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.

Deliverance Follow-up

Another long posts here; before reading, it would be a good idea to make sure you have read this post first: https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/the-dramatic-deliverance/

Following my deliverance experience much changed in my life. My focus changed from being reading about creationism to reading about the Christian approach to deliverance and, more generally, healing. As time went on I would return to soaking up all sort of creationist literature, but for the following couple of years at least that would take a back seat.

A few days after the deliverance experience I was in a room with about 20 other young adults from the church for our regular 18+ meet up. During group prayer time I had a reoccurrence of the recent events. I was sitting cross-legged and as someone started praying, I think it was the first prayer of the evening; I started making incoherent noises and my rear started lifting up and dropping in a very rapid bouncing movement. To say it freaked out those who were there was a bit of an understatement.

Most of those there knew of the events previously, but not all and they were certainly not all comfortable with the concept of demons. One girl in particular was extremely distraught by what she saw and immediately fled the room.

It wasn’t long before control was regained, but it was blindingly obvious that everyone in the room was out of their depth. A phone call was made and I was immediately taken to the vicars house (the same vicar who had accompanied me during the deliverance) to spend the night.

That was to be the last time anything like that would happen to me.

God, save me!

Some evenings later (it may have been as much as a couple of weeks later) I had the most scary event of that period, and possibly the most scary moment of my entire life. I was woken from sleep in the early hours by what can best be described as feeling like someone was sitting on my chest. It was very disturbing. I tried to remove the mystery weight, only to discover that I could not move at all. None of my limbs responded to my attempts at movement. What made matters worse was that the compression on my chest was so heavy that for long moments I could not draw a breath.

When I tried to call out, I found I had no voice, a combination of not enough air in my lungs and no muscle control.

With my breath running low and feeling like I was being physically held down by an unseen force, its not at all surprising that I was utterly terrified. As panic rose up through me, in a last ditch effort I managed to call out “God, help me”. Its was more of a hoarse whisper than a shout, despite thinking that I was screaming it. In that instant I was sitting upright in bed, I was able to breath again and all muscle control was back.

On recounting the story it was diagnosed as a demonic attack.

Years later I would discover that what I actually experienced was very likely sleep paralysis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_paralysis), a known phenomena that can be triggered by stressful events. This discovery was a key moment for me. It meant that is such a vivid and pivotal experience that was automatically assumed to be of supernatural origin was actually far more mundane and explainable. If this experience could be explained so easily; then what of all the others? It was no longer acceptable to just accept the experiences of the past in the religious context I had always judged them. It was now essential to me to doubt them all. If its possible to psychologically explain something that is assumed to be supernatural, then for something to be truly supernatural it must defy any other explanation. I could not in full honesty say that anything I had experienced met that criteria and so it should all be doubted.

Back to the story

A week later, on a far less dramatic social night out a friend commented to me that I looked so much better. He specifically pointed out that it showed in my eyes. Those around all agreed with his diagnosis.

Inside I had changed too, specifically my feelings towards my father were very different. The hate and bitterness that I felt towards him were gone and I just wanted to love him as a father. Our relationship wasn’t fixed, far from it, there would be much pain and hurt yet to experience there; but the way I felt towards him was very different.

My girlfriend noticed it too. It was a couple of weeks later when she said that she found I had changed to such an extent it was like she was having to get to know me all over again. I was still the same person but my attitude and outlook were different. I can’t remember the exact words she used to describe the change, only that it was mostly positive but that scale of the change in character was unnerving to her.

A prophesy

It was probably a couple of months later when the church had an outing to another church to attend a weekend of healing lectures and workshops. By now I had become involved in the church’s prayer for healing group.

During one of the sessions at this church a gentleman was introduced to us all and we were told he had a gift of prophesy or discernment (something like that, I can’t remember exactly). Anyway, this chap would wander round the hall while we were singing the next song and see what came to him.

The song started and I was vaguely aware of him passing through and stopping and saying something to one or two people. I was in the back row, next to my girlfriend and he eventually passed behind us and carried on. No reaction.

At the end of the song, the gentleman was brought to the front and there was a bit of chat about what was discerned, nothing special. Then he pointed me out and said ‘this man is going to have an apostolic ministry’.

I whispered to my girlfriend, “is he pointing at me?”. “No” came the reply. I shot him a questioning glance. The speaker running the session sought clarification. The man in front of me pointed at himself and asked “do you mean me?” “No” was the reply.

I point at myself, “Me?”. “Yes, you”. My legs buckled under me and I had to sit down quick before I hit the floor. I only just made it. My mind was blur and I struggled to comprehend what was being implied and how it could possibly fit with what had been happening to me. The couple of months leading up to this moment had been a whirlwind, both emotionally and spiritually.

Given the number of people from my church who witnessed the prophesy, including the aforementioned vicar and his lovely wife, I became a bit of a minor celebrity. I was wisely cautioned against trying to self fulfil the prophesy and advised to consider all the things that had happened to me carefully. Over the years, as I moved location (and therefore church) or had ministers come and go I’ve told very few people of these events, mainly just the ministers and vicars.

There is probably more I could tell but this post is long enough already, and not the key facts are here so I’ll leave it here. As always questions are welcome.