Q: What Old Testament passages prophesied the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus?

This answer first appeared here, in a dialogue with Nate and others.

The Old Testament prophecies of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection do not show up in explicit form.  That is, there is no verse that says, “The Messiah shall be crucified,” or “After his crucifixion, the Messiah shall be resurrected.”  If it had, the Jewish Sanhedrin would never have given Jesus over to the Romans for crucifixion.  They would have sought to dispose of him in some other way for they would not have wanted to play into the hands of those Jews who thought Jesus was the Messiah.

In order for the promises of God about Messiah to be fulfilled, they had to be given in veiled form – like a riddle.  With riddle, the answer is inscrutable…until its given, and then it seems obvious.  For example, what gets wetter and wetter the more it dries?  A towel.  Or consider this biblical riddle from Samson: “Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet” (Judges 14).  What is it?  The carcass of the lion Samson killed which housed a honeycomb.  In somewhat similar fashion, the prophecies of Messiah were about his sufferings and his glories.  Of course, sufferings and glories don’t naturally go together so it was puzzling…until it was revealed that his sufferings ended in death and his glories began with resurrection.  For this reason, Paul talks about proclaiming “mysteries” that have been “revealed”  (Romans 16:25-27 and elsewhere).  Jesus also talks about things “hidden” that shall become “made known” (Matthew 10:26 and elsewhere).  (For more on biblical riddles, see these posts.)

Therefore, prophecies of Jesus’ crucifixion include being “wounded for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5), “hung on a tree” (Deuteronomy 21:23), “looked upon as pierced” (Zechariah 12:10), and “the stone that was rejected” (Psalm 118:22).  Prophecies of resurrection include “became the chief cornerstone” (the continuation of Psalm 118:22), “a prophet raised up” (Deuteronomy 18:15), “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1), and “seated at God’s right hand” (Psalm 110:1).  Of course, there are many, many more prophecies (promises) in both categories (suffering and glory).

This is why the first-century Jews we see described in the New Testament were focused on whether the reports they were hearing about Jesus’ resurrection were indeed consistent with the prophecies (see Acts 17:1-3, 10-11).  Did this event solve the riddle of all riddles for the descendants of Abraham?  That was the question.  Certainly, Jesus’ lineage from David was critical because the Scriptures had made clear this requirement.  Resurrection from the dead was indeed a big deal for these folks, as it would be for any folks, but it was the context of Israel’s Scriptures which invested the phenomenon with sufficient meaning for pious Jews to re-orient their lives around the One resurrected.

We can actually see Jesus presenting the messianic riddle to the Pharisees in Matthew 22:41-46.  Essentially, he was asking them how David could be both superior to (i.e. an ancestor, and therefore a father, of David) and subordinate to (i.e. addressing as “Lord”) the Messiah.  The Pharisees had no answer.  It was a riddle that stumped them.  Of course, in hindsight we are able to see the answer: David was Jesus’ superior (ancestor) according to the flesh, but his subordinate (follower) in the spirit by virtue of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (a state which David had not been able to escape on his own).

The messianic prophecies of the Old Testament present a riddle to which the New Testament provides the only reasonable answer:  that is, the crucifixion and resurrection of a descendant of David.

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29 Responses to Q: What Old Testament passages prophesied the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus?

  1. Arkenaten says:

    Polemic. Absolute nonsense.
    There is a sing;e ‘prophecy’ in the OT. that can claim fulfillment in the NT.
    Besides, Jesus mentions Moses and Moses id not exost so what does this say about you mangod?
    Not, much , I’m afraid.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      Let’s see: Whom shall I believe? You…or the pious first-century Jews who laid down their lives to bring us a message they were thoroughly convinced was from God.

      • Arkenaten says:

        It bothers me not a single iota if you believe me or not.
        Muslims believed that as martyrs they will go to heaven and be rewarded with virgins and your god knows what else.
        All they have to do was blow themselves to shit and a few infidels and they’re away.
        I don’t believe this rubbish so why should I believe what you tell me?

        That certain Jews – and a lot more Jews did NOT believe this – believed what they did, does not make it true any more than flying a 747 into a high rise building makes Islam true.
        It is all pretty much a delusion.
        Once again, what you believe is based on erroneous historical data and faith.
        Neither of which has anything to do with the truth.
        It really is this simple.

  2. Mike Gantt says:

    You seem to have enough facts at your disposal that you should be able to distinguish between the kind of martyrdom that allows you take the lives of others (e.g. flying airplanes into buildings) and the kind that has only the utmost respect for the lives of others (e.g. testifying to the truth even though you know it will cause your persecutors to torture and kill you)..

    • Arkenaten says:

      Would you be able to provide any verifiable links to actual ‘martyrs’ who died during the first 200 years after Jesus’s ‘crucifixion’?
      IE their names and who ordered their deaths.? When I say links, I mean secular,naturally, and not biblical.

  3. Mike Gantt says:

    Why would secular historians be expected to take note of, say, Stephen’s (Acts 7) and James’ (Acts 12) martyrdom?

  4. Mike Gantt says:

    I didn’t say that.  There is, for example, the well-known reference of Roman historian Tacitus to first-century Christian martyrs.  I just would expect Christians to keep much better records of these things than I would secular historians in the same way that the best authorities on the Holocaust are Jews.

  5. Arkenaten says:

    I am impressed you at least are aware of other non biblical references, although I hope this doesn’t mean you are going to parade all the other usual suspects? Suetonius, Pliny etc?
    You might find it shocking to discover that not every renowned scholar accepts the Tacitus passage as genuine and I reckon it’s somewhat odd that the years 30 and 31 of the reign of Tiberius are missing from the Annals.
    There are other anomalies about Tacitus work that have been addressed buy some scholars that the authors of the Wiki article don’t mention.We can discuss these if you are interested?

  6. Awabnavi says:

    “that is, the crucifixion and resurrection of a descendant of David.” — Kindly explain HOW Jesus was a “descendant of David” considering that he had NO FATHER.

  7. Mike Gantt says:

    His mother was a descendant of David.

  8. Chris says:

    That is not true. If you read your bible, you would know that Joseph was the last descendant to link Jesus to David. As stated in both Matthew and Luke. It does not make sense. But most of the bible does not.

  9. Boris says:

    This is true you just don’t understand Jewish traditions. If you did, you would understand the genealogy explained in Matthew and Luke.

    click link for the explanation http://www.complete-bible-genealogy.com/genealogy_of_jesus.htm

  10. Oscar Gross says:

    Gods desire is for everyone to get to know him and not perish.

  11. Glenn says:

    How do modern Jewish scholars interpret the (old testament) passages referenced in your article above?

  12. Mike Gantt says:

    Glenn,

    Like modern Christian scholars, modern Jewish scholars can be plotted along a continuum of conservative to liberal, believing to unbelieving. Believing Jews would understand the verses above just as I do. Unbelieving Jews, on the other hand, would interpret the verses in varying ways. For example, they would generally say references to Messiah’s sufferings are references to the sufferings of Jews. As for the triumphant references (glories), they might see them as references to a Messiah who has not yet come or perhaps to a generation of humanity who would live up to God’s hopes (having given up on any hope of an individual Davidic Messiah). The common theme of any unbelieving modern Jewish interpretations would be that the verses above could not refer to a Messiah crucified and resurrected, for that would open the door to belief in Jesus.

  13. gary says:

    Christian Scholars say that the Old Testament prophesies about Jesus. Jewish Scholars say, “Absolutely not!”. Who’s right?

    What is a poor layperson/non-Bible scholar to do??

    Here is our dilemma: Every Christian Old Testament Bible scholar, pastor, and priest on the planet says that the Old Testament prophesies the birth and death of Jesus of Nazareth as the Jewish Messiah ben David. However, every (non-messianic) Jewish “Old Testament” scholar and rabbi adamantly states that there is not one single prophesy in the Hebrew Bible about Jesus.

    So who are we poor ignorant saps to believe?

    In lieu of spending the next 10 years becoming a fluent Hebrew-speaking Old Testament scholar yourself, I would suggest using some good ol’ common sense. Who is more likely to be correct:
    Jewish sages and rabbis who have spent their entire lives immersed in Jewish culture, the Jewish Faith, the Hebrew language, and the Hebrew Bible—for the last 2,000 years— or, seminary graduates from Christian Bible colleges in Dallas, Texas and Lynchburg, Virginia?

    Sorry, Christian scholars, but using good ol’ common sense, I have to go with the Jewish scholars. And Jewish scholars say that Christian translators deliberately mistranslated and distorted the Hebrew Bible to say things in the Christian Bible that is never said in the original Hebrew—for the purpose of inventing prophesies into which they can “shoehorn” Jesus!

  14. Mike Gantt says:

    Are you unaware that the idea that Jesus is the Messiah did not originate in Dallas or Lynchburg, but rather Jerusalem? And are you unaware that Jesus and all His apostles were Jews? And are you unaware that the New Testament is no less a collection of Jewish writings than is the Old Testament?

    We should indeed trust Jewish voices rather than Gentile voices when it comes to identifying the Jewish Messiah. The question is: which Jewish voices will you heed? I heed the Jews who wrote the New Testament. I find their testimony persuasive.

    See also this response to the same question.

    • garegin says:

      Umm. I just double checked and it says the same thing in the Masoretic.

      5 But he was wounded for our transgressions he was bruised for our iniquities the chastisement of our peace was upon him and with his stripes we are healed.

      The Jews don’t deny this. They simply deny that this happened to Jesus. So it has nothing to do with “being a Hebrew scholar” or a sage. What the Dead Sea Scrolls proved is that OT passages were not made up AFTER NT events. For Jews the issue that these prophecies actually happened is another matter.
      Different people have different standards for historical validity. The other day I showed a man in wikipedia that the King James had the deutrocanonical books. He said that it doesn’t mean anything because anyone can edit wikipedia.

  15. christhasdied says:

    Were Jews not the criminals who crucified Jesus…the gospels are the teachings we are to follow,not Judaism. The essenes were the sons of light,not the Jews. Haaties

  16. Mike Gantt says:

    The Gospels – as well as the rest of the New Testament) tell us that the Old Testament was true. Jesus was raised from the dead after His crucifixion so that we could be forgiven of our sins – all of us.

  17. Tonya Holwadel says:

    Mike,
    Arguing with this guy is like trying to convince Satan that he’s not going to be chained in the bottomless pit for a 1000 years. You and I know the truth. Yes, we are to bring the ministry of Jesus Christ to those who will otherwise face the great lake of fire, but sometimes you have to leave the diehard satanists to God and let him sort it out.

  18. rickt says:

    It takes faith. Just as Sin came through one man Adam so salvation comes through Jesus. Joseph had to be his adopted Father and could not father Jesus phisycally because man transport the sin through the semen and Jesus had to be without Sin therefore conceived through the Holy spirit. And made the perfect lamb for crucification for our sins.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I will only say one thing with no intent for saying much else. The Old Testament prophecied the exact life Christ lived and even things Christ didn’t have control over. For instance, the O.T. said Christ would be sold for thirty pieces of silver and He was. He never had a bone broken at Crucifixion which is prophecy as well.
    According to Josephus, Christ came back from the dead and did miracles.
    Christ was said to do great works and people would still reject him before He lived physically. Another prophecy is God’s Word will last forever. Through the ages, Bibles have been burned, and believers have been in heavy and multiple persecutions… God’s Word (the Bible) is still around.
    Going back to Christ’s miracles, please tell me who else lived that exact life and I might doubt God.

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