Posted By Thomas Perez. December 24, 2012 at 11:57pm. Copyright 2012.
The authenticity of the Messianic prophecies and all other Scriptural citations concerning Jesus Christ has been a topic of debate between believers, unbelievers, atheists, Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Obviously, most within the world of Christendom believe that Jesus was born, lived, died (by crucifixion) was raised from the dead, and has ascended to Heaven; where he will, as believed by some, return. In this article I will only cover those who can be called “skeptics” and “doubters”.
There are many views concerning the Messianic prophecies of the Messiah (Christ in Gk). They are as follows; The literalist Approach, The Skeptics Approach, and The Denial’s Approach.
The Definition of Literalism is as Follows
1. In accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical: the literal meaning of a word.
2. Following the words of the original very closely and exactly: a literal translation of Goethe.
3. True to fact; not exaggerated; actual or factual: a literal description of conditions.
4. Being actually such, without exaggeration or inaccuracy: the literal extermination of a city.
5. (of persons) tending to construe words in the strict sense or in an unimaginative way; matter-of-fact; prosaic.
The Definition of the Word Skeptic is as Follows…
1. a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.
2. a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.
3. a person who doubts the truth of a religion, especially Christianity, or of important elements of it.
4. Philosophy; a member of a philosophical school of ancient Greece, the earliest group of which consisted of Pyrrho and his followers, who maintained that real knowledge of things is impossible. Any later thinker who doubts or questions the possibility of real knowledge of any kind.
The Definition of Denial is as Follows…
1. An assertion that something said, believed, alleged, etc., is false: Despite his denials, we knew he had taken the purse. The politician issued a denial of his opponent’s charges.
2. Refusal to believe a doctrine, theory, or the like.
3. Disbelief in the existence or reality of a thing.
4. The refusal to satisfy a claim, request, desire, etc., or the refusal of a person making it.
5. Refusal to recognize or acknowledge; a disowning or disavowal: the traitor’s denial of his country; Peter’s denial of Christ.
While the preceding definitions hold a particular opinion, bias, conviction, and even faith; they are in no means considered, or should be considered, an ABSOLUTE. The basic fundamental principles of philosophy deny this. However, the abstract does not. Abstraction can best be served by what is known as faith, but not by faith and certainly not through faith. And while abstraction, being served as faith, can only be represented by what is spiritual or allegorical, the Messianic prophecies can indeed be seen as allegorical.
This is Not a Denial. Bear with me
1. A representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms; figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another.
2. A symbolical narrative: the allegory of Piers Plowman.
3. Emblem. A story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. The genre to which such works belong.
As believers we can use two approaches; The Literalist approach or the Allegorical approach. Though I believe the latter serves for better apologetics when dealing with shadows of doubt and unbelief. For example; many deny New Testament claims that cite Jesus having fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies. They would also cite that many within the world of Christendom are undecided as to the precise number of Messianic prophecies fulfilled. While the exact number is indeed debatable, revealing numbers anywhere from 300, 324 and 360, that does not necessarily entail a falsehood, a misinterpretation, or a misapplication. Even ‘John Calvin’, in reference to Zechariah 13:6, said in Part 31 of his commentary to Zechariah; “Some apply this to Christ because Zechariah had mentioned wounds on the hands; but this is very puerile; for it is quite evident that he speaks here of false teachers, who had for a time falsely pretended God’s name”.
Another example is Jesus’ prophecy concerning the “End of the World”. Many skeptics and denialists would often quote; Matt 24:36-44, Mark 13:32-37, Luke 21:29-33 to prove a falsehood and then correlate their presupposition with Deut 18:20, thus insinuating that Jesus is not the Messiah – making Jesus befitting to a false prophet. Since the “end of the World” did not come to pass in THAT generation, then Jesus is not the messiah. Moreover, many would also deny key passages of Scripture concerning Messianic prophecy by casting further doubt upon such Scriptural citations. They claim the Apostles mistranslated, misinterpreted, and/or misapplied OT Scripture in order to promote the religion of “The Way”, as it was dubbed in those early days before the communities of Antioch called them Christians.
Scriptural citations often debated by skeptics and doubters are: Matt 2:23, Luke 2:1-5, Matt 27:9-10, Zech 11:12-13, John 2:17, Psa 68:9, Matt 2:14-15, Hosa 11:1, Matt 1:22-23, Isa 7:14, Isa 53:1-12, 13-15, Acts 8:28-39, Matt 21:6-7, Zech 9:9, Psa 22:16, 38:11, 18, Matt 27:55-56, Mark 15:40, Luke 23:49, John 19:25-27, Psa 34:20, John 19:31-36, 7:38. Many would make mention and use of these verses, insinuating that the Apostles and Paul ripped out what they saw as key figurative passages of OT citations and quotations to make a connection between the Old and New Testaments. Thus applying them to the founder of what would be called the New Testament and Christianity; namely Jesus. However, that is simply not the case! One would have to systematically study all individual verses and their corresponding NT parallels’ one by one to find the truth. However, for the purpose of this particular article, I will not focus on the verses mentioned at this time (that’s for another study/article) perhaps taking up at least 4 to 6 pages.
Getting Back to the Issue at Hand
The attack of the Skeptic and denialist are often rooted in their proposals of doubt. This is done through the literalist viewpoint. Anything that is said to be miraculous and beyond the scope of reason or doubt, as in literalism, will almost always be certainly attacked by doubters and skeptics. This attack is often directed at the Biblical Literalist. This attack against the literalist is often aimed at their failed prophecies. In his book, “When Prophecy Fails and Faith Persists: A Theoretical Perspective”, Lorne L. Dawson makes the case of how religious groups respond to the failure of their prophetic pronouncements. In turn, casting much doubt. However, the essay is silent concerning the eschatological viewpoint of Preterism, an irrefutable theological viewpoint concerning ,“the end times”.
Though the prepositions above seem convincingly plausible, I have but one exception to the skeptic and the denialist, and that is their apparent failure to address the subject of “allegory”. The definition of allegory is found in understanding its history. The subject of allegory is vast, comprising many different practices of writing, interpreting, and representing. It is bound up with developments not only in literature and art, but also in mythology, religion, rhetoric, and intellectual culture over the centuries. Thus any theoretical statement about allegory that seeks to capture its essence can only be as good as the historical understanding on which it is founded.
Jewish and early Christian thinkers would build their edifices of exegesis and Scriptural allegory on the ancient foundation of esoteric reading. Theirs too was a hermeneutic aimed at the transcendent truths (or Simile of the Line) which are concealed in language. In rabbinic exegesis as well as in the thought of such early Christian figures as Paul and Origen, the indeterminacy of the Scriptural text is held in tension with the guaranteed and complete truth of the inner logos.
This transcendent truth IS fulfilled as the allegorical approach dictates. Allow me to quote myself. The following is taken from my study Bible footnotes on Revelation (soon to be published) Quote; “1:7 There are four Greek words in relation to the Lords Coming. 1. Parousia – “presence” (II Cor 10:10, Phil 2:12), used of any person’s arrival (I Cor 16:17, II Corinthians 7:6-7; etc.). Also used in reference to the return of Christ: Matt 24:3,27,37,39, 1 Cor 15:23, I Thess 2:19, 3:13, 4:15, 5:23, II Thess 2:1,8, James 5:7-8, II Pet 1:16, 1 John 2:28. 2. Apokalupsis – apokalupsis (“revelation” or “manifestation” “an uncovering“) is used of the Advent in 1 Cor 1:7; 2 Thess 1:7; 1 Pet 1:7,13. 3 – Epiphaneia – epiphaneia (“appearing” “to uncover“, “reveal“) occurs in II Thess 2:8 (brightness), I Tim 6:14, II Tim 1:10; 4:1, 8, Titus 2:13. 4 – phanero-thentos (“to appear” or “be manifested”) Used in Col 3:4; 1 Pet 5:4, 1 John 2:28, 3:2.
The Judaic promise of an Advent is seen in the writings of the prophets (Isa 27:13, 34:4, Dan 2:34-35, 7:13-14, Zech 2:6, 12:11-14). Christians see the preceding verses as the Second Advent (the Second Coming of Christ) in addition to the First Advent of Christ. Both Advents are seen as predictions and fulfillment’s, with the First Advent prediction providing the fulfillment in the NT and the Second Advent in both the Old and New Testaments, providing a yet future Advent (Matt 24:30, 26:64, II Tim 4:1, I Tim 6:14, Titus 2;13, I Cor 1:7, 15:22-23, II Thess 1:7-10, I Pet 1;7, 13, II Thess 2:8). However, the timing of the Second Advent is debatable among Futurists and Preterists.
The Islamic faith, in recognition of the Prophets, and the Gospels, also accept the doctrine of two separate Advents”. Unquote.
Obviously there are distinctions between those who can be called futurists, as in the perception of some Messianic prophecies having NOT been fulfilled yet, while those who are called Preterists view both, the 1st and 2nd advents as having been fulfilled – via – 70AD. For further details concerning such a belief and why it is the MOST PLAUSIBLE from the ontological perspective of all eschatological beliefs; please visit my website or do the research for yourself by purchasing good books on the topic, or by simply googling the words; “Preterist,” “All Fulfilled”, “70AD”, “Quotations from early Church fathers”, or even “Josephus”, etc (though many church fathers spoke of a future advent also). Though we can not see the abstract, as mentioned above, we can believe by faith and allegory that such an Advent did take place during “that generation.” Perhaps if the Skeptics and denialists were to take this approach into consideration, there would be no need to question the art of critical hermeneutics, exegesis, and transcendence of Scripture. The law (the Scriptures) transcends the heart and allows no room for skepticism or evidence when allegorical means or metaphorical terms are applied to its exegesis.
Another Approach That the Skeptic and Denialists Fail to Address Is the “Metaphor.” A Metaphor Is;
1. A situation in which the unfamiliar is expressed in terms of the familiar.
2. A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing, is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison.
For example, “The goalkeeper was a rock” – metaphor. “The goalkeeper was as solid as a rock” – simile.
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” – metaphor. “Behold one who is like a Lamb takes away the sins of the world” – simile. Though both ideas are worded differently, they both still contain a designation – which in turn applies “a name” “specification” and “appointment”
Yes, while predictions – prophecies and fulfillment’s can be seen as comparisons as cited by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, they can also be seen as allegories – similar to our goalkeeper example. The goalkeeper is not a literal rock, but at the same time he provided the services of a rock. Thus the allegory “the goalkeeper was a rock”. Therefore the goalkeeper exists and is true!
The Scriptural Passages mentioned above can and does entail a specific account given to a specific target audience of a particular genre, this I do not deny. But they can also be seen as an allegorical and metaphorical expression of thought, ideas, revolutions, enlightenment, and revelations; thus providing a service. A service that can not beseen, but often provided by the unseen. It is a service provided by the Spirit (who is unseen John 3:8) and Christ; but often denied by some, criticized by others, and believed by many. For it is within this allegorical approach of prophecy, one can rest assured that Jesus Christ (the goalkeeper) of our faith (abstraction) does exist because the Scriptures exist and they attest to His authenticity in both the Old and New Testaments; literally and allegorically. The unfamiliar and the familiar.