Was Jesus Christ truly the divine Son of God who walked the earth 2,000 years ago? How can
we be sure the gospel story is an accurate and infallibly related historical account? When the gospels are examined
scientifically, can we truthfully uphold them as "inerrant?" Is it possible to assert honestly and ethically that
the Bible is the inspired Word of God? The answers to these questions and many more may surprise and shock
Jesus as Fulfillment of Prophecy
"But all this has taken place, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the
disciples forsook him and fled.
"Hide the prophecy, tell the narrative, and invent the history."
Dr. John D. Crossan, The Historical Jesus (372)
In addition to various Old Testamentcharacters serving to "prefigure" the person of Jesus Christ
are the numerous Old Testament scriptures held up as "prophecies" of the messiah fulfilled in Christ. Over the
centuries, in fact, since the story of Jesus began to be circulated, believers have appealed to these scriptures to
demonstrate that Jesus was indeed the messiah. These prophetic scriptures number in the hundreds, depending on the
apologetic text consulted, with upwards of 1,000 in some circles, the book of Psalms alone possessing almost 100 by
some counts-all these have been cited as "fulfillment of prophecy" in the purported advent of Jesus Christ.
When these scriptures deemed prophetic of the coming messiah are placed side by side with the
characteristics and sayings of Jesus, as well as the events of his life, a startling and convincing comparison is
apparent. Many of these comparisons or "prophecies," however, are highly tenuous and in reality have little if
anything to do with the coming messiah; nor are they truly "prophecies." Indeed, it is not just the Christian
apologists but the gospel writers themselves, and perhaps interpolating later scribes, who have glommed onto OT
scriptures that are not "prophecies," trying to make them appear to be predicting Jesus's advent. When
the list is critically pared down, many fewer scriptures are possibly applicable.
It is important to note also that Jesus himself is reported to say that he did not come to
"abolish the law or the prophets" but to fulfill them. (Mt 5:17) In Luke (24:25-27) the resurrected Jesus scolds
the dimwitted disciples who are "slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" He then reminds them
that "the Christ" needs to endure "these things" in order to "enter into his glory," and he proceeds to expound
upon "Moses and all the prophets," interpreting the characteristics found in these scriptures as applicable to
himself. At Luke 24:44, Jesus states that "everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the
psalms must be fulfilled." At John 5:39, Christ mentions the scriptures about eternal life that "bear witness" to
him, and at 5:46 he states that Moses wrote about him. Other books in the New Testament, such as Acts and certain
of the epistles likewise testify to Christ's fulfillment of prophecy.
The following chart highlights some of the better-known and more obvious scriptures illustrating
the Old Testament "messianic prophecies" and their relationship to the New Testament gospel of Jesus. Many of these
purportedly prophetic fulfillments are included because of the specific mention in the New Testament of "prophets,"
"prophecy" or otherwise identified by such phrases as "in fulfillment of scripture" or "it is written." Also
included here are other verses utilized in the creation of the gospels, such as those appearing in the Sermon on
the Mount, previously discussed as having been strung together from Old Testament scriptures.
Jewish tradition based on scriptural interpretation held that there would be a messiah from
the house of David, descended from Abraham. (Gen 12:3, 18:18; Is 9:7)
The messiah would also be a "star out of Jacob" (Num 24:17) and a "branch of Jesse." (Is
In the genealogies of Matthew and Luke-which are not the same-Jesus is said to have
descended from Abrahamand David. (Mt 1:1; Lk 1:32-33; 3:34)
The genealogies also list Jacoband Jesseas Jesus's ancestors. (Mt 1:2, 1:6; Lk 3:34,
"Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Is
"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virginshall conceive, and bear
a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Is 7:14; KJV)
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way…. All this took place to fulfil what
the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, a virginshall conceive and bear a son, and his
name shall be called Emmanuel.'" (Mt 1:18-23; Lk 1:27-31)
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until
he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples." (Gen 49:10)
"But you, O Bethlehem, Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you
shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from old, from
ancient days." (Micah 5:2)
Jesus is a descendant of Judah. (Mt 2:6; Lk 3:33)
After Jesus is born in Bethlehem, Herodasks the wise menwhere he is. They answer that he is
in Bethlehem, "so it is written by the prophet:
'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of
Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'" (Mt 2:1-6)
"May the kings of Tarshishand of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Shebaand
Seba bring gifts!" (Ps 72:10)
"…all those from Shebashall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense…" (Is 60:6)
"…behold, wise menfrom the East came to Jerusalem… (Mt 2:1)
"…they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." (Mt 2:11)
"…So I took the thirty shekels of silver and cast them into the treasury in the house of the
LORD." (Zech 11:13)
"And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of
them. And I took the thirty [pieces] of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the
LORD." (Zech 11:13) (KJV)
"And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed…" (Mt 27:5)
"So they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in." (Mt
"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth…" (Is 53:7)
"But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer." (Mt 27:12)
"And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the
heifer whose neck was broken in the valley; and they shall testify, 'Our hands did not shed
this blood, neither did our eyes see it shed. Forgive, O LORD, thy people Israel, whom thou
hast redeemed, and set not the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of thy people Israel; but
let the guilt of blood be forgiven them.' So you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from
your midst, when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD." (Deut 21:6-9)
"I wash my hands in innocence…" (Ps 26:6)
"If any one goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be upon his
head, and we shall be guiltless; but if a hand is laid upon any one who is with you in the
house, his blood shall be on our head." (Josh 2:19)
"So when Pilatesaw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he
took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this man's blood;
see to it yourselves.' And all the people answered, 'His blood be on us and on our children!'"
These numerous correlations and many others between the Old and New Testaments may be found in
the footnotes of the RSVand other versions, and need not be reproduced in full here. Suffice it to say that the
writers of the New Testament were very familiar with the Old Testament-the only "scriptures" of the time to
which they could possibly refer-and that many of these scriptures were adapted from the Greek OT or Septuagint.
In fact, almost all the Old Testament scriptures common to Matthew, Mark and Luke come from the
Septuagint, rather than the Hebrew OT. As today, pious
Jewsat the time when the gospel storysupposedly occurred studied the scriptures intensely andknew them very well-including and especially those interpreted to
apply to the coming messiah, for whom they were desperately waiting.
On the surface of it, if taken literally the New Testament seems to record the advent of the
messiah, as prophesied in the Old Testament. However, there may be a different reason for this appearance. In
scrutinizing all of the Old Testament "prophecies" that purportedly relate to the coming messiah, it is evident
that the gospels were deliberately designed to show that these scriptures had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
When these and other OT scriptures are studied and seriously considered, therefore, it is logical to ask if they
constitute "prophecies" and "prefiguring" of the advent of a historical Jesus Christ-or if they were used as a
blueprint in the creation of a fictional messiah.
The suggestion that the gospel story constitutes a patchwork of Old Testament scriptures used as
a framework throws light upon some of the more illogical parts of the tale, such as at Matthew 27:12, when Jesus
is being accused by the chief priests and elders yet says nothing. If we consider that this passage was written
in order to "fulfill prophecy" at Isaiah 53:7, the pericope takes on greater sense.
The deliberate historicizing of "prophecies" by ancient writers is well known among biblical
scholars, as reflected in the discussion by Dr. Crossan of a reconstructed text called the "Cross Gospel," the
author of which, Crossan states, "attempts to write, from prophetic allusions, a first 'historical narrative'
about the passion of Jesus." Concerning the Old Testamentscriptures purportedly prophesying Christ's passion,
Crossanremarks that "historicized narratives were created out of those prophetic complexes, stories so good that
their prophetic origins were almost totally obliterated."1 Hence, over the centuries stories have been created
using "prophecies"; based on the evidence presented above, it is not unreasonable to aver that the gospel tale
is one of them, with its prophetic origins obscured.