One of the best ways to confirm the Christian faith is through prophecies in the Old Testament fulfilled in Christ. As I read through certain portions of the Old Testament I can’t help but be amazed at the evident hand of God in the composition of these Scriptures.

God tells the Israelites, who were continually toying in henotheism (i.e. one main God and many lesser gods), to bring these so-called gods into account by making them tell what would happen in the future. In this mocking of other gods, God called on them to prophesy.

“Bring your idols so that they might tell us what is going to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, that we may know their outcome; or declare to us the things to come.” (Isa 41:22)

The idea goes like this: God, by definition, is transcendent. God created all things, including time. Therefore, God, in his essence, does not reside in any part of his creation, including the parameters of time. Therefore, he alone has exhaustive knowledge of the future out of necessity. No other created thing has innate access to this kind of knowledge—not man, angels, demons, or Satan. God alone knows the future. Therefore, any consistently accurate prediction of future events must come from him. If the Bible accurately predicts future events in detail, we must pause and consider the implications.

Most evangelicals are well aware of this. We have some very popular defenses of the faith that consistently use prophecy to convince others that Christ is God’s son. I am certainly not against this at all. As I said, this is very convincing to me as well. There are certain passages about Christ that stand out more than any other. Isaiah 53 of course. The entire chapter looks as if it was written after Christ’s death, yet it was written 700 years before. We even have scrolls of Isaiah that date at least 150 years before Christ. As well, the book of Daniel. Specifically, I look at Daniel chapter 9. This is not an easy chapter to understand, but once grasped it very convincingly predicts when Christ would die over 400 years later. (The best book to pick up on this subject is Harold Hoehner’s Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ).

There are many others that stand out. However, I think that we Christians should be careful concerning which prophecies we include in our apologetic arsenal. While we look at the Old Testament and see Christ in prophecy, imagery, foreshadowing, and typology, we look at it though our beliefs that are already in place. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, for us Christians it is very exciting to begin to see Christ everywhere in the Old Testament.

However, there is a problem. There are certain “prophesies” about Christ in the Old Testament that need to be distinguished from those we use for evangelistic/apologetic purposes. In other words, there are certain prophecies that carry great and convincing weight, but others are of less apologetic value.


1. Isaiah 7:14: Born of a virgin.

I often hear people using Isaiah 7:14 as definitive proof that Christ was the Messiah.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Why shouldn’t we use it? Matthew did (Matt. 1:22-23). The problem is that when we look at that passage in Isaiah, the original context does not look like a predictive prophecy about the Messiah, but an immediate prophecy (“sign”) given to Ahaz concerning his current national predicament. Read the entire chapter and you will see what I mean. The prophecy must have been fulfilled in Ahaz time in order for it to have any relevance or make any sense.

Besides all of this, in the original Hebrew, the word used here, almah, simply means “young woman.” It may be supposed that most young women were virgins, but in the original context, the miracle was not that Ahaz would see an actual virgin with a child, but that his enemies would be defeated by the time the child (maybe Isaiah’s child yet to be born) reached a certain age.

We Christians see a sort of “foreshadowing” or typological prophecy that extends on the nuance of the word “young woman” due to the circumstances of the Christ advent. Post-Christ, we see this as a reference to Christ’s virgin conception. However, for the skeptic, this can be easy dismissed due to the context and the meaning of almah.

2. Zech 12:10: Piercing of Christ’s side

Christians rightly see a reference to the piercing of Christ in the words of Zechariah.

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.

However, outside of Christian circles, this does not look like a prediction of the piercing at the cross at all. It simply looks like God referring to his own “piercing” which could have any number of meanings, all of which point to Israel abandoning God and the ensuing pain. Isreal will recognize God whom they have hurt after he restores them in the future. Christians simply take the “piercing” literally since Christ (God) was pierced.

3. Psalm 22:16: Piercing of Christ’s hands and feet.

Another passage that we see some details of Christ’s death is Psalm 22:16.

“Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.”

Again, while Christians have a lens through which we interpret this passage, others do not. It is very hard to get Christ’s crucifixion out of the original context which is David’s situation. It is even harder to qualify this as a predictive prophecy as there is no indication that David is talking about anyone but himself. David is calling out to God for help as his enemies are overwhelming him. David’s hands and feet have been pierced (metaphorically or literally). We Christians see Christ in this, and rightly so. It is a foreshadowing typology of what Christ would endure on the cross. However, from the skeptics perspective, this is normally going to carry very little weight as the original context answers all their questions.

4. Psalm 34:20: No bones of Christ will be broken

In a proverbial statement about the righteous, the Psalmist says this:

“He [God] protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.”

Once again, Christians see a reference to Christ’s crucifixion. Remember, the soldiers come to break his legs so that he will die before dark and find that he is already dead. John uniquely sees this as a fulfillment of the Psalm (Jn 19:36).

However, once again, the original context of the Psalm is not a predictive prophecy about Christ. While the Christian’s faith will cause them to see Christ in this section of the Old Testament, those outside have no obligation to see this as anything other than a proverbial reference to God’s protection of the righteous.

There are many others that I could cover here, but these will suffice. I pray that no one is misreading me here. I am not saying that these passages are not about Christ in a very real sense. I believe they are. All I am saying is that we need to be careful to distinguish between those prophecies that are truly predictive and apologetically more useful and those that are typological references that carry weight and significance only for those who are already believers.

It was Theodore of Mopsuestia (Theodore the Interpreter), on of the great Antiochians of the fourth-century, who first encouraged Christians to distinguish between predictive prophecy and typology. I am afraid that in our zeal to be good apologetic students, we often don’t think through these things as well as we should and end up looking rather naive.

Teach people about Christ from the Old Testament. Use the Old Testament to show the legitimacy of Christ. Let us just be careful to qualify what we say, understanding that unbelievers are not always going to see the same things. I think that this will make our defense of the faith more substantial.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    76 replies to "The Problem of using Old Testament Prophecy to Defend Christ"

    • Carl D'Agostino

      Old Testament text speaks for itself. The issue here is not the prophecy. The issue is that the Gospels are redacted to adjust life and teaching of Jesus so as to fit the prophesy to validate Him as the Jews.

      This was one reasons for disputes between Paul and Peter. His lineage in Mathew with all the begets is to certify Jesus’s link back to David and Abraham. For Paul, all this is nonsense because the Law, prophesy, etc., all irrelevant. The risen Christ and the path for redemption is all that matters. Paul never refers to the life of Jesus, but focuses on nature of His teachings. This is because he may not have had access to the gospels(they were being rewritten and designed for half a century)or probably since his life was already known by contemporaries or because he felt His life was secondary to the majesty of the Resurrection.

    • Ken Pulliam


      Good post. I think a problem that you face, however, is that the NT, which you take to be inspired, does misuse and misapply prophecies from the OT to Jesus. You mentioned Matthew’s referring to the Isaiah 7 passage. Another example is Matthew 2:15 referring to Hosea 11:1. The fact is that most of the prophecies cited by the NT writers as being fulfilled in Jesus are, in my opinion, taken out of their OT context. It reflects a hermeneutic which would be rejected by most evangelicals today.

    • Ken Pulliam

      Another relevant point, if I may, the prophecies in the OT were not really recognizable as prophecies until after they were fulfilled. For example, the Jews did not take Isa 53 to refer to the Messiah. What good is a prophecy if you cannot tell its a prophecy until after its fulfilled? And perhaps the fulfillment is a stretch in much the same way people find fulfillments of Nostradamus’ prophecies.

    • Hodge

      “For example, the Jews did not take Isa 53 to refer to the Messiah.”

      Ken, are you joking? Did you just pull this out of nowhere? The Targums, the rabbis, the DSS all attribute Isa 52-53 to the Messiah. Later Jews do not, much much later.

    • Ken Pulliam


      Are you saying that the Jews expected the Messiah to suffer and die?

    • EricW

      The fact is that most of the prophecies cited by the NT writers as being fulfilled in Jesus are, in my opinion, taken out of their OT context. It reflects a hermeneutic which would be rejected by most evangelicals today.

      Why would Christians reject a hermeneutic of the Old Testament that the authors of the Christian Scriptures used when reading and interpreting the Old Testament?

    • Ed Kratz


      You are right. Most evangelicals who practice some sort of authorial intent hermeneutics will and should scratch their head at how Matthew interprets the Old Testament. I teach a class on this very thing where we discuss all the options.

      We come down to four possible paths that we can take as believers:
      1. Matthew was using Pesher (a common form of interpretation mostly found among the Qumran community) and it was correct, and believers should follow suit. (This ends up with a sort of newspaper eschatology).
      2. Matthew was using Pesher and, although it was wrong, God, though inspiration, blessed the conclusions anyway. Therefore, we should not follow Matthew’s method of interpretation.
      3. Matthew, by the guidence of the Holy Spirit, was able to see a second layer of meaning in these passages. We should look for second layers as well (which, was very characteristic of the church of the 2-3rd centuries).
      4. “”We should not look for these second layers since we are not guided by the Holy Spirit.
      5. Matthew was using a typological fulfillment in which he saw the entire Old Testament as a foreshadowing of Christ. The use of the word pleroma (“fulfilled”) is very losely used (i.e. “a typological fulfillment”). Therefore, Matthew was correct, but he was not illustrating how we are to interpret the Scriptures (even if we do have liberty to see Christ).

      I lean toward number 5, but also have little problem with #2. I always have a problem with any interpretation that mandates a search for hidden secret meanings.

    • phil_style

      Carl D’Agostino, highlights the key constraint: how much of the NT was written/ moulded to “fit” to Judaic prophecy about the messiah?

      Although, If Pauls’ quibble with Peter really was about Abrahamic/prophetic descent, then does this suggest that Peter was of the opinion that Jesus really did have such descent/ prophetic provenance? And if Peter, who all NT writers agree was “close” to Jesus, thought that of Jesus then does that lend evidence to supporting the provenance?

    • Hodge


      Why do you think the Qumran community thought there were two Messiahs? But earlier Rabbis applied this text to the Messiah without seeing the death as something they thought would happen to him literally. They thought he would be rejected by the nations and made sick, but then all would fall and bow before him. But most of them saw this as Messianic and that the Messiah would intercede for the sins of his people (cf. Tg. Jonathan). It was later interpreters, like Rashi and Kimchi, who did not apply the text to the Messiah due to a polemical stance against Christian interpretations.

      Michael, I think that there are probably more options, including ones that combine and leave out certain elements. BTW, there is value in seeing the “hidden meaning” in that words have both lexical referents within a text and external referents without. I think this explains the thinking of plain and cryptic meanings in Second Temple and patristic readings.

    • EricW

      Are the problematic ways the NT authors used the OT Scriptures a reason the rabbis said that the Gospels do not “defile the hands”?;col1

      Or was it the heretical subject matter of the Gospels themselves that caused the books to be labeled “not inspired”?

    • Cadis

      It was not an after working of a vague prophecy that a messiah was known to be coming. They were waiting. Maybe it could be said that many of the prophecies were not clearly seen, by some, that they were pointing to Jesus of Nazareth. But some did see. Mary knew. Zacharias (John’s father) knew. Anna knew. Even Herod in around about way understood that Jesus was a serious enough threat and contender for the crown by the criteria of his lineage and manner of his birth. John the Baptist knew that Jesus would die, “Behold the lamb” what else could John have been thinking other than sacrifice. Just because not everyone could see it, does not mean it was not clearly there. I don’t think it can be said that it was only afterward that these prophesies were recognized to be speaking about Jesus. It became clearer afterward and with hindsight, sure. It is not one individual prophecy but it is so many prophesies and types and pictures, the many together have never been met by another claimant and never will be met by any other claimant then Jesus (the)Christ. He made the claim and he met the criteria is the bigger picture. if you don’t believe you need a savior or that the OT was speaking about a savior to come then nothing will convince that person Jesus is the savior and messiah who the OT prophets predicted.
      I guess what I’m trying to say is the prophesies mean nothing unless you believe God enough to first be looking for a savior. If that makes sense. The prophesies are not for defending Christ but they do present and legitimize that he is the Christ. If that makes sense 🙂

    • Ken Pulliam


      The Qumran community was a hermetic community and didn’t have much external influence. Also, they had some really strange beliefs, you can’t just cherry-pick what you like from them.

      Re: Isa. 53, Origen writing in 248 CE said the consensus of the Jews of his day ws that Isa. 53 “bore reference to the whole [Jewish] people, regarded as one individual, and as being in a state of dispersion and suffering” (Origen, Contra Celsum, Chadwick, Henry; Cambridge Press, book 1, chapter 55, page 50).

      The majority view among the Jews it seems was that the Suffering Servant was the nation of Israel. It is a well known fact that if one who claimed to be the Messiah was killed, as many of them were in ancient times, that was proof-positive that the person was not the Messiah. It would have been the same with regard to Jesus except for those who believed in the resurrection. I quote fromN. T. Wright:“A first-century Jew, faced with the crucifixion of a would-be messiah, or even of a prophet who had led a significant following, would not normally conclude that this person was the Messiah and that the kingdom had come. He or she would normally conclude that he was not and that it had not. There were, to be sure, several variations on Jewish messianic belief in this period. None of them envisaged a Messiah who would die at the hands of the pagans. On the contrary, where Jewish expectations of a Messiah did exist, they regularly possessed a dual focus. In a line of tradition stretching from David to Bar-Kochba, including the Maccabees and Herod, we find that the king would have to defeat the pagans, and that he would have to rebuild (or at least to cleanse) the Temple. . . . If a messiah was killed by the pagans, especially if he had not rebuilt the Temple or liberated Israel, that was the surest sign that he was another in the long line of false messiahs.”

    • Ken Pulliam


      It seems that all of those options are problematic. With your preferred #5 you’ve got the Scripture writer using a hermeneutic which would be inappropriate for you to use today. Even though you say the Scripture writer was right in how he interpreted. How can it be right for him but not for you?

      With #2 you’ve got the Scripture writer erring in how he interprets the OT but God blesses it anyway. I am not sure what kind of ramifications that has for inerrancy but I don’t think they are good.

    • Hodge


      Among all beliefs in the Second Temple world, the Qumran community and the NT have the most commonality, which indicates that the apostles, having been a part of a broad spectrum of first century Judaism, shared some beliefs with them. Regardless, however, your claim is that the Jews did not take Isa 53 as referring to the Messiah because of what Origen said? What about the Rabbis? What about the Targums? I’m sure the particular Jews with which Origen and other apologists are arguing may make these arguments, but larger Judaism did see Isa 52-53 as speaking of the Messiah. I agree with Wright about the death issue, but that wasn’t the point we were arguing.

    • Renju Philip

      Like to put these verses about Lord Jesus explaining about Himself and Paul preaching on Acts

      Luke 24:26-27 “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

      Acts 28:23 When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. , has list of prophecies

      About virgin birth

    • Jeffrey

      Daniel 9? Really?

      To debunk this one, you don’t even have to look for skeptics rebuttals to see that interpreters are making up a meaning and pretending that Daniel meant it. All you have to do is look at what different *Christians* say it means.

      Just google “seventy weeks daniel” or something similar. Not counting wikipedia, the top six are Christian sites explaining how to translate Daniel’s vague statements into clear English. No two do it in the same way!

      Does the time period start with 444 BC, 445 BC, 440 BC, or 457 BC? Is the time period from rebuilding Jerusalem until Jesus all 70 weeks, just the 62 weeks, or the 62 + 7 = 69 weeks? Is it one day = one year, or do we use “biblical” months = 30 days, and fudge one day into 360 days like Josh McDowell does? Is the ending time Palm Sunday in 27 AD, 33 AD, or 34 AD, or Jesus birth in 6 BC?

      Yet, miraculously, all six “interpretations” manage to pick combinations of these that show the prophesy to be accurate to the year, or in McDowell’s case, down to the exact day. This lead me to be impressed with peoples’ ability to twist the Bible until it says what they want. I can’t say I’m too impressed with Daniel’s prophetic ability.

      Re: Isaiah 53

      53:5 “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities”

      When was Jesus crushed? If a big deal is made out of Jesus’ side being pieced, it seems like a big deal should be made out of Jesus not being crushed.

      53:7: “Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.”

      I can see the like a lamb that is led to slaughter comparison. I don’t see the shearers one quite as much. The no opening His mouth part seems to exclude a quite lengthy prayer the night before, it seems to exclude the dialogue with Pilate, and it seems to exclude dialogue and a yell while on the cross.

    • Boz

      how can daniel be written 400+ years before jesus’ death, when it was written around ~165bc ?

    • John Brien

      Dear Michael,
      I am so pleased that you have undertaken this analysis!
      The ‘prophetic’ aspects of the OT have troubled me greatly!
      I listened to an interview between John Dickson and the Bishop of Durham recently and found some of the material helpful.
      As the Bishop said, there were two ‘concepts’ in circulation perhaps 800 years before the birth of Christ
      (i) We have the concept of a Warrior-King Messih who would
      rule with a ‘rod of iron’
      (ii)We have the suffering ‘martyr ‘ type who was depicted as a servant – but who was NOT messiah.
      The good bishop said that Christ was thoroughy familiar with this material and in Mark 10 he brings the concepts together. In effect Christ combining both concepts to say that he is the SUFFERING MESSIAH.
      This makes sense to me – and would have made sense to the people at the time – especially the Jews.
      In effect Isaiah 53 and other OT scriptures set the background against which Christs experiences could be ‘superimposed’. This will not satifry the ‘literalists’ among us – but it’s the only explanation which makes sense to me.
      You mention Isaiah 7 verse 14 … my ‘take’ on this is the same as yours. The name Emmanuel was to be a sign that a certain decision was appropriate and the name would indicate that “God would be with” this decision. Of course Christ was never referred to as Emmanuel.. My friends have come up with a new idea -“Double Prophesy” although there was no statement that this verse was ‘for then and now’. Were there TWO virgin births ? I think not!
      Another verse that troubles me is Isaiah 9.v5. The NAB Bible has gone to great lengths to get this one ‘right’ and translate it in the RIGHT TENSE and appropriate words. Their ‘footnote’ explains the context well.
      THe interview between John Dickson and the BIshop of Durham is worth watching. It is in a DVD called the ‘Christ Files’
      Every Blessing
      John Brien

    • bethyada

      Michael, the idea that if virgin had been intended then bethulah would have been used over almah is not clear cut. We are limited in what Hebrew words we have available, and a good argument can be made that if a virgin is intended in the passage, then almah is the best option there is. And the Greek translation used the word virgin prior to Jesus’ birth.

    • John Brien

      Dear Michael
      Matthew 27 vv5-10 are a good example where it is difficult to
      decipher the truth.
      You will notice that the incident being referred to appears again in Acts 1 verses 18 and 19.
      The details differ although there are two things in common
      (i) The field was paid for by the fruits of Judas’s betrayal
      (ii) The name of the field – The Field of Blood.
      The OT cross references are also puzzling – certainly NOT prophetic
      Jeremiah 18 v 2&3 ” I went to the potters house and he was working at the wheel
      Jeremiah 32 verses 6-15 in which the Prophet bought a field from his cousin for 7 silver sheckels
      Zarchariah 11 verse 12&13 makes reference to 30 pieces of silver-but the context is wrong
      Matthews reference to Jeremiahs prophesies is puzzling, since he made no such statements.
      Best Wishes

    • Ken Pulliam


      You say that N.T. Wright’s point about the Jews not looking for a Messiah who would die is irrelevant to the Isa. 53 discussion. How can it be? If the Jews of Jesus day interpreted Isa. 53 as referring to the Messiah as you claim, then they should have been expecting a dying Messiah. Wright’s point refutes your claim about Isa 53

    • JD Longmire

      For a Christian, the NT is the definitive guide to any interpretation of the OT. If the NT writer contextualized a text as prophetic, then it is.

      The NT text is authoritative over and above contemporary critique.

      To have any other approach is arrogant and blasphemous.

    • Lynda O

      I agree with Ken, above, that all five of your options are problematic. As to the observations regarding Isaiah 7, I would suggest there is another way to understand that prophecy, that it is not merely talking about Isaiah’s wife the prophetess, but even the original prophecy has reference to the future Messiah, and that Isaiah had in mind the future virgin birth of the Messiah.

      S. Lewis Johnson, among others, points out the following:
      1. The Greek word for virgin means young woman or maiden, but that is used throughout the OT to refer to a young, virgin, unmarried woman. That word is never used to refer to a married woman. It cannot be a reference to Isaiah’s wife.
      To quote SLJ: “in no case is it ever a reference to a married woman in the Old Testament. In some cases, it is clearly a reference to a virgin. In other cases, it is impossible to tell which, but never does it refer to a married woman. So I would gather from this that we are to take it in the sense in which it plainly appears in the passages in which we are uncertain. And that it refers to virgin.”
      2. The name of the child, Emmanuel — means “God with us”
      3. The sign is not given merely to Ahaz — it is given to the “house of David.” The sign is not just given to Ahaz, and not just given to Isaiah – it has reference to the whole line of the house of David and the promise given in the Davidic covenant, the line to which Ahaz belonged

      See also this blog from several months ago, with more detail as to this understanding of Isaiah 7.

    • Hodge


      No, it doesn’t. Here’s where your confused. The Jews did connect Isa 52-53 to the Messiah. They thought it was referring to him. However, they did not make the connections, except in certain communities like those in Qumran, that he would die. So, yes, they should have believed that he would, but they didn’t, largely because that seemed irreconcilable with the fact that he was to reign supreme. Hence, that dominant image did not allow them to see that he would die. They thus reinterpreted the death here to refer to others or the Messiah’s sickness over the nations.

    • Ed Kratz

      Concerning Dan 9, I think one has to engage in Hoehner’s work.

    • John Brien

      One of the most painful things for me, is to see Bible “literalists” perform the usual ‘gymnastics ‘in order to overcome obstacles.

      Any arbitary reason is given , based on speculation , and used to distract the reader.

      THe arguments about whether or not alma was married is nonsensical.

      Alma means a young woman of marriagable age.

      If she was of marriagable age precludes Isaiahs wife.

      The young woman was in the Court of King Ahaz and the birth of a child called Immanuel would indicate that God was with the decision which Ahaz and Isaac were discussing.

      For five humdred years the scripture was in Hebrew and remained intact.

      Then when the Geek Septuagint Bible was being written ONE Greek MS interpreted the word Alma to mean Virgin.

      This later had ‘political’ connotations and was adopted and appeared in the Vulgate.

      A few questions-
      If Christ was sinless,why did he have to refuse good and evil?

      What does ‘curds anbd honey refer to?

      At what age did the baby Jesus mature?

      Which two kingdoms were abandoned during Jesus’s lifetime?

      Who dreaded the two kingdoms during the first century CE
      when there had not been a Kingdom of Iseal in existence since the 7th century BCE?

      If one believes in ‘double prophesy” were there two virgin births?

      The truth is very simple – why fight these ‘last ditch’ skirmishes?

      John Brien

    • Bill Tripp

      Good grief!!! Why can’t this stuff be more clear???

    • Lynda O

      How about clicking on and actually reading the link I provided — and dealing with the substance of the text in Isaiah 7 — rather than repeating the standard argument that “literalists do gymnastics to overcome obstacles” and don’t really look at the text itself? The attitude of saying Isaiah 7 refers only to the situation of that time is playing right into the hands of unbelieving Jews, and takes the glory away from God, the God who indeed accurately predicted the virgin birth of the Messiah 700 years in advance. Plus that attitude does not look at the text and consider the matter on its own merits, true exegeting of the text.

      “It would be much better to recognize Isaiah’s actual intent in Isaiah 7, and realize that Matthew is using Isaiah 7:14 in exactly the same way that Isaiah intended it to be used. When Ahaz rejected any sign from the Lord through Isaiah (7:11-12), the Lord by-passed Ahaz and gave the sign to the “House of David” (7:13). The prophesied son is not the son of Isaiah, but a royal son, in accordance with the theme of Yahweh’s faithfulness to Zion and David, and ***fitting with the idiom “curds and honey” as royal food ***(7:15,22). While Isaiah’s son in chapter 8 may be seen as typologically portraying to some extent the meaning of Immanuel in 7:14, the son of 7:14 is in fact the Messiah, Israel’s King, not Isaiah’s son. “

    • Hodge

      Just a note: ‘alma doesn’t mean a woman of marriagable age. It refers to a woman who is eligible to become pregnant, whether married or not. She has yet to have a child for whatever reason, whether she is a virgin or just has not yet conceived.

    • John Brien

      Lynda and Hodge
      You are both just ‘spinning the wheels’ and getting nowhere!
      The web is full of sites purveying the same old line.
      Readers should be aware of these time wasting traps and go straight to Wikipedia where ALL points of view can be read. If you don’t like what you see you can argue your case and if it adds to the body of knowledge the staff will incorporate your contribution.
      I have wasted hundreds of hours reading mental ‘gymnasiics’ and have now come to the conclusion that the human mind is capable of INFINITE rationalisation !
      The truth is simple . The Gospel writers used OT verses to ‘reframe’ their experiences with Christ and enable even the Jews to comprehend what Christ was saying.

    • Lynda O

      The views I cited were not just from “sites on the web” purveying the same old stuff. I cited in particular the views of Bible expositors/preachers, seminary graduates and professors who know the original languages Greek and Hebrew — far more qualified to assess the true meanings and understanding of Bible texts than amateurs on the Internet.

      In fact, the primary one I cited, S. Lewis Johnson, wrote and preached DECADES before the Internet — so if you’re going to disagree, at least get your basic facts straight – we are talking about seminary Bible scholars from years ago, not hack stuff on the Internet.

      I would hardly consider Wikipedia a reliable and trustworthy source to go to in regards to understanding Christian truth.

      But I also understand the wisdom of Jesus’ words, “Do not cast your pearls before swine.” So no point in saying anything more, as what I have already said makes the point quite clear.

    • Hodge


      What are you talking about? I wasn’t even entering the discussion of prophecy with you. I was just letting you know the fact of what ‘alma lexically means. I’m not sure how its applied to old married women if it means what you state it means. I’m not engaged in a polemic here. You can read Walton’s entry in NIDOTTE.

    • Joel H.

      As others have pointed out, one problem with connecting Isaiah 7:14 to the virgin birth is that the Hebrew there (alma) doesn’t mean “virgin.” The Greek LXX is completely inconsistent in how it translates alma and related words (I explain why in Chapter 8 of my And God Said) so it’s hard to draw conclusions from that.

      I think a better approach — for those who want — is that even though alma doesn’t mean “virgin,” it doesn’t mean “non-virgin,” either.


    • Joel H.

      Good post. I think a problem that you face, however, is that the NT, which you take to be inspired, does misuse and misapply prophecies from the OT.


      I wouldn’t call this a case of “misuse” or “misapplication,” but rather a different way of using and applying the text. I think that a particularly clear case comes from Galatians 3:16, where I argue:

      I don’t think Paul is making a “linguistic argument” so much as using a word play. Paul’s point doesn’t strike me as a rational one here (though neither is it irrational — it is non-rational), and, in fact, it’s the same sort of word play that pervades the (Jewish) Midrash from the same time period.

      (The rest is here.)


    • Hodge

      Thanks, Joel. I think that’s a very good point for those who want to draw conclusions from it either way. The word, with its meaning describing a woman who has not yet conceived, and therefore, a potential mother, can be applied to a young woman, old woman, unmarried woman, married woman, virgin or non-virgin.

    • Carl D'Agostino

      Reply to Phil Style Comment #9

      Paul and Peter probably did not quibble over the Abrahamic/prophetic descent of Jesus. Certainly, Peter retains his Jewishness and is the head of Christ’s followers within Judaism. Therefore the lineage stuff is a key validation for Jesus as Messiah. Paul would totally agree. It is a non issue for Paul, however, who just didn’t think Jesus needed such validation. That the lineage stuff was extraneous compared to his theology based on the risen Christ and the majesty and opportunity this offered for Man’s salvation. I think Paul wins the argument posthumously because the Jesus movement evaporates from within Judaism by mid 2nd Century.

      The real fireworks between the two evolves as Paul preaches that Christ came for all mankind. To Christians within Judaism this is blasphemy because the Messiah is the exclusive Savior of Jews.
      Peter must have been livid in astonishment at Paul’s dismissal of the evolution and heritage of the promise of OT by the coming of THEIR Messiah.

      Paul also infuriated the Jewish Christians(Peter as leader) with his contempt for the Law as nonsense insufficient to embrace salvation. Paul did not ascribe to circumcision or that a Christian must be a Jew too. Paul also posited that keeping the Law was not a prerequisite for being a Christian. And Paul’s and Peter’s contemporaries would be suspicious and irritated with Paul because he is an outsider claiming divine ordination and dismisses thousands of years of Jewish tradition with the flip of his pen. It’s like “The nerve! Who does the P guy think he is? Oh and his theatrics about the vision along the road, Give me a break. ” So Paul has to cover his front(legitimize himself to Jews) and cover his back (converting Gentiles).

      Some scholars I have read postulate that the author(Luke) and subsequent re-authoring editors that bring Acts to it’s present form give short shrift to the intensity of the animosity between the two.

    • John Brien

      Thats the first time I’ve been called “swine” !!!
      I guess there’s a first time for everything!!
      You failed to answer any of the points I raised in Blog 27
      and then proceeded to give me the usual ‘theological waffle”

      King Ahaz had a problem – should he rely on God’s strength , or form an alliance with Assyria?. He consulted the Prophet and was given an answer.
      The answer was specific and reasonably time sensitive.
      To have any real meaning, the prophesy would have been fulfilled within Ahaz’s lifetime!

      Say Winston Churchill had consulted a ‘prophet’ in 1938 , and asked if he should form an alliance with Russia, and the ‘sign’ was given today! -iIt would be meaningless, irrelevant!

      I am aware of the ‘spin’ the Theologians have given this story – but that doesn’t answer the questions I raised in Blog 27.

      Michael Patton is to be thanked for introducing this dialogue – since there are issues raised which cause a lot of people a considerable amount of anguish

      I’m interested to note that no-one has had the fortitude to respond to my blog (#21) on Matthew 27 verse 5-10.

      I guess in the end, this debate resolves around the extent to which we are ‘literalists’ – or, ‘people who are searching for a higher meaning.’

      My Hebrew friends say they are the latter, my Jesuit friends say they are ‘not quite so literalist as you Protestants”!

      Best Wishes

    • EricW

      John Brien:

      Re: your post #21. on Matthew 27:5-10 and Acts 1:18-19:

      Who bought the field?

    • John Brien

      Dear Eric W
      You asked ‘who bought the field” – and with this question you start to unravel a very interesting conundrum!
      Matthew says it was the Chief Priests
      Acts says it was Judas himself.

      In fact the only things the ‘Matthew version’ and the “Acts version” have in common are
      (i)The name of the field
      (ii)The field was bought from the proceeds of Judas’s betrayal (from the Potter per Matthew)


      In Matthew Judas went and hanged himself, in Acts he fell and burst open – many other discrepancies

      No WONDER the Catholic Bible Society raise questions about the ‘certainty’ of certain Acts texts.!!

      The OT ‘prophetic verses’ are of even greater concern
      Matthew says that verses in Jeremiah were fulfilled – but Jeremiah made NO SUCH STATEMENTS

      Jeremiah 18v 2&3 “I went to the potters house and he was working at the wheel”
      Jeremiah 32 v 6-15- in which the prophet bought certain land from his cousin for 7 silver pieces.
      Zrechariah 11 v 12 & 13 – makes reference to 30 pieces of silver -but the context is wrong.

      Someone in an earlier blog mentioned that “the NT writers have used, and abused the OT scriptures- and this is certainly the case here.

      If anyone is a ‘total literalist” after reading the foreging, he/she should take his/her head out of the sand!!

    • Carl D'Agostino

      Reply to John Brien Comment #27

      “At what age did Jesus mature?”
      Do you think the speculation that Jesus has awareness and begins preparation in the year or so prior to his ministry has some merit? He Himself relates that his baptism by John the Baptist is the moment of Messiah certification. Am I correct here? There has to be some definable point at which Jesus embraces Messiahship. Is He maturing throughout teens and twenties as he masters the OT and prophesy and behaviors required of covenant with God. This enables Him to decry inadequacy of Law for salvation. Jesus has the knowledge and memory and understanding to go toe to toe with any Pharisee, Sadducee, Levite or Sanhedrin. Could probably give prophets a run for their money too. Certainly could put some of my “omnipotent” old college professors to shame, too, do you think? Some knew Jesus better than Jesus knew Himself. Allegedly of course.

      And certainly translation from Hebrew to Greek Septuagint provided an enormous amount of latitude, interpretation, and projection to make translation dangerously subjective. For my MA I was able to avoid the Greek and Hebrew studies in lieu of other courses. However, I remember Hebrew complicates itself exponentially in that not only do Hebrew words have alternative understanding, the letters within the words have multiple meanings to further expand interpretations of each word.. Is that accurate? If so, our translated OT would be a million pages long to include the vast possibilities that Hebrew spawns. Greek also has this problem with subtle variations meanings of words to be interpreted by translator.

      The Romans had it so right with writing simplification. Only 22 characters, no spacing, upper case only, word order of no consequence. Latin says what it says, period. If scripture is inspired unto its writers by the Holy Spirit, it should have made them use English in the first place!

    • Carl D'Agostino

      Reply to C Michael Patton Comment #8

      4. “We should not look for these second layers since we are not guided by the Holy Spirit.”

      Would submit this one is weak too. Who said we are not guided by the Holy Spirit? I thought that is what’s been going on for the last 2000 years. Of course we have so many denominations in Protestantism because so many claim an exclusive connection with that Holy Spirit or a unique one at least. Could there exist a bunch of Holy Spirits(cousins so to speak) that are not working in concert? If so they better get their act together and soon! (Smile). One postulation I cannot ignore, however, is that God reveals Himself to different people through the Holy Spirit in different ways. Of course accepting that I must concede that perhaps God reveals Himself to different people in different ways OUTSIDE of Christianity altogether.

      American Puritan theology(I’m a Yankee Presbyterian) postulates that discernment of scripture meaning is not imprudent or arrogant in a self serving sense , but that it is required that we seek always to improve, understand, and fortify our relationship with God through Christ.

      Got in big trouble in 1968 at Florida Southern College with Dr. Cook, my director and head of Dept. Religion. I postulated that the Holy Spirit was available to me just as much as it was to Paul. Therefore his epistles should not be considered scripture merely his opinions, but certainly guidance to be respected. That the only scripture was the Four Gospels and that my interpretations of the Gospel are just as valid as his! And besides he did not have access to the Gospels as they had not yet been written. I had accepted the invitation of the Holy Spirit to imbue me with an understanding of God through Christ umbilicized by the Holy Spirit. He pointed out that he knew Martin Luther and that I was no Martin Luther and therefore not qualified to start another Reformation. Good thing there wasn’t a cross outside the classroom that day……

    • Joel H.

      However, I remember Hebrew complicates itself exponentially in that not only do Hebrew words have alternative understanding, the letters within the words have multiple meanings to further expand interpretations of each word. Is that accurate?


      It is not accurate, at least not in terms of what Hebrew originally meant.

      On the other hand, creative interpretation, especially from the first few centuries AD, is frequently based on word play or letter play. We see this in the NT and in the (Jewish) Midrash.

      I think what we see here is another example of the important difference between scientific, linguistic meaning and religious, interpretive meaning.


    • Yohan Perera

      I got your point. We have to be very careful with the scripture verses we use to support our apologetic arguments. Because most of the time the un-believer sees far better than we Christians do…

    • John Brien

      Dear Carl D’Agostino
      Thanks so much for responding to my blog
      I fear that we have been talking at cross-purposes!

      As I understand it, you have been interpreting my questions per posting #27 as if they referred to a young Messiah.?

      I was hoping that by the time the readers had finished trying to answer my questions, they would realise that the person being
      referred to was someone other than the Messiah!

      Michael Patton has done a good job (above)in highlighting the problem and I won’t repear the issues.

      So often when reading scriptures, good men arrive at diametrically opposing conclusions – and at the personal level all one can do is review the totality of the evidence and see which one ‘fits best’

      My ‘analysis of probabilities and evidence’ leads me to conclude that v7 was NOT talking about the Messiah – other peoples will differ!

      You make an intersting point regarding simplicity in linguistics .
      Yes- and No!
      At the heart of the (lethal) theological problems which arose between the “Eastern Empire” and “The Western Empire ” -starting in the fourth century- was the ‘problem’ of the ‘richness’ of the Greek language and the ‘paucity’ of the Roman language.
      The Greek theologians were at an advantage on two counts
      (i) So many scriptures were already written in Greek
      (ii) The Greek language enables the writer to say what he wished, with a significantly greater degree of precision.
      So misunderstandings were inevitable right from the start.

      Regarding Ancient Hebrew you are correct when you state that punctuation and tense could only be determined by examination of context. I will post an examination of Isaiah 9v5 along these lines tomorrow.

      Educated Jews are aware of this and they jokingly tell me that they ‘re-interpret their scriptures every’ ! They make joke -but they really mean it. They believe that they are not Bible Literalists and that ‘truth resides at a higher level”!!

      Run out of space…

    • John Brien

      To Carl D’Agostino
      -balance of my discontinued mail!

      I have gone so far as to phone the Hebrew Department at Cambridge University and discuss Isaiah 7v 14 and 9v5 and am told that there are NO prolems with the use of Alma -and that the only people who seem to have a problem are Christian Fundamentalists who seem determined to give the whole of the OT a “Christological glaze”

      Very Best Wishes

    • Carl D'Agostino

      Comment #43, Joel H, Comment # 45 John Brien, Comment # 46 John Brien.

      Dearly appreciate your research, academic responses to my comments. Thank you for responding which helps me refine understanding from scholars in this field.

      I am surprised that all through the discussion that not one reference made to Schonfield, Passover Plot. Any comments?

      And Jesus lived in Egypt first 12 years. Any speculation on how Egyptian Religion may have flavored Jesus understanding of Judaism or that of early Christians. Hellenistic influence certainly early Christians, Paul and beyond. Is there literature on possible Egyptian influence?

      What about Egyptian re 1) afterlife 2) idea of Judgment and responsibility of leading a moral life to influence that judgment 3) preparation of body for burial from pharaoh to peasant like Christian preparing his soul for Second Coming and 4) resurrection of the physical body in death or yearly resurrection illustrated by Isis re overflow Nile river to water and fertilize agriculture relative to Christianity?

    • I’m a little lost as to what John Brien’s point is? Is it that the Bible is intentionally riddled with error and that by insisting it is 100% true in what it records, we are missing the point? Or is it something more?

    • Saint and Sinner

      To correct what Ken Pulliam has said, the Aramaic Targum of Isaiah explicitly identifies the Servant of Isaiah 52:13 [i.e. 52:13-15 is the introduction to the fourth servant song, 52:13-53:12] as the Messiah: “my servant, the anointed one.”

      However, the Targums underwent a process of editing and expansion, and the Targum of the text being discussed dates to the 5th century A.D.

      As Gary Smith notes:

      “The Targum interprets the triumphant verses to be about the exaltation of the Messiah, but those verses that speak about suffering and a shameful death are connected to what will happen to the Gentiles, wicked Israelites, and the temple. This has caused some to suggest that the Targum is an anti-Christian polemic in reaction to the interpretation of Isaiah 53 by early Christians. H. Hagermann has tried to discover what the Targum said in pre-Christian times, but this is a difficult reconstruction to defend objectively…Since many verses having to do with suffering were not connected to the servant, what kind of messianic servant end up with? In 52:13 it identifies “my servant, the anointed one (the Messiah)” as the person who is exalted. Through these changes all suffering is removed from the Messiah; instead, he is turned into a builder of the temple and a teacher of the law in 53:5: “He will build the sanctuary which is profaned for our sins, handed over for our iniquities, and by his teaching the peace will increase upon us, and when we attach ourselves to his words our sins will be forgiven.” In addition, he takes on the role of intercessor for his people in 53:4: “Then he shall pray on behalf of our transgressions” (instead of “surely he took our infirmities”). In 53:7 “he was praying and he was answered” (instead of “he was oppressed and afflicted”), but 53:12 has “he shall make intercession for many transgressions,” which is consistent with the original Hebrew.

      (Continued Below)

    • Saint and Sinner

      (Continued from Above)

      The Targum radically changes the meaning of Isaiah 53 by not applying any of the suffering to the Messiah.”
      -Gary V. Smith, Isaiah 40-66, NAC (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H, 2009), pp.471-472.

      In passing, the attempt of the [probably Christian era Jewish editor of the] Targum to apply the sufferings to the Temple are unsustainable from the Hebrew text. The Hebrew is quite clear that the servant is the one who suffers, dies, is buried, and is then exalted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.