Sunday, December 9, 2007

Prophecy in the Bible

Is there anything special about the Bible, or is it just a collection of books that were written by men without any inspiration from God? I saw some old friends who I really enjoy spending time with last night, and the topic of the Dead Sea Scrolls came up. So I think it is a wonderful topic to look at both the Dead Sea Scrolls and how they show that there is something amazing, and supernatural about the Bible.


 

The Old Testament of the Bible speaks of a coming Messiah. And the claim is that Jesus Christ, or more properly Jesus the Messiah is this person who was described in the Old Testament prophecies. And some of the coolest prophecies of the Bible are contained in the major Prophet Isaiah's book. Here is a few of the prophecies that Isaiah by inspiration from God, wrote about: Isa. 7:14 - THEY WILL CALL HIM IMMANUEL WHICH MEANS GOD WITH US; (So here we see that the Messiah is actually a person who is also God.); Isa. 9:6, 7 TO US A CHILD IS BORN, A SON IS GIVEN, AND HIS NAME SHALL BE CALLED WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE. (The Messiah will come to earth in the form of a baby, whose titles include Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and Prince of Peace. Incredible, a person who is also righteous, and both Man and God?!) But the centerpiece of Isaiah's prophecies is contained in Isaiah where the description of the Messiah as a Suffering Servant is contained. It is described in Isaiah 52:13 through chapter 53. Here is what Isaiah wrote, tradition holds sometime earlier than 701 years before Jesus was born (701 BC), about the Messiah in Isa. 53:


 

Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

2      For he grew up before him like a young plant,    and like a root out of dry ground;   he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,

          and no beauty that we should desire him.

3      He was despised and rejected by men;    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4      Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

5      But he was wounded for our transgressions;    he was crushed for our iniquities;

     upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,   and with his stripes we are healed.

6      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.

7      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.

8      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?

9      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.

10      Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, e shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;

     the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

11      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.

12      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.


 

And so we see the God-inspired Prophecy predict there would be a man despised and rejected, whom God would lay the sins of the world upon. The Messiah would be sacrificed not for His own sins, He was righteous, but for "our transgressions", "our iniquities". And through His sacrifice He will "make many to be accounted righteous" in God's eyes. We will no longer have to pay the price for our own sins, because Jesus paid the full charge for any sin that could ever be committed: any sin that deserves death was paid for by an innocent Man's death on the Cross.


 

A common charge for why we should not trust what is written in the Bible, is that because we do not have what was originally written that through 2,000 years of copying, people made mistakes and intentional errors to change what was originally written. The charge is that the Bible is not trustworthy because there are many copying errors. But that is the importance of what the Dead Sea Scrolls show: The Dead Sea Scrolls show that the Bible is extremely reliable, and that there are no significant changes or errors made through 2,000 years of copying.


 

Let me show you why the Dead Sea Scrolls are great proof that the Bible is given to us today without error. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in buried jars and in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea. Here is the REALLY AMAZING fact: the Isaiah scroll was carbon-dated to somewhere between 335 BC and 107 BC (source: Wikipedia)!!!!!! Yes, you read this right – we have copies of the original Isaiah manuscript that are over 107 years BEFORE Jesus was even born. So all of the prophecies by Isaiah, including the ones shown above, were written at least 100 years before He was born, AND WE HAVE THE COPIES of what was written. This means that we have an untainted, uncopied manuscript of the Isaiah prophecies dated before Jesus was even born.


 

The Old Testament books were provided by a group known as the Masoretes. So how does the Masoretic copied of the manuscripts compare to what is written in the uncopied Dead Sea Scrolls? You guessed it, there are some minor variations, but nothing of substance.

Dead Sea Scrolls roughly 100 AD -------------------------------------à 1950 AD discovered (no copies made – it copied manuscripts from 350 BC-107BC and these are in our hands. The Dead Sea Scrolls were not touched or copied for 2,000+ years)

Masoretic Text of the OT copied again and again for over 2,000 years

        llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllà copied many times over 2,000 years. And it still is 95% the same as what is contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls. And no significant doctrine is affected by any of the copyists' differences. Instead, most of the differences are insignificant spelling variations.

The Masoretic Text is the same as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Example of Isaiah 53. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Masoretic text are 95% identical. If any Old Testament text was going to be changed by Christian copyists it would be the prophecy about the Messiah contained in Isaiah 53. But instead there are only a total of 17 differences between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Masoretic text.

  1. 10 of the 17 differences is alternate spellings (similar to in America 'Judgment' is spelled without the 'e', while in Great Britain it is spelled 'judgement' with the 'e' in the middle.) These differences have no effect on any meaning,
  2. 4 of the 17 differences are the addition of a conjunction. Again, no change in the meaning.
  3. 3 of the 17 changes are contain in Isaiah 53:11, where it says 'They shall see", and the DSS add "light" which is not contained in the Masoretic text. Again no change in the meaning.


 

And that's all of the changes between the Dead Sea Scrolls that are pure, uncopied, untouched for 2,000+ years and the Masoretic text of the OT which was repeatedly copied for over 2,000 years. They are identical in meaning, with only a very few, minor changes, with most of these differences being spelling changes. And it is the same with the other portions of the OT as well. The text contained in the DSS is the same as the Masoretic text, again with only a few, immaterial differences between the two manuscripts. This is the best example showing that copyists of the Bible took their job seriously, and any errors or changes are easily discovered.


 

So what is the conclusion that we can draw about whether or not the Bible is reliable? Clearly, people who copied the books of the Bible took their job seriously. The Bible is reliable, and there are real, God-inspired Prophecies that show the supernatural character of the Bible. What do we make of the claim made in Hebrews 4:12 that the Bible is "living" and full of the Holy Spirit? This is what makes the Bible different from any other book that has ever been written. It contains God's Spirit, and changes lives. It has changed my life – and if you are open to learning about Who the Creator of the Universe is, and why He has put us here on earth, the Book will change your life too. Open up your Bible today, and find out what the Creator of the universe would like you to hear and understand better today.

6 comments:

Bryan & Meggan said...

Tom,

Something interesting about those Masorites: They had counted every letter of each book and even knew where the middle was. So, to check their work, they would count all of the letters. If they were off at all they would honorably bury the mistaken manuscripts (for they still had God's Word written on them) and start again. It was a very long and tedious task to make those hand copies, yet they had such a high standard that nothing but perfection was allowed through. Further proof of the accuracy of Scripture.

-bry

P.S. there is a great book written on this OT stuff by Archer called A Survey of Old Testament Introduction . I think they just released a new edition, so it has up to date information.

tom wolff said...

Thanks Bryan, for the additions that show why the copies of the Bible are as trustworthy as they are. /s/Tom

Edward Oleander said...

A couple questions....

How wide spread was the knowledge of the prophecies written a century before the birth of Jesus?

Did any of the prophecies say when the Messiah would arrive? What chapters would they be in if they do?

Thanks,
Ed

tom wolff said...

Hi Ed,

Thanks for your thoughtful questions about the Messiah.Yes, the knowledge of the Messiah were well known by the people of Israel. You may remember that around 175 years before the birth of Christ, there was an Syrian leader Antiochus Epiphanes who ruled and tormented Israel. He forbade worship, did unspeakable acts in the Jerusalem Temple, and mercilessly put large numbers of Jews to death. But in 166 BC Judas Maccabbee rose up with a band of other men, and miraculously removed the evil Syrians from Israel, and re-claimed their independence. See, 1 Maccabbees (it's a good read). And I believe from this event is where the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah.

Anyway, this supernatural intervention by God in the War of the Maccabbees giving Israel its freedom was still fresh in the minds when Rome took over the area at the time of Jesus' borth. So yes, all Israel was expecting God to interven to remove the Roman control of Israel.

And you asked a great question about whether there is also a prophecy about when the Messiah would come. And yes, there was a prophecy in the Book of Daniel showing that the Messiah would come at the time of Jesus' birth. See, Daniel's 70 Weeks Prophecy in Daniel 9:20-27. And so, this was another reason that the Jewish people were expecting the Messiah to come at the time of Jesus' birth.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

edward oleander said...

Thanks for the answers... i will read up on those chapters...

The reason for my asking is that the cynical, political part of me notes that if you have money, a little power, and a good knowledge of prophecy, it wouldn't really be all that hard to put the pieces together to make it SEEM like prophecy was being fulfilled. Jesus lived during a time of constant unrest, between two major rebellions in fact. In fact, I can see where some poor, misguided man who only wanted to preach a message of peace could have been manipulated by several parties, ***at the same time***, only to be discarded when the plans of one faction or another didn't fall out correctly. If that man was actually in on a plan, it could have made even more convincing. Maybe the ultimate climax of the plan(s) went as it was supposed to, or maybe it backfired big time, but was then picked up by the survivors to become what it is today...
~Ed~

tom wolff said...

Ed,

Thank you for letting me discuss my favorite topic: the Bible! You have a good imagination in suggesting that there might have been someone who manipulated the events around Jesus to make it seem like the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled. But let me give you a few quick thoughts to show you that the OT prophecies were manipulated.

First, remember it would take someone of Jewish descent to be this imaginary manipulator of the prophecy (because they would have to know the OT prophecies.) And the most violent and vocal opponents of the early post-Resurrection Christian Church were the Jews. And so, the Jews had a vested interest to squash the followes of Jesus and would have done everything including making false claims against the early Church. This was not done. And so if the early Jews living at the same time as the Apostles couldn't find this sort of conspiracy, then we can safely assume that there wasn't the imaginary Prophecy manipulator that you have come up with.

There are also stamps of authenticity of signs, wonders, and miracles of Jesus' ministry and also the Apostle's ministry. A short list includes Jesus' Resurrection from the dead, speaking in tongues, healings, and freeing people from demon possessions. These are the sort of events that one person alone could not manipulate.

And finally, the impact of changed lives also show the truth of Jesus' ministry with God's grace. My life is one of those changed lives. And it is not the sort of changed life that we see in Muslims, where they want to sacrifice by killing innocent people. No, the changed Christian life has one earmark: namely, that there is now a concern for others and their needs.

You know, it is difficult in answering an argument using an imaginary attack as you have done here. In reviewing history, if no one has raised it before, it is pretty safe to assume that it didn't happen.