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Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy

Posted on: September 25, 2016

Category: Theology

Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy is the title of a book by my friend, Robert Miller. It's a great book that I am pleased to recommend. It makes a very important point that affects not only the study of religion but also something about human life in general.

Miller indicates the way the writers of the Christian gospels draw on the prophets of the Hebrew Bible to demonstrate how Jesus fulfills prophecy. He is clear, however, that the gospels writers already believe that Jesus fulfills prophecy long before they seek this evidence. The consequence is that their arguments are fallacious and easily disproved. A gospel writer like Matthew will even go so far as to make things up to ensure Jesus fulfills prophecy. The classic example is Matthew 2:23, "He shall be called a Nazarene." No such prophecy exists anywhere in the Bible. Matthew created a prophecy to help Jesus fulfill prophecy.

When the gospel writers "help" Jesus fulfill prophecy, even to the point of making up prophecies, they highlight a troubling human problem that requires reflection. They show what happens when ideologies become more powerful than the facts. Robert Funk (1926-2005) was fond of quoting U.S. Senator Patrick Monahan's (1027-2003) well-known phrase, "everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts." Often, though, even in the Bible, the "facts" are secondary to our opinion.

My answer to this human quandary is that there are two types of facts: technical and experiential. A technical fact is something like E=MC2. We can debate all we want about relativity and its meaning, but in the end, E (energy) will still equal MC2 (mass times the speed of light squared). Ancient philosophers also noticed the consistency of mathematics and decided that whatever truth means, it must mean something like mathematics.

That, however, concerns technical facts,not experiential facts. The latter consist of human emotions. An individual could be right or wrong about any given subject, but the feelings that emerge in relation to the subject are sometimes more "factual" than the actual facts. We can observe this psychologically in ourselves. Often, we know what we should do but we can't seem to do it. We know what is right or true, but somehow we are emotionally drawn to another kind of inexplicable truth - even if the facts of that "truth" are harmful.

Here is a lesson for understanding the Bible and ourselves. Even the gospel writers, out of zeal and misguided enthusiasm, made up truths that were not factual. They did so on the basis of emotional convictions but not on the basis of rational thinking. They prized an ideology above the facts. As we mature, what we need to learn is how to balance these two truths in our lives such that we are not driven by ideology and that we can, in light of the facts, change our minds and even our hearts. The ability to observe what the "facts" are identifies technical ability; the ability to change attitudes in light of such observations identifies emotional abilities. Both of these aspects are required of our humanity.

I am leaving to the side the debate about what constitutes a fact (and even if such a thing exists) to focus on the point about what constitutes maturity. The second question comes with this warning: be careful how you read the Bible.

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