Messianic prophecy, Jesus, and an inconvenient fact

Am I impressed that the Hebrew Bible (the “Old Testament”) has numerous chapters and passages that seem to foreshadow Jesus’s ministry and death?

No.

Why?

Because their predictive value is vastly diminished by an inconvenient fact: THE WRITERS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT HAD READ THE OLD TESTAMENT.

In other words, it would be truly astonishing if the four gospels had been written, say, in China two thousand years ago, where nobody had even heard of the Hebrew Bible. If that had been the case, then the match between the predictions in the Hebrew Bible and the subsequent experience of the historical Jesus in China would be quite interesting.

But that’s not how it happened. Jesus is said to have lived in Israel, and the gospel writers knew the Hebrew Bible. Thus the probability that the prophecies are miraculous is reduced considerably by the fact that the writers of the New Testament were influenced in their storytelling by reading the Old Testament.

Put another way, it is just as likely (indeed, more so) that the gospel writers built their Jesus stories around Hebrew Bible passages—creating, as it were, self-fulfilling prophecies—than that something miraculous was going on.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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