DIVINE ORIGIN OF HOLY SCRIPTURE

 

 

 

Criteria of Revelation

 

In this chapter the question of the divine origin of Christian revelation as contained in Holy Scripture will be investigated. How may the supernatural origin of the Bible be known?  How can we tell that the truths revealed in Holy Scripture are really from God? The answer is through certain internal and external marks or signs that indicate their divine origin. Such unmistakable marks or signs are known as the criteria of revelation, from the Greek word “criterion,” which signifies a means for judging something as true or authentic. The criteria of revelation are, therefore, those marks or signs that point to the revealed message as having a truly divine origin.

 

There are internal and external criteria of revelation. The internal criteria are those that are found in the revelation itself, or in the message that is revealed.  Here we can cite three such criteria:

 

  • Sublimity. Is the message revealed sublime, noble and worthy of its alleged Author?

  • Truthfulness and logical consistency. Are the doctrines revealed lofty but agreeable to reason?  

  • Moral goodness. Are its counsels superior to, and unparalleled by human wisdom?  Are they helpful to man and society, and capable of elevating our hearts and satisfying our spiritual needs and aspirations?

 

The external criteria of revelation are those that are extrinsic to the revelation itself, and consist of historical facts that precede, accompany, or follow the revelation, and which indicate the revelation as being of divine origin. The following are generally recognized as external criteria of revelation:

 

  • Miracles. According to its strict definition a miracle is an observable, marvelous event outside the ordinary course of nature which, without divine intervention, is beyond the power of all created nature to effect. Thus, not even angels can produce a strict miracle without divine assistance.  Therefore, when a miracle is performed in support of a revelation, then the miracle itself serves as confirmation of the truth and divine origin of the revelation. (For a more thorough discussion of the nature and kinds of miracles, see Miracles  under the Special Topics menu.)

  • Prophecies. These are sure and definite predictions of future free events that are impossible for any created intellect to foresee through natural causes. Future free events depend for their occurrence upon the free-will of man, angels or God and, therefore, cannot be known, prior to their occurrence, with certainty, except by an Omniscient and Eternal God. When a revelation is signed or sealed by a prophecy that is perfectly fulfilled, then the revelation is clearly from God.

The difference between the internal and external criteria of revelation is not merely the fact that the internal criteria are intrinsic, while the external criteria are extrinsic to the revelation. They also differ according to their probative power. The internal criteria of revelation usually have only a negative probative power in the sense that when the criteria are not satisfied, then they indicate the revelation as not having a divine origin.  Thus, when a doctrine is vulgar instead of noble, or illogical, or immoral, then it is a warning sign that the revelation is counterfeit and not from God. On the other hand, the mere lack of literary beauty or charm in a text does not indicate that the text is of purely human origin.

 

If the internal criteria are present, then they indicate the likelihood or probability that the revelation is from God, but they do not serve as a demonstrative proof. For example, a remarkably useful moral teaching can be from God, but not necessarily. On the other hand, the external criteria of revelation offer a positive and compelling probative power. When miracles or prophecies are given to support a revelation, they unmistakably point to God as its Author.

 

 

Divine Origin of Holy Scripture Based on Internal Criteria

 

To establish the fact of supernatural Christian revelation, it is necessary to show that what we call “Christian Revelation” as contained in Holy Scripture has a divine origin. Of course, judging Christian revelation by internal criteria alone is not enough to demonstrate that the revelation is from God. However, it affords motives not to reject the revelation as ungodly or profane.

 

Sublimity. The Christian Revelation, in both Holy Scripture and Tradition, reveals God as a powerful but benevolent Creator, who provides and cares for His creatures. It portrays God as having all perfections without limit, and with pleasantly compatible attributes, such as Just but Merciful, Demanding but Kind, Strict but Forgiving. The nature of God is shown to be what everyone would expect a Divine Being to be. He is an eternal spirit, not a transient particle. He is Beautiful rather than monstrous, Lovable rather than terrifying, and Good rather than mean. The God of the Christian Revelation is, therefore, unlike the gods of pagan religions, which sometimes are depicted as men’s rivals, mighty but jealous, and often at feud with one another. From the standpoint of sublimity, therefore, we judge the origin of Christian Revelation as probably divine.

 

Truthfulness and Logical Consistency.  The truths revealed in the Christian Revelation are of such nature that the unaided human mind cannot discover, yet cannot falsify.  It teaches truths that we do not expect but cannot refute, such as God’s act of creating something out of nothing, or directing our destiny without violating our freedom. Again, from the standpoint of truthfulness, the content of Christian Revelation is extraordinarily superior to that of human science. Therefore, its origin is probably divine.

 

Moral Goodness. The Christian Revelation reveals a moral standard of a very high order, and often contrary to ordinary human wisdom. Christ’s assertion, that by looking lustfully at a woman one already commits adultery in his heart, is a statement that marks the Christian standard of morality above all other moral codes. Likewise, the idea of giving without recompense, or that of loving one’s enemies, is a Christian idea that runs counter to our human inclinations and tendencies. If the Christian Revelation be a purely human invention, then it would strive to make our life easy and convenient. It would not have proposed the idea of going to Church on Sundays, or the idea of hell, for these ideas are also opposed to our human inclinations. Therefore, from the standpoint of its moral goodness, the origin of Christian Revelation must be judged as divine.

 

 

Divine Origin of Holy Scripture Based on External Criteria

 

It will now be shown that the contents of the Revelation found in Holy Scripture had also been supported by miracles and prophecies. If this is the case, then the Revelation in Holy Scripture must be judged as having a divine origin.

 

A. Miracles Prove that Revelation found in Holy Scripture is from God

 

Since the books of Holy Scripture are divided between the Old and the New Testament, it is necessary to look at the miracles that God performed to mark the special origin of His word. The following miracles are only representative of the numerous miracles reported in Holy Scriptures. The list is by no means complete. However, if the account given in Holy Scripture is historically reliable, as it was shown in the previous chapter, then even the few miracles given below are sufficient to indicate the divine origin of the Holy Scriptures.

 

Miracles in the Old Testament

 

The following miracles confirm Moses’ divine mission to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt and to hand over to them God’s Laws (embodied in the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Bible):

 

  1. The Ten Plagues of Egypt (Ex 7:14-12:30).

  2. The Parting of the Red Sea (Ex 14:21-31).

  3. Manna sent daily to feed the Israelites in the desert (Ex 16:13-35).

  4. Water provided to Israelites at Raphidim (Ex 17:1-7) and in the desert of Sin (Num 20:7-11).

  5. Bronze serpent on a pole saved those who beheld it (Num 21:8-9).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following miracles give confirmation to the book of Josue (or Joshua) and God’s promise to bring the Chosen People to the Land of Chanaan:

 

  1. The Fall of Jericho (Jos 6:6-20)

  2. The “Long Days” of Josue, when the sun and the moon stood still to enable the Israelites to win a crucial battle against the Amorrites (Jos 10:12-14).

 

The following miracles support the Book of Judges, Ruth, and 1 and 2 Kings (also known as 1 and 2 Samuel):

 

  1. Samson’s Strength (Jgs 14-16)

  2. The idol Dagon (part man, part fish) fell twice before the Ark of the Covenant (1 Kgs 5:1-12).

  3. Supernatural thunderstorm causing panic among the Philistines (1 Kgs 7:10-12).

  4. Supernatural sound on top of the pear trees as a divine signal for David to attack the Philistines (2 Kgs 5:23-25).

 

The following miracles confirm the historical books probably written by the prophet Jeremias – namely, 3 and 4 Kings:

 

  1. Destruction of Jeroboam’s pagan altar and the instant withering and restoration of his hand (3 Kgs 13:1-6).

  2. Elias fed by ravens (3 Kgs 17:1-6).

  3. Resurrection of a widow’s son in response to Elias’ prayer (3 Kgs 17:17-24).

  4. Elias carried up to heaven by a fiery chariot (4 Kgs 2:11).

  5. Eliseus (or Elisha) raised the Sunamitess’ son to life (4 Kgs 4:33-37)

  6. Eliseus fed 100 men with 20 loaves of barley (4 Kgs 4:42-44).

  7. Dead body revived upon touching the bones of Eliseus (4 Kgs 13:21).

 

The following miracles give confirmation to the historical books attributed to Esdras – the 1 and 2 Paralipomenon (also known as 1 and 2 Chronicles):

 

  1. Heavenly fire consumed King Solomon’s sacrifice (2 Par 7:1-3).

  2. King Ozias instantly struck with leprosy when he tried to perform duties that belong only to the priests (2 Par 26:16-21).

 

The following miracles support the historical parts of the Book of Daniel:

 

  1. Three Hebrew boys delivered from a blazing furnace in Babylon (Dan 3:1-97).

  2. Daniel got out of the Lion’s Den unhurt (Dan 6:2-29).

 

The following miracle gives confirmation to the Book of Jonas:

 

  1. The prophet Jonas survived in the belly of a large fish for three days and three nights (Jon 2:1-11). While certain scholars regard this story as “fairy tale,” our Lord Jesus apparently did not think so (Matt 12:38-45).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miracles in the New Testament

 

Christ performed many miracles that supported His claim to divinity and the truth of the gospels and His teachings. Many of these miracles were performed publicly, that means, before a multitude of witnesses, sometimes before hundreds.  The witnesses were not all friendly to Christ. Some were skeptic spectators, and others were jealous religious leaders who sought every opportunity to embarrass Him or to trick Him. And while some were not willing to attribute divine power to Him, they did not deny the wonders that He wrought, nor accused Him of fraud in His works.  They witnessed Him raise the dead Lazarus to life, but instead of denying the fact, they plotted to kill Him (John 11:53). Likewise, when they saw Him cast devils out of a demoniac, they called Him names, saying that He had cast out devils by the power of Beelzebub, the “prince of the devils” (Matt 12:24), but they did not deny that He had cast the devils out.

 

Christ’s miracles were also genuine miracles, not magic tricks. This means that they were marvelous events that were beyond the power of nature to effect. For example, Christ’s act of walking on water did not involve any merely secret natural power, but something that defied nature altogether. Likewise, the raising of a dead man to life, or the cure of a man born blind were works unheard of in natural history. For nature works according to regular, constant and uniform processes, whereas Christ’s miracles were carried out by an irregular, unexpected and, in a sense, “unnatural” processes. Nature, indeed, has given life, but not to a corpse. It has produced healing to an injured vision, but slowly and not suddenly. If nature has a hidden power that can immediately restore life to a corpse, or instant vision to a blind eye, the fact that the power was activated at Christ’s word is itself also a miracle, and one that indubitably points to the divine origin of Christ’s words.

 

  1. Water changed to wine at Cana (John 2:1-11).

  2. The nobleman’son (John 4:46-54).

  3. Large catch of fishes (Luke 5:1-11).

  4. The healing of the demoniac in the synagogue of Capharnaum (Mark 1:23-28; Luke 4:33-37).

  5. The cure of Peter’s mother-in-law (Matt 8:14-15; Mark 1:29-31; Luke 4:38-39).

  6. The cure of a leper (Matt 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16).

  7. The paralytic cured (Matt 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:18-26).

  8. Cure of the man with a withered hand (Matt 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11).

  9. The healing of the centurion’s servant (Matt 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10).

  10. The widow’s son raised from the dead at Naim (Luke 7:11-17).

  11. The calming of the storm (Matt 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-40; Luke 8:22-25).

  12. The exorcism in Gerasa (Matt 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39)

  13. Cure of the two blind men and a dumb demoniac (Matt 9:27-34).

  14. The raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead, and the healing of a woman with a hemorrhage (Matt 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56).

  15. The first multiplication of the loaves, or the feeding of the five thousand (Matt 14:13-21; Mark 6:34-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-15).

  16. Christ walks on the water (Matt 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52; John 6:16-21)

  17. The cure at the Pool of Bethsaida (John 5:1-15).

  18. Expulsion of the devil from the Canaanite woman’s daughter (Matt 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30).

  19. Christ heals the suffering, including a deaf-mute (Matt 15:29-31; Mark 7:31-37).

  20. The second multiplication of loaves, or the feeding of the four thousand (Matt 15:32-38; Mark 8:1-9).

  21. Healing of the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26).

  22. Devil cast out of a possessed boy (Matt 17:14-20; Mark 9:13-28; Luke 9:37-44).

  23. Tribute money (temple tax) provided by a fish (Matt 17:23-26).

  24. Healing of the man born blind (John 9:1-38).

  25. The healing of the blind and dumb demoniac (Matt 12:22-24; Mark 3:22-30; Luke 11:14-23).

  26. Cure of the stooped woman on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17).

  27. Cure of the man with the dropsy on the Sabbath (Luke 14:1-6).

  28. Cleansing of the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19).

  29. The raising of Lazarus from the dead at Bethany (John 11:1-44).

  30. Cure of the blind man at Jericho (Matt 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43).

  31. The withering (or drying up) of the fig tree (Matt 21:18-22; Mark 11:12-14 and 20-26).

  32. The servant’s ear healed (Matt 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53).

  33. Christ’s resurrection from the dead (Matt 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18).

  34. The catch of 153 large fishes (John 21:1-14).

 

In the Acts of the Apostles St. Luke recorded many miracles performed by God to confirm the teachings, not only of the Apostles Peter and Paul, but also of the other apostles:

 

  1. Saints Peter and John healed a man who had been lame from birth (Acts 3:1-10).

  2. Other apostles, including St. Stephen, performed various signs and wonders and many healing miracles (Acts 5:12-16; 6:8-10).

  3. Saint Philip was miraculously transported to Azotus after baptizing an Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40).

  4. St. Paul, blinded for persecuting Christians, was healed by Ananias (Acts 9:1-19).

  5. Saint Peter healed Aeneas who had been bedridden for eight years (Acts 9:31-35).

  6. St. Peter’s prayers raised a devout woman, Tabitha, to life (Acts 9:36-43).

  7. St. Peter was rescued by an angel from prison (Acts 12:6-11).

  8. St. Paul cast out a demon from a possessed woman (Acts 16:16-18).

  9. Sick people healed just by touching St. Paul’s handkerchief (Acts 19:11-12).

  10. A young man, Eutychus, who fell from a third story window while listening to St. Paul, was raised back to life (Acts 20:9-12).

Healing of the Blind Man (1871)

A painting by Carl Bloch (1834-1890)

Image source link: commons.wikimedia.org

The Brazen Serpent

Illustration from a Bible Card published by the

Providence Lithograph Company (1907)

Image source link: marysrosaries.com

"And the Lord said to him: Make brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign: whosoever being struck shall look on it, shall live. Moses therefore made a brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign: which when they that were bitten looked upon, they were healed" (Num 21:8-9).

Dr. Challoner's Commentary:

This was a figure of Christ crucified, and of the efficacy of a lively faith in him, against the bites of the hellish serpent. John 3:14.

Jonah Cast Out by the Fish

An illustration from the Book by Charles Foster

The Story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, 1908 page 234

"And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho, with his disciples, and a very great multitude, Bartimeus the blind man, the son of Timeus, sat by the way side begging. Who when he had heard, that it was Jesus of Nazareth, began to cry out, and to say: Jesus son of David, have mercy on me. And many rebuked him, that he might hold his peace; but he cried a great deal the more: Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus, standing still, commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying to him: Be of better comfort: arise, he calleth thee. Who casting off his garment leaped up, and came to him. And Jesus answering, said to him: What wilt thou that I should do to thee? And the blind man said to him: Rabboni, that I may see. And Jesus saith to him: Go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he saw, and followed him in the way" (Mark 10:46-52).

 

"Now Peter and John went up into the temple at the ninth hour of prayer. And a certain man who was lame from his mother's womb, was carried: whom they laid every day at the gate of the temple, which is called Beautiful, that he might ask alms of them that went into the temple. He, when he had seen Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked to receive an alms. But Peter with John fastening his eyes upon him, said: Look upon us. But he looked earnestly upon them, hoping that he should receive something of them. But Peter said: Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, I give thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise, and walk. And taking him by the right hand, he lifted him up, and forthwith his feet and soles received strength. And he leaping up, stood, and walked, and went in with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God. And they knew him, that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened to him" (Acts 3:1-10)

Peter Healed a Man who was Lame from Birth

Image source link: Marysrosaries.com

 

 

B. Prophecies Prove that the Revelation found in Holy Scripture is from God

 

Prophecies are a remarkable indicator of the divine origin of the Revelations found in Holy Scripture. This is because the predictions pertain to future free events that lie outside of any creature’s foreknowledge and control. Many of these predictions were made years in advance of their actual fulfillment, and since they were of future contingent events, their fulfillment points to the Omniscience of its true Source. No ancient religious writings from any of the other major religions of the world could boast of a vast array of fulfilled prophecies such as we find in Christian revelation.

 

The prophet in the Bible is not primarily a forecaster of future events, or a fortune teller. Rather, he is a person whom God has chosen to be His spokesperson and to instruct His people.  Therefore, a prophet is primarily a teacher who reveals what God wills.  Often the prophecy or teaching would include a reminder, warning or prediction of a future event as part of God’s plan for Israel.

 

Now, prophecies are of two kinds. Prophecies that pertain to our Lord as Redeemer (Messiah) are called messianic prophecies. These prophecies are usually found in the Old Testament, and their fulfillment are recorded in the New Testament. Other prophecies and predictions that do not pertain to our Lord as Redeemer, are known as non-messianic prophecies. These may be found in both the Old and the New Testament.

 

The following prophecies are only representative of the numerous fulfilled prophecies found in the Bible. The list is by no means complete. However, if the accounts given in Holy Scripture are historically reliable, as they were shown to be so in the previous page, then even the few fulfilled prophecies below are sufficient to establish the divine origin of the Holy Scriptures.

 

Non-messianic Prophecies

 

  • The Succession of Great World Kingdoms (Dan 2:37-42).  Daniel prophesied that the great kingdom of Babylon will be succeeded, one after the other, by three other kingdoms. In Daniel 2:40-44 he also predicted that the last kingdom would not be superseded but would not remain united. Instead it would fragment and become many nations. Fulfillment: History shows that this prediction had been accurate. In 539 B.C. Cyrus, the King of Persia, destroyed the kingdom of Babylon. Then in 331 B.C. the Greek Alexander II of Macedon, otherwise known as Alexander the Great, put an end to the Persian Empire. Although Alexander himself was never conquered, the Greek empire showed a slow decline after his death, and was eventually overruled by Rome. By the first century B.C. the Roman Empire under Gaius Julius Caesar was firmly established. As Daniel had predicted Rome was not superseded by another superpower, but because of its internal corruption it fragmented into the smaller powers and nations that now constitute modern Europe.

  • The Babylonian Rule (Jer 25:11-12). The prophet Jeremias predicted that Babylon would dominate Juda for 70 years. Fulfillment: Soon after this prediction was made, the prophecy started to unfold. King Nabuchodonosor of Babylon dominated Juda since 607 B.C., during the time of King Joakim (4 Kgs 24:1-7). Then in 587 B.C. Nabuchodonosor carried off Joakim’s son and successor, King Joachin, including his nobles, soldiers and craftsmen, as captives to Babylon (4 Kgs 24:8-17). The Babylonian captivity ended in 538 B.C., which means that the captivity only lasted 50 years, counting inclusively.  However, Jeremias did not say that the captivity would last 70 years, but that Babylon’s rule (which included the Jewish captivity to Babylon) would last 70 years. He also predicted (in Jer 29:10) that the captivity would end when the 70-year rule ended.

  • Cyrus, Liberator of Israel  (Isa 44:28-45:1). The prophet Isaias (740-690 B.C.) foretold years in advance that a certain man named “Cyrus” would free Israel from captivity. Fulfillment: The prophecy was fulfilled in 536 B.C. when Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, conquered Babylon. Exactly as Isaias predicted, Cyrus ended the Babylonian exile by decreeing that the Jews should return to Judea to rebuild Jerusalem and build a new temple for the Lord (1 Esd 1).

  • The End of the Babylonian Empire (Jer 25:12).  Jeremias predicted that after ruling over Juda for 70 years, Babylon would also be punished. Fulfillment: This prophecy was fulfilled. After Cyrus’ destruction of Babylon in 538 B.C., the kingdom of Babylon never again rose to power, and its cities began a gradual decline during the succeeding centuries. 

  • The Destruction of Tyre (Ez 26:3-21). In 589 B.C. the prophet Ezechiel predicted that this powerful city would be attacked by many nations because of its ill treatment of Israel. Fulfillment: The prophecy was soon fulfilled when in 586 B.C. Nabuchodonosor began a 13-year attack on the city and left it in ruins. In 332 B.C. Alexander the Great also attacked the Island of Tyre, which ended the Phoenician Empire. In 315 B.C. the Romans brought further destruction to the Island. In A.D. 1124 Tyre fell to the Crusaders, and in 1291 to the Muslims, who destroyed the city yet again. Thus, the city of Tyre was never completely rebuilt.

  • The Destruction of Jerusalem (Matt 24:1-22; Mark 13:1-2; Luke 19:43-44). Unlike the previous examples, this prophecy is found in the New Testament and was made by Christ Himself. In this prophecy Christ stated that not one stone in the buildings of Jerusalem would remain standing (Matt 24:2), and that there would be tribulation “such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be” (Matt 24:21). Fulfillment: The prophecy was fulfilled when the Romans attacked Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The destruction was accompanied by the brutal massacre of men, women and children.  An eyewitness account of this terrifying event was recorded by the noted Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, in his book The Wars of the Jews, Book VI, Chapter 4 #1, 6 & 7.

  • The Dispersion of the Jews, or the Diaspora  (Luke 21:24). Although this was predicted by our Lord, it was also prophesied in several places of the Old Testament (Lev 26:33; Deut 28:64; Jer 9:15; Ez 22:15). Fulfillment: The events following the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 showed how this prophecy was historically fulfilled.  Many of the Jews became captives in Rome after the fall of Jerusalem. By A.D. 300 the Jews had settled in practically all of the Roman Empire except Britain. And for the next several centuries they were persecuted by other nations and remained without a homeland until 1948.

  • The Growth and Conservation of the Church (Matt 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32). Christ predicted that the Church, like a mustard seed, would start as a small group, but would eventually expand and grow to be a big organization like a full-grown tree. He said that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt 16:18) and that it would last until the end of time (Matt 28:20). Fulfillment: These predictions currently are still in the course of fulfillment, as the Church continues to be persecuted and attacked age after age, but is never extinguished. The Church has had its dark days, but continues to be a beacon of light and a source of spiritual strength to wayfaring souls. In contrast, many great empires had risen and fallen, but the Church of Christ has remained steadfast.  Many regard the conservation of the Church as a moral miracle.

 

Messianic Prophecies

 

The more important prophecies in the Old Testament are those that pertain to our Lord as Redeemer. These prophecies, made 400 to 800 years before the coming of Christ, were truly remarkable because they were not trivial generalities, but gave specific details about Christ’s character and life. For example, they did not merely foretell His coming, but also gave the place of His birth.  They did not merely state that He would come from the family of David, but that He also would be born of a virgin. The prophecies did not merely foretell the place where Christ would live, but also described how He would live, suffer and die. They gave particular details of His crucifixion, and even alluded to His future resurrection and ascension into heaven!

 

The following is a partial list of Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in Christ. Most of these prophecies are literal, but some are symbolic or typical. Literal prophecies are predictions of future events that are written or spoken by a prophet. Symbolic (or typical) prophecies are predictions of future people, objects or events by way of symbolism or representation. For example, Isaac carrying on his shoulders the wood for the holocaust (Gen 22) is a prophetic representation or “type” of the Messiah carrying the cross. Likewise, the bronze serpent that Moses set up on a pole in the desert to heal those that had been bitten by the serpents (Num 21:9) was a symbol or “type” of Christ. For, in the words of our Lord, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish; but may have life everlasting” (John 3:14-15). A prophecy like these exceeds the knowledge of the original writer of the Scripture, and is often recognized as prophecy only after the people, objects or events represented by the “type” have already passed. It is probably these symbolisms that our Lord explained to the Apostles when St. Luke said of Christ that He “opened their understanding that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45). 

 

 

ORIGIN OF THE MESSIAH

 

  • A Messiah will come, born of a woman, to crush the serpent’s head (Gen 3:15) Moses was the author of Genesis. Between Moses and Adam there was a gap of about five thousand years. There was no way that Moses would have known the story of our first parents without the aid of divine revelation. The serpent symbolized the devil (Apoc 12:9) who, by his lies, tempted our first parents.  After the fall of Adam and Eve, God drove them out of the Garden, but promised them a Redeemer who would crush the devil’s head. This promise is called the Protoevangelium, the first good news that a Messiah was coming. The Messiah will be the seed of a woman, which means that He will not just descend from the sky like an alien, but will be born as one of us, a human in all respects except sin. Fulfillment: Luke 2:5-7; Gal 4:4.

  • The Messiah will come as the seed of Abraham (Gen 12:2-3; 18:18; 22:17-18). It was on account of Abraham’s obedience that God said that he would be the father of many children – as many as the stars of heaven. But the really great promise to Abraham (in Gen 22:18) was not his many sons in general, but the special seed (singular), in whom all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. This was the Messiah. Fulfillment: Matt 1:1; Luke 3:34; Acts 3:25; Gal 3:16. St. Paul confirms in Gal 3:16 that the “seed” promised to Abraham (in Gen 22:18) refers to Christ.

  • The Messiah will come from the family of David (2 Kgs 7:16; Ps 131:11; Isa 11: 1-2; Jer 23:5-6; 33:15) God was so pleased with David’s intention to build a temple for Him, that He in turn promised him a kingdom that will last forever. What was promised to David was not a house of wood and stone, but a line of sons who would reign forever (2 Kgs 7:13). Fulfillment: Matt 1:1-15; 22:41-46; Luke 1:30-33; 2:4; 3:31; Acts 2:29-30; Rom 1:3-4. In fact, the kingdom of Juda reigned over Israel until Christ came. At the Annunciation the angel Gabriel told Mary that her son (Christ) will receive the throne of David his father (Luke 1:32). It was He who completed the prophecy as the Eternal King of the House of David.

  • The Messiah will be born of a virgin (Isa 7:14). This is one of the most amazing prophecies ever made about our Lord, not only because it was uttered some 700 years before its actual fulfillment, but also because it was totally unexpected. Fulfillment: Matt 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38. Although Mary, the mother of Christ, was already engaged to St. Joseph when Christ was conceived, they had not yet lived together according to Matt 1:18. Therefore, the Lord Jesus was born of a virgin.

 

 

HIS BIRTH

 

  • The Messiah shall come from Bethlehem of the land of Juda  (Mi 5:2). Thus, Christ’s birthplace was foretold. It was to be at “Bethlehem Ephrata,” according to the prophet Micheas. Ephrata was the name of the district. The town was Bethlehem, and it was also the birthplace of King David (Luke 2:4). Fulfillment: Matt 2:1-6; Luke 2:4-7; John 7:42  It is significant that the old Hebrew word “bethlehem” means “house of bread,” because Christ is the Bread that has come down from heaven (John 6:59). In its Arabic form the word also means “house of meat,” which Christ is also (John 6:56). It is also just as significant that Christ, as the food of our soul, was upon His birth laid in a manger (Luke 2:7), which literally is a place where animals eat out of.

  • The Messiah will come when the Temple of Jerusalem is still standing (Mal 3:1; Ps 117:26; Zach 11:13; Agg 2:7-9). The Old Testament prophecies did not give the exact year of Christ’s birth, but numerous prophecies situated Christ’s appearance to be at the time when there was a Temple in Jerusalem. The last Temple was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70, so Christ was to come before that. Fulfillment:  Matt 21:12-13. This text shows that the Temple was there during the time of Christ, but this temple did not always exist. The first Temple was built by King Solomon in 959 B.C., but it was ransacked by the Egyptian Pharaoh, Sheshonq I (Sesac in the Douay Bible), in 925 B.C. It was repaired in 812 B.C. (4 Kgs 12:6), but stripped again by Sennacherib in 700 B.C., and totally destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. The second Temple was started in 536 B.C., and finally dedicated in 516 B.C. It was renovated and expanded by Herod the Great in 20 B.C. and became known as Herod’s Temple. This was the Temple existing during the time of Christ, and which He predicted would be destroyed.

  • The Messiah will be expected by all nations (Gen 49:10; Agg 2:8), and in His coming He will be worshipped by the Gentile world (Isa 49:7). The gentiles will offer Him presents (Ps 71:10-11)Fulfillment: Matt 2:1-11. Apparently there were people in the Gentile world (scholars or “wise men”) who were paying attention to the ancient Jewish prophecies. They, too, were waiting for the coming of the promised Redeemer. That they were also “kings” was speculated because of the valuable gifts they offered to the Christ-child, and because only kings and affluent people probably would have the education and luxury to study astronomy and the ancient texts.

 

 

HIS CHILDHOOD

 

  • The Messiah will take refuge in Egypt (Os 11:1) during the massacre of the innocents. Fulfillment: Matt 2:13-18.  It is not easy to see how Osee’s prophecy could refer to Christ, for the text was actually talking of Israel. Likewise, it is not clear why the angel selected Egypt as a place of refuge for the Holy Family, rather than some place closer.  But there were excellent reasons for this. At that time there were already many Jewish settlers in Egypt, so it would be a friendly place for the Holy Family to stay. Although Osee’s prophecy directly pertains to Israel, it indirectly pertains to Christ inasmuch as Israel was a “type” of Christ, in the same way that Isaac carrying the wood for the holocaust was a “type” of Christ. 

  • The Messiah will return to Galilee (Isa 9:1-2) and live in Nazareth. Fulfillment:  Matt 2:22-23.  The prophecy that the Messiah would live in Nazareth was reported by St. Matthew, but could not be found in any of the OT prophetical books. St. John Chrysostom explains that the prophecy was actually made by the ancient prophets, although it was not put in writing by the OT writers. This is not unusual, for not everything (including some of Christ’s own words!) had been committed in writing (John 21:25). St. Matthew was using information available to Him, although not part of the canonical Old Testament literature.

 

 

HIS CHARACTER

 

  • The Messiah will be the Son of God (Ps 2:2,7), and will be eternal like the Father (Mi 5:2)Fulfillment: Matt 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 1:32-33; John 8:58

  • The Messiah will be called Lord (Ps 109), Jesus (Hab 3:18), Emmanuel (Isa 7:14) and called by other names (Isa 9:6). Fulfillment: Matt 22:43-45; 1:21-25; Luke 2:21. Christ was actually named “Jesus,” but “Emmanuel” is an alternative name. For, although “Jesus” (which means Savior) and “Emmanuel” (which means God with us) appear to be two different names, the reality signified by “Jesus” is the same as that signified by “Emmanuel.” For Christ became our savior by becoming one of us or one with us.

  • The Messiah will be meek and mild (Isa 42:2-4; 53:7); sinless and without guile (Isa 53:9). Fulfillment: Matt 11:29; 12:10-20; 27:12-14; 1 Pet 2:20-23.

  • The Messiah will be loved and honored even by children (Ps 8:3)Fulfillment: Matt 21:15-16

  • The Messiah will be peaceable as a lion’s whelp (Gen 49:8-12). The dying Jacob actually made three prophecies here. First, Juda would rule over his brothers, or that the descendants of Juda would rule over the twelve tribes of Israel. Second, Juda’s leadership would not be violent, but a peaceable one (“like a lion’s whelp,” Gen 49:10). Third, the “scepter” would not be taken from Juda until the coming of the Messiah. The text is not easy to interpret, but Bible scholars read this prophecy as saying that the Messiah, who would rule Israel, would also be of the tribe of Juda. The prophecy is significant because it also speaks of the character of Christ, not as a violent king, but one who is peaceable like a lion’s whelp. Fulfillment: Jacob made this prophecy in 1859 B.C. It took 850 years before the kingdom of Juda gained leadership of all Israel. The earlier leaders came from different tribes: Moses and Samuel from the tribe of Levi, Josue from Ephraim, Gideon from Manasseh, Samson from Dan, and Saul from Benjamin. It was not until David (of the line of Juda) became king that the “scepter” was held by the tribe of Juda. The “scepter” here stands for the staff of authority, and must be understood as symbolizing tribal and moral leadership rather than exclusively political power. As history shows, the kingdom of Juda actually lost political power before the coming of Christ. The Assyrians conquered the Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C., and the Jews were subsequently dominated by Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Egyptian, Syrian and Roman rule. However, the “scepter” remained with Juda during those turbulent times because it retained tribal leadership among the Jews. The tribe of Juda – largely through the work of the prophets – exercised moral authority that gave cohesion and identity to the Jews as a nation. Obviously, the Jews did not have a kingdom during their period of subjection to foreign rule, and it was meaningless to ask who was holding the sceptre then. But in 40 B.C. the Romans appointed Herod the Great to be king of Israel, and the Jews had a kingdom again. Herod, who was an Edomite and not a Hebrew, was the one holding the sceptre when Christ was born. In a true sense, therefore, Christ’s coming during the reign of King Herod was a fulfillment of Jacob’s third prophecy. But Christ also fulfilled Jacob’s first and second prophecy because he was from the tribe of Juda (Matt 1:3; Heb 7:14), and He now rules, not just Israel but the entire world, like the tamed lion of Jacob’s prophecy. The identification of Christ with the gentle “Lion of Juda” was made by St. John the Evangelist in Apoc 5:5.

 

HIS MINISTRY

 

  • The Messiah will be heralded by a messenger (Isa 40:3; Mal 3:1) and will be anointed by the Holy Spirit (Isa 11:2). Fulfillment:  The messenger was St. John the Baptist (Matt 3:1-3); and the anointing by the Holy Spirit took place after the baptism at the River Jordan (Matt 3:16-17; Acts 10:38).  Actually, the coming of the Messiah was announced by the prophets long before the birth of St. John the Baptist. And this itself is truly remarkable. For Christ was the only person in history whose birth was pre-announced in prophecy. No one foretold the coming of Buddha, Mohammed, or any other religious leader. But the prophets had spoken of the coming of Christ  ̶ His birth, His ministry and His death. That is why people had been waiting for Him, and why He was expected by all nations (Gen 49:10; Agg 2:8).

  • The Messiah will minister in Galilee (Isa 9:1-2)Fulfillment:  Matt 4:12-17

  • The Messiah will be a teacher and prophet (Isa 61:1). He will speak in parables (Ps 77:2), and will be a prophet like Moses (Deut 18:15-19)Fulfillment:  Matt 5:1-16; 13:34; 21:11; Luke 4:14-21; John 1:45; Acts 3:20-23

  • The Messiah will be a spiritual king, legislator and judge  (Ps 2:6; Is 9:7; 33:22; Jer 23:5)Fulfillment: John 18:33-37; Matt 5:17-48

  • The Messiah will be a shepherd to his people (Isa 40:11)Fulfillment: John 10:11; Mark 9:35-36

  • The Messiah will be a priest and victim (Ps 109:4; Isa 53:5-7). In Ps 109 King David said that the Messiah would be “a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech.” Fulfillment: Luke 22:15-20; Heb 7:20-28. Although King David in Psalm 109 was the first to recognize the link between Melchisedech and Christ, it was St. Paul (in Hebrews 7) who explained how Christ was a priest in the same order as Melchisedech. Unlike other Jewish priests (in the line of Levi) Melchisedech’s priesthood came directly from God (Gen 14:18). Like Melchisedech, Christ did not obtain his priesthood by carnal descent (from the tribe of Levi), for He was from the tribe of Juda. Rather, He was a priest by His Divine Person. But there is one more reason why we can justly say that Melchisedech was a “type” of Christ. In blessing Abraham Melchisedech did not use sacrifices of sheep and oxen as the Levite priests do, but brought forth bread and wine (Gen 14:18-20), foreshadowing the sacrifice of the Mass which Christ instituted at the Last Supper (Luke 22:15-20).

  • The Messiah will cleanse the Temple and purify the priesthood (Mal 3:1-3; Isa 56:7; Jer 7:11)Fulfillment: Matt 21:12-13; Luke 19:45-46

  • The Messiah will work many miracles (Isa 29:18; 35:4-6). Fulfillment: Matt 9:35; 11:5; Luke 7:22

  • The Messiah will enter Jerusalem as a King riding on a donkey (Zach 9:9)Fulfillment: Matt 21:4-9

HIS BETRAYAL

 

  • The Messiah will be despised and rejected by His people (Isa 53:3; Ps 117:22)Fulfillment: 1 Pet 2:7

  • They will make plans to kill Him (Jer 11:19)Fulfillment: John 11:46-53

  • The Messiah will be betrayed by His friend (Ps 40:10)Fulfillment: Matt 26:47-50; Luke 22:3-6

  • The Messiah will be sold for 30 pieces of silver (Zach 11:12), which will later be cast onto the floor of the Temple (Zach 11:13) and be used to buy the potter’s field. Fulfillment: Matt 26:14-15; 27:3-10.  St. Matthew said in his gospel (27:9) that the prophecy was given by Jeremias, whereas it was actually found in the book of Zacharias and nowhere in the book of Jeremias. A solution to this discrepancy, proposed by St. Jerome and given by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Commentary on St. Matthew (#2321), is that St. Matthew might have quoted from a book written by Jeremias, but which the Catholic Church later on did not include among the canonical books.  Also, the fact that the money was used to buy the potter’s field was not in Zacharias’ prophecy either, but it could have been in Jeremias’ apocryphal book which St. Matthew was quoting from.

  • The Messiah will be abandoned by His disciples (Zach 13:7)Fulfillment: Mark 14:50

 

 

HIS PASSION AND DEATH

 

  • The Messiah will be dishonored, scourged and spat upon (Isa 50:6)Fulfillment: Matt 27:26-30; Mark 14:65; John 19:1

  • The Messiah will be numbered among criminals or malefactors (Isa 53:12). Fulfillment: Matt 27:38. Christ was crucified between two thieves.

  • The Messiah will be the Paschal Lamb (Ex 12). Although missed by some writers as a messianic prophecy, the events narrated in Exodus 12 is a symbolic prophecy that referred to Christ as the sacrificial lamb. As the blood of the lamb saved the firstborn of the Jews from death, so the Messiah will save us from eternal death by the shedding of His blood. Fulfillment: It was no less than St. John the Baptist himself who first recognized Christ as the Lamb of God. Immediately upon seeing Him at the River Jordan he declared, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Also, note that Aaron told the Israelites to choose a male lamb without blemish (Ex 12:5), which represented Christ who was, in the words of St. Peter, “as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled” (1 Pet 1:19). Aaron said that the lamb would be immolated as a victim, but not a bone should be broken (Ex 12), a prophecy that was also fulfilled when the Roman soldiers, seeing that He was already dead on the cross, did not break His legs as they did to the other two thieves (John 19:32-33). Finally, recall that Christ died on the eve of the pasch (John 19:31), justifying His reputation as the Paschal Lamb.

  • The Messiah will die by crucifixion. The wicked will pierce his hands and feet  (Ps 21:17). Fulfillment: Matt 27:35; Luke 23:33-34. It is remarkable that the ancient prophecies predicted Christ’s death by crucifixion, because the Jews usually execute criminals by stoning. However, during the time of Christ the Jews did not have the legal right to execute criminals under Roman law. So, Christ was executed by the Romans according to the Roman practice of crucifixion. All the Evangelists said that Christ was crucified (Matt 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33; John 19:18). The fact that His hands and feet were nailed to the cross is clear from John 20:25. However, it is likely that Christ’s arms were bound to the crossbeam by ropes because this was the Roman practice of crucifixion.  

  • The wicked will cast lots for his garments (Ps 21:19). Fulfillment: Matt 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24

  • The Messiah’s body will be pierced (Zach 12:10), but no bone will be broken (Ex 12:46; Num 9:12; Ps 33:21. Fulfillment:  John 19:31-37. Not only His hands and feet, but also His body was pierced when a Roman soldier thrust a lance on His side. It is amazing how events happened that the prophecies might be fulfilled. No bone of the paschal lamb should be broken according to the laws of Moses, which also applied to Christ because in His sacrifice He was the Paschal Lamb (1 Pet 1:19; 1 Cor 5:7).  If Christ’s arms were bound to the crossbeam by ropes, then it is possible that the nails were driven through the palms of His hands, which avoided the difficulty of driving them through the small space between His wrist bones. Was the nail driven through the palm or through the wrist? It is not easy to resolve this issue based on the image of the wound in the Shroud of Turin. The image shows that the nail hole could be at the wrist, but it could also be at the bottom of the palm near the wrist. Anyway, it would seem that the nails were driven to increase His pain, since the ropes alone would have been sufficient to support His body.

  • The Messiah will be slain  at the time foretold by Dan 9:25-27. In 538 B.C. Daniel made a prediction according to which the Messiah would be slain 7 and 62 weeks from the time the order to rebuild Jerusalem was given. The Hebrew word shabua, which is loosely translated in English as “week,” actually means seven (years, not days, according to the context). So the death of Christ was predicted at 7 + 62 = 69 seven years, or 69 x 7 = 483 years from the time the order to restore Jerusalem was issued. However, the prophetical year in the Bible was an exact 360 days, not 365 days.  Allowing a correction for this shorter year, the predicted time of Christ’s death was 360/365 x 483 = 476 solar years measured from the year of the cited order. Fulfillment: According to the book of Nehemias, ̶  also known as 2 Esdras,  ̶  the order to restore Jerusalem was given in the 20th year in the reign of the Persian King Artaxerxes I. It was he who commissioned Nehemias to reconstruct Jerusalem (2 Esd 2:1-6). Now, although King Artaxerxes started to rule soon after his father’s death in 465 B.C., the Jewish writer of 2 Esdras probably regarded the reign of Artaxerxes to start from the fall of 464 B.C. Therefore, the twentieth year of his reign would be at 444 B.C.  Adding 476 years to this, and noting that there is only one year difference between  A.D. 1 and 1 B.C., the year of Christ’s death would fall at A.D. 33, which is pretty close to estimates based on other considerations. See 7 Clues Tell us *precisely* When Jesus Died

  • The Messiah will be buried with the wicked, but in the tomb of the rich. (Isa 53:9)Fulfillment: Matt 27:57-60.  Since Christ was numbered among the criminals, His graveyard was probably the place where other criminals were also buried, but His tomb belonged to Joseph of Arimathea who was a rich man.

 

 

HIS RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION

 

  • The Messiah’s body will not corrupt but rise from the dead (Ps15:10; 3:6)Fulfillment: Mark 16:6; Acts 2:31. Actually Christ predicted that He would be dead only three days and three nights (using the Hebrew inclusive method of counting) by pointing to the prophet Jonas’ experience as a “type” of His future resurrection: “For as Jonas was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights, so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” (Matt 12:40)

  • The Messiah will ascend to God’s right hand (Ps 67:19; Ps 109:1)Fulfillment: Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9; Heb 1:3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is remarkable that Christ fulfilled all the prophecies perfectly. It means that their fulfillment could not have been due to chance or human contrivance. Yet some enemies of Christianity assert that Christ artificially manipulated His life to cause the ancient prophecies to be fulfilled in Him. This objection is baseless. No one could force the fulfillment of prophecies that result from the free actions of human beings. What, for example, did Christ do to make the Pharisees offer 30 pieces of silver to Judas to fulfill Zacharias’ prophecy? Likewise, how did the dead Christ compel the Roman soldier to thrust a lance at His side to fulfill a prophecy? How could any man fulfill the prophecy of a virgin birth? It is preposterous to think that Christ manipulated all the events of His life,  and the life of those around Him, to fulfill ancient prophecies. Studies using probability mathematics have shown that the odds of fulfilling even eight only of the messianic prophecies are a staggering 1 in 100 quadrillion. See Applying the Science of Probability to the Scriptures. In the face of these odds any attempt by any man to manipulate free human acts to fulfill prophecies would have ended in frustration. Yet, the gospels recorded that Christ fulfilled all of them perfectly, clearly indicating that it was God Himself, who sees the free actions of men from His eternal vision, who revealed the future occurrence of these events to the prophets.

Mary and Joseph were both of the House of David.

 

That Joseph was of the House of David is clear from Luke 1:27. Also, the genealogies given in Matt 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38 show that Joseph descended from David.

 

No genealogy was given for Mary. However, St. Paul spoke of Christ as being "of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Rom 1:3). Since Mary was a virgin, and remained a virgin after Christ was born, Christ could be a descendant of David "according to the flesh" only if Mary herself was a descendant of David. Also, from the Protoevangelium of James it could be seen that Mary was an only child. Therefore, by law she would receive her father's inheritance (Num 27:8). But, to keep her inheritance within her own tribe, another law requires that she marry only a man of her own tribe (Num 36:8). Therefore, the fact that she chose to marry Joseph, who was of the House of David, means that she herself was of the House of David.

St. Thomas Aquinas speculates that Mary's father (Joachim) was of the House of David, but her mother (Anne) was of the tribe of Aaron, which gave Christ the right to the title of both King and Priest. See Summa Theologiae, Part III, Q. 31, Art. 2, Reply to Obj. 2.

The Prophet Isaiah, 1511

A painting by Raphael

Image source link: WikiArt.org

Jeremiah Lamenting over the Destruction of Jerusalem

A painting by Rembrandt (1606-1669)

Image source link: Marysrosaries.com

The Blessed Virgin Mary

Image source link: Marysrosaries.com

Jesus and the Children

Image source link: Marysrosaries.com

The Scourging on the Back

Watercolor painting by James Jacques Tissot

Image source link: commons.wikimedia.org

The Scourging on the Front

Watercolor painting by James Jacques Tissot

Image source link: commons.wikimedia.org

The Ascension of Christ

A ceiling painting in the Church of Hechingen, Germany

Painted by Fidelis Schabet (1813-1874)

Image source link: commons.wikimedia.org

© 2018, 2019 Romeo Maria del Santo Niño

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