Jesus is the Messiah (CCC 436-440)

One of the most common views held about Jesus is that He was “just a wise man” and that there was nothing special about Him. Of course, this view is contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church (and most other mainline Christian sects) which teaches that He is divine (the Son of God and God) and also the Messiah of Jewish prophecy.

The people who believe that Jesus was nothing more than a wise man fall into two main categories – they are those who deny all supernatural elements (atheists) and maintain He was nothing more than a wise philosopher; and non-Christians who consider that Jesus was merely a prophet or herald. This second group is most commonly represented by Jews and Muslims.

What is a “Messianic” Prophecy?

The Old Testament books of the Bible were written long before Christ was born and contained hundreds of prophecies about an “anointed one” (“Messiah” in Hebrew) who would appear in the future. The Messiah would “deliver” or “save” all the Jewish people, bringing them to paradise or Heaven. These prophecies also stated that the Messiah would save all the other people in the world “through the Jews.”

When the New Testament is read it is clear that Jesus Christ fulfilled these Messianic prophecies, and is therefore the long-awaited Messiah.

Use of Biblical Prophecy

It may seem odd to use Biblical prophecy in order to convince people who do not use the Christian Bible (atheists, Jews and Muslims) that Jesus is the Messiah. But in point of fact this can be a very effective method. Even if the Bible is not accepted as a divinely inspired work it is generally accepted by most secular historians as being historically accurate. The fact that a figure from New Testament times fulfilled prophecies which were written in Old Testament times should make even the most cynical atheist sit up and take notice!

The Old Testament prophecies were part of the Jewish Scriptures for centuries before Jesus' time. The historical facts about Jesus' life (even just the “non-supernatural” elements such as His birth in Bethlehem, His childhood in Galilee and His death on the Cross) match up with the prophecies very accurately indeed.

Septuagint versus Masoretic Text

In attempting to use these prophecies to convince a Jewish person of the fact that Jesus is the Messiah the Jewish person may talk about the Masoretic text and the Septuagint, saying that the Septuagint is a corrupted translation which (deliberately or otherwise) contains errors which make it seem as if the prophecies refer to Jesus.

The truth of the matter is that the Septuagint was (as discussed in the canon of the Bible) used by Jews for over 250 years without any objections. It was only when it was discovered that the prophecies matched very closely to Jesus' life that it was rejected at the Council of Jamnia. In addition, while certain prophecies read differently in the Masoretic and Septuagint texts, the vast majority of them are very clear. Simply consulting the texts is enough to show this.

One of the most profound arguments to make to a Jewish person is that people like Saint Paul (a very well-educated Rabbi) were converted; these people were experts in the Jewish scriptures. Why would they follow a Messiah if He did not actually fulfill the prophecies?

A Special Note on Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53

The best place to begin is with Psalm 22 and Isaiah 52:13-53:12. These two passages tell stories that perfectly parallel events in the life of Christ that took place much later. Psalm 22 is especially amazing since it predicted 11 separate things about Jesus’ crucifixion about a thousand years before they happened. Psalm 22 was composed around 1000 BC while the prophet Isaiah lived about 740-680 BC. Both passages, written far ahead of the time of Christ, are very strong and clear prophecies.

A partial list of prophecies

Below is a partial list of the prophecies in the Old and New Testaments. This is not a complete list by any means, and it is not intended to be. Very few people will be converted to Catholicism by being persuaded that Jesus is the Messiah. This whole article is included in this series as a companion piece to the proof that Jesus is divine, and is strongly supported by the article which offers evidence for the Resurrection of Christ.

Old Testament Scriptures That Describe The Coming Messiah
The Messianic Prophecy (paraphrased) Where the prophecy appears in the Old Testament Jesus’ fulfillment of the prophecy in the New Testament
The Messiah will be the offspring (descendant) of the woman (Eve) Genesis 3:15 Galatians 4:4
The Messiah will be a descendant of Abraham, through whom everyone on earth will be blessed Genesis 12:3, 18:18 Acts 3:25-26, Matthew 1:1
The Messiah will be a descendant of Judah Genesis 49:10 Matthew 1:1-2, Luke 3:23-33
The Messiah will be a prophet like Moses Deuteronomy 18:15-19 Acts 3:22-23
The Messiah will be the Son of God Psalm 2:7 Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22
The Messiah will be raised from the dead Psalm 16:10-11 Matthew 28:5-9, Mark 16:6, Luke 24:4-7, John 20:11-16, Acts 1:3, 2:32
The Messiah crucifixion experience Psalm 22 (contains 11 separate prophecies—not all listed here) Matthew 27:34-50, John 19:17-30
The Messiah will be sneered at and mocked Psalm 22:7-8 Luke 23:11, 35-39
The Messiah will be pierced through hands and feet Psalm 22:17 (note, a number of translations render this differently; this is a difference between Septuagint and Masoretic translations) Luke 23:33, 24:36-39, John 19:18, 20:19-20, 24-27
The Messiah’s bones will not be broken Psalm 34:21 John 19:31-33, 36
Men Will Gamble for the Messiah’s clothing Psalm 22:19 Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:23-24
The Messiah will accused by false witnesses Psalm 35:11 Matthew 26:59-60, Mark 14:56-57
The Messiah will be hated without a cause Psalm 35:19, 69:5 John 15:23-25
The Messiah will be betrayed by a friend Psalm 41:10 John 13:18-21
The Messiah will ascend to heaven (at the right hand of God) Psalm 68:18-19 Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9, 2:32-35, 5:31-32, 7:55-56, Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:20-21, Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2, I Peter 3:22 and elsewhere
The Messiah will be given vinegar and gall to drink Psalm 69:22 Matthew 27:34, John 19:29-30
Great kings will pay homage and tribute to the Messiah Psalm 72:10-11 Matthew 2:1-11
The Messiah is a “stone the builders rejected” who will become the “head cornerstone” Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 28:16 Matthew 21:42-43, Acts 4:11, Ephesians 2:20, I Peter 2:6-8
The Messiah will be a descendant of David Psalm 132:11, Jeremiah 23:5-6, 33:15-16 Luke 1:32-33
The Messiah will be a born of a virgin Isaiah 7:14 Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-35
The Messiah will make the blind see, the deaf hear, etc. Isaiah 35:5-6 Many places. Also see Matthew 11:3-6, John 11:47
The Messiah will be beaten, mocked, and spat upon Isaiah 50:6 Matthew 26:67, 27:26-31
The “Gospel according to Isaiah” Isaiah 52:13-53:12 The whole of the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
People will hear and not believe the “arm of the LORD” (Messiah) Isaiah 53:1 John 12:37-38
The Messiah will be rejected Isaiah 53:3 Matthew 27:20-25, Mark 15:8-14, Luke 23:18-23, John 19:14-15
The Messiah will be killed Isaiah 53:5-9 Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37-39, Luke 23:46, John 19:30
The Messiah will be silent in front of his accusers Isaiah 53:7 Matthew 26:62-63, 27:12-14
The Messiah will be buried with the rich Isaiah 53:12 Matthew 27:59-60, Mark 15:46, Luke 23:52-53, John 19:38-42
The Messiah will be crucified with criminals Isaiah 53:9 Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27, Luke 23:32-33
The Messiah is part of the new and everlasting covenant Isaiah 55:3-4, Jeremiah 31:31-34 Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, Hebrews 8:6-13
The Messiah will be our intercessor (intervene for us and plead on our behalf) Isaiah 59:16 Hebrews 9:15
The Messiah has two missions Isaiah 61:1-3 (first mission ends at “. . . a year of favor from the LORD”) First mission: Luke 4:16-21; Second mission: to be fulfilled at the end of the world
The Messiah will come at a specific time Daniel 9:25-26 Galatians 4:4, Ephesians 1:10
The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem Micah 5:1 Matthew 2:1, Luke 2:4-7
The Messiah will enter Jerusalem riding a donkey Zechariah 9:9 Matthew 21:1-11
The Messiah will be sold for 30 pieces of silver Zechariah 11:12-13 Matthew 26:15 with Matthew 27:3-10
The Messiah will forsaken by His disciples Zechariah 13:7 Matthew 26:31-56
The Messiah will enter the Temple with authority Malachi 3:1-3 Matthew 21:12, Luke 19:45

Objections

As mentioned above, evidence that Jesus is the Messiah should not be used as the primary tactic when engaging in apologetics, but it may be that when talking with Jews and others that this topic may come up. However, here are a number of objections which are often made and which it will be useful to be able to refute.

Couldn’t Someone Just Write These Down and Pretend They Were Written Earlier?

This is a common argument from people who do not believe in the Bible. However, archaeological evidence has shown that these various prophecies were written down 400-1,000 years before they actually occurred.

Of course, that does not mean that the prophecies are divinely inspired (we know they are divinely inspired because the Church – which has authoritycompiled the Bible). But it does show that the prophecies were written before the events they describe, and therefore some explanation for how Jesus fulfilled them has to be offered!

Were These Originally Intended to Be Messianic Prophecies?

Some of the prophecies occur as part of the text of a story. Therefore, many people ask, “How do we know these are Messianic prophecies? Couldn’t someone have read these texts after Jesus came along and claimed they were Messianic prophecies?”

The reason we know these texts were intended to be Messianic prophecies is because they were recognized (and discussed) by the Jews before Jesus’ birth – and are still used today by Jews to determine who might be the Messiah! These prophecies have always been understood to be refering to the coming Messiah.

Couldn’t Someone Besides Jesus Fulfill These Prophecies?

In a word, no – the chance of this occuring is so astronomically small as to be ludicrous. The odds are so extreme that the fact that Jesus fulfilled them all is a miracle in itself.

A number of people will object and say that Jesus deliberately fulfilled the prophecies – but this is not possible for a number of them. How could He, for example, determine that He would be born in Bethlehem? Or that His bones would remain unbroken? There are many prophecies which are beyond human control.

Can the New Testament be trusted?

Many people say that the New Testament is nothing more than Christian propaganda - the truth of the matter is that it is a very historically accurate document, as is discussed in the history of the Bible.