When engaging in conversations with Christians, one often hears claims that there are prophecies in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) that Jesus fulfilled. However, upon closer examination, these “prophecies” appear to be fabricated, consisting of manipulated or misinterpreted texts that do not originate from the Tanakh.
Let’s examine the first example, the birth in Bethlehem, found in Matthew 2:1-6. When King Herod wants to know where the “king of the Jews” should be born, he inquires with the wise men and scholars. They refer to the prophecy in Micah 5:1, which is quoted in the New Testament:
|1And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah-you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah-from you [he – J’sus] shall emerge for Me, to be a ruler over Israel; and his origin is from of old, from days of yore.
|אוְאַתָּ֞ה בֵּֽית־לֶ֣חֶם אֶפְרָ֗תָה צָעִיר֙ לִֽהְיוֹת֙ בְּאַלְפֵ֣י יְהוּדָ֔ה מִמְּךָ֙ לִ֣י יֵצֵ֔א לִֽהְי֥וֹת מוֹשֵׁ֖ל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וּמוֹצָֽאֹתָ֥יו מִקֶּ֖דֶם מִימֵ֥י עוֹלָֽם
However, the citation omits the latter part of the verse. In the New Testament (KJV), it says, “And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” This reveals that the Messiah’s origin goes back to the days of David and Solomon, not necessarily predicting a birthplace. Moreover, the text in Micah suggests a lineage through David and Solomon, inconsistent with Jesus’s lineage through David and Nathan.
But verses 3 and 8 also make this clear. In the time of Jesus, the exiles were not brought back to Israel; instead, they were expelled. The enemies were not destroyed; rather, Israel was expelled from its land because the greatest enemy at that time was the Romans.
3And he shall stand and lead with the might of the L-rd, with the pride of the L-rd, his G-d: and they shall return, for now he shall become great to the ends of the earth.
|גוְעָמַ֗ד וְרָעָה֙ בְּעֹ֣ז ד’ בִּגְא֕וֹן שֵׁ֖ם ד’ אֱלֹקיו וְיָשָׁ֕בוּ כִּֽי־עַתָּ֥ה יִגְדַּ֖ל עַד־אַפְסֵי־אָֽרֶץ
8Your hand shall be raised above your oppressors, and all your enemies shall be destroyed.
|חתָּרֹ֥ם יָדְךָ֖ עַל־צָרֶ֑יךָ וְכָל־אֹֽיְבֶ֖יךָ יִכָּרֵֽתוּ:
The New Testament claims that Jesus is the Messiah because it is prophesied that he would live in the city of Nazareth. We can read this in Matthew 2:23, but there is no direct prophecy in the Old Testament stating that the Messiah would be a Nazarene. Moreover, Nazareth is not mentioned anywhere in the Hebrew Bible or the Talmud. The earliest remains of habitation in what is now called Nazareth date back to around 10 BCE, and the estimated population at that time was about 400 people, making it a relatively insignificant village.
Some Christians argue that “Nazarene” does not refer to the place but to “nazir,” but this claim is impossible because a nazir is someone who decides to take upon themselves a vow to live a strict and holy lifestyle. It is crucial to note that a nazir is not allowed to drink wine, cut one’s hair, or come into close contact with the dead. Nowhere in the New Testament do we read that Jesus made such a vow; in fact, we see instances where he drinks wine (at the wedding in Cana and during the Last Supper) and comes into contact with the dead (Lazarus, the daughter of Jairus).
The flight of Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod’s massacre is interpreted as a fulfillment of the prophecy in Hosea 11:1. Let’s take a look at that text.
|1For, when Israel was young, I loved him, and from Egypt I called My son.
|אכִּ֛י נַ֥עַר יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל וָאֹֽהֲבֵ֑הוּ וּמִמִּצְרַ֖יִם קָרָ֥אתִי לִבְנִֽי:
If we compare this text with Exodus 4:22, it is clear that the context is about the people of Israel and not about Jesus.
22And you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘So said the L-rd, “My firstborn son is Israel.” ‘
|כבוְאָֽמַרְתָּ֖ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר ד’ בְּנִ֥י בְכֹרִ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל
One will likely respond that this verse can be interpreted on two levels: referring both to Israel and the Messiah. However, there are no texts in the Tanakh or Talmud that state the Messiah must come from Egypt.
In this context, it is interesting that Flavius Josephus (Jewish War 2.259-263) writes about a false prophet who had come from Egypt to Jerusalem. In summary, he writes:
An Egyptian false prophet deceived thirty thousand people, leading them to the Mount of Olives, claiming he could make the walls of Jerusalem collapse. The Roman governor Felix, informed of this, attacked and defeated the prophet and his followers. Four hundred were killed, two hundred captured, but the prophet escaped and was never heard from again. Meanwhile, instigated by robbers, the people rebelled against the Romans, resulting in the burning and looting of villages.
For the massacre of infants by Herod, there are no historical or archaeological sources. Although Flavius Josephus documented Herod’s crimes in about 100 pages, he does not mention the Bethlehem massacre.
Thirty pieces of silver
The New Testament, in Matthew 27:0, interprets the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas as a fulfillment of a prophecy from Jeremiah. Indeed, there is a text in Jeremiah about coins, which we find in Jeremiah 32:9.
9So I bought the field from Hanamel, my uncle’s son, which was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, seven shekels and ten pieces of silver.
|טוָֽאֶקְנֶה֙ אֶת־הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה מֵאֵ֛ת חֲנַמְאֵ֥ל בֶּן־דֹּדִ֖י אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּֽעֲנָת֑וֹת וָֽאֶשְׁקֲלָה־לּוֹ֙ אֶת־הַכֶּ֔סֶף שִׁבְעָ֥ה שְׁקָלִ֖ים וַֽעֲשָׂרָ֥ה הַכָּֽסֶף:
But we immediately see that this text is about something entirely different, and the amount of coins also does not match. The author of the book of Matthew makes a mistake (raising the question of how this is possible if one believes that the New Testament is inspired by God; does God make a mistake here or the Holy Spirit?), as the prophecy he would like to refer to is actually found in Zechariah 11:12-13. Let’s see what this text says:
12And I said to them (the kings of Juda): “If it pleases you, give [Me, Zacharia] My hire, and if not, forbear.” And they weighed out My hire: thirty pieces of silver.
|יבוָֽאֹמַ֣ר אֲלֵיהֶ֗ם אִם־ט֧וֹב בְּעֵֽינֵיכֶ֛ם הָב֥וּ שְׂכָרִ֖י וְאִם־לֹ֣א | חֲדָ֑לוּ וַיִּשְׁקְל֥וּ אֶת־שְׂכָרִ֖י שְׁלֹשִׁ֥ים כָּֽסֶף
|13And the Lord said to me: Cast it to the keeper of the treasury, to the stronghold of glory-of which I stripped them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and I cast it into the house of the Lord, to the keeper of the treasury.
|יגוַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֜ה אֵלַ֗י הַשְׁלִיכֵ֙הוּ֙ אֶל־הַיּוֹצֵ֔ר אֶ֣דֶר הַיְקָ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָקַ֖רְתִּי מֵֽעֲלֵיהֶ֑ם וָֽאֶקְחָה֙ שְׁלֹשִׁ֣ים הַכֶּ֔סֶף וָֽאַשְׁלִ֥יךְ אֹת֛וֹ בֵּ֥ית יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־הַיּוֹצֵֽר
Zechariah was not a traitor but acted in accordance with God’s word and will. This is in contrast to the figure of Judas. So, not only does Matthew use the wrong book, but he also reads a prophecy into it that cannot be found there.
From the above examples, we learn the paramount importance of revisiting texts within the Tanakh, taking into account their contextual nuances and historical significance.
By Angelique Sijbolts
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