St Paul writes in 1 Cor 15:4 that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day in accordance with the scriptures. We recite the verse in the Nicene Creed also. Now, we see Jesus mentioning his death and resurrection well in advance, but his sayings got recorded in the scriptures only after the Resurrection. As for Old Testament , we do not find prophets directly foretelling the Resurrection of Jesus except say, in Psalms 16 in which the psalmist says that The Holy One's body shall not be let to degenerate . My question therefore is : which are the OT prophesies referred to in the Nicene Creed in relation to the Resurrection of Jesus ? Inputs from scholars of any denominations are welcome.


1 Answer 1


The Nicene Creed asserts of Jesus that:

He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.

Jesus resurrection “on the third day” identifies him as the fulfilment of the sacrifice of Isaac from Genesis 22.

God had told Abraham to take “his son, his only son whom he loved” and sacrifice him in the place God would show him (Genesis 22:2).

Abraham saw the place “from a distance” - “on the third day” (See Genesis 22:4)

He placed wood on his son, his only son whom he loved and had him carry it up a mountain.

However Abraham had an inkling that (somehow) God would provide an alternative sacrifice (Genesis 22:8).

Sure enough, at the last minute God stopped the sacrifice and showed Abraham a male sheep, which was offered in sacrifice instead.

In Genesis 22:16-18, God declares that because of (and through) this exercise, God would bring blessings to Abraham’s descendants and through his offspring (singular) all nations would be blessed. Somehow this event was all connected to how God was going to bless the world.

This story (Genesis 22) says three times that God provides the sacrifice, and so to the original hearers, the point of it was that God provides the sacrifice (contrasted with the other ancient gods who demanded their followers provide lavish sacrifices in order to win their favour).

However it left a certain unresolved tension - since Abraham had offerer his only son whom he loved, and God (in return) had provided a sheep.

However it is resolved in Jesus since in Matthew 3:17, God identifies Jesus as God’s beloved son”.

The story continues that Jesus ultimately carried the wood for his own sacrifice up the hill, but was actually sacrificed - in the place of Isaac.

And just as Abraham received back his son from a death sentence “on the third day”, so Jesus was raised from death “on the third day”, thereby fulfilling the scriptures, and specifically resolving the tension created by the story of Isaac. Jesus is the true Isaac, by whose sacrifice and through whom blessing comes to the whole world.

All of this leads into a question about how prophesy's work in the Old Testament, since these are referred to in the phrase "according to the scriptures" and for clarity and understanding bears some further explanation:

Prophesy takes several forms in the Old Testament.

There are a few direct predictions where it is stated ahead of time that X will happen… which is fulfilled when X duly occurs.

But these are actually quite rare.

Far, far more common is the notion of problems, tensions and incomplete answers that are presented by the Old Testament, and which are “fulfilled” by some aspect of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection which resolves the problem or the tension, or provides a complete answer to the questions raised by the flow of the story being told by the Old Testament.

Consider (for example) the “prophesy fulfilment” claimed in Matthew 2:14-15:

[14] And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt [15] and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Ok, so Jesus goes to Egypt and then is called out of Egypt when it is safe…. except that the passage quoted is not a prediction that the Messiah would be called out of Egypt… rather it is a complaint (by God, through the prophet) about Israel’s persistent idolatry, and the judgement that will fall on them as a consequence. Consider the quoted words of Hosea in their context:

Hosea 11:1-7:
[1] When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son. 
[2] The more they were called,
    the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals
    and burning offerings to idols.
[3] Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
    I took them up by their arms,
    but they did not know that I healed them. 
[4] I led them with cords of kindness,
    with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
    and I bent down to them and fed them.
[5] They shall not return to the land of Egypt,
    but Assyria shall be their king,
    because they have refused to return to me. 
[6] The sword shall rage against their cities,
    consume the bars of their gates,
    and devour them because of their own counsels. 
[7] My people are bent on turning away from me,
    and though they call out to the Most High,
    he shall not raise them up at all.

So then, in what universe does Matthew think that Jesus’ escape to Egypt, and his later return count as a fulfilment of this passage?

The answer - is that the life of Jesus is do-over of the history of Israel.

Earlier, God had identified the nation of Israel as “God’s firstborn son” (see Exodus 4:22).

The nation of Israel were sent to Egypt to escape death (See Genesis chapter 42-46)

They were then (later) called out of Egypt in the Exodus.

They next passed through the Red sea to escape Pharaoh's armies.

They then went into the wilderness for a period of testing (which they repeatedly failed).

After their time in the wilderness, they went to a mountain, where they received the Law of Moses which would govern the new nation. But even as they were receiving it, they were already making new idols. The consequent history of ancient Israel was one of persistent idolatry, oppression of the poor, leading ultimately to their expulsion out of the promised land and into exile in Babylon.

But the story doesn't end there. The prophets predicted that a faithful remnant would come out of exile, and be careful to obey the law and (finally) receive the blessings of God, and from there all the nations would stream to Israel and to the Temple and peace would be the result (see Isaiah 2:1-4 and Micah 4:1-5 as just two examples)

Ok, so now consider the life of Jesus told by Matthew:

Step 1: He goes to Egypt to escape death (Matthew 2:13-14) mirroring Genesis chapter 42-46

Step 2: He comes out of Egypt (Matthew 2:15) mirroring Exodus 1-13.

Step 3: He is baptised by John the Baptist in Matthew chapter 3 (passing through the water) thereby mirroring the crossing of the Red sea in Exodus 14

Step 4: He spends 40 days in the wilderness being tested in Matthew 4 (mirroring Israel's time in the desert in Exodus chapter 16-18)

Step 5: Jesus goes up a mountain in Matthew 5-7, and gives a new law (mirroring Exodus 19-20 in which Moses received the 10 commandments).

Jesus sermon on the mount (Matthew chapter 5-7) alludes to the 10 commandments, and says "It was said ... X, but I say to you X+1).

That is, he clarifies what the 10 commandments were all about and makes them even more extreme.

Moses said, don't commit adultery. Jesus said, don't commit lust.

Moses said, don't commit murder. Jesus said, don't commit contempt for another person.

Moses said, love your neighbour. Jesus said, love your enemies.

And so on.

So... this is how almost all Old Testament prophesy fulfilment in the New Testament works. Not by (merely) having event X occur as predicted, but in actually resolving a problem in the story of the Old Testament - in the person of Jesus.

So, by this means, we find out that:

Jesus is Israel,

Jesus is the faithful remnant that was predicted to be careful to obey the law (it turns out the faithful remnant was just one person - Jesus)

Jesus is the one to whom all the nations will stream

Jesus is the true "son of God" who succeeded where the original son (Adam) failed, the second son (Israel) failed, but Jesus - the true son of God succeeded in obeying the law and became the one to inherit the blessings of Deuteronomy 28:1-14.

But instead of taking the blessings of Deuteronomy 28:1-14, he took the cursing's of Deuteronomy 28:15-68 that belong to us, so he could then offer us his blessings if we put our trust in him and accept him as King.

So, this is a summary of how Jesus fulfils the prophesy of the Old Testament. By resolving the story of Israel. There are a host of other ways that it does this - including what I have already mentioned with the story of Isaac.

  • 1
    Isaac being the child of promise (Galatians 4) as are we. Good answer. +1 Welcome to the Stack. Jun 19, 2023 at 12:11
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    – agarza
    Jun 19, 2023 at 13:24
  • I do not see a single reference or citation to the Nicene Creed in this 'answer'.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 19, 2023 at 17:59
  • In Jn 3:14 , Jesus alludes to the serpent that was lifted up by Moses in the wilderness and says that he will also similarly be lifted up. Does the serpent event qualify as a prophecy on Jesus' crucifixion ? One can of course , draw parallels. In the case of Isaac too, one can draw parallels. But how does the case stand out as a prophecy on Jesus' Resurrection ? Jun 20, 2023 at 4:13
  • 1
    @Lesley About Bible project: bibleproject.com/about They are evangelical protestants, who hold to the authority of the Old and New Testament. The main theological principle for the Bible project is the conviction that the entire Bible tells a unified story that leads to Jesus, and the project seeks to draw attention to the story and how it is resolved and fulfilled in Jesus. its focus is on Biblical theology (distinct from systematic theology). Biblical theology focuses on the story and (especially)key events of the Bible story and looks for how Jesus fulfils those events. Aug 16, 2023 at 10:39

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