Prophecy does not prove the Gospel

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: Is there any historical evidence of Jesus fulfilling many Old Testament prophecies? This is usually presented as proof of the Gospel. However, if there is no way to prove that these events actually occurred, it provides no strength for the case of Jesus Christ.

Answer: Much of this answer depends on what you mean by "historical" evidence… because the Bible pretty much is the historical evidence — and I have a feeling that you are looking for extra-biblical corroboration of prophecies and their associated fulfillments instead.

If such records exist in any number (which I doubt), I wouldn’t know where to find them — and besides, if a few personal accounts of prophetic fulfillment exist in some hidden pile, they would not be enough to prove your case, even if you found them.

There are secular pieces of evidence of Jesus’ historical veracity, however… which is a different but related matter. But these tend not to cover prophecy because prophecy is more of an “in-house” interest to Christians. Besides, the issue of whether or not (and/or how and when) some of these prophecies have or will be fulfilled is always under debate in Christian circles. As such, prophecy is not a place I’d go to give “proof” of the Gospel.

(If you are interested in the historical veracity of Jesus Christ, you will find a related question-and-answer at this link.)

Now, I have heard of a volume that might have the data you are interested in. It’s J. Barton Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy. I do not own this book… and I think it’s out of print… but it’s still available used. This book lists 1,239 prophecies in the Old Testament and 578 in the New Testament, for a total of 1,817 prophesies. These encompass 8,352 verses. That’s a lot of documentation! … and that’s the only volume I know that purports to give a comprehensive treatment of prophecy. Click here if you want to track a copy down.

Some more focused works on prophecy are readily available, however… and these might do the job for you. For instance, Jews for Jesus lists the Top 40 Most Helpful Messianic Prophecies. But as you can imagine, the subcategory of messianic prophecies might put off a skeptic who has zero interest in the Bible… let alone some of its sectarian interpretations. But this is still data… and forty examples of prophecy and fulfillment might be enough for some seekers. Click here to go to that article. 

Also, I would not dismiss the WIKI information in this case. A wiki lists what is commonly understood about a topic, and the one I found on prophecy and fulfillment does so in a fair and well-organized manner. Wikis tend to be somewhat democratic with information, and this can be an important qualification for a skeptic who is looking to dodge sectarian information. Find a related wiki by clicking here.

Before I leave, I need to tell you that I do not agree with your premise that fulfilled prophecies are a particularly good “proof” of the Gospel… although I think they are an important part of the cumulative case for Christ — and I think that’s the key here.

There are (broadly speaking) two levels of evidence: the kind that gets a person into God’s family and the kind that makes him grow after he’s there (John 16:12). Prophecy is the latter. It’s a deep topic that requires knowledge of both testaments, their historical contexts and differing hermeneutical possibilities. Even Bible-believing Christians disagree about the Bible’s prophecies and their fulfillments. Since prophecy is no slam dunk, I wouldn’t use it as a gateway element in the case for Christ.

In my opinion, the best “proof” of the Gospel is the “need” for the Gospel. This comes when an individual succumbs to the Father’s drawing (John 6:44) and is convicted of sin. The Holy Spirit is in charge of that, of course (John 16:8)… not us… but the more basic soul-winning verses would be appropriate here, not verses about prophecy.

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