The Old Testament contains scores of prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. Some have cited up to 400. Not only is there a large number of prophecies, many are extremely specific and were undoubtedly written hundreds of years before the time of Jesus.
One passage alone, Isaiah 53:2-12, foretells twelve aspects of Christ’s passion, all of which were fulfilled in Jesus – he would be rejected, be a man of sorrow, live a life of suffering, be despised by others, carry our sorrow, be smitten and afflicted by God, be pierced for our transgressions, be wounded for our sins, would suffer like a lamb, would die with the wicked, would be sinless, and would pray for others.
Some of the other major predictions about the Messiah, all of which were fulfilled in Jesus, was he would be born of a woman who would be a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), of the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:18), of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), of the house of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16), in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), he would be heralded by the Lord’s messenger (Isaiah 40:3), he would cleanse the temple (Malachi 3:1), he would be cut off 483 years after the declaration to reconstruct Jerusalem in 444 B.C. (Daniel 9:24-27), he would be rejected (Psalm 118:22), he would have his hands and feet pierced (Psalm 22:16), he would be pierced in his side (Zechariah 12:10), he would rise from the dead (Psalm 16:10), and he would ascend into heaven (Psalm 68:18).
Christians point to the myriad of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Jesus as reason for believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the saviour of the world. The exact fulfilment of so many specific predictions is so persuasive that many skeptics and critics of Christianity have repeatedly raised objections to try to negate them. We’re going to look at 4 common objections to the claim that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies.
#1: Jesus fulfilled the prophecies by accident
Some critics contend that Jesus just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Interestingly, mathematicians have crunched the numbers to figure out that possibility. Christian apologist Lee Strobel reports that, Professor Peter Stoner, who was the chairman of Westmont College’s science division in the mid 1950’s, worked with six hundred students to come up with their best estimate of the mathematical probability of just eight prophecies being fulfilled in any one person living down to the present time. The odds came out at one chance in a hundred million billion. It is not reasonable to hold that Jesus fulfilled hundreds of prophecies by accident.
#2: Jesus intentionally fulfilled the prophecies
Although Jesus could have maneuvered his life to fulfil certain prophecies, many were completely outside of his control, such as, being born of a virgin, his ancestry, his place of birth, his betrayal for 30 pieces of silver, his method of execution, his legs remaining unbroken on the cross, soldiers gambling for his clothes, and his resurrection.
#3: The prophecies were written after Jesus’ time
The average skeptic of Christianity may contend that the prophecies were written centuries after Jesus. However, in terms of professionals, Christian apologist Norman Geisler notes that, “even the most liberal critics admit that the prophetic books were completed some 400 years before Christ, and the Book of Daniel by about 167 B.C.” Furthermore, there’s good evidence for dating most of the books considerably earlier than that, with some of the psalms and earlier prophets dating from the eighth and ninth centuries before Jesus.
#4: Christians misinterpret the prophecies
Some skeptics contend that Christians misinterpret Old Testament passages to make them point to Christ. The New Testament sometimes does apply parts of the Old Testament to Christ, which were not written directly about Him. But that misses the point – a myriad of Old Testament prophecies point unmistakably to Christ. For a skeptic to use this argument, they must show that no Old Testament prophecies were predictive of Christ and fulfilled in Him.
Jesus’ miraculous fulfilment of the myriad of ancient Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah remains one of the most potent arguments in confirming his identity. Those who carefully scrutinize the record find that these predictions and their fulfilment in Jesus cannot be explained away or dismissed.
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Further reading recommendations
'Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus' by Michael L. Brown
'Ha-Mashiach: The Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures' by Arnold Fruchtenbaum
'Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy' by Michael Rydelnik & Edwin Blum
'All the Messianic Prophecies of the Bible' by Herbert Lockyer
'Evidence That Demands a Verdict' by Josh & Sean McDowell
'More Than a Carpenter' by Josh & Sean McDowell
'In Defense of Jesus' by Lee Strobel
'100 Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus' by Rose Publishing (booklet)