“When someone places faith in the Bible, they place it in the direction of evidence, not against the evidence.”

[Karen]  Welcome back to this episode of I Believe Podcast. I’m Karen Trifiletti, with eight points to consider on the authenticity of the Bible, part 9 of 9 in the series, with D.M. Johnson. Dave, welcome back!

[D.M.] Thanks.

[Karen] We are going to spend this cast talking about the prophecies of Jesus. The scriptures consist of 66 books, with over 40 authors, [and] were recorded over a span of 1500 years; they contain heavy prophetic threads. If we just think about a few books—take Daniel, written 500 years before Christ, and the meticulous descriptions of the rise and fall of the empire of Alexander the Great. This just makes us marvel at the consistencies of those prophecies. How about Zachariah, who in advance truly describes the crucifixion of Christ; and Isaiah, of course, writes of how Christ would suffer. Through these miraculous and historical writings, we really come to see the perfect person of Jesus Christ. Dave, welcome. Let’s set the stage for reviewing and sorting through some of these prophecies.

Types of Prophecies

[D.M.] Thanks, Karen. I am glad to be here again talking about this with you. We really—as we think about prophecies about the Messiah, need to categorize them. I think we have a group of prophecies that, in theory, could have been fulfilled by orchestration; but also—and this is the way I like to look at it—show a self-understanding of Jesus. It shows that He knew who He was.

Give an answer to every man that asketh you the reason of the hope that is in you. 1 Peter 3:15

We also have some prophecies that would be very difficult to orchestrate, then there are prophecies which would literally be impossible for somebody to orchestrate. These have apologetic value; that is to say, you could show these, and it literally would be impossible mathematically to happen purely by chance. It’s also worth stating at the outset that there are prophecies which are fulfilled typologically in Christ, and other prophecies which are fulfilled uniquely in Christ.

Miracles

[Karen]  I think those distinctions and categories are helpful as we engage this discussion. And I think one thing that we need to address up front in this cast is the concept of miracles in general. This is in part due to the fact that some of the prophecies involve the miracles of Jesus, not to mention that there is a large group of people out there who simply dismiss prophecy or miracles as something that just cannot happen. Others take a look at miracle claims in the Bible and rule out Jesus or the Bible altogether on that basis.

A classic example is Thomas Jefferson, who famously cut out parts of the Bible which dealt with the miraculous and supernatural. That’s just a place he wasn’t willing to go. There’s an intense discussion today regarding whether miracles occurred, and if they did, and if they are no longer existing—cessationism vs. continuing revelation.

We’re not here to talk about the second part of that, but we have to address the first—that there are those who reject the Bible or Jesus due to miracle claims. We even see this line of thinking as educators in our schools are taught a particular perspective of the Enlightenment and are exposed to David Hume’s writings. Dave, what are your thoughts on this before we dive into prophecies which deal with the miraculous?

Other Ancient Writers Record Miracles

[D.M.] I always come back to, again, being intellectually consistent with the different writings. For example, a lot of people don’t know this: most historians back in this time period record miracles. Should we assume they got nothing right, and throw out everything they wrote? That would be silly. Tacitus and Suetonius, they talk about miracles [1][2]; Plutarch and Dio Cassuis; and Josephus talks about a person called Honi the Circle Drawer, also known as Onias [3]. The stories got embellished later, and things like that. We have Hanin ben Dosa—he’s mentioned in the Talmud as someone doing miracles [4].

And as I bring these up, I just want to be clear—I’m not trying to say that these other miraculous events even took place; or, for that matter, that none of the miracles took place. What I am trying to say is that these authors record things said to be miraculous. Most often these claims do not have early sources or eyewitness testimony with them. Vespasian is an example of an emperor who oversaw and approved of all of his history. And he gave financial rewards to those who painted him in a good light, and punished people who spoke out against him.

Intellectual Consistency

What I’m trying to say as we look at this evidence is—be consistent. You can’t just throw out the New Testament because it has a miracle in there. We’ve already shown that we have external sources which corroborate with the New Testament. We need to examine the evidence, and with the miracles of Jesus, we do have early sources, multiple sources, sources from followers, sources from skeptics, sources from enemies—and they all admit He was doing miracles, that He was a worker of “mighty deeds,” as some would call it. So when people say that they don’t believe in miracles, I sometimes say to them, “Look around, you’re living in one.” You look at things, and it’s pretty hard to see how all of this is just by accident.

Fallacies About Miracles

A lot of people don’t realize when they look at something like the writings of David Hume, whom you mentioned before, that there is some fallacy in that. No where in what he states does he take into account the probability of all the evidence being just the way it is, if that event hadn’t taken place. For those who listened to our cast on the Resurrection, if you go back and look at that, what are the odds that all of those facts would match up exactly this way if [the Resurrection] hadn’t taken place?

What are the odds that six different news stations would broadcast the winner of the lottery in exactly the same way—even though it’s highly improbable to win the lottery—if that person hadn’t in fact won the lottery? So there are a lot of things like that which Hume’s theories really don’t take into account.

Another thing that’s sometimes put forward—the amount you should believe something is proportionate to the frequency you see it. This is another fallacy out there which has been there basically since David Hume [5]. When the universe began, that happened once. Should we believe that it never happened because it only happened once? We’ll pull some articles where people can do some additional reading, for those who want to do get in depth with it. There are so many logical reasons to believe in God.

I am a huge fan of Frank Turek. I think he’s a classical Christian apologist, and I like the way he delivers things. I’ve heard him say before, “You know what is the hardest verse to believe in the whole Bible? It’s the very first verse: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ If that verse is true, then every other verse is at least possible.”

I’d also recommend, if you’re thinking about miracles, or you’ve thought, “I don’t know if I can believe, because of miracles,” Craig Keener, who is a highly acclaimed New Testament scholar, has put forth a two-volume work on miracles, and it is absolutely amazing. Highly evidential miracles, he goes through in great detail.

Prophecies Which Could Have Been Orchestrated

Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

[Karen]  Thanks, Dave. OK, with that foundation laid, I think it’d be good to start with some of the prophecies that people say could have been orchestrated. This has always struck me as interesting. On the one hand, people will say, “Anybody could have ridden into town on a donkey,” right? [6]  While this is true, it sometimes makes people miss seeing the whole event  from another significant angle.

Jesus was very familiar with the Old Testament prophecies and teachings. He even said that every jot and tittle would be fulfilled [7]. To me, when I look at this prophecy of Jesus riding into town on a donkey, it reminds me that Jesus had self-awareness; He knew who he was. He understood himself to be the Messiah. I think we need to establish the fact that Jesus wasn’t just a teacher who was made later by others to be divine. It is important for people who study Jesus to look at His words, what He claimed, how He understood his divinity, and how He actually saw Himself and what He declared of Himself.

[D.M.] I agree, it is important when you study the life of Jesus to take a look at how He viewed Himself. C.S. Lewis famously said that He was either a Liar, He was a Lunatic, or He was the Lord.

[Karen]  That’s exactly right. Jesus had predicted His death and Resurrection. He knew when He came in on that donkey, He was telling everybody plainly that He was the fulfillment of that prophecy.

Another famous scene I think about is when Jesus is in the synagogue; He rises up to read from the scroll of Isaiah. He starts reading in what is now chapter 61 in our Bibles and reads:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”[8].

Jesus in the synagogue declares He is the Messiah

The people are furious because they know exactly what He was saying and who He was claiming to be. They also knew full well that the passage He had just read was talking about the Messiah who was to come. This is more evidence that Jesus knew who He was and had a self-understanding of His divinity and mission.

The other passage that has always struck me as very profound is when He is talking to the woman at the well. I will quote the end of their conversation: “The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you—I am he’” [9]. This is a clear pronouncement of Him stating who He was, again showing His self-awareness.

[D.M.]  I think the two passages that I like on this subject are when He tells them that He is “I am.” I’ll read an excerpt:

“‘Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?’ Jesus replied, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.’ ’You are not yet fifty years old,’ they said to him, ‘and you have seen Abraham!’ ’Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’” [10]

That’s in the 8th chapter of John. They knew that He was stating that He was God who spoke to Moses in the burning bush. They saw this as blasphemy.

The most powerful thing in my mind, is the conversation He has with Pilate:

“‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” [11]

He mixes phrases from Psalm 110 and Daniel chapter 7. This is the part where I look at what C.S. Lewis said, that we were talking about before, and you can rule out liar. Liars make poor martyrs. You just do not die for something you know to be a lie. We have all kinds of crazy people in the world, and they might die for a lie that they think is true. But you don’t die for something you KNOW to be false. Jesus clearly viewed himself as the Messiah.

[Karen]  Exactly. This is good. We have established now with these numerous references, that Jesus understood himself to be the Son of God. Now, let’s dive into some of the different areas of prophecy and fulfillment.

Prophecies that Could Not Be Orchestrated

I would like to remind our listeners that when we conducted our archaeology cast and talked about the Dead Sea Scrolls, we talked about how they gave us some empirical data that could be shown to pre-date Christ, which had the Old Testament prophecies [dated] prior to His lifetime. So we know that they couldn’t have been written after Jesus.

We talked about prophecies that would be very difficult to orchestrate, and others that would be impossible.

Also, in our prior cast about undesigned coincidences, [link here] Dave mentioned that the data—all taken together—had a “cumulative force.”

Lots of these prophecies to me seem the same way also. If you look at one after another after another of things that would be extremely difficult to orchestrate, it seems to become ridiculous to insist that they were orchestrated, especially when we add on the other prophecies that would be impossible to orchestrate and other overwhelming evidences, including those of the Resurrection which we also addressed a priori. As we have shown already in this cast, things that were easily orchestrated simply show a conscious understanding on the part of Jesus as to who He was and what He needed to do. So, all of that said, let’s start off by discussing prophecies about the lineage and birth of Jesus.

[D.M.]  This is one of those areas that would have obviously be impossible to orchestrate. What your ancestry would be as well as where you would be born. Let’s look at a few passages. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” [12]. Also the prophet Micah prophesied that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” [13].

We also know that there were other prophecies that surrounded his youth. Like the flight to Egypt [prophesied in Hosea] [14].We then see the fulfillment in Matthew:

“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’”  [15]

If you look at these different passages, on the one side in the Old Testament, and then at their fulfillment in the New Testament, it’s pretty hard to see how all of this could have been orchestrated. And that’s what I love about reading Matthew: you can just about randomly put your finger down and you won’t be too far away from Jesus saying, and this was done so that the scripture may be fulfilled; He really points that out.

In terms of lineage, it had been prophesied in the Old Testament that the Messiah would come from the Lineage of David:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’” [16]

And the term “branch” is often correlated with the Messiah. People talk about the root of the stem of Jesse, and that he would come from David. So we see Jesus referred to all over the place in the New Testament as ‘Son of David.’ In the New Testament, there was recognition that He was from that lineage.

Joseph and Mary travelling to Bethlehem.

These are things that Jesus couldn’t have controlled: His ancestry and where He would be born.

[We even see Jesus referred to as  “Son of David” many times in the New Testament [17]. So there was a recognition that this was his lineage.]

Prophecies About Jesus’ Death

[Karen]  For sure. Since there are so many prophecies about Jesus, we could easily do a whole series of casts addressing them alone. I do, though, want to touch on some of the prophecies about His death, and get your thoughts as well, Dave.

We have some prophecies that His hands and feet would be pierced [18]. It is interesting that this psalm is traditionally attributed to David. He is talking about an aspect of the crucifixion. Crucifixion was not even used until a few centuries after this prophecy. We also have details that He would be crucified with criminals [19], that He would be given vinegar to drink [20]. All of these things happened and were fulfilled. Isaiah is so profound and just dead on with his prophecies of Jesus. I mean, how do you explain that, other than they were really prophetic? I want to read the most famous of all passages in terms of those that prophecy about the coming of the Messiah, found in Isaiah:

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. [21]

You may be familiar with that passage in Isaiah 53. This is amazing to just read and see how it corresponds with what took place with Jesus. I would recommend if you are listening to this podcast to read those verses. In this passage, it becomes very clear who Isaiah is talking about.

[D.M.]  Yeah, that’s right. I was reading a book just the other day, and the author of that book was putting forward that from his estimation, there were 127 personal Messianic predictions that were found in 3,348 verses of the Old Testament. There are all kinds of different prophecy woven into the Old Testament. If we just summarize some of these things that can’t be orchestrated:

  • Where you’re going to be born;

  • Who your ancestors are going to be;

  • Or how you’re going to die—aside from taking your own life, you can’t decide how somebody’s going to put you to death;

  • That your bones would not be broken;

  • How you would be buried;

  • That you’d be given vinegar to drink;

  • That your hands and feet would be pierced;

  • That soldiers would gamble for your clothing.

These are all things that you could never orchestrate.

Prophecies and the Principle of Embarrassment

The other thing if weave in here what we’ve talked about a few times before, is the principle of embarrassment. You would never, in that society, in the first century, create a Messiah figure in that culture who would be hung up on a tree and crucified. The Old Testament specifically says, “Cursed is one who is hung on a tree” [22]. They didn’t get it. You read that passage we read earlier, in Isaiah, the bulk of the people thought He was being punished for His sins; not everybody understood what was really going on. And Christians of course now realize what that meant—He was actually under the curse of our sin that He was overcoming. But you wouldn’t make up that kind of Messiah figure if you were trying to get converts. You wouldn’t make up somebody who was going to be killed like that. They thought of a conquering Messiah, not a sacrificial Messiah. For me, that kind of puts it beyond doubt.

The First and Second Temples

Here are some really powerful prophecies to think about as well. So we’ve got all these things that, when put together, could not have just reasonably happened by chance.

In 2nd Chronicles chapter seven, the Lord says that basically if the sin reaches a certain level then the temple would be destroyed [23], and the people would be exiled and he would leave them in a state of judgment. Then in Daniel 9, there’s a revelation about the temple being rebuilt, and a new temple is built; and the second temple would bring an everlasting Atonement [24]. It talks about the second temple being destroyed which would bring an everlasting Atonement. Haggai said the glory of the second temple would be greater than the first temple [25]. And the glory of God—that God would fill it with his glory.

So that’s interesting if you think about it. We also have Malachi, who says that the Lord would come to His temple [26]. So if you think about it for a minute, this goes beyond the fact that these prophecies  were highly unlikely, or mathematically improbable, but it also means that the Atonement had to happen before the temple was destroyed: basically, those verses that we’ve read add up to that. That there would be a second temple; that its glory would be greater than that of the first temple. People look at that a say, how could that be? It’s because the Messiah himself stood in that temple, that’s why there was a greater glory.

If you look at all of these things, the Messiah had to come before 70 C.E. This means if Jesus isn’t the Jewish Messiah, then nobody is. He’s the only candidate who fits the profile, within the deadline, and fulfills all the prophecies. And it’s just so interesting  to me.

Here’s something I’ve just found fascinating: even the rabbinic tradition which is preserved in the Talmud, says on the Day of Atonement, there were three different signs that the animal sacrifice offered by the high priest had been accepted by God as an atonement given for the nation. In the years when the sign would come up negative, everyone would have shame, and they’d mourn to God, because God hadn’t accepted their sacrifice. Then it said—and this is the interesting part—that the last 40 years before the second temple was destroyed, the sign was negative every time.

If Jesus died around 30 or 33 C.E.—for all the years after that, the sign came up that their sacrifice was not accepted. Why would this be? It would be because the Atonement had been made by Jesus, just like the scriptures have prophesied. So when you look at it, it’s unreasonable to postulate that this all could have happened just by chance [27].

And as we brought up just in passing, in the overview cast, Dr. Peter Stoner, a professor of mathematics, he looked at this just from the perspective of mathematical probability, took just a few of these prophecies, and was able to show that it really equates to a statistical improbability that this all could have happened just by chance [28].

[Karen]  Overwhelming evidence. There are so many lines of evidence with the Bible that we could show. I want to emphasize that while evidence should never replace our faith, and that we do really need to directly inquire of God as we read the scriptures, it is important for us to be armed with information and knowledge which shows that our faith is rational. If you are a believer in the Bible, I would echo what Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be ready to have an reason for the hope that is in you.” If you are on the fence or skeptical of these things, I would encourage you to consider the evidence that has been put forth in this podcast series. I would love to hear from you; Dave would love to hear from you.

High-Level Summary of Our Series

I will just summarize at a high level: We have talked about the following truths:

  • The Bible is corroborated by extra-biblical non-Christian sources that give us facts that are congruent with the New Testament storyline;

  • We have over 120 facts about Jesus outside the New Testament;

  • The Bible is the most attested book from antiquity, with over 2.6 million pages of hand-copied text before the printing press;

  • Within the Bible, there are numerous events, societies, cultures, and individuals which are attested by archaeology, and that corroborate the Bible;

  • The Bible stands up to critical methods applied to the texts of antiquity as well as any other book;

  • We showed how the gospels have been shown to be based on eyewitness testimony by methods to establish authorship;

  • We reviewed facts commonly accepted by even the most critical of scholars which are best explained by the Resurrection;

  • We also looked at coincidences from individual authors that couldn’t have been designed, which support the accounts;

  • We have shown that the prophecies about Jesus which were fulfilled by Him could not have been reasonably fulfilled in or by any other person.

I want to thank our special guest and author D.M. Johnson for being here with us. I also want to witness to you listeners that Jesus is the Christ; He is the Messiah that was predicted would come. I hope as you contemplate these evidences you will come to the realization, through study and prayer, that this faith is based on evidence. Thank you for joining us on I Believe Podcast! Thanks, Dave.

[D.M] Thanks.

Additional Episodes

20 Millennials Express Faith in a Shifting Culture

3 Fallen Notions About the Fall

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Sources:

1.Tacitus, Annals 4.81.

2. Suetonius, Twelve Caesars, Vespasian 7.2.

3. Josephus, Antiquities 14:22.

4. Y. Taanit 3:8–9 66d, in Neusner 1987:226.

5. http://www.classicapologetics.com/special/humefumes.html  (accessed 02/11/2014). http://www.classicapologetics.com/special/humefumes.html

6. Zech 9:9

7. Zech 9:9

8. Luke 14:21

9. John 4:25-26

10. John 8:53-58 NIV

11. Mark 14:61-62 NIV

12. Isaiah 7:14

13. Micah 5:2

14. Hosea 11:1

15. Matthew 2:13-15

16. Jeremiah 23:5-6

17. Matthew 20:30-31; 9:27; 21:9; 21:15

18. Zechariah 12:10, Psalm 22:16

19. Isaiah 53:12

20. Psalm 69:21

21. Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV

22. Deuteronomy 21:23

23. 2 Chronicles 7:19-22

24. Daniel 9:24

25. Haggai 2:6-9

26. Malachi 3:1-5

27. Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 39a.

28. Peter W. Stoner (November 2005). “Prophetic Accuracy”. Science Speaks. Revised and HTML formatted by Don W. Stoner. Retrieved 9 Feb 2007.

 

 

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