Friday, June 12, 2009

Prophecies of Jesus as Messiah? (Part Three)

Demian Farnworth at Fallen and Flawed recently composed a post entitled Who Do These 24 Statements Describe?

His list includes 24 prophecies which he believes indicate Jesus as the Messiah.

I wanted to respond point by point to each verse in the comments section of Demian's blog, but after only making my way through two of the 24 verses, I realized that Demian would probably kill me for taking up so much room on a blog comment.

This response will span four parts - during each entry, I will comment on six of the proposed prophecies mentioned in Demian's post. This is part three of four.

They say the third time's the charm. Here we go again:

13. Isaiah 53:4 - "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted."

Yes, Isaiah 53. I am familiar with the details of Acts 8:26-39, where Philip convinces the Ethiopian eunuch that Isaiah is referring to Jesus in this passage.

I assert that Isaiah is not talking about Jesus in this passage, but about Israel. Why have I reached this conclusion?

From Isaiah 41-Isaiah 53, the servant is consistently identified as Israel.

Isaiah 41:8-9 (NIV) - "But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend,
I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, 'You are my servant'; I have chosen you and have not rejected you"

Isaiah 42:18-19 (NIV) - "Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see!
Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the LORD?"

Isaiah 42:24 (NIV) - "Who handed Jacob over to become loot, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey his law."

Isaiah 43:1 (NIV) - "But now, this is what the LORD says -- he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel"

Isaiah 43:10 (NIV) - "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he."

Isaiah 44:1-2 (NIV) - "But now listen, O Jacob, my servant, Israel, whom I have chosen.
This is what the LORD says -- he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen"

Isaiah 44:21 (NIV) - "Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you."

Isaiah 45:4 (NIV) - "For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name"

Isaiah 48:20 (NIV) - "say, "The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob."

Isaiah 49:3 (NIV) - "He said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.""

Therefore, I feel comfortable concluding that the servant of Isaiah 53 is not Jesus, but Israel, as is apparent throughout this section of Isaiah. It should be clear that this is not even a messianic prophecy - unless one rejects what the text actually says, repeatedly - it is clear that this passage portrays Israel, not Jesus, as the suffering servant. The misapplication of this passage strongly suggests that this is not a valid prophecy of Jesus.

14. Isaiah 53:7 - "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth."

Another Isaiah 53 passage? I can't believe there are still two more Isaiah 53 passages listed after this one.

By any honest accounting, shouldn't text from the same place be counted as only one prophecy? This problem also occurs with Psalms 22 and Psalms 69. There are really only fourteen or fifteen "prophecies" on this list, but the fuzzy math has made it appear that even the vague and misapplied prophecies which are listed here are more numerous than they really are.

I just provided a rather lengthy list of examples from previous chapters of Isaiah to demonstrate why the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 is Israel, rather than Jesus, so I will repeat my arguments here. However, I will conclude that for the same reasons listed in my previous post, it seems highly unlikely that this passage is a valid prophecy of Jesus.

15. Psalms 22:18 - "They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots."

My NIV Bible notes that this chapter is a Psalm of David.

I've already covered Psalm 22 before in this series. Again, there are no specific references to a messiah and the text appears to be about David.

I believe that this is an example of retroactive application from the Gospel writers to make it appear that Jesus fulfilled prophecy.

Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, and John 19:23-24 all specifically depict soldiers casting lots for Jesus' clothing. John even mentions in the text that this happened so that the prophecy from Psalms 22:18 might be fulfilled. A footnote in my NIV text indicates that a few late versions of Matthew 27:35 included a direct reference to Psalms 22:18.

The passage from Psalms 22 is not directly linked to a messiah, but it appears that the Gospels were written to make it appear that Jesus did something that is linked to "prophecy" - even though Psalms 22 is clearly not of prophetic nature. For those reasons, it seems most plausible that Psalms 22:18 is not a valid prophecy of Jesus.

16. Isaiah 53:12 - "He submitted Himself to death."

Only two more Isaiah 53 passages after this one - we're almost done!

Again, I have provided a lengthy list of examples which demonstrate why the author of Isaiah is referring to Israel, not Jesus, as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. Given the context of the reading, it is implausible to claim that the passage applies to Jesus.

For the reasons I have previously mentioned in this post, it is apparent that Isaiah 53 is likely not a valid prophecy of Jesus.

17. Isaiah 53:12 - "He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels."

How hard are they even trying? This passage is from the same exact verse as the previous "prophecy". Fuzzy math, indeed.

By this point, I believe that my position on the servant's identity in Isaiah 53 is crystal clear, and it should not have to be repeated why it is apparent to me that Isaiah 53 is not a valid prophecy of Jesus.

Only one more Isaiah 53 passage after this - we're getting closer!

18. Exodus 12:46 - "You may not break any of its bones."

This verse is similar to Psalms 34:20 and Numbers 9:12. John 19:31-36 claims that prophecy was fulfilled in this manner.

However, Exodus 12:46 clearly refers to the Passover meal, not to Jesus:

Exodus 12:43-45 (NIV) - "The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "There are the regulations for the Passover: "No foreigner is to eat of it.
Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him,
but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it."

Now, I know enough about the Bible to see where apologists might make the comparison that Jesus is the Passover Meal, etc. However, there are some major problems for the Jesus narrative if this is the interpretation justifying this passage as prophecy:

1. Only the circumcised could share this Passover. Paul states explicitly in Romans 2:26-29 (NIV) - "If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as those who are circumcised?
The man who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.
A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.
No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code."
According to Christian tradition, Jesus served as a sacrifice for the circumcised and the uncircumcised alike. It presents a major problem to identify him with a Passover meal that is exclusively for the circumcised.

2. This passage says nothing specific about a Messiah.

Psalms 34:20 is a song of praise, and makes no specific mention of a Messiah; it's also another Psalm of David. The verse is clearly a figurative reference to the righteous man who obeys the Lord - not one of his bones will be broken. It's anything but obvious that this passage is about Jesus, or even a Messiah.

Numbers 9:12 is also a reference to the Passover, and shares the same problems as Exodus 12:46.

For all of the reasons I have listed, it is apparent that none of these three passages is a valid or genuine prophecy of Jesus.

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