As you may have seen in my blog posts and other pages on here, I have already started to launch my three-pronged attack on Christian apologetics. The first, is all about how apologetics fundamentally fails to establish the existence of God, whereby I will be going through pretty much every apologetic argument you can think of and showing why each of them fundamentally fail. While so far I have done a thorough analysis of Matt Slick’s formulation of the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God I will work through each apologetic argument to show, without a shadow of a doubt, that belief in God is not reasonable. On here, in this second strand, I will be going through the fact that Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah. This will involve going through all of the claimed prophecies that Jesus was meant to have fulfilled and why it is actually the case that he fulfilled no messianic prophecies. Finally, I will also be developing a series about how Christianity is not only not true but when taken to its logical conclusion actually turns out to be self-refuting. This will specifically focus on the resurrection of Jesus and how Christian theology ends up refuting itself when we consider the whole of Christian theology. Taken together, this will form the basis of perhaps the most ambitious project ever attempted… to effectively take Christianity off the table for good.
While that is the end goal, the purpose of this, is to go through all 365 claimed prophecies that Jesus was meant to have fulfilled and how in fact, Jesus actually fulfilled precisely none of the Messianic prophecies and thus, is not the Jewish Messiah. However, before we begin, some important context needs to laid down which will form the backbone of the remainder of this project. The purpose of this introduction, is to provide the first bit of context, which is all about some of the basics regarding the sources we have about the life of Jesus. Therefore, before we examine any of the claimed prophecies Christians believe Jesus fulfilled, we need to understand some of the theological and historical context which will serve as a platform to understand how much brute historical information we can gather from the Gospels.
While there are 27 books in the New Testament, it is important to note that when we are talking about the life of Jesus, pretty much everything that is known about him comes from the four New Testament Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. While I will specifically go through the authorship Gospels in more detail elsewhere, as already noted the New Testament that you read today, is the result of scholars compiling thousands of Greek manuscripts in order to make the closest facsimile of the original text. In other words, the New Testament you are reading today, is not a directly preserved manuscript direct from the authors in the first centuries of the common era. Furthermore, scholars believe these were written several decades after Jesus’ death by anonymous authors. Therefore, before we are able to determine whether Jesus can be considered to be the Messiah, we need to consider the authors’ intentions in exactly why they wrote their accounts. While I will talk about a number of problems with the methods used by Biblical Scholars in gathering historical information from the Gospels elsewhere, one of the most important reasons that the Gospels and other texts from the New Testament are generally not viewed as an accurate or objective source of historical information, relates to the authors of the New Testament being so keen on the theme of events from Jesus’ life fulfilling prophecy from the Jewish Scripture. What this means, is when we read the Gospels and the New Testament in light of this, it becomes incredibly difficult to discern what actually happened and what was written by the authors purely to fulfil prophecy.
While this occurs in a number of the New Testament writings, this occurs most often in the Gospel of Matthew. While scholars are not in complete agreement on the number of fulfilment citations found in the Gospel, there are at a number of direct references before the passion narrative of Jesus fulfilling prophecy (Matthew 1:22-23; Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 2:15; Hosea. 11:1, Matthew 2:17-18; Jeremiah 31:15); Matthew 2:23 and 13:35*, Matthew 4:14-16; Isaiah 8:23-9:1, Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 53:4, Matthew 12:17-21; Isaiah 42:1-4), Matthew 12:17; Isaiah 42:1, Matthew 13:14; Isaiah 6:9-10, Matthew 13:35; Psalms 78:2, Matthew 21:4-5; Isaiah 62:11; Zechariah 9:9, Matthew 26:54*, Matthew 27:9-10 (Zechariah 11:12-13; Jeremiah 18:3; 59:6-9) . Furthermore, as F. P. Viljoen  notes: there are also “35 other citations with different introductory clauses, as well as a large number of indirect quotations from or allusions to the Old Testament.” This stands in contrast to the other Gospels, which do not appear to utilise the use of prophecy in their account. To put it in perspective, the Gospel of John reports six instances which takes the form of “that the scripture might be fulfilled” (John 12:38; 13:18; 15:25; 17:12; 19:24, 36).
Although on the face of it, this may seem surprising, the reason becomes a lot clearer when we realise the purpose of the Gospel, that is, why the author of Matthew was writing his account. Scholars have long realised that the purpose of his Gospel, was specifically to the Jews of his day to show them that Jesus of Nazareth was the Jewish Messiah, and this can be seen from the start as it opens Gospel with a record of Jesus’ genealogy. As scholar R. T. France  notes “[a] man who begins his book about Jesus with a prologue like this can surely justly be said to be preoccupied with the theme of fulfilment.” While I will specifically to a response regarding Jesus’ genealogy, all that needs to be established for now, is as we go through the Gospels, there are a number of claimed prophecies being fulfilled in his Gospel. And we don’t have to go much further into his Gospel to see this in action.
In fact, we can see this in the second chapter which records Jesus’ birth, there are a number of events that the author describes seem to be in order to fulfil prophecy including Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem (2:6), the family’s flight to Egypt (2:14) Herod’s slaughter of the innocent children of Bethlehem (2:18), and the family’s decision to relocate in Nazareth (2:23). While I respond to each in due time, the pertinent point that needs to be stressed, before we critically examine whether these are in fact instances of prophecy, is it must be noted that these are all only found in the Gospel of Matthew. That is, none of the other authors in the New Testament claim that Jesus fulfilled any of these “prophecies.” Given that no other author records these prophecies, one must inevitably ask the question: why would none of the other authors record these accounts if this was in fact what happened?
While it may sound strange that only one author of the New Testament would make the connection between Jesus’ birth and claimed prophecies being fulfilled, as I already mentioned noted, scholars have realised that Matthew was written for a largely Jewish audience, with the goal of providing an account as to why Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Therefore, in order to do that, the author would try and tie in acts around Jesus’ life, back to the Jewish Scriptures and this may explain why only the author of Matthew would report these events. What this therefore means is that, the author of Matthew attempts to draw connections to earlier Jewish scripture, such as Isaiah 11:1, Micah 5:2, and Hosea 11:1, however, as we will come to see, none of which are actually prophecies relating to the Messiah.
Before analysing these specific examples, given these numerous instances of claimed prophecies being fulfilled, allusions and references back to the Jewish Scriptures that no-one else reports, when we take this all into account, it would make sense that the author of Matthew is trying to utilise the both the prophets and other important writings from the Jewish Scriptures to make his point. However, I won’t just be focussing on the Gospel of Matthew. Although he is the most blatant author who is trying to establish Jesus as the Messiah, there are many more claimed prophecies being fulfilled elsewhere, which are part of the list of 365 prophecies. Some of which are not even claimed to be fulfilling prophecies by the authors who wrote them! What all of this means, is when we consider all of this, it leaves us to the question “was Jesus the messiah?” However, to answer this, this ultimately requires a prior question: “what exactly is The Messiah?”
Well below, I will highlighting the fact that while prophecy is a major theme throughout Jewish Scripture, it might be suggested that the fulfilment of prophecy plays a more foundational and central role within Christianity rather than Judaism. So while one may be tempted to think that prophecy is one area that Jews and Christians would agree upon, the way that Christians view the role of the prophets and what prophecy actually is, is fundamentally different to what is reported and described within the Jewish Scripture. Therefore, when you compare the use of prophecy and the role of the prophets between the Jewish and Christian traditions, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding and ultimately a misapplication of prophecy by Christians in attempting to prove Jesus was the Messiah. What this means is that the first thing we need to do, is to highlight that the Jewish tradition of prophecy does not necessarily equate to the Christian understanding of prophecy and so, will ultimately provide a groundwork to ultimately explore whether Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. In other words, in order to establish why Christians affirm Jesus to be the Messiah and why Jews do not, we not only need to understand how prophecy has been misapplied to Jesus based on a misunderstanding of prophecy, we also need to have a clear and accurate understanding of what the Messiah is and, equally importantly, we also need to establish the difference between the Messiah and the messiahs of the Jewish Bible.
Therefore, to ultimately answer the question of whether Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, this requires a close examination to distinguish of the difference between what the Jewish Scriptures refer to as messiahs, referring to the figures who merely have a special relationship with God, and the Messiah.
- * While these are reported as fulfilling prophecy, there are no passages in the Jewish Bible that these correspond to these
- Fulfilment in Matthew (see https://repository.up.ac.za/bitstream/handle/2263/6702/Viljoen_Fulfilment%282007%29.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y)
- R. T. France Matthew: Evangelist and teacher. Illinois: Intervarsity Press. 1998 (p. 169)