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I often hear the argument that the veracity of Christ's claims in the gospels can be considered reliable based upon two things: miracles and fulfilled prophecy. This pre-supposes the validity of the gospels. When scripture authors such as Isaiah have provably written their works before Christ acted, we can consider the gospels as accounts of fulfilling these prophecies.

It is my understanding that there are early historians such as Josephus who wrote in support of these topics, but it is believed that most writings like this contain interpolations from Christians at later times.

My question is in two parts:

1) What fulfilled prophecies most validate the gospels?

2) What may we look to for assertion that these are indeed fulfilled prophecies and note merely works of men who had access to the prophetic writings and used them to invent stories that appear valid?

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There is actually at least one more point to the validity of the gospels. The gospels are often held true because together they present an intact gospel, but they still differ. If four persons makes up a lie, they see to it that they have the same story, right? Also, most of the apostles died as martyrs, and what would they gain by dying for a lie? –  Shathur Apr 23 '12 at 9:39
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3 Answers 3

One of the most significant prophecies is the one found in Daniel 9. Its significance is based not on specific events recorded in the gospels, but rather on the time in history in which Jesus came.

The prophecy is a bit lengthy, but speaks of a period of 70 "weeks" or 70 "sevens". 70 "sevens" would be 490. The question is 490 what? For various reasons, this has been understood to refer to years.

The 490 years are divided up into 7 "weeks" (49 years), then 62 "weeks" (434 years) and then one final week (7 years)

The clock would begin ticking when a decree was made to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. After the 69th week (483 years), an "anointed one" (messiah) would be cut off. Subsequently, the city (Jerusalem) would be destroyed.

Artaxerxes issued the decree on March 14, 444 B.C. Accounting for the 360-day year used by the Jews, 483 of those completes on April 6, 32 A.D.

This was pretty close to the time when Jesus was crucified. We also know that shortly thereafter, in 70 A.D., Titus destroyed the city of Jerusalem.

24“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.

25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.

26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.

27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” Daniel 9:24-27 ESV

So, whether or not anyone accepts the gospel accounts of Jesus' miracles and teachings, this prophecy points to the Messiah being "cut off" at precisely the time in history that Jesus was crucified. This is verified historically and not by specific writings of His followers.

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It's going to take me some time to investigate this and wrap my head around it, but this is highly interesting and the type of thing I was looking for. Thanks. Looking this up in MacArthur's commentary shows that he believes the same. Speaking eschatalogically (not in soteriological terms), he is a dispensationalist. Do non-dispensationalist evangelicals believe the same regarding this passage? –  San Jacinto Apr 17 '12 at 22:01
    
I don't think this has anything to do with dispensational theology. It's not that something fits into a dispensation, but that the prophecy refers to specific years. –  Narnian Apr 18 '12 at 12:36
    
One's Eschatological viewpoints very often decide what interpretation he is going to give for a passage from the prophets. What I'm asking is that if someone completely out of the dispensational/pre-mill (right or wrong, they're often lumped together) camp would agree with the interpretation as you've laid it out. –  San Jacinto Apr 18 '12 at 16:06
    
I believe that most dispensationalists disagree about the meaning of the final week (and the destruction of the temple) and consider that a period of tribulation that has not happened yet. This is one of the key texts for either side of that issue. –  Bryan Rosander Apr 18 '12 at 17:18
    
@BryanRosander Agreed. This is a tough passage to use as "proof" due to the wide variety of interpretations and lack of clarity about the parts we don't yet understand (since they haven't yet happened.) ...not to mention the need to apply the "breach principle" of hermeneutics... –  Jas 3.1 Apr 24 '12 at 18:31
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Key Old Testament Prophecies Jesus Fulfilled?

1A) Psalm 22 ~1,000 B.C. (NASB)

Death: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?... [I am] despised by the people. All who see me sneer at me... saying, “Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”... I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And You lay me in the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet... They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots..."

Resurrection: "But You, O LORD, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance... I will tell of Your name to my brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You... You who fear the LORD, praise Him;... And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel. For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard... The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!"

Legacy / Destiny: "All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations will worship before You. For the kingdom is the LORD’S And He rules over the nations... All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him... Posterity will serve Him; It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation. They will come and will declare His righteousness To a people who will be born, that He has performed it."

1B) Isaiah 53 ~700 B.C. (NASB)

Life and Sacrifice: "...He grew up before Him like a tender shoot... He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief... Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed... the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; 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. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living... His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth."

Reward: "But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; ...the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great... Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors."

Wow. (I will assume the reader can make a few connections here; there are a LOT of fulfilled prophecies just from these two passages.)

Proof of Authenticity?

I am tempted to start talking about the testimony of historians, logic based on the life choices of the Apostles, the conversion of Saul, the impossibility of pulling off a resurrection hoax... but at the end of the day, there is no "natural" argument for which skeptics will not have a counterargument. So here is my real answer:

2) If you want to know if God is real, or if Jesus is the Messiah, or if the Bible is trustworthy, or how to be saved... ask Him. If you sincerely seek Him, you can bet you will find your answers.

"For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." (Matthew 7:8, NASB)

I know this doesn't satisfy the desire for a rational proof, but in my opinion, the desire itself is based on flawed logic. It assumes spiritual truth is knowable through natural reasoning, which it is not.

"Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." (1 Corinthians 1:20-21, NASB)

While God is patient with us and sometimes willing to humor our requests for signs and proof, ultimately He requires faith.

"At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants." (Matthew 11:25, NASB)

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I'm thankful for the response. I disagree with part of your answer. History is, by definition, a record of what happened. If the NT writings document a fulfilled prophecy, then why do we need more of God's hand in that than believing the Holocaust happened? I think you're confusing the spiritual help we need in even admitting that 1) there is a God, 2) we are born into a willful rebellion against Him 3) He has chosen to justify at least some of us. Again I ask, how do you know that you've not been told a clever series of lies? Because Peter says so, right? How are you certain he was not lying? –  San Jacinto Apr 22 '12 at 21:20
    
@SanJacinto Thanks for your feedback! I definitely understand where you're coming from. While I agree with your definition of history, I also recognize that sin corrupts man, and man (in turn) corrupts "historical" records. I have heard quotes from historians to the effect of "Hebrew history is the most reliable"... because they have found reason to doubt contradicting accounts from other peoples. To answer your last few questions, I know the Bible is true because I had a radical encounter with God, was completely transformed, and now have His Spirit inside of me testifying to it. –  Jas 3.1 Apr 23 '12 at 0:08
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@SanJacinto To take a different angle... Each of the books of the Bible is a record of history. Why not simply accept them? Genesis is history, but people don't believe it. Each of the gospels is a record of history... Non-Christian historians such as Josephus recorded history... the list goes on. It isn't a matter of having a lack of historical records... it is a matter of not accepting them. There is no end to the doubts of skeptics and the "counterarguments" of the world... no proof will ever be good enough for a natural-minded man. But we can seek and know truth by faith. –  Jas 3.1 Apr 23 '12 at 0:43
    
Because claiming something does not make it true. Historical records are also subject to interpolation, as is the case with the Josephus records you mentioned. Why not accept the other 'holy' books of the world? Do you doubt Joseph Smith's encounter with God? How about Mohammed's? Two of the three of you are not being truthful. AND THE OTHER TWO MAKE THE SAME CLAIMS THAT ONLY 'ENLIGHTENED' PEOPLE CAN UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT THEIR DOCTRINES. Do you see why only the first part of your answer is the only part that is of any use whatsoever in answering this question? –  San Jacinto Apr 23 '12 at 2:07
    
I think instead of saying "I am tempted to talk about..." that you ought to just go ahead and talk about it. That's the point of the question. Even then, the comments you are making are overly broad and not directly pertaining to my question. Your comments here are not qualifying to that of an "expert," which is the point of the site. –  San Jacinto Apr 23 '12 at 2:07
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The question pertains to the nature of prophecy itself. First, Most prophecy of Messiah was intended as not fully understandable, until it takes place. This prevents anyone pretending to do it. This is why prophecy is often in visions, to ensure it is not clear. Prophecy therefore, in part, was set up as an incomprehensible riddle, encrypted with a hidden key. A key that no one could find, like a scroll of history, whether past, present, or future, all was put behind a veil. The scroll was rolled up and sealed with no one worthy to open it. However Christ, by His work on the cross is the great collector, descriptor and explainer of all prophecies, which were otherwise ‘scattered in details’ leading to as many questions as answers. He was the great decoder key, where instantly all the prophecies became as a collection, heavenly convincing fireworks. He also was given authority to break the seals of future revelation. (Rev Ch 5). Therefore although there were many details in the prophecies about Messiah, like where He would be born, through what genealogy, how He would restore the church that He would suffer, that He would usher in the end of the world, etc., the Jews were not able to fully comprehend the overall picture this presented. Once can see ho Christ’s fulfillment of that collected picture was reprehensible to them, while not disputing on any of the specifics.

For some understanding of what Messiah the Jews expected see ths post.

Second, many of the prophecies fulfilled by Christ were prophetic themes, rather than mere details surrounding those themes. For example the priesthood, the kingship, the prophetic offices were all Bible themes that run up into Christ as the great Prophet, Priest and King. Even the Rabbis knew this. In fact the Rabbinic Talmud, "All the prophets prophesied not but of the days of the Messiah" said (כל הנביאים כולן לא נתנבאו אלא לימות המשיח Sanh. 99a).

With this in mind there are several candidates for the most convincing prophecy. One could choose the most ‘descriptive’ prophecy such as Isaiah 53, which was understood as Messianic by the Rabbis. One could say that the promise to Abraham Gen 12:2 whereby ‘many nations’ would be blessed was the greatest. Later this son of Eve was limited to the seed of David. The reason that this is so convincing is that after the destruction of Jerusalem, along with all the genealogical records, to ever prove a Hebrew religious leader was born of David became impossible. In addition, how rare is it for ‘many nations’ to receive a religion originating from Israel. How else could someone born of David become a religious blessing to other nations? Only one man has been born of David and has been received by gentile nations, Jesus.

Along with the most descriptive and the most impossible to repeat, any prophecy that was ‘great’ must be one that speaks about his incarnation, death or resurrection. For His incarnation, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son” seems quite rare and difficult to repeat! (Math 1:23) With respect to his death and resurrection, our Lord himself said to a companion who was trying to stop his arrest:

52“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

So what prophecy was Jesus referring to here? Certainly this prophecy must be great? Yet I do not think it is a single prophecy, but in some ways all prophecy. The ceremonies practiced by the church, where each day animals were killed to atone for the sins of the people were prophecy. Jonah in the belly of a whale for three days only to be received by a gentile nation was prophecy. Every history in the Bible, every prophet, every ceremony, all ran up into prophetic themes satisfied in Christ!

There a different groups of prophecy. Some focus on Christ as a King, some as a suffering Servant, some as a unknown humble Branch, some as the killer of sin and the Devil, some refer to his required genealogy, some refer to the timing of his birth, some as casting light unto the Gentiles whereby they enter into the blessing of Abraham, some spoke of the great power of the Spirit in His ministry, some are highly apocalyptic and even reach into the days at the end of the world, some speak of the way he kept his enemies in the dark while teaching those who had ears to hear, yet all are explained and satisfied by Christ. Yet if we remove Christ they all become riddles once again, creating more questions than answers.

Therefore the fact that only one man, Jesus the Christ can integrate, and explain all of the Bible and that no man can or ever could attempt to do such a thing proves the New testament to angels, demons, saints, sinners and any who have a mind to reason.

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