Messianic Prophecies

Introduction

The New Testament reports what Jesus said on the road to Emmaus with two disciples (Luke 24:27):

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. 

John 20:9 also records that:

For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

On this topic, the Messianic prophecies argument is as follows: 

P1. Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecies 

P2. This is either due to chance, or the prophecies being written at a later date, or because Jesus was the prophesied Messiah.

P3. Jesus fulfilling the Messianic prophecies was not due to chance

P4. The prophecies were not written at a later date

C. Therefore Jesus was the prophesied Messiah

Details below. 

P1. Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecies

This premise argues that Jesus did actually fulfil ancient scriptures and writings which are interpreted as Messianic prophecies.

The important question here is ​which scriptures actually are Messianic. Alfred Edersheim has said:

A careful perusal of their [the Rabbi’s] Scripture quotations shows that the main postulates of the New Testament concerning the Messiah are fully supported by Rabbinic statements 1

Even though the number is debatable, the exact number would still be very high as Bible scholar William Varner has said:

Regarding the specific number of promises about the Messiah, there is a wide divergence of opinion. Rabbinical writings refer to 456 separate Old Testament passages used to refer to the Messiah and messianic times (Edersheim, 710-41). One Christian scholar lists 127 personal messianic prophecies (Payne, 667-68). The differences are due to the way in which the New Testament refers to the Old Testament promises. There are direct messianic prophecies (e.g., Micah 5:2; Zech. 9:9); typical messianic prophecies, utilizing an immediate referent in the prophet’s day which pointed to the ultimate referent (e.g., the sacrificial levitical system); and applications of Old Testament concepts to the Messiah (e.g., the reference Matthew 2:23 makes to the prophets saying: “He will be called a Nazarene.”) If we limit ourselves to the direct messianic prophecies just mentioned, a conservative number would be around 65 2

Some examples from the Old Testament: 

He would be preceded by a messenger (Malachi 3:1)

Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.

He would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9)

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

See also:

From the Apocrypha, The Book of Wisdom 2:12-20

12: Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training.

13: He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord.

14: He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;

15: the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange.

16: We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father.

17: Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;

18: for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.

19: Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance.

20: Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.

From the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Messianic Apocalypse (4Q521):

the heavens and the earth will listen to His Messiah, and none therein will stray from the commandments of the holy ones [saints]. . . .

Over the poor [humble] His spirit will hover and will renew the faithful with His power. And He will glorify the pious on the throne of the eternal Kingdom. He who liberates the captives, restores sight to the blind, straightens the bent [or lifts up those who are oppressed]. . . .

For He will heal the wounded, and revive [raise] the dead and bring good news to the poor. . . .

He will lead the uprooted and make the hungry rich

From the Book of Mormon (3):

The time of his birth (1 Ne. 10:4

Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews—even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world.

The time of his birth (Helaman 14:2)

And behold, he said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name

Jerusalem and Nazareth (1 Ne. 11:13)

And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.

His mother’s identity (Mosiah 3:8)

And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.

The manner and location of his baptism by John the Baptist (1 Ne. 10:7-10)

7 And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord—

8 Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.

9 And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.

10 And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world.

His miracles and teachings (1 Ne. 11:28-31)

28 And I beheld that he went forth ministering unto the people, in power and great glory; and the multitudes were gathered together to hear him; and I beheld that they cast him out from among them.

29 And I also beheld twelve others following him. And it came to pass that they were carried away in the Spirit from before my face, and I saw them not.

30 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the heavens open again, and I saw angels descending upon the children of men; and they did minister unto them.

31 And he spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; and the angel spake and showed all these things unto me. And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.

His Atonement (Mosiah 3:7).

And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.

He would rise on the third day (2 Ne. 25:13)

Behold, they will crucify him; and after he is laid in a sepulchre for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings; and all those who shall believe on his name shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Wherefore, my soul delighteth to prophesy concerning him, for I have seen his day, and my heart doth magnify his holy name.

He would appear to many (Alma 16:20).

And many of the people did inquire concerning the place where the Son of God should come; and they were taught that he would appear unto them after his resurrection; and this the people did hear with great joy and gladness.

P2. This is either due to chance, or the prophecies being written at a later date, or because Jesus was the prophesied Messiah.

There appears to be no other options, however the argument should be extended if more options are considered.

P3. Jesus fulfilling the Messianic prophecies was not due to chance

The odds that Jesus happened to fulfil the Messianic prophecies are so outrageous that this claim seems untenable.

P4. The prophecies were not written at a later date

Old Testament:

The books in the Old Testament were all written at different dates​ however it is greatly agreed that they were written before the time of Christ. 

Dead Sea Scrolls:

The Messianic Apocalypse (4Q521) is believed to have been copied in the first century BC.

Book of Mormon

Even though the Book of Mormon was translated in 1830, the best explanation for the origin of the book is that it was a translation of an ancient record.

C. Therefore Jesus was the prophesied Messiah

If the argument is valid and the first two options are ruled out then the conclusion is that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

  1. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, one volume edition (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1972), 165.[]
  2. William Varner, The Messiah: Revealed, Rejected, Received (Bloomington, Ind.: Author House, 2004), 7.[]