Saturday, June 13, 2009

Prophecies of Jesus as Messiah? (Part Four)

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

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 the final installment of the series, part four of four.

For the last time, here we go again:

19. Psalms 34:20 - "He protects all his bones; not one of them is broken."

In my previous installment, I discussed not only Psalms 34:20, but also Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12.

At that time, I had the following remarks about this passage:

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.

For those reasons, it is apparent to me that Psalms 34:20 is not a genuine prophecy of Jesus - in my mind, it hasn't even been established that this is a prophecy at all, especially a messianic one - and that can be said for many of these passages.

It is highly likely that the only person who will believe that all of these passages are obvious references to Jesus is someone who has been thoroughly indoctrinated into the Christian faith. If there is a God, then God gave us rational minds -- and we should not be afraid to use them. I will reject Jesus before I reject truth, if the truth of Jesus cannot be established. Alas, this is what I have done - and yet I am accused by some of "exalting intelligence above God". Funny, I thought using what you were given was an act of worship....

20. Zechariah 12:10 - "They will look at Me whom they pierced."

The full text of this verse from my NIV Bible:

"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit (footnote: Or the Spirit) of grace and supplication. They will look on (footnote: Or to) me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son."

There's really no way to tell if this is a messianic prophecy or not. At best, this passage is vague and ambiguous.

The surrounding passages describe events concerning the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem - this is not exactly an ideal comparison to a Jesus-like figure.

Let me just say, like most "prophecies", it's a stretch to say that this passage really means anything at all. I doubt that anyone will be convinced by my summaries that these are not valid or genuine prophecies. I hate to be this cynical, but let's admit it, most people believe what they want to believe. It doesn't matter if the passage doesn't even say anything about a Messiah - people have been trained their entire lives to see the Messiah in that text, who am I to dispute such a strong intuition, even if it is the result of indoctrination?

Demian, I fear what you are going to say next - you'll say that I don't see Jesus in this text because I'm not a believer. And technically, that may well be true. But I believe that there is no reason to see Jesus in this text.

Let it not be said that there is no level of evidence that would compel me to believe in Christianity - that is not true. If there were prophecies that were unabashedly, explicitly, specifically about a Messiah - and Jesus fulfilled these impeccably, then I would definitely reconsider my position. But that is not the case.

Yet again, I see no reason to accept that this passage is a valid prophecy of Jesus.

21. Isaiah 53:9 - "They made His grave with the wicked, and with a rich man at His death, although He had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully."

Thankfully, this is our final Isaiah 53 passage. I have spoken both in previous installments of this series, and in the comments section on your blog, giving reasons why it is obvious to me that Isaiah 53 refers to Israel, rather than a Messiah. For those reasons I have already carefully articulated, it is apparent to me that Isaiah 53 is not a valid prophecy of Jesus.

22. Psalms 16:10 - "For You will not abandon me to Sheol; You will not allow Your Faithful One to see the Pit."

Why couldn't this passage be referring to David? My NIV footnote on this verse says: Or your faithful one instead of "Holy One".

Eh, it doesn't really make much difference. It's ambiguous and unclear at best, manipulation at worst. Those who want to believe will believe it, I guess.

I am not convinced that this passage is a valid prophecy of Jesus - like so many other passages from Psalms, there is no specific mention of a Messiah, and it just seems to text the words that are there, and to twist the meaning of the original text.

23. Psalms 68:18 - "You ascended to the heights, taking away captives; You received gifts from people, even from the rebellious, so that the Lord God might live there."

What does this passage even have to do with a Messiah or with Jesus?

Yes, Jesus is said to have ascended to heights. So is Harry Potter.

Taking away captives? Okay, this could be stretched to say that Jesus is taking away captives from sin, or Satan, or whatever...but this passage doesn't mention a Messiah. It's a song of praise to Yahweh. Why put a Messiah into the text when there's no reason to do so?

Since this passage is so nebulous and incoherent, I strongly suspect that it is not a valid or genuine prophecy of Jesus.

24. Psalms 110:1 - "The LORD declared to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool."

Once again, this is another one of the passages from Psalms (and Psalm of David, according to the notes in my NIV Bible) which appears to apply more to David specifically and contains no explicit mention of a Messiah.

Every single one of these "prophecies" is either flat-out contradictory with Jesus's narrative as portrayed in the Gospels, vague, mischaracterized, misapplied, misread, ambiguous, or is in some other fashion unimpressive and unconvincing. The best prophecies of the 24 are merely ambiguous and vague; the worst, manipulative and deliberately distorted. It is sad that these "prophecies" are considered the foundations for a robust prophetic portrait. Suffice it to say, I'm not convinced.


Robert Madewell said...

Great work!

I took a look at Demian's blog and he hasn't responded to either of our comments on these verses, yet.

Teleprompter said...

Thank you! I value the feedback, and honestly, I like it when someone appreciates my efforts.

I hope Demian does respond to some of the criticisms. Though to be fair to Demian, I have written a great deal - if he had said so much in reply to me, it would take some time for me to respond.

However, I would like to see how he views the use of prophecy in the Gospels in light of how misused or abused certain passages are by apologists or by the Gospel writers.

Something tells me that he or one of his readers will claim that while there are occasional mistakes, it is my fault that I do not see the "obvious" parallels between Jesus and the prophecies. But I would like to see a more substantive discussion.