The Prophesies of Jesus’ Crucifixion

Last week one of the church members preached a sermon on the prophesies of Jesus’ crucifixion. It was an interesting sermon and despite having spent many years as a Christian and been to a quite a few Christian conferences, it is not one I think I have heard before. This made a nice change and, given the Easter period, nicely topical too.

The sermon basically said that there were 33 specific prophesies related to Jesus’ crucifixion and then ran through a list of each source prophesy. Time constraints meant that the fulfilment of each could not be gone into, but the reference for each fulfilment was helpfully out up on the OHP. Certainly a lot of effort had gone into the sermon and for me, it was the first time I’d really sat up and paid attention to a sermon in a very long time.

Is self-reference valid?

A big problem I have with this sort of claim for the fulfilment of prophesy is that the prophesy and the fulfilment and the interpretation is all held within the bible. Prophesies and fulfilments really do need to have reliable external sources to back up both ends of the claim. Using the bible to self-reference its own prophesies has got to be an obvious opening for criticism even from the most ardent of believers. More than that, each fulfilment appears to be retrospectively matched with the prophesy that is deemed to fit best. This is something that I find deeply unsatisfying.

I won’t dwell on this though, so moving on…

Thinking Sceptically

I can’t remember all of the prophesies discussed and I certainly didn’t count to see if there were 33 mentioned in the sermon. What I did do with each one though was run a quick mental check to see if I thought that each prophesy was specific enough and how well I thought it matches the fulfilment without too much call to interpretation.

What I did find was that in my opinion too many of the reported prophesies are not specific enough for my satisfaction. I found that this even applies to the more famous ‘Servant King’ prophesies found in Isaiah.

Back at home after the service my wife asked me what I thought of the sermon and I briefly explained the above and how I found it interesting but not convincing. I found myself being a little surprised when she used the word ‘sceptical’ in her own description of her thoughts about some of the items. This surprised me as I didn’t expect it, her faith is not going through the same crisis as my own, so it was surprising to hear her use that phrase. Maybe my own experience is having an effect on her. Pushing her in the same direction that I have just travelled in matters of faith is not on my agenda so I am not going to pursue it. I guess we’ll just have to see what transpires in that matter.

Striking the Heal and Broken Bones

There is one prophesy that I wish to pay more attention too because it’s the stand out item that I took away from the sermon.

The sermon made reference to the traditional idea that crucifixion involved crossing the feet and nailing them to the front of the cross with a single nail going through both feet. However, recent evidence apparently shows that this is probably wrong and the more likely way of nailing the feet to the cross is one foot either side of the vertical and one nail through each heal securing the feet.

Reference was then made to the Fall from the Garden of Eden and the serpents curse, which involved mention of the serpent striking the heal of man. This is apparently now a prophesy for the method of Jesus’ foot attachment to the cross. This is what I mean my retrospective application of a loose phrase that is not a specific prophesy.

My wife agreed with my concerns over this item but she did also point out that the Genesis phrase used is an odd phrase and why would it be said like that if not intended for future reference? She makes a good point, however one should also consider that this is being taken from the English translation, the original language version should really be used here to see what the actual phrase was and how the English translation fits with that context. This actually applies to all of the prophesies to be honest, so it raises the valid question of why should a sermon such as this be taken seriously when it only refers to the English language version of the Bible?

I then pointed out that surely a nail driven through the heal to secure that foot to a cross would effectively render the heal bone broken, thus negating the no broken bones prophesy. My wife suggested that was being overly picky and that the context of the no broken bones prophesy is specific to the practice of the Roman soldiers breaking the legs of the crucified in order to hasten death. She makes a good point, again.

My own memories of the no broken bones prophesy is that it was a literal and wider prophesy relating to the whole life of Jesus. Now that I am older I am happy to accept that it’s a more specific intention and that the heal bone issue is not covered, however it is another example of how non-specific the wording combined with retrospective application leads to joining up events in a manner that suits the reader. As such, I can’t accept this as reliable prophesy and fulfilment.

After the sermon, I had asked the church member in question the same question about the heal and the broken bone and he said it was a good question and he would talk to a Christian doctor he knows and come back to me. We’ll see what happens on that one.

Personally, the whole sermon was interesting and engaged me, but ultimately I found it intellectually and spiritually unsatisfying and it confirmed for me that my decision to move to atheism is the right one.

You Have my Permission to be Controversial

“You have my permission to be controversial, and to ask the hard questions.”

Those were the words my wife said to me over the weekend. Before I get to that though; first a bit of background leading up to the conversation and context.

After a lovely pre-Easter holiday and a long weekend break for the Royal Wedding we spent a few days at my in-laws.

Over breakfast on our last day, before we headed back home, my mother-in-law mentioned a good childhood friend of my wife’s. A friend with whom she’s had sporadic contact since the breakup of her marriage. My in-laws are close to her parents, so we get much second-hand news from them. Anyway, it’s a long and messy story which has no place in this blog apart from the mention that this friend now proclaims “there is no God”. This is apparently due to the new man in said woman’s life.

The emotion with which my mother-in-law expressed this latest development made it clear that not only was she saddened by this news, but she was shocked to the point of considering it an immensely hurtful thing to say. While I can certainly appreciate why my mother-in-law feels that way, it didn’t fill me with any confidence as I edge myself closer to the point at which I make my confession.

What it did do though, was give me a chance to open up a conversation with my wife and Atheism and reduced faith. So I decided that I’d make use of that later in the day.

Later in the day turned out to be on the drive home. An hour and a half, when we could talk without interruption; thanks to a recently purchased in car DVD system for the daughter on the back seat.

I mentioned to my wife that I was a little taken by the strength of her mother’s response over news of her friend’s atheism. My wife acknowledged it was strong, then changed the focus to that of her friend and pointed out that given what she has been through, its hardly a surprise that she struggles with accepting there is a God, let alone manages to maintain a relationship with Him.

My wife made a good point, though personally I don’t accept the ‘bad things happened to me therefore there is no God’ argument. I find it a bit self absorbed and illogical. If you’re going to declare the absence of God, do it based on (lack of) evidence and logical conclusions, not because of some sob story. No matter how bad life may seem to you, there will always be someone in a worse situation who manages to praise God and be cheerful about it. So I have little sympathy for boohoo stories which try to justify non belief in God.

Of course my reply to my wife was more considered, plus she knows where I stand on this point anyway so there really was no need to extended explanation.

The conversation moved on a bit and at some point the news came on the radio to announce the death of Osama Bin Laden, so we meandered around that a while before eventually coming back on track.

We discussed our faith and my wife surprised me by saying she’d noticed my withdrawal from Christianity since my mothers death three years ago, she also noted that while my mother’s death wasn’t the cause that was about the time it started. (The story of my mother’s illness and death will come in time; my chronological narrative hasn’t reached that point yet.)

My wife is right of course and I was a little taken aback by her accurate insight, though the shame is mine for even thinking that my wife does not know me that well by now.

So I acknowledged my wife was right and admitted that my Christianity has suffered to the point that I was concerned that recovery to what it once was would be impossible. She accepted this as though she knew it already; maybe she did and was being gracious towards me. Maybe she knew I wasn’t being entirely truthful, if she did, she didn’t follow it up.

I knew I wasn’t being entirely truthful. In the past few months when I have been pondering over how to come clean I’ve decided the best way is to treat it as a journey and give my wife the chance to get used to the idea rather than spring it on her. Maybe I’m underestimating her again. Maybe she knows far better than I realise and is continuing to be gracious and loving. Either way I don’t want to rock the boat any more than I need to, my wife is precious to me and I’d rather live a lie than risk losing her.

Anyway, the conversation moved on some more and we talked about how we’d both been unhappy in our current church for at least a couple of years and it had likely moved to the point where recovery from that was impossible under the current leadership. The problem is that we have many good friends here. We’ve discussed moving church a few times and each time decided that was not what we wanted.

The future will change

However, that’s not where it ends. We recently decided to relocate and are in the process of finalising the sale of our house; we’ve yet to start packing and sorting out our accumulated junk. The move won’t happen until August, so we have some time yet.

The move is unrelated to our church situation, but it does mean that there will be a new church for us to attend. My wife made it clear that she would like us to be able to attend together and be a family at church again.

This is where we get to the above mentioned statement. In the context of being at church again my wife acknowledge the negative impact our recent church experience had had on us and asserted that she wanted the move to be a time to change that. I agree with her, though I didn’t voice that I was not so comfortable being a church goer again. This is something I will need to deal with in time.

Perhaps sensing this and knowing that silence on the subject has been part of our current problems finished with encouragement for me. She stated that she wants me to be more involved intellectually and vocally, to ask the difficult questions, the questions that my scientific mind brings up and to be controversial in it.

We’ll see how it goes, I’m not really one for speaking out and being controversial, but maybe a new found bravery will come.

Until then, there is packing to do….