We received the following comment from a Christian (though not a Jehovah’s Witness):
“Just as all the predictions for Jesus’ first coming came true, so will the ones about His second coming.”
I want to examine his statement, because–while I have no doubt that the writer sincerely believes it–I don’t think it’s true. In addition, I think that most people who believe that Jesus fulfilled prophecies have not examined the evidence objectively. Let’s rectify that, shall we?
“Prophecies” about Jesus(?)
The publishers of the 2013 edition of the NWT [the Watchtower–as if you didn’t know] were kind enough to give us their list of five “prophecies” about Jesus and their imagined fulfillment in “Question 6: What Did the Bible Foretell About the Messiah?” of their “Introduction to God’s Word.”
We’re going to examine these in due course. But we’re first going to look at one they inexplicably left off of their list: the most well known:
1. Immanuel and Virgin Birth
But this is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. During the time his mother Mary was promised in marriage to Joseph, she was found to be pregnant by holy spirit. However, because her husband Joseph was righteous and did not want to make her a public spectacle, he intended to divorce her secretly. But after he had thought these things over, look! Jehovah’s angel appeared to him in a dream, saying: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take your wife Mary home, for what has been conceived in her is by holy spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All of this actually came about to fulfill what was spoken by Jehovah through his prophet, saying: “Look! The virgin will become pregnant and will give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel,” which means, when translated, “With Us Is God.”
—MT 1:18-23 (NWT, 2013 ed.)
Pretty impressive, eh? They were even kind enough to give us the cross-reference to the original prophecy, which points to:
Jehovah himself will give you a sign: Look! The young woman will become pregnant and will give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel.
Now, you may ask (as I did): what does a young woman becoming pregnant, (and giving birth to a son with the intended name of Immanuel) have to do with the virgin birth of Jesus? Well, nothing, actually–and maybe that’s why the NWT didn’t mention it in their list of prophecies about Jesus.
But, not so fast; the NWT gives us another footnote which tells us that “young woman” can also mean “maiden.” Maidens were unmarried women, and we all know that unmarried women are always virgins, right? We do know that, right? Well, back then they always were, right? Hmmm. Even though the Bible tells us that Mary’s own betrothed suspected otherwise, we’ll just pretend it’s true for now.
Okay, so maybe we could stretch our credulity and say “young woman” equals “maiden” equals “virgin.” But, how about a little context: you know, that thing the Watchtower accused us apostates of lifting their words out of (last year, before we were promoted to Satan’s kitchen helpers)? What is the context of this quote from the book of Isaiah?
Well, go ahead and read the entire chapter, instead of this one partially quoted verse. Go ahead; we’ll wait. If you’re a JW, I promise that it won’t hurt you to read a verse in context for a change. We’ll even let you read from your beloved NWT.
So, now we have the context: God’s “chosen people” had split into two separate nations by this time: Judah and Israel. In this tale Ahaz, king of Judah is the good guy, while Pekah of Israel (son of Remaliah) has joined forces with Rezin, the king of Syria against Ahaz. Isaiah tells Ahaz not to worry, because Jehovah is not going to let them succeed against him. As a “sign” to prove this, he says a woman will bear a child called Immanuel, who won’t even be talking yet before the bad kings are squashed.
Nowhere in this chapter is the word Messiah to be found. Nowhere is this given as a prophecy concerning the Messiah. The whole thing about the child Immanuel wasn’t a prophecy at all; it was a sign given to seal a promise made to King Ahaz.
Then what happened? Did a virgin give birth? Were the opposing kings foiled in their attack against the land of Judah? Read for yourself:
Then I had relations with the prophetess, and she became pregnant and in time gave birth to a son. Jehovah then said to me: “Name him Mahershalalhashbaz, for before the boy knows how to call out, ‘My father!’ and ‘My mother!’ the resources of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.” Jehovah spoke to me again: “Because this people has rejected the gently flowing waters of the Shiloahe And they rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, Therefore look! Jehovah will bring against them The mighty and vast waters of the River, The king of Assyria and all his glory. He will come up over all his streambeds And overflow all his banks And sweep through Judah. He will flood and pass through, reaching to the neck; His outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel!”
There you have it: Isaiah made whoopee with the prophetess, and got her knocked up. They called the kid Mahershalalhashbaz (Don’t you feel sorry for him having to spell that to everyone the rest of his life?) I guess they forgot to call him Immanuel. But, since it’s too good a name to waste, Jehovah calls the king of Assyria “Immanuel” and declares that he’s the one that’s going to take out his vengeance on the kings who dared to attack Judah (though now it sounds like Immanuel is also going to do engage in some “clobberin’ time” in Judah as well!)
So, in this non-prophecy which turned out to be a “sign” to seal a promise, a virgin does not become pregnant, and her son is not named Immanuel. So the sign itself was botched. But, what about the promise? Did Jehovah stop Syria and Israel from succeeding in their attack on Judah (by using the king of Assyria [aka Immanuel] to pulverize them)?
Once again, you can read it for yourself:
Ahaz was 20 years old when he became king, and he reigned for 16 years in Jerusalem. He did not do what was right in Jehovah’s eyes… So Jehovah his God gave him into the hand of the king of Syria, so that they defeated him and carried off a great number of captives and brought them to Damascus. He was also given into the hand of the king of Israel, who inflicted on him a great slaughter. For Pekah the son of Remaliah killed in Judah 120,000 in one day, all brave men, because they had abandoned Jehovah the God of their forefathers. And Zichri, an Ephraimite warrior, killed the king’s son Maaseiah and Azrikam, who was in charge of the palace, and Elkanah, who was second to the king.Moreover, the Israelites took 200,000 of their brothers captive—women, sons, and daughters; they also seized a great deal of spoil, and they took the spoil to Sa·mar?i·a.
That’s right: Isaiah’s prophecy failed. Let me restate that: it failed miserably. King Ahaz not only lost 120,000 men in a single day [which is almost certainly an exaggeration; it’s more than died in a single day when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in WWII] he also lost his son, and 200,000 of his people were taken captive. I’d say that constitutes an extreme failure of Isaiah’s prophecy.
This botched sign of a false prophecy cannot honestly be used as a prophecy about Jesus. Since Matthew says that the only reason Jesus was born of a virgin was in order to fulfill this prophecy, then it makes the virgin birth highly suspect. Luke, who also relates the virgin birth of Jesus does not mention Immanuel or the “prophecy” of Isaiah. The only reason Matthew probably mentioned it was that he went quote-mining and found this passage poorly translated in his Greek Septuagent where “maiden” was rendered “virgin.”
As a prophecy about Jesus this gets a generous score of zero.