The Mathematical Case for Christ

September 4, 2017

By Graham Phillips | “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

Who does this portion of scripture refer to? No prizes for guessing, clearly it refers to Jesus of Nazareth. It’s all in there, His silence in the face of His accusers, the manner of His death and burial, of His being the propitiation for our sins. It could easily be taken for a portion of one of the Apostle Paul’s epistles, but this particular text was written some 680 years before the birth of Jesus. This excerpt is from Chapter 53 of the book of Isaiah and is just one of over 300 reported references to the person of Jesus of Nazareth found in the Old Testament. Some of these prophetic references are frankly startling;

That His Hands and Feet Would be Pierced & Lots Cast for His Garment
[Gospel Accounts: John 20:25-27, Luke 23:34]

“Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”
Psalm 22:16-18 NIV (Circa 1000 BC)

That He Would be Born in Bethlehem
[Gospel Accounts: Luke 2:4-6]

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”
Micah 5:2 NKJV (700 BC)

That He Would be Born of a Virgin
[Gospel Accounts: Luke 1:26-31]

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”
Isaiah 7:14 NKJV (680 BC)

That any one person could be shown to have fulfilled just these three prophetic scriptures would indeed be remarkable but Jesus of Nazareth can be shown to have fulfilled at the very least these 44 clearly defined Old Testament Prophecies in His life, ministry, death and resurrection:

1. Born of a Woman (Genesis 3:15)
2. Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
3. Born of a Virgin (Isaiah 7:14)
4. Come from the Line of Abraham (Genesis 12:3 & 22:18)
5. A Descendent of Isaac (Genesis 17:19 & 21:12)
6. A Descendent of Jacob (Numbers 24:17)
7. Of the Tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10)
8. Heir to King David’s Throne (2 Sam 7:12-13, Isaiah 9:7)
9. His Throne will be Eternal and Anointed (Psalm 45:6-7, Daniel 2:44)
10. Be Called Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14)
11. Spend a Season in Egypt (Hosea 11:1)
12. A Massacre of Children at His Birthplace (Jeremiah 31:15)
13. A Messenger Will Prepare the Way (Isaiah 40:3-5)
14. He Would be Rejected by His Own People (Psalm 69:8, Isaiah 53:3)
15. He Would be a Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15)
16. Preceded by Elijah (Malachi 4:5-6)
17. Would be Declared the Son of God (Psalm 2:7)
18. Would be Called a Nazarene (Isaiah 11:1)
19. Would Bring Light to Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-2)
20. Would Speak in Parables (Psalms 78:2-4, Isaiah 6:9-10)
21. Would be Sent to Heal the Broken-hearted (Isaiah 61:1-2)
22. Would be a Priest After the Order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4)
23. Would be Called King (Psalm 2:6, Zechariah 9:9)
24. Would be Praised by Little Children (Psalm 8:2)
25. Would be Betrayed (Psalm 41:9, Zechariah 11:12-13)
26. Blood Money Used to Buy a Potter’s Field (Zechariah 11:12-13)
27. Would be Falsely Accused (Psalm 35:11)
28. Would be Silent Before His Accusers (Isaiah 53:7)
29. Would be Spat Upon and Struck (Isaiah 50:6)
30. Would be Hated Without Cause (Psalm 35:19, Psalm 69:4)
31. Would be Crucified With Criminals (Isaiah 53:12)
32. Would be Given Vinegar to Drink (Psalm 69:21)
33. Hands and Feet Would be Pierced (Psalm 22:16, Zechariah 12:10)
34. Would be Mocked and Ridiculed (Psalm 22:7-8)
35. Soldiers Would Gamble for His Garments (Psalm 22:18)
36. His Bones Would Not be Broken (Exodus 12:46, Psalm 34:20)
37. Would be Forsaken by God (Psalm 22:1)
38. Would Pray for His Enemies (Psalm 109:4)
39. Soldiers Would Pierce His Side (Zechariah 12:10)
40. Would be Buried With the Rich (Isaiah 53:9)
41. Would Rise From the Dead (Psalm 16:10, Psalm 49:15)
42Would Ascend to Heaven (Psalm 24:7-10)
43. Would be Seated at God’s Right Hand (Psalm 68:18, Psalm 110:1)
44. Would be a Sacrifice for Sin (Isaiah 53:5-12)

Critics will point to some of the prophecies such as Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, you King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” as fulfilled in Luke 19:35 and suggest that Jesus knowingly sought to fulfil them. This is true, and certainly Jesus was aware of these prophecies and wanted the Jews to see Him in light of these verses of scripture. Take, for example his reading of Isaiah 61 at the synagogue in Nazareth captured in Luke 4:16-21. After reading this portion of scripture Jesus sat down and boldly declared, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus wilfully fulfilled some of the prophecies and rather than weakening the prophetic case for Jesus as Messiah it strengthens it. Jesus understood Himself to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God come to take away the sins of the world and He wanted the world to understand it too.

There are, however some prophecies that were clearly beyond His control such as where He would be born and the nature of His death and burial. In their book Science Speaks, Peter Stoner and Robert Newman work out the probability of one person fulfilling just eight of these messianic prophecies. The chances of this happening are something in the order of 1 in 100 million billion. Yes, you read that correctly. Christian apologist and author of The Case for Christ Lee Strobel brings these numbers into comprehension with this illustration:

Imagine if I were to tile all the land on earth with 1.5inch x 1.5inch square tiles and then hide a penny under one of them. Then I instruct you to go and find the penny. The chances of one person fulfilling just eight of the messianic prophecies Jesus fulfilled are the same as if you found that penny under the very first tile you picked up.

Those chances get even more ridiculously remote when we consider the 44 prophecies mentioned above, something like one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion! Get your head around that!

Suffice to say, it is as near as makes no difference mathematically impossible for any one person to have fulfilled all of these Old Testament prophecies by chance. This is no mean feat, but Jesus of Nazareth is no ordinary man. Here is a man who was called a worker of miracles (or magic) even by His critics and was crucified precisely because He claimed to be the Messiah. Skeptic or not, we ought to take His claim very, very seriously.

Sources

Prophecies of Jesus; 44 Prophecies of the Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus Christ – Mary Fairchild – ThoughtCo.
Science Speaks – Peter Stoner & Robert Newman
The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel
The Case for Faith – Lee Strobel

 

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