jesus: The Great Debate. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Frontier Research Publications, Inc., 1999.
Muncaster, Ralph. Evidence for Jesus. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2004.
__________. Examine the Evidence. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2004.
 Ralph Muncaster, Examine the Evidence (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2004), 296.
 Ibid., 302-303.
 Ibid., 302.
 The messianic prophecies examined in this work are adequate to demonstrate the significance of this line of evidence for Christian theism, but is not an exhaustive address of fulfilled messianic prophecy.
 Ralph Muncaster, Evidence for Jesus (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2004), 159.
 Grant Jeffrey, Jesus: The Great Debate (Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Frontier Research Publications, Inc., 1999), 230-231.
 Muncaster, Evidence for Jesus, 156-157.
 Jeffrey, 233.
 Muncaster, Evidence for Jesus, 179.
 Jim George, The Bare Bones Bible Handbook (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2006), 91.
 Muncaster, Evidence for Jesus, 161-162.
 Hosea 11:1, NIV.
 Jeffrey, 231.
 Muncaster, Examine the Evidence, 187-190.
 Ibid., 190-191.