Vintage Jesus has bugged me a little bit again today. Chapter 3 is devoted to the question, “How did people know that Jesus was coming?” and Driscoll walks through over 40 different passages conveying how people were aware of Jesus’ arrival. He first quotes the OT and then finds a NT proof text to legitimize his central argument, that “Jesus is the centerpiece of both history and Scripture and, without being hyperbolic, everything is ultimately about Jesus,” (65).
I’m not in disagreement with his argument, that the Bible is about Jesus, but I’m a little irritated by how black and white he paints the picture of these prophecies “being fulfilled” in the New Testament. Sure, each one could have actually happened just as the New Testament portrays. But to a certain extent, I would have to say that many NT authors did a lot of copying or mimicking of OT stories. For instance, Matthew’s birth narrative seems to mimic Moses’ birth while Luke’s birth narrative mimics Samuel’s. When Hosea then says, “Out of Egypt I called my son,” Driscoll (and others) presents this as a prophecy of Jesus’ birth and refer us to Matthew’s story.
Driscoll does use this passage to “prove” its prophetic tone in reference to Jesus by matching it up with Matthew’s account, specifically where it quotes Hosea (Matt. 2:15). What I find dumbfounding, though, is that Driscoll includes the early part of Hosea 11:1, which says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” It seems to work against the idea that this was prophesying about Jesus since it specifically mentions Israel – the chosen people of God who left Egypt way back in the book of Exodus.
But beyond the correct context for Hosea 11:1, it seems safe to believe that NT authors, with the OT right in front of them, wouldn’t write their narratives about Jesus in such a way that includes all the passages they believed were referring to Jesus (e.g. Matthew including the birth story of Jesus’ parents departing to Egypt, etc.). No, I’m negating the possibility that these events could have actually happened; they certainly could have. But what I’m at least casting some doubt on is the absoluteness of Driscoll’s argument. It could have been a literary move on the NT authors’ part to include these OT passages.
Another set of passages Driscoll highlights is both Isaiah 53:9 and 1 Peter 2:21-22: “He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth,” (Isa. 53:9); “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth,” (1 Pet. 2:21-22). It seems quite obvious to me that Peter is simply copying the words of Isaiah to give his own words a little more authority. I certainly believe that Jesus was without sin, but not because it was prophesied that He wouldn’t sin or because Peter affirms that prophecy.
My whole point in bringing these about is because I don’t feel Driscoll (and others who follow similar lines of argumentation) are really giving the NT authors enough credit as writers. These prophetic statements in the OT do seem to be referring to Jesus, but maybe there was an added message that the NT authors were trying to send beyond a simple “prophecy-proof”? Maybe Matthew was implicitly saying that Jesus was greater than Moses by mimicking Moses’ birth narrative? Sure, both the “prophecy-proof” and the implicit statements could be happening at the same time, but we shouldn’t highlight the one aspect while overlooking the other, which I believe Driscoll has done.
What do you think, though? Does it help affirm your faith in Jesus knowing that there were many prophecies in the OT fulfilled by Jesus in the NT? Or do these passages function more as mythological stories that send underlying messages from the NT authors? Anyone from Near Emmaus (or anyone who reads their blogs) is welcomed to comment.