At the core of Christianity is the belief that Jesus is the Messiah who was prophesised would come and save the people of Israel and the world. Christian’s claim that Jesus fulfilled many prophesies in his life and proved in this way that he was the saviour. There are claimed to be hundreds of fulfilled prophesies proving Jesus was the Messiah, so how do these claims stand up?
The first prophecy that Jesus is claimed to have fulfilled was to be born in Bethlehem. This was supposedly prophesised in Micah 5:2. However this prophecy is flat out false as it refers to “Bethlehem Ephratah” which is a tribe, not a town. The verse does not mention a Messiah but merely a “great leader”. The speaker is saying that a leader will come from this tribe who “shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword” (Micah 5:6). I have yet to hear an explanation as to however the peaceful Jesus was supposed to have fulfilled this part of the “prophecy” which Christians exclude when they tell the story. There is also no evidence that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and that the story of his birth was forged so as to sound like the fulfilment of a misunderstanding of this prophecy.
It is furthermore claimed that Isaiah 7:14 is supposed to prophecies the virgin birth of Jesus, but in reality it refers to a “young woman” giving birth who will call her child “Immanuel” (which Jesus was never called). The boy would “will be eating curds and honey”. If you read the entire chapter, rather than just the one line, you will see that the prophecy was intended to happen very soon during the lifetime of the listeners, not hundreds of years in the future. This is not a prophecy about the Messiah but rather a sign that would come to the Israelites in their battles with the Assyrians.
It is claimed that Psalms 22 and 34:20 and Zachariah 12:10 refer to the crucifixion of Jesus and how none of his bones were broken and his side was pierced. But none of them are intended as prophecies or descriptions of the future. Instead this is an example of quote mining by Christians were any line that remotely resembles anything about Jesus is called a prophecy. This can be seen by reading Zachariah 12:10 “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” As the disciples never saw the body of Jesus after his was crucified, there is no way for them to know whether or not his bones were broken or if his side was pierced.
Most of the Messianic prophecies are not prophecies but vague statements that could be applied to anyone (the Messiah will be called king, the Messiah will like children, the Messiah will be despised by some etc). The writers of the New Testament were desperate that Jesus be accepted as the Messiah and so they used everything and anything as “proof”. So Hosea 11:1:“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” is claimed to be a prophecy predicting Jesus returning from Egypt when it is obviously no such thing. This can only be considered a prophecy by twisting the quote and deleting the first half leaving only “out of Egypt I called my son.” This is a sign of desperation and dishonesty rather than divine revelation. The most absurd has to be the “prophecy” that he will be “born of the seed of woman” which is how all people are born.
A large chunk of the Messianic prophecies come from Isaiah 53 which describes a suffering servant. At no point is it claimed that this servant is the Messiah or that this is a prophecy. Instead it speaks in the past tense and it could refer to the suffering of literally anyone and probably refers to Israel. This servant is so disfigured that he doesn’t even look human (which can’t be said of Jesus who did look human). The servant was pierced (or wounded) which Christians claim refer to Jesus being pierced after his crucifixion. But this could refer to any type of piercing or wound (even piercing his ears could fulfil the prophecy). It is claimed he is silent (which we all are sometimes) but Christians claim this refers to his trial. But the Gospel of John claims Jesus gave a passionate speech at his trial where he denounced his accusers. There is really little evidence to suggest that this is a prophecy about Jesus and is another example of quote mining.
Daniel 9:25-6 is supposed to refer to the death of the Messiah. This will occur after seven ‘sevens’ and then sixty two ‘sevens’. After his death ‘war will continue until the end’ and there will be a great flood. The first problem with this is that it is unclear what ‘sevens’ mean. Is it seven years, months, decades, weeks? Only those attempting to force the prophecy to fit history could seriously claim that it meant sixty two sets of seven years plus seven sets of seven years. If the prophecy meant 483 years, why not just say so? Why break the number in two and then use obscure language that is guaranteed to confuse people? In fact the King James Bible records it as sixty-two weeks, rather than sets of seven years. So this prophecy fails.
So desperate are some people for a prophecy that even things like Psalm 69:21 “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst” is somehow seen as a prophecy regarding Jesus crucifixion. If the writer of this Psalm really did know that Jesus would be crucified surely, they could have been clearer than this? As it is, anyone drinking vinegar could fulfil the prophecy (which there is no indication the writers meant it as a prophecy).
A major problem with claiming Jesus is the Messiah is that he didn’t do most of the things the Messiah was supposed to. The Messiah will be King of an independent Israel and all nations will look to it for guidance (Isaiah 2:4). Judaism will conquer all other religions and all people will return to full Torah observance. There will be no more hunger, illness or death (Isaiah 25:8). Even the dead will rise (Isaiah 26:19). All weapons will be destroyed (Ezekiel 39:9) and there will be world peace (Isaiah 2:4, Isaiah 11:6, Micah 4:3). The world will be perfected in the image of God. It is for this reason that Jews reject the idea of Jesus being the Messiah as he failed to fulfil any of the important prophecies (ending hunger and death is a slightly more important prophecy than simply drinking vinegar).
Not only did Jesus fail to fulfil the Messianic prophecies but he also made many prophecies about his second coming which failed to come true. It is clear that he and his disciples believed that he would return within their lifetimes. Matthew 10:23 quotes him as saying “I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes”. In Matthew 16:28 he says “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15 says the second coming will occur before many “who are still alive”. Two thousand years later we are still waiting and many Christians still think this prophecy will be fulfilled. As everyone who was alive at the time is long since dead, it’s safe to say this prophecy has failed.
I remember growing up I was told that Jesus fulfilled ancient prophesies. At the time I accepted without question (as we all accept all parts of religion) without looking at any evidence. Had I done so, I would have realised much sooner that Jesus didn’t come close to fulfilling the prophesies and most of the claims of fulfilment are little more than wishful thinking. Christian claims are no more than quote mining and twisting ancient verses to give them a meaning that was never intended. Contrary to the crucial Christian claim, Jesus did not fulfil the Messianic prophesies.