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(Seemingly) strange applications of OT prophecy in the NT

(Seemingly) strange applications of OT prophecy in the NT

Postby Seeker » Sun Oct 21, 2018 11:04 pm

I've been turning this over in my mind for a while, ever since my wife and I had a discussion in which she was quite taken aback by remarks I made while we were discussing a particular New Testament passage.

We were discussing the birth of Jesus, and she said that it was predicted by Isaiah. I said no, it was not predicted by Isaiah, since Isaiah's prediction was fulfilled in Isaiah's time. She brought up Matthew 1:22-23, to which I said Matthew was not claiming Isaiah had predicted it, but instead that Matthew was simply comparing it to Isaiah's son's birth. She wasn't satisfied with that answer, and we sort of let the discussion tail off. I didn't feel equipped to explain much further.

That leads to my dilemma: How do we handle the New Testament authors' claims that events in their times were fulfillments of Old Testament prophecies, when clearly the Old Testament verses they cite were not intended to predict those New Testament events?

A couple of other examples of what I'm referring to:

Zechariah 11:12-13 speaks of a wage paid to himself (Zechariah) by his own audience of Jews, in the amount of 30 silver pieces.
Matthew 27:9-10 claims this was a fulfilled in the 30 piece Judas took from the high priests for the betrayal of Jesus.
However, Zechariah was recording an event from his own time and had no intent to speak of the Messiah or his betrayer. Nor could Zechariah's audience have seen it as referring to the Messiah or his betrayer.

Psalm 35:19 is David referring to himself as one who is "hated without cause."
John 15:25 is Jesus ascribing to himself the comments David made.
But David gave no indication that he was speaking of the Messiah, nor seemingly could his audience have possibly understood it as referring to the Messiah.

In a nutshell here's my question: How are we to view and make sense of those New Testament passages, which quote Old Testament scriptures as having been fulfilled by New Testament events...whereas the OT authors had (seemingly) zero intent to predict far-future events (and in fact they referred to known events within their time)?
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Re: (Seemingly) strange applications of OT prophecy in the N

Postby TruthInLove » Mon Oct 22, 2018 4:04 pm

Hi Seeker,

These passages are certainly bewildering. In truth, I persoanlly have yet to find many compelling, scholarly justifications for many of these OT quotations and allusions in the NT. Even the scholars who do venture to explain them vary greatly on their interpretation on many such examples.

Yet, I do believe the NT writers were correct in making these references. The grounds for this belief though is largely based on being able to identitify some sort of hint in the OT context that there is some deeper, prophetic meaning intended beyond that of the immediate historical reference. That's not always easy to do. To be sure, most scholars are unwilling to consider such explanations as conclusive evidence.

However, the bible itself confirms that such hints do exist in the forms of cryptic types and shadows (Hebrews 8:5; Acts 7:44; Romans 5:14; Numbers 12:6-8; Matthew 11:13). Indeed, it would appear from these passages as though most of what we were to expect from the Messiah and the Messianic Age was to be gleaned from such obscure and encrypted messages. Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Israel/Jacob, Esau, Moses, Joshua, Samson, David, Nebuchadnezzar, Darius the Mede, Zerrubabel, etc. and many of the events associated with them all have messianic elements to them.

The practice of searching for such hints is well attested in rabbinical writings. Most on this forum probably know this as the study of "typology" or maybe "sensus plenior". In Jewish scriptural interpretation, there are several more specific aspects of this such as remezim, drashim and sodim.

However, as you might expect, these means of interpretation are easy to abuse. The credibilty of each suspected instance must be judged by the improbability of the observed correlations existing in conjunction with one another when no connection was actually intended.

You can read more about the practice of searching for such hints here: Hints, Allegories, and Mysteries: The New Testament Quotes the Old. The article specifically addresses the example you gave of Matthew 1:22,23.

If you believe there is any merit to the approaches described in the above article, I'd be happy to explore similar reasoning with the examples of Matthew 27:9-10 and John 15:25 with you as well.

Blessings in Christ,
Carmine
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Re: (Seemingly) strange applications of OT prophecy in the N

Postby Paidion » Mon Oct 22, 2018 7:42 pm

This is the one that I found most peculiar:
An angel told Joseph to take Jesus as a baby to Egypt to hide him from Herod. Matthew wrote that when Jesus was brought back from Egypt this fulfilled Hosea's prophecy "Out of Egypt have I called my son."

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son." (Matthew 2:14,15)

But Hosea's prophecy (Hosea 11:1) doubtless referred to God bringing Israel out of Egypt into the promised land.

However, Isaiah chapter 53 has always been taken as a prophecy of the Messiah to come. The year I was at Bible School when I was 21 and 22, an older Jewish friend and I used to go on "Jewish visitation" to bring the gospel to Jewish people. Once I knocked at a Jewish home that had the tiny scroll of the law affixed to the door frame. When the man of the house answered, I presented him with Isaiah 53 in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English. After he had read it, I asked him if he had ever read this before. He said, "No." Then I asked, "Whom do you think this is talking about?" He responded, "Why ha mashiach, of course!" ("ha mashiach" means "the messiah" in Yiddish). This was amazing that, having never read it previously, he yet recognized this was a prophecy about the Messiah, whereas the official Jewish explanation of Isaiah 53, is that it is a description of God's suffering servant, the Israelites.
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Re: (Seemingly) strange applications of OT prophecy in the N

Postby Seeker » Mon Oct 22, 2018 10:18 pm

Thank you very much for the resource, Carmine. Having read just a few pages so far, I can see that they (the authors of the article) are, or have been, "on my wavelength" on this, and am looking forward to reading how they come to terms with this problem, as time permits. I do have a working knowledge of the related concepts of types, foreshadowing, prefiguring, etc to help me along (though I've found myself more often than not disagreeing or struggling with the application of these terms by many).

As it happens, I broached this topic again with my wife tonight, it having been months since our previous discussion on this topic. I pointed to the "out of Egypt" example, and she responded by smiling, saying how neat it is that the Old Testament prophets could be speaking about Jesus without even knowing it.

It's interesting how two people can see the same thing and react so differently! She thinks it's neat, while I think it borders on being a stumbling block! It's actually the issue that bothers me most (probably the only issue that bothers me) about the New Testament. I've believed the Old Testament for a long time now (10 years or so), but struggle back and forth with the New. I imagine how most Christians react if Joseph Smith, for example, were the first to make some of these assertions of typology that the NT makes (dismissively, I'd guess). But of course there is so much more to lend credibility to the NT than Joseph Smith, and I wouldn't put them nearly on the same level.

Anyway, I'm stumbling into some stream of consciousness, thanks again and looking forward to further exploration of the topic. Blessings to you as well!
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Re: (Seemingly) strange applications of OT prophecy in the N

Postby Seeker » Mon Oct 22, 2018 10:26 pm

Paidion wrote:This is the one that I found most peculiar:
An angel told Joseph to take Jesus as a baby to Egypt to hide him from Herod. Matthew wrote that when Jesus was brought back from Egypt this fulfilled Hosea's prophecy "Out of Egypt have I called my son."

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son." (Matthew 2:14,15)

But Hosea's prophecy (Hosea 11:1) doubtless referred to God bringing Israel out of Egypt into the promised land.

However, Isaiah chapter 53 has always been taken as a prophecy of the Messiah to come. The year I was at Bible School when I was 21 and 22, an older Jewish friend and I used to go on "Jewish visitation" to bring the gospel to Jewish people. Once I knocked at a Jewish home that had the tiny scroll of the law affixed to the door frame. When the man of the house answered, I presented him with Isaiah 53 in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English. After he had read it, I asked him if he had ever read this before. He said, "No." Then I asked, "Whom do you think this is talking about?" He responded, "Why ha mashiach, of course!" ("ha mashiach" means "the messiah" in Yiddish). This was amazing that, having never read it previously, he yet recognized this was a prophecy about the Messiah, whereas the official Jewish explanation of Isaiah 53, is that it is a description of God's suffering servant, the Israelites.


Thats a very neat and relevant story. I think it's of some importance to know what religious Jews think of messianic prophecies.
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Re: (Seemingly) strange applications of OT prophecy in the N

Postby steve7150 » Tue Oct 23, 2018 6:22 pm

It's interesting how two people can see the same thing and react so differently! She thinks it's neat, while I think it borders on being a stumbling block! It's actually the issue that bothers me most (probably the only issue that bothers me) about the New Testament.










I think it's neat too. For example Isa 53 is interpreted by most Rabbis as applying to Israel but NT writers claim it's Jesus which looks more logical to me , but to come to this conclusion you have to believe the NT.
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Re: (Seemingly) strange applications of OT prophecy in the N

Postby TK » Thu Oct 25, 2018 9:42 am

//As it happens, I broached this topic again with my wife tonight, it having been months since our previous discussion on this topic. I pointed to the "out of Egypt" example, and she responded by smiling, saying how neat it is that the Old Testament prophets could be speaking about Jesus without even knowing it.//

Your wife sounds exactly like my wife. To her, I am the king of excessive thinking.
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