Refutation of Ray Comfort’s “The School of Biblical Evangelism” (Part 4)
Lesson 56: Contradictions in the Bible
Kirk’s Comment: Many of us are intimidated about witnessing because we’re afraid someone will point out an error in the Bible that we can’t explain. Are there contradictions in the Bible, or do they just seem like contradictions? We’ll look at a few of these together.
The only thing that is intimidating is the truth, and as this review shows, nothing in this book has revealed a hint of truth. What Kirk and Ray attempt to complete in this chapter is using faith as a tool to cover obvious Bible contradictions, which are estimated to be numbered in the hundreds (if not thousands). What Ray does in the following is pick and choose only a couple of contradictions he believes are easy to settle, but his attempts are feeble and without merit.
Ray responds the objection “There are contradictions in the resurrection accounts. Did Christ appear first to the women or to His disciples?” Ray responds with: Both Matthew and Mark list women as the first to see the resurrected Christ. Mark says, “He appeared first to Mary Magdalene” (16:9). But Paul lists Peter (Cephas) as the first one to see Christ after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5). Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, then to the other women, and then to Peter. Paul was not giving a complete list, but only the important one for his purpose. Since only men’s testimony was considered legal or official in the first century, it is understandable that the apostle would not list the women as witnesses in his defense of the resurrection.
Women’s testimony was not disregarded as Ray claims, this is simply dead wrong (both socially and as a matter of law. (Source: “Not the Impossible Faith” by Richard Carrier, pg 297-321)
Where is the evidence that Paul was only “important one for his purpose”? There is no evidence that Paul even knew of the existence of Mary Magdalene or any other female witness.
Ray then gives a list of the order of people the resurrected Jesus appeared to,
1) Mary Magdalene (John 20:10–18)
2) Mary and women Matthew (28:1–10)
3) Peter (1 Corinthians 15:5)
4) Two disciples (Luke 24:13–35)
5) Ten apostles (Luke 24:36–49; John 20:19–23)
6) Eleven apostles (John 20:24–31)
7) Seven apostles (John 21)
8) All apostles (Matthew 28:16–20;Mark 16:14–18)
9) 500 brethren (1 Corinthians 15:6)
10) James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
11) All apostles (Acts 1:4–8)
12) Paul (Acts 9:1–9; 1 Corinthians 15:8)
Paul does not name any one of these witnesses, except Peter and James (though he does mention “the twelve” even though there were only eleven disciples when Jesus supposedly appeared, according to all the Gospels).
As for the “500 brethren” report being sent to men in Greece (too far from Palestine to have any chance of checking the account), there is absolutely no evidence that these people existed. Paul gives us no account of who they were, where they came from, what the saw, how many were adults with sober minds, an more importantly why not a single one wrote or reported seeing a resurrected man. The only answer is that these “500 brethren” s just a umber written on paper; pure propaganda.
The Bible has many seeming contradictions within its pages. A contradiction is an inconsistency or discrepancy, which may give the appearance of an error. The four Gospels, for example, give four differing accounts as to what was written on the sign that hung on the cross. Matthew said, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (27:37). However, Mark contradicts that with “The King of the Jews” (15:26). Luke says something different: “This is the King of the Jews” (23:38), and John maintains that the sign read “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” (19:19). Those who are looking for contradictions may therefore say, “See—the Bible is full of mistakes!” and choose to reject it entirely as being untrustworthy. However, those who trust God have no problem harmonizing the Gospels. There is no contradiction if the sign simply read “This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.”
However, that is not what the sign said, now was it. What Ray has done is attempt to squeeze all the contradicting accounts of what was inscribed on the cross, but what Ray is doing here is basically creating his own gospel. None of the gospel writers say the inscription Ray just conjured, therefore Ray is twisting the Bible (a serious crime in Ray’s worldview).
The godly base their confidence on two truths: 1) “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16); and 2) an elementary rule of Scripture is that God has deliberately included seeming contradictions in His Word to “snare” the proud. He has “hidden” things from the “wise and prudent” and “revealed them to babes” (Luke 10:21), purposely choosing foolish things to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). If an ungodly man refuses to humble himself and obey the gospel, and instead desires to build a case against the Bible, God gives him enough material to build his own gallows.
2 Timothy 3:16 does not claim that claim to be inspired by God; the “Scriptures” referred to in that verse refer to the Old Testament, and the term “inspiration” does not mean “word of God” either. (i.e. if a tree inspires me to write a poem about it, are they my words or the tree’s words?) In any case, the Bible itself does NOT even claim that all 66 books in it are infallible.
So God inserts verses that are contradictory simply to fool people, and thus condemning them to eternal punishment? This is clearly an act of deception through and through. God, according to Ray and most fundamental Christians, claim that God cannot lie, and yet Ray just admitted that God tries to confuse people.
This incredible principle is clearly illustrated in the account of the capture of Zedekiah, king of Judah. Jeremiah the prophet told Zedekiah that God would judge him. He was informed that he would be “delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon” (Jeremiah 32:4). This is confirmed in Jeremiah 39:5–7 where we are told that he was captured and brought to King Nebuchadnezzar, then they “bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon.” However, in Ezekiel 12:13, God Himself warned, “I will bring him to Babylon . . . yet he shall not see it, though he shall die there” (emphasis added). Here is material to build a case against the Bible! It is an obvious mistake. Three Bible verses say that the king would go to Babylon, and yet the Bible in another place says that he would not see Babylon. How can someone be taken somewhere and not see it? It makes no sense at all—unless Zedekiah was blinded. And that is precisely what happened. Zedekiah saw Nebuchadnezzar face to face, saw his sons killed before his eyes, then “the king of Babylon . . . put out Zedekiah’s eyes” before taking him to Babylon (Jeremiah 39:6,7).
This is the underlying principle behind the many “contradictions” of Holy Scripture (such as how many horses David had, who was the first to arrive at the tomb after the resurrection of Jesus, etc.). God has turned the tables on proud, arrogant, self-righteous man. When he proudly stands outside of the kingdom of God, seeking to justify his sinfulness through evidence that he thinks discredits the Bible, he doesn’t realize that God has simply lowered the door of life, so that only those who are prepared to exercise faith and bow in humility may enter.
Since every word of the Lord is pure, any seeming “mistakes” are there because God has put them there, and they are therefore not mistakes. In time, we will find that the “mistakes” are actually ours. Therefore, never have fear if someone points out a “contradiction” in the Bible that you can’t answer. Simply ask for the person’s phone number, e-mail, or mailing address so you can get back to him with a solid answer. If he doesn’t take you up on it, it proves that he really wasn’t interested in an answer but rather used the “contradiction” as a smoke screen to hide behind. It’s also interesting to note that the seeming contradictions in the Gospels attest to the fact that there was no corroboration between the writers.
So if a mistake is found, it is a deliberate deception placed there by god…the god that supposedly never lies and demands his followers to never lie???
And the mistake god put there, the blame falls on us instead of the deceiver?
And if the person who points out the “contradictions” does not want to share all his/her personal information, that somehow means they are not interested in finding the answers? This is rich, coming from a man like Ray Comfort who runs and hides from real answers.
Lesson 58: Messianic Prophecies Part 1
Kirk’s comment: If Jesus is God, we should worship and obey Him. If Jesus is not God, then according to His own claims of His identity, we must dismiss Him as a liar or a crazy man.
Nothing in this book, or any of the books produced by Way of the Master has proven that Jesus, if he existed, was God or did any of the things attributed to him.
So, by Kirk’s admission, time for the world to drop the fairy tale that was Christianity.
Ray provides a response to the objection “On the cross, Jesus cried, ‘My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ This proves He was a fake. God forsook Him.” Ray responds with: Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 were the fulfillment of David’s prophecy in Psalm 22:1. Verse 3 of this psalm then gives us insight into why God forsook Jesus on the cross: “But You are holy. . .” A holy Creator cannot have fellowship with sin. When Jesus was on the cross, the sin of the entire world was laid upon Him (Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21), but Scripture says God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13).
Psalm 22:1 is not a prophecy at all. The writer, David, was merely singing a psalm as a plea of help from God for injustices done to him (David) and not predicting what would happen to the future messiah!
Likewise, in The Fabulous Prophecies Of The Messiah Jim Lippard points out:
“There are several verses taken to refer to crucifixion: Psalms 22:16, Zechariah 12:10, and Zechariah 13:6 are typical examples. Psalms 22:16 reads, “For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.” This is a psalm of David which gives no indication of being prophetic and which describes the speaker being hunted down and killed rather than being crucified. Gerald Sigal (1981, p. 98) argues that the Hebrew word translated here as “pierced” is “ariy,” which means “lion,” and so a more accurate translation would be “like a lion [they are gnawing at] my hands and feet.” Gleason Archer (1982, p. 37), however, argues that “they pierced” is correct, based on the Septuagint’s translation and other considerations.
Zechariah 12:10 says “they will look on me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for him, as one mourns for an only son ….” The gospel of John (19:37) takes this as prophecy fulfilled by Jesus’ crucifixion, but there is no indication that this speaks of crucifixion. Further, the “him” being mourned for is not the “me” that is being pierced. The Jewish interpretation of this verse is that God is speaking of the people of Israel being “pierced” or attacked (Sigal 1981, pp. 80-82).”
So why did the author of Mark include this non-prophecy? The author of Mark merely plagiarized this passage from psalms, and Matthew copied everything from Mark (and this is not the only example, the list is huge). Mark attempted to design a messiah that mirrored old Jewish legends.
Finally, Isaiah 53 does not refer to Jesus.
Unlike any other book, the Bible offers a multitude of specific predictions —some thousands of years in advance— that either have been literally fulfilled or point to a definite future time when they will come true. Fulfilled prophecies argue for omniscience—only one who is omniscient can accurately predict details of events thousands of years in the future. Limited human beings know the future only if it is told to them by an omniscient Being.
People never were making accurate prophecies. Prophecies depend on the principle of determinism. Since the future cannot be known, due to quantum theory and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, prophecies are not valid arguments. Prophecies that are declared “fulfilled” are virtually always vague or inevitable (such as the Bible predicting that there will be earthquakes in the future).
Ergo, men who make predictions are not being told the future by a omniscient Being. To add to that, there is no evidence that this supposed omniscient Being exists in the first place.
There are two categories of biblical prophecy: messianic (those that speak of the coming Messiah) and non-messianic. In his comprehensive catalogue of prophecies, The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecies, J. Barton Payne lists 191 prophecies concerning the anticipated Jewish Messiah and Savior. Each was literally fulfilled in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth. A sampling of these prophecies follows.
There are several mundane ways in which a prediction of the future can be fulfilled:
- Retrodiction. The “prophecy” can be written or modified after the events fulfilling it have already occurred.
- Vagueness. The prophecy can be worded in such a way that people can interpret any outcome as a fulfillment. Nostradomus’s prophecies are all of this type. Vagueness works particularly well when people are religiously motivated to believe the prophecies.
- Inevitability. The prophecy can predict something that is almost sure to happen, such as the collapse of a city. Since nothing lasts forever, the city is sure to fall someday. If it has not, it can be said that according to prophecy, it will.
- Denial. One can claim that the fulfilling events occurred even if they have not. Or, more commonly, one can forget that the prophecy was ever made.
- Self-fulfillment. A person can act deliberately to satisfy a known prophecy.
There are no prophecies in the Bible that cannot easily fit into one or more of those categories. None of the 191 prophecies mentioned by J. Barton Payne in The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecies does not fit into these categories.
Isaiah predicted that one called Immanuel (“God with us”) would be born of a virgin: “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” (7:14). This prediction was made over 700 years in advance. The New Testament affirms that Jesus fulfilled this prediction, saying, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:22,23).
First of all, Matthew 1:23 says that Jesus (the messiah) would be called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Yet no one, not even Jesus’ parents, call him Immanuel at any point in the bible. Compared to Isaiah 7:14, which says that his mother will call him Immanuel, in Matthew 1:23, it says “THEY shall call his name Immanuel.” Matthew fails to identify who is ‘they’? Matthew changes Isaiah’s 3rd person feminine singular into 3rd person plural ‘they shall call…” The Septuagint in Isaiah 7:14 are the same in Greek and Hebrew.
Second of all, Isaiah 7:14 does not say that a virgin will give birth to the Messiah. The Hebrew word “alma” (for which the Greek “parthenos” is an erroneous translation) simply means “young woman,” without any implication of virginity. It seems all but certain that the Christian dogma of the virgin birth, and much of the church’s resulting anxiety about sex, was the result of a mistranslation from the Hebrew.
Another strike against the doctrine of the virgin birth is that the other evangelists, Mark and John, seem to know nothing about—though both appear troubled by accusations of Jesus’ illegitimacy. Paul apparently thinks that Jesus is the son of Joseph and Mary. He refers to Jesus as being “born of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3—meaning that Joseph was his father), and “born of the woman” (Galatians 4:4—meaning the Jesus was really human), with no reference to Mary’s virginity.
In summary, Isaiah 7’s young maiden birth is not a prophecy about a coming messiah. Period. It was a sign to Ahaz (that a boy, not a girl, would be born of the young woman) which already happened during Ahaz’s lifetime. This makes the authors of the virgin birth gospels (Matthew and Luke) in error! Paul never mentions the supposed virgin birth of Jesus or any prophesies regarding it. Bible scholars tell us that Paul probably never even heard of the virgin birth story in relation to Jesus.
Micah made the unambiguous prophecy, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). Even the unbelieving Jewish scribes identified this as a prediction of the Messiah and directed the inquiring magi to Bethlehem: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod,Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel’” (Matthew 2:1–6).
Micah 5:2 The gospel of Matthew (Matthew 2:5-6) claims that Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem fulfils this prophecy. But this is unlikely for two reasons.
- “Bethlehem Ephratah” in Micah 5:2 refers not to a town, but to a clan: the clan of Bethlehem, who was the son of Caleb’s second wife, Ephrathah (1 Chronicles 2:18, 2:50-52 & 4:4).
- The prophecy (if that is what it is) does not refer to the Messiah, but rather to a military leader, as can be seen from Micah 5:6. This leader is supposed to defeat the Assyrians, which, of course, Jesus never did. It should also be noted that Matthew altered the text of Micah 5:2 by saying: “And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah” rather than “Bethlehem Ephratah” as is said in Micah 5:2. He did this, intentionally no doubt, to make this verse appear to refer to the town of Bethlehem rather than the family clan.
Ray claims that unbelieving Jews accepted this was a fulfilled prophecy is without merit. He provides no empirical data at all to confirm his speculations, merely he is relying on the word of the gospel author to prove the gospel author.
God declared in Genesis that the messianic blessing for all the world would come from the offspring of Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2,3; cf. 22:18).
Ray Comfort says Jesus Christ was indeed the seed of Abraham. Matthew’s Gospel begins, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1). Paul adds, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).
Matthew believed that Jesus was born of a virgin impregnated by the Holy Ghost, so including a genealogy would be pointless. To further add to the confusion, the Scripture cannot agree who was the real father of Joseph, as told in Luke and Matthew.
Luke 3:23 – And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.
Matthew 1:16 – And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Another problem is that Luke’s genealogy of Jesus goes through Nathan, which is not the royal line. Nor could Matthew’s line be royal after Jeconiah because the divine prophecy says of Jeconiah that “no man of his [Jeconiah] seed shall prosper sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” (Jeremiah 22:30) Even if Luke’s line does truly go through Mary, Luke reports that Mary was a cousin to Elizabeth, who was of the tribe of Levi, not the royal line.
The Redeemer would come through the tribe of Judah: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his” (Genesis 49:10).
The tribe of Judah will reign “until Shiloh,” but Israel’s first king (Saul) was from the tribe of Benjamin (Acts 13:21), and most of the time after this prophecy there was no king at all.
Plus, Jesus never was a king. Nor does he control the obedience of the nations. The verse in Genesis has nothing to do with a spiritual king (Jesus). It says a king from an unbroken line of Judah would rule this earthly world. The line of Judaic kings was broken in 586 B.C. when Jerusalem fell to Babylon, and it was never restored. Not only does this verse say nothing about Jesus, it was a false prediction.
According to the New Testament genealogies, this was Jesus’ ancestry: Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli . . . the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. (Luke 3:23,33,34; cf. Matthew 1:1–3). For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah (Hebrews 7:14).
Luke’s genealogy of Jesus goes through Nathan, which is not the royal line. Nor could Matthew’s line be royal after Jeconiah because the divine prophecy says of Jeconiah that “no man of his [Jeconiah] seed shall prosper sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” (Jeremiah 22:30) Even if Luke’s line does truly go through Mary, Luke reports that Mary was a cousin to Elizabeth, who was of the tribe of Levi, not the royal line.
The books of Samuel record the prediction that the Messiah would be of the house of David. God said to David: “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son” (2 Samuel 7:13,14).
And it has all come down to millions of people believing that a fictional carpenter character is the actual descendant of David.
The New Testament repeatedly affirms that Jesus Christ was “the son of David” (Matthew 1:1). Jesus Himself claimed to be “the son of David” (Matthew 22:42–45). The Palm Sunday crowd also hailed Jesus as “the son of David” (Matthew 21:9). Luke 1:32,33 says of Jesus: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Jesus cannot be the son of God because he had no bloodline on his father’s side, since he was born of a virgin. As already stated, whether you follow Luke’s or Matthew’s genealogy off Jesus, both hit a brick wall since they were broken or condemned to produce offspring who will not inherit the throne.
Herald of Messiah’s Coming
Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would be heralded by a messenger of the Lord who would be “a voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God’” (40:3). This prediction was literally fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist. Matthew records: “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’ This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him”’” (3:1–3).
Isaiah 11:2 foretold that the Messiah would be anointed by the Holy Spirit for His ministry: “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” This literally happened to Jesus at His baptism.Matthew 3:16,17 says, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Isaiah 61 said that the Messiah would preach the gospel to the poor and brokenhearted. Jesus pointed out His fulfillment of this ministry in the Nazareth synagogue: The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:17–19).
Jesus carefully cut off his reading in the middle of a sentence, failing to add the next phrase, “and the day of vengeance of our God.” That refers to His second coming; it was not fulfilled that day in their hearing, as was the rest of the prophecy.
Isaiah 35:5,6 declared that the Messiah would perform miracles to confirm His ministry, asserting: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.”
The Gospel record is filled with Jesus’ miracles. For example: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35). Jesus even cited these very things for John the Baptist as His messianic calling card: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Matthew 11:4,5).
Among many psalms applicable to the ministry of Jesus is 118:22, which foretells Messiah’s rejection by His people: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.”
This very verse is cited repeatedly in the New Testament. For example, Peter wrote, “Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’” (1 Peter 2:7; cf.Matthew 21:42;Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11).
Lesson 59: Messianic Prophecies Part 2
Kirk’s comment: History proves the reliability of the Bible. When you know that you can trust the Bible as historically sound, and you see that history was predicted hundreds of years in advance, you have a solid case for the validity of the Scriptures.
This is demonstrably false, history does not attest to the Bible. Where is the historical evidence that a vast horde of zombies walked through the streets of Jerusalem at the death of a crucified man? Where is the evidence for a giant tower or a solar eclipse? Where is the evidence for the city of Nazareth in the 1st century? Where is the historical evidence for a couple named Adam and Eve in a garden? Where is the evidence for a global flood?
Bottom line, the Bible is not a historical text. By Kirk’s logic, if we cannot trust its history, then we cannot trust its predictions (especially when they have been proven false or never occurred).
The Suffering and Death of Christ
One of the most amazing predictions about Christ in all of Scripture is that of Isaiah 53:2–12. This precise description predicts twelve aspects of the Messiah’s sufferings and death, all of which were literally fulfilled (see Matthew 26—27;Mark 15—16; Luke 22—23; John 18—19). Jesus . . .
1) Was rejected
2) Was a man of sorrow
3) Lived a life of suffering
4) Was despised by others
5) Carried our sorrow
6) Was smitten and afflicted by God
7) Was pierced for our transgressions
8) Was wounded for our sins
9) Suffered like a lamb
10 Died with the wicked
11) Was sinless
12) Prayed for others
Isaiah 53 is not about Jesus. Isaiah 52 sets the stage for chapter 53 in ways that further point to Israel being the servant. Chapter 52 describes the subjugation of Israel to the Gentiles (specifically Assyria) and tells of how Israel is made to suffer mockery and abuse at the hands of its captors.
Prophecies speak in a future tense, with terms of finality, such as “in the last days” (Isaiah 2:2, Hosea 3:4-5). If Isaiah 53 is about Jesus, whom Christians consider the Jewish messiah, why are there no indications of messianic prophecy in the chapter. Even more intriguing is the fact that most of Isaiah 53 is in past tense. Christians may read chapter 53 of Isaiah and note similarities to Jesus, without noticing how it ‘prophesies’ the servant in past tense. To modern believers, Jesus is in the past, but for the author of Isaiah 53, Jesus would have been a few hundred years into the future. What sort of prophecy uses past tense to predict a future event? Not all of Isaiah 53 is in the past though. The first nine verses describe the servant in past tense, and then verses 10-12 shift the tense to the future, speaking of how God will reward and deliver his servant. This is an important detail, because then Isaiah 53:1-9 are NOT prophecy – they simply set the stage for the prophecy in the last three verses of the chapter.
There is only reference to suffering, not specifically to crucifixion. Nothing is said about Nazareth, Bethlehem, a virgin woman, or any of the identifiable characteristics of Jesus Christ in the bible. Isaiah 53:10 states that God made “[the servant’s] life a guilt offering” too, which is not an offering of atonement like a sin offering, but is the sacrifice made for restitution or compensation, such as when a person would steal, take a false oath, or extort another individual. This seems to fit nicely with the view that Israel, though innocent, was taken captive by the Gentiles, who mocked and abused God’s chosen. Thus to make Israel a guilt offering for the transgressions of the Gentiles would be far more appropriate than Jesus being a guilt offering that somehow redeems the sins of all mankind.
Further confirmation of the predictive nature of Isaiah 53 is that it was common for Jewish interpreters before the time of Christ to teach that Isaiah here spoke of the Jewish Messiah. Only after early Christians began using the text apologetically with great force did it become in rabbinical teaching an expression of the suffering Jewish nation. This view is implausible in the context of Isaiah’s standard references to the Jewish people in the first-person plural whereas he always refers to the Messiah in third-person singular, as in Isaiah 53 (“he,” “his,” and “him”).
Predictions elsewhere about Christ’s death include:
* The piercing of His hands and feet (Psalm 22:16; cf. Luke 23:33)
* The piercing of His side (Zechariah 12:10; cf. John 19:34)
* The casting of lots for His garments (Psalm 22:18; cf. John 19:23,24)
Going in order,
1) Fundamentalists have always claimed that the latter part of Psalm 22:16 “They pierced my hands and my feet” (which we shall designate as Psalm 22:16b) is a direct prophecy of the crucifixion; with the “piercing” referring to the nails going through Jesus’ hands and feet. Although this is not the reading found in the Hebrew Masoretic text, support is claimed from the readings found in a Dead Sea Scroll fragment and in ancient versions of the Bible such as the Septuagint and the Vulgate. This claim is false, for a few reasons:
- Before looking at the readings of the ancient versions, it is important to know some preliminary background information about them first.
- A careful analysis of the readings given in the ancient versions does not support “they pierced” as the correct translation. Indeed the analysis shows that there were two extant readings in the Hebrew text, one being kaari (like a lion) and the other kaaru. The very fact that translators did not translate the latter word consistently showed that even by that time, the meaning of that word was no longer known.
2) Zechariah 12:10 is not a prophecy, nor does it address a savior. The context of Zechariah 12 is of an invading army and is not intended as a prophecy of Jesus. John 19:37 claims that Jesus being pierced in the course of his execution fulfills a prophecy: “and, as another scripture says, ‘They will look on the one they have pierced.'” The NIV translation in a footnote indicates the source of this prophecy is Zechariah 12:10: “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.” (NIV) The first observation to make is that the verse in John is an inaccurate quote, leaving out the word “me.” This is to alleviate inconsistencies with the one speaking, presumably John, also being the one pierced, claimed to be Jesus. In fact, this relates to the problem inherent in assuming the verse from John refers to Jesus–that the “me” who is pierced cannot be the same as the “him” who is mourned for.
3) Psalm 22 is not a prophecy. Psalm 22 is a plea to God, going on on how famished and poor the author is, and then devoured by dogs who strip him of his garments. There is nothing here hinting of a savior or prediction of any sort.
While it wasn’t recognized until after the fact, one of the most precise predictions in Scripture gives the very year in which the Christ would die. Daniel was speaking of both the exile of Israel and the atonement for sin when he recorded a prayer of confession for the sins of his people and a vision that the angel Gabriel gave him:
Seventy “sevens” are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One [Messiah], the ruler, comes, there will be seven “sevens,” and sixty-two “sevens”. . . After the sixty-two “sevens,” the Anointed One will be cut off . . . (9:24–26).
The context indicates that Daniel knew Gabriel was speaking of years, since he was meditating on the “number of years” God had revealed to Jeremiah that Jerusalem would lay waste, namely “seventy years” (v. 2). God told Daniel that it would be seven “sevens” plus sixty-two “sevens” (years) after the decree to rebuild before the Messiah would come and be cut off (die). In other words, it would be 69 × 7 = 483 years to the time of Christ’s death. Artaxerxes ordered Nehemiah “to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:25; cf. Nehemiah 2) in 445/444 B.C. Adding the widely accepted date of A.D. 33 for the crucifixion would be 444 + 33 = 477.
Add six years to compensate for the five days in our solar year that are not in the lunar year followed by Israel (5 × 477 = 2,385 days or 6+ years): 477 + 6 = 483 years. Daniel’s prediction takes us to the very time of Christ.
NOT SO FAST.
There are two different ways Christian conservatives interpret this, which you can read about here as well as a refutation to each.
The first big problem I have with this “Seventy Week” CRAP is that somehow, magically, a week means a “year.” This is coming from the same people who cry out that a “day” in Genesis means a literal 24 hour day. SCREW THAT. How about I start saying one “week” is a year and a “day” is 7000 years. If a word like “week” can be changed and stretched, then it’s free game.
My second problem: These people can’t even agree on when Jesus died.
On top of that, this “Seventy Weeks” CRAP fails to ever mention the fact Jerusalem was destroyed about 30-35 years too late to fulfill the prophecy. The prophecy is 70 “weeks” with each week being 7 years. The “anointed one” is cut off at the end of the 69th week. That leaves only 1 week, or 7 years for the city to be destroyed. The math speaks for itself, this “Seventy Weeks” is CRAP.
There’s another BIG problem: this verse by Daniel was written after the events took place! The historical-critical school of interpretation by liberal (critical) scholars does not find Jesus in Daniel 9:24-27 at all. The point of departure is that the book of Daniel was written during the conflict under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (somewhere between 168 and 163 BCE) in the form of a prophecy, but after the events described had taken place. All prophecies of Daniel point to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and no further. The seventy weeks has been applied to the period between the Babylonian exile and the death of Antiochus in 164 BCE. (Seow, C.L. (2003). Daniel (1st ed. ed.). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 150. ISBN 0664256759) The “prince who is to come” (9:26) was Antiochus Epiphanes, whose armies partially destroyed Jerusalem and massacred many of its inhabitants. There are a number of variations of the critical school of thought, but all of them start the third division (one week) with the death of the high priest Onias III in 171/0 BCE. Onias was the “anointed one” who was “cut off’ after 62 weeks (9:26). It was Antiochus IV Epiphanes who stopped sacrifice and grain offering in the middle of the week (9:27) when he erected the “desolating sacrilege” on December 4, 167 BCE (15 Kislev, 145; 1 Mace 1:54). The “anointing of a most holy place” (9:24) is the rededication of the altar of sacrifice by the victorious Judas Maccabeus, six or seven years after Onias was killed (December 14, 164 BCE – 25 Kislev, 148; 1 Mace 4:52). The standard historical-critical interpretation is that the 70×7 weeks is an interpretation of Jeremiah’s 70 years (9:2; cf. Jer. 25:1, 12). Consequently the first 7 weeks begin with the destruction of Jerusalem in 587/6 BCE. The critical interpretation follows the Masoretic punctuation of 9:25, which put the Messiah at the end of the first 7 weeks. This messiah is Cyrus—the Persian king that set the Jews free in 539.8 BCE. The second division (62 weeks) extends from 539/8 BCE to the murder of the high priest Onias III in either 171/0 BCE.
The Old Testament also foretold the resurrection of the Messiah from the dead. In Psalm 16:10 David declares, “You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”
This passage is cited in the New Testament as predictive of the resurrection of Christ. Peter said explicitly of David’s prophecy, “But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay” (Acts 2:30,31).
Indeed, using passages such as this, “Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,’ he said” (Acts 17:2,3). This would scarcely have been possible unless his skeptical Jewish audience did not recognize the predictive nature of passages such as Psalm 16.
The Ascension of Christ
In Psalm 110:1, David even predicted the ascension of Christ, writing, “The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” In Matthew 22:43,44, Jesus applied this passage to Himself. Peter also applied it to the ascension of Christ: “For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”’” (Acts 2:34,35).
Psalm 110:1 is not a prophecy. The simple act of a gospel author plagiarizing from a text does not make it a fulfilled prophecy.
PROPHECY AND THE MESSIAH
It is important to note the unique aspect of biblical prophecies. Unlike many psychic predictions, many of these were very specific, giving, for example, the very name of the tribe, city, and time of Christ’s coming. Unlike forecasts found in tabloids at the supermarket checkout counter, none of these predictions failed.
Since the 191 prophecies of the Messiah were written hundreds of years before Christ was born, the prophets could not have been reading the trends of the times or making intelligent guesses. Many predictions were beyond human ability to fake a fulfillment. If Christ were a mere human being . . .
* He would have had no control over when (Daniel 9:24–27), where (Micah 5:2), or how He would be born (Isaiah 7:14).
* He would have had no control over how He would die (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53).
* He would not have been able to do miracles (Isaiah 35:5,6).
* He would not have been able to rise from the dead (Psalms 2, 16).
NONE of these prophecies are specific, and the ones Ray claims that are are not specific enough that he cannot tell that they are not even addressing the coming of a savior.
*Micah 5:2 is not about a city, but a clan.
*Psalm 22 says nothing about a coming savior, nor does Isiah 53.
*There is no proof that Jesus, if he existed, performed so much as a coin trick. There is no historical proof that Jesus performed a miracle.
*There is no evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.
It is statistically impossible that all these events would have converged randomly in the life of one man. Mathematicians have calculated the probability of just sixteen predictions being fulfilled in one person at 1 in 1045. For forty-eight predictions to meet in one person, the probability is 1 in 10157. It is almost impossible to even conceive of a number that large. But it is not just a statistical impossibility that rules out the theory that Jesus engineered His prophecy fulfillments; it is morally implausible that an all-powerful and all-knowing God would allow His plans for prophetic fulfillment to be ruined by someone who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), nor can He break a promise (Joshua 23:14). So we must conclude that He did not allow His prophetic promises to be thwarted by chance. All the evidence points to Jesus as the divinely appointed fulfillment of the messianic prophecies. He was God’s man, confirmed by God’s signs (Acts 2:22).
Who are these mathematicians? Who? How did they calculate the odds? What models did they use?
The recipe for making a very high statistical trick is simple: simply state the odds that should be calculated ”before” an event ”after” the event as taken place. If you want the event to appear even more unlikely, begin adding complicated factors (which is very easy to do after the fact). And then viola! There you have it; you’ve made an ordinary event appear extraordinary. Of all the numerous uncertain factors in this universe, the same statistical methods can be repeated to make you next morning breakfast seem impossible.
Here numerous simple explanations on how one man could fulfill such predictions;
- The prediction is misread (and this is quite common among the gospel authors).
- The prediction was to be vague that it could fit almost anyone.
- It was never a prediction to begin with (this would be like an average Joe mimicking the non-prophetic poetic tales in a science fiction novel, and then claiming to be the forth-coming protagonist of the book.)
- People over exaggerate to improve their image, which is very likely for someone hoping to gain a large following of believers. There are numerous examples confirming that the gospel authors doing just this. Remember that the gospels were written 45 to 70 years AFTER Jesus died, and the authors never met or knew Jesus. Therefore, the gospel authors could have easily improved the life of Jesus to give him the appearance of great accomplishment. Examples of this is numerous, for instance, the gospel author Matthew says that when Jesus died, a horde of zombies walked through the streets of Jerusalem. This obviously never happened. Mark often copied from Homer’s epic Odyssey, making Jesus better than Odysseus.
- Or even the character of Jesus as portrayed in the Bible is a fictional creation of the gospel authors, manufactured deliberately with the sole intention to fit as much of the Old Testament as possible. Due to the severe lack of historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, plus the story of Jesus seems to reflect almost entirely from passages from the Old Testament and other myths, this scenario seems very likely.
Ray’s only response to all the above much more likely scenarios is that the God of the bible claims to be completely incapable of lying – but this seems to contradict what he stated earlier that God deliberately allows contradictions to appear in the bible to fool readers. Can the God of the bible lie? God, through mind-control, enabled King of Heshbon to be defeated and his kingdom destroyed. God sent a powerful delusion to make certain people believe a lie just so they can be condemned. And God deceives prophets into giving false messages, then punishes them for doing so. Another question, can the Bible author’s lie, absolutely. They avoid being blamed for deception by attributing their work to a “honest” supernatural figure, distancing themselves from inquiry.
Feathers For Arrows
Imagine that you tried to describe the workings of a television to someone who had never seen a TV set. You show him one and say, “This is a television set.When you press this button, a man comes on and reads the up-to-date news to you.”Your skeptical friend says, “How does he get into the box?” You reply, “He’s not actually in the box.” He says, “Is he in there or isn’t he?” You answer, “Well, his image is sent via invisible television waves through the air, to an antenna, down a wire, up a cord, and into the box.” Your friend becomes a little impatient and says, “So this newsreader of yours floats invisibly through the air, slides down an antenna, crawls up a cord, into your set? What kind of simpleton do you think I am?”
Your confidence isn’t shaken because you can prove your claim, fantastic though it may sound. You pass him the remote control and say, “Push the button and see for yourself.” The claim of the Christian faith is fantastic in the truest sense of the word—repent and trust in Jesus Christ, and the invisible God of creation will reveal Himself to you (John 14:21). Our confidence isn’t shaken in the face of a skeptical world, simply because the claim can be proven. Any skeptic who will push the button of repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ will experience the miracle of conversion.
Ray fails to show any proof that God is around and will manifest in our minds. The brain is capable of creating many experiences that seem real. These experiences can be activated and occur naturally without the interference of the supernatural. Studies have shown the simulation of the amygdala and hippocampus of the limbic system produces feelings of intense meaningfulness, of depersonalization, connection with God, of cosmic connectedness, out-of-body experiences,a feeling of not being of this world, deja vu, jamais vu, and hallucinations. These have been studied many times, including Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, DMT, and more that produce intense religious experiences. The reason why they seem so real is because they happen very close to our frontal lobes, the area of the brain that operates our five senses that help us perceive thins in the real world. Bottom line, it should be understood that these experiences are the results of brain activity, not supernatural connections.