Only Jesus can claim to fulfill ALL Old Testament prophecy about the coming Messiah.
One reason that Old Testament prophecy is so important to Christians is that over 300 predictions, like the threads of a tapestry, establish the Messianic credentials of Jesus.
Put another way, the Old Testament is like an intricate jigsaw puzzle. The numerous pieces, on their own, are puzzling — until they are assembled enough to fill out the intended picture. Thus, the New Testament is the decryption key for unlocking Old Testament meaning.
Just a handful of prophecy that Jesus fulfilled: He was born in Bethlehem, preceded by a messenger (John the Baptist), entered Jerusalem on a donkey, was betrayed by a friend who received thirty pieces of silver, was silent before His accusers, and died in the manner Romans used for criminals (crucifixion), during which they pierced His hands and feet.
Peter Stoner, in his classic book Science Speaks, calculated the chance of any man fulfilling these prophecies, even down to the present time, to be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000 (10 to the 17th power). How can anyone think that Jesus just “happened” to be in the right place at the right time? It’s no coincidence.
To help us visually comprehend the staggering odds of this probability, Stoner proposed that we take that many silver dollars and lay them across the state of Texas. In doing so, we’d find they would stack up across the state two feet deep. But wait; there’s more! Now mark one of the silver dollars, and stir up the entire mass of coins. Then blindfold an enthusiastic volunteer and tell him that he can travel as far as he likes across Texas, but that he *must* pick out the marked silver dollar. THAT is how difficult it would be for one single man to fulfill the 300+ prophecies.
Stoner then upped the ante significantly: he found that the odds of any man fulfilling even 48 of the 300+ Old Testament prophecy jumped to 10 to the 157th power!
Three Objections Raised by Skeptics
Skeptics object to the claim that numerous passages of Old Testament prophecy foreshadow events in the life of Jesus. They counterclaim that the New Testament writers purposefully shaped their material to match passages in the Old Testament. They also assert that the New Testament writers stretched the meanings of obscure references, and that they took those references out of context, by adopting a word or detail and inserting it into an event in the Gospels.
Skeptic Objection #1: The Gospel writers deliberately crafted their biographies of Jesus to make Jesus appear to fulfill Old Testament prophecy.
We have several reasons to believe the Gospel writers reported Jesus’ life and words accurately — and did so even at the risk of persecution. They did not play to what their audiences likely expected. We have to remember that at the time the Gospels were written, the Christian church was enduring considerable persecution. Many Christians were martyred for their faith in excruciating and inhumane ways, including crucifixion, being burned alive, or being fed to wild animals. The Gospel writers had nothing to gain from inventing yet another new religion — and everything to lose. Too, they didn’t make Jesus sound high and mighty, but low and humble, as was His purpose in giving up His life. If the Gospel writers were intent on growing their numbers, they wouldn’t have offered up, as Messiah, a man who, in no way, represented the conquering hero that the Jews were expecting. Jesus freely allowed Rome to kill him, so that His purpose was fulfilled.
Skeptic Objection #2: Old Testament types and foreshadowings are typically stretched and contrived, and therefore offer little evidential support for Jesus being the Messiah.
It is certainly true that some Christians have tended to stretch Old Testament typology or suggest hidden symbolism that might not exist. But we have only two options to consider here: The close correspondence between Old Testament texts and New Testament details of Jesus’ life can *only* be explained by 1) purposeful contrivance or 2) divine orchestration. As I hope you can see, a compelling cumulative case for Jesus as the Messiah clearly weights the evidence toward the second option.
Skeptic Objection #3: The Gospel writers took Old Testament texts out of context in order to prove that Jesus was the Messiah.
Many New Testament writers quoted Old Testament words and set them in a new context, as did both Jews and later Christians who wrote commentaries to interpret Old Testament passages. In the early centuries of the church, different schools of thought arose concerning how this should be handled.
The interpreters of the School of Alexandria, for example, were comfortable taking a word or detail out of its original context in order to illustrate and reinforce a spiritual interpretation. In contrast, the scholars in Antioch emphasized the importance of retaining the meaning of the original historical context, even when reverent contemplation of the text suggested a concept that allowed additional applications.
Diodore of Tarsus, who died about AD 390, was a leader in this second school of thinking. The methodology that he described emphasizes a careful study of the original language, in order to understand the historical substance and plain literal sense of the text as the foundation for understanding its deeper meaning. He sought to carefully guard against overzealous and overreaching applications. Theologian Christopher A. Hall puts it this way: Diodore’s aim was to guard against the creation of meaning “out of thin air.”
In the same way, Augustine of Hippo, in his On Christian Doctrine about rules for the interpretation of Scripture, distinguished between details that are simply in the narrative, and details that are in the narrative but also appear to be signs of higher meaning.
A basic point to remember: it was Jesus’ own behavior and statements that prompted the New Testament writers to recognize His resonance with Old Testament scriptures. Again, going back to the puzzle analogy: the more the puzzle was put together, the more it began to showcase Jesus.
Summary of Old Testament Prophecy Fulfilled by Jesus
Speaking of puzzle pieces, let’s conclude this blog post with a list of Old Testament prophecy that you can read for yourself. This exercise will be so worth the investment of your time, if you truly want to confirm what Scripture says. To have a Bible that you never open completely defeats the purpose of God giving His Word to us, right? Treat the Bible as your study guide, not a relic so sacred that it can’t be opened — or marked up! God is surely okay with your highlighting any passages that speak to you, in whatever hue of highlighter you choose!
His Nativity and Early Years
The fact: Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; Jeremiah 31:22
The place: Numbers 24:17, 19; Micah 5:2
Adoration by Magi: Psalm 72:10, 15; Isaiah 60: 3, 6
His Mission and Office
Mission: Genesis 12:3; 49:10; Numbers 24:19; Deuteronomy 18:18-19; Psalm 21:1; Isaiah 59:20; Jeremiah 33:16
Prophet like Moses: Deuteronomy 18:15
Conversion of Gentiles: Isaiah 11:10; Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalms 18:49; 19:4; 117:1; Isaiah 42:1; 45:23; 49:6; Hosea 1:10; 2:23; Joel 2:32
Ministry in Galilee: Isaiah 9:1-2
Preaching: Psalms 2:7; 78:2; Isaiah 2:3; 61:1; Micah 4:2
Rejection by Jews and Gentiles: Psalms 2:1; 22:12; 41:5; 56:5; 69:8; 118:22-23; Isaiah 6:9-10; 8:14; 29:13; 53:1; 65:2
Persecution: Psalms 22:6; 35:7, 12; 56:5; 71:10; 109:2; Isaiah 49:7; 53:3
Triumphal entry: Psalms 8:2; 118:25-26; Zechariah 9:9
Betrayal by friend: Psalms 41:9; 55:13; Zechariah 13:6
False accusation: Psalms 2:1-2; 27:12; 35:11; 109:2
Silence under accusation: Psalm 38:13; Isaiah 53:7
Mocking: Psalms 22:7-8, 16; 109:25
Psalms 2:7; 16:8-10; 30:3; 41:10; 118:17
Psalms 16:11; 24:7; 68:18; 110:1; 118:19
His Second Advent
Psalm 50:3-6; Isaiah 9:6-7; 66:18; Daniel 7:13-14; Zechariah 12:10; 14:4-8
His Universal, Everlasting Dominion
1 Chronicles 17:11-14; Psalms 2:6-8; 8:6; 45:6; 7; 72:8; 110:1-3; Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 7:14
Did Jesus fulfill Old Testament prophecy? Yes! But study to know for yourself.
This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!
If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.