Re: “The Evidential Value of Messianic Prophecy” – Does Matthew’s Use of Hosea 11 Open the Way for Muslim Apologists?

Jonathan McLatchie makes a noteworthy admission and argument which Muslims who argue for Prophet Muhammad being in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible/Tanakh) will be interested in.

Jonathan acknowledges the Messianic prophecy claims conservative Christians preach are not direct prophecies but what he would consider allegorical, “foreshadows” or “typologies” (although he does think there are some direct prophecies). An example he cites is Hosea 11:1 which the author of Matthew 2:15 believed to be a prophecy of Jesus:

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 But the more they were called, the more they went away from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. [Hosea 11:1]

Jonathan recognises upon “inspection of the first two verses of Hosea 11, however, reveals that the context is not Messianic at all!

Jonathan, however, does accept it as a prophecy. A typological prophecy: What is going on here, one might ask? Is Matthew attempting to pull the wool over our eyes and dupe us into thinking that this is a prediction of the Messiah, earnestly hoping that his readers will not take the trouble to look up the text for themselves? Of course not. Rather, Matthew takes this text to be fulfilled typologically.

But, here’s the thing: if this is your standard and you accept this as a prophecy then you don’t have any reason to reject Zakir Hussain’s arguments for prophecies about Prophet Muhammad p in the Old Testament (and the New Testament) if you’re consistent. Really, just have a look at Zakir Hussain’s arguments and you’ll notice that they are much more convincing than Matthew’s Hosea 11 “prophecy” claim!

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Zakir Hussain, a passionate and knowledgeable proponent for prophecies of Prophet Muhammad  in the Bible

Based on a cumulative argument of “typological coincidences” of this nature, Jonathan argues this points to divine orchestration:

The numerous typological ‘coincidences’, of which but a few examples are briefly described above, militates strongly against hypothesis (2). The occurrence of so many correspondences between Jesus’ life as reported by the gospels and the Hebrew Scriptures surely can only either be the product of divine orchestration, or human design in the telling of the stories

But hold on, a Muslim could make the same case for Zakir Hussain’s arguments!

Bart Ehrman sums up the situation around Messianic prophecy claims:

You can go through virtually all the alleged messianic prophecies that point to Jesus and show the same things: either the “prophecies” were not actually predictions of the future messiah (and were never taken that way before Christians came along) or the facts of Jesus’ life that are said to have fulfilled these predictions are not actually facts of Jesus’ life. [Bart Ehrman]

My point, thus far, is to highlight that the manner in which Christians argue against proponents of prophecies for Prophet Muhammad in the OT is utterly inconsistent. If they were consistent in their rejection of those arguments for Prophet Muhammad in the OT they would reject the allegorical approach they accept for Messianic prophecies; that would be bye-bye to Matthew’s alleged Messianic prophecy leaning on Hosea 11:1.

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Food for thought for Christian apologists

 
Deliberate misdirection?

The elephant in the room is that of making up prophecies or being overly keen to find prophecies and ending up with claims that are just baffling. Firstly, we know the author of the Gospel of John changed stories for theological reasons (i.e. the day of the crucifixion story). We’ve also got the spear thrust story in John and the story of the guard in Matthew which aren’t considered to be historical – those narratives would have been added for theological/apologetical reasons.

But seen as Jonathan is solely focussing on prophecies let’s focus on Matthew’s prophecy claims. Jonathan McLatchie doesn’t want people to believe “the gospel authors deliberately set out to deceive and mislead people into believing their accounts to be recalling real history” but the author of Matthew seems to be making up prophecies or at the very least is the victim of  (spurious) source material used to compose the Gospel.

One example would be the use of Zech 9:9 in Matthew 21 where the author depicts Jesus riding on a donkey and a colt:

The Hebrew text for this Old Testament prophecy talks about one animal which is described twice, but its Greek translation uses “and”, meaning two animals instead. Matthew relied on the Greek translation of the Old Testament so he made Jesus ride on two animals. He had to change the earlier part of the story to make Jesus order his two disciples to bring a donkey and a colt. The fact that Jesus could not have ridden on two animals at the same time did not bother Matthew![Dr Loauy Fatoohi]

 

And the claim of a prophecy of one to be called a “Nazarene” in Matt 2:

Like other prophecies quoted by Mathew, there is a serious problem with this prophecy: it does not occur anywhere in the Old Testament![Dr Louay Fatoohi]

Perhaps another example for the contention the Gospel authors were shaping their narratives based on their interpretation of the Scriptures (the OT) would be the narrative of Jesus being born in Bethlehem:

But the authors of the Gospels were themselves influenced in their telling of Jesus’ story by the passages of Scripture that they took to be messianic predictions, and they told their stories in the light of those passages.

Take Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. … It’s true that both Matthew and Luke say that Jesus was born in that small village. But Mark and John do not assume that this is true, but rather that he came from Galilee, from the village of Nazareth. Moreover, Matthew and Luke *get* Jesus born in Bethlehem in radically different and contradictory ways, so that for both of them he is born there even though he comes from Nazareth. Why don’t they have a consistent account of the matter?

It is almost certainly because they both want to be able to claim that his birth was in Bethlehem, even though both of them know for a fact he did not come from Bethlehem, but from Nazareth. Then why do Matthew and Luke want to argue (in different ways) that he was born in Bethlehem? It is because in their view — based on the Old Testament prophet Micah 5:2 — that’s where the messiah had to come from. And so for them, Jesus *had* to come from there. They aren’t recording a historical datum from Jesus’ life; they are writing accounts that are influenced by the Old Testament precisely to show that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament.[Bart Ehrman]

There’s a lot to sink in but to sum up with a rhetorical question, if one is willing to extend themselves in accepting the prophecy claims coming out of the Gospel of Matthew then how can one, in good faith, reject the arguments made by people like Zakir Hussain for prophecies of Prophet Muhammad in the Bible?

 

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Categories: Islam

20 replies

  1. Amazing article, br. Yahya.

    “My point, thus far, is to highlight that the manner in which Christians argue against proponents of prophecies for Prophet Muhammad in the OT is utterly inconsistent”
    The first one I’ve ever heard pointing to this big issue with christians is the Lion,Shaykh Ahmed Deedat, whom christians mock today for lacking the “academic” knowledge. May Allah have mercy on that man. May Allah reward him by each letter thousands of good deeds.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Abdullah, good point. I think this snobbery towards Shk. Deedat is unfair. The man was at an advanced age and was limited to what research he could get hold of having lived under apartheid decades ago. Just think about this; in the 90’s was there really much populist work that lays out NT textual criticism and church history back in those days? Well, wind that back to the 80’s and 70’s. And in South Africa under apartheid on top of that!

      People do the best they can with the resources and information at hand to them.

      Shk Deedat had a sharp mind and a lot of charisma and resolve. If Shk Deedat was in his prime in this day and age with all the resources available now what would he be capable of…

      The fact that he inspired Dr Ali Ataie, Dr Shabir Ally and generations of Muslims to be a little more interested in comparative religion (or in the case of the afroementioned, extremely interested) is no small feat.

      Shk. Deedat didn’t want people to rest on his work…he wanted people to take it forward. Lazy/ content Muslims who don’ iron out any mistakes in his material and build upon his work are the problem.

      Those who mock and scoff need to think about how they’d look next to a Shk. Deedat in his prime with all these resources available today…or even how they’d look next to him in his era having been raised under apartheid decades ago.If they think hey’d fare well, then that;s a sign of arrogance or just delusion.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Jonathan McLatchie’s piece was posted on a anti-Islam website that portrays Muslims as potential terrorists, mocks Islam and Muslims and cashes in on negative news stories featuring Muslims for purposes of page-views and/or “evangelism” so I haven’t linked to that site. Here’s Jon’s piece in full if anybody is wondering:

    One of the great lynch pins among the evidences for the truth of Christianity is the argument from Messianic prophecies — that is, the fulfillment, climax and culmination of Old Testament Scripture in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. We read in the gospel that, following the resurrection, Jesus appeared to two Jewish men on the road to Emmaus, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” (Luke 24:27). Along with the resurrection, the argument from Messianic prophecy was the central apologetic of the early church. For example, it is said of Apollos that he, while in Ephesus, “powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus,” (Acts 18:28).

    Unfortunately, Messianic prophecy has been frequently misunderstood by many a contemporary apologist. When studying Messianic prophecy, one must bear in mind the distinction between a Greco-Roman conception of prophecy and a Hebrew understanding of prophecy. For the Greco-Roman world, a prophecy consists of a one-to-one correspondence of prediction and fulfillment. On the other hand, the Hebrew concept of prophecy was rather broader than that. While it is undeniable that there are Messianic prophecies of this category in the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g. Isaiah 52:13-53:12), more often prophecies consist of foreshadows and typologies. It is, therefore, a misguided approach to attempt to quantify the number of Messianic prophecies (I have seen some estimates of more than 300!) and mathematically compute the probability of all of those prophecies being fulfilled in one man.

    To illustrate the fallacy of this approach, let’s consider an example of how prophecy is used by Matthew. In Matthew 2:13-15,
    13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
    The Old Testament text being quoted here is taken from Hosea 11:1. An inspection of the first two verses of Hosea 11, however, reveals that the context is not Messianic at all! Here’s what we read:
    When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 But the more they were called, the more they went away from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.
    The context, therefore, concerns God having called the nation of Israel out of Egypt during the Exodus. It is not a prophecy about Jesus in the sense that we would normally use that word. Nor was it ever understood to be by the Jews before the time of Christ.

    What is going on here, one might ask? Is Matthew attempting to pull the wool over our eyes and dupe us into thinking that this is a prediction of the Messiah, earnestly hoping that his readers will not take the trouble to look up the text for themselves? Of course not. Rather, Matthew takes this text to be fulfilled typologically. For Matthew, Jesus is the perfect Israelite, or the greater Israel, if you will.

    Matthew similarly portrays Jesus as the greater David. There is nothing, for instance, in the immediate context of Psalm 22 which would lead us to conclude it is Messianic. Indeed, it would only be interpreted as Messianic through the lens of the New Testament. Yet it is intimately weaved into the fabric of Matthew’s passion narrative, including the soldiers casting lots for his clothing (Matthew 27:35; Psalm 22:18); people wagging their heads at him (Matthew 27:39; Psalm 22:7); people mocking saying “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him,” (Matthew 27:43; Psalm 22:8); and Jesus’ cry from the cross, “my God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1).

    What, then, for us as Christian apologists, is the evidential value of Messianic prophecy? Surely, you might think, to rely on a Messianic prophecy, which can only be understood as such through the lens of the New Testament, is an exercise in circular reasoning.

    The first point to recognize is the numerous ‘coincidences’ surrounding the ministry and passion of our Lord, as reported by the gospels. Jesus, according to all four gospels, is slain at the time of Passover, an annual Jewish commemorative feast when the people of Israel would remember the final plague upon the Egyptians (the slaying of the firstborn son of each household), and the deliverance of all those households who smeared the blood of a slaughtered lamb on their doorpost (see my blog post here for more info). Another coincidence is that mount Calvary, where Jesus was reportedly crucified, just so happens to be one of the mountains in the region of Moriah where Abraham was instructed to offer up his son Isaac in Genesis 22 (see my blog post here for more info). We know this because 2 Chronicles 3:1 informs us that Solomon built his temple in the Moriah region.

    I will not give further examples of such ‘coincidences’ here. Suffice it to say that there are many more which could be given. My purpose here is rather to outline what is, in my opinion, the best and most effective way of framing the argument based on them.

    The second point that we need to note is that there are three hypotheses for the origins of Christianity. These are:

    (1) The gospel authors deliberately set out to deceive and mislead people into believing their accounts to be recalling real history.

    (2) The gospel authors were themselves honestly mistaken.

    (3) Christianity is true, and the gospels report genuine history concerning the life of Jesus.

    The numerous typological ‘coincidences’, of which but a few examples are briefly described above, militates strongly against hypothesis (2). The occurrence of so many correspondences between Jesus’ life as reported by the gospels and the Hebrew Scriptures surely can only either be the product of divine orchestration, or human design in the telling of the stories.

    Once option 2 is removed from our consideration, one only has to provide evidence for the sincerity of the gospel authors — i.e. that they were not deliberately setting out to deceive, and genuinely believed their accounts to be recalling real history. Multiple lines of evidence can be drawn on to support this conclusion. One could also show that the gospel accounts exhibit certain patterns which are unlikely to be the work of a forger — such as the criterion of undesignedness, the criterion of embarrassment, the frequency of names relative to external contemporary sources, etc etc.

    To conclude, then, what may we say is the evidential value of Messianic prophecy? In my opinion, the strongest way to present the argument is to use Messianic prophecy to undermine the hypothesis that the gospel authors were honestly mistaken. One’s focus may then be directed toward the task of eliminating hypothesis (1) — namely, that the gospel authors deliberately set out to deceive. Having refuted both competing hypotheses, one is left with yet another powerful argument in support of the truth of the Christian worldview.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, this is excellent and honest material. I greatly appreciate the blog.

    It leaves me wondering how the issue can just be left hanging. We can’t rewrite Matthew. We can’t say the fulfilment of OT prophecy is not important because it is central to the earliest Christian creeds (1Cor15 creed uses ‘according to the Scriptures’ twice). Quite apart from helping Islam apologetics, the issue for me is that this makes for strong evidence against Christianity. That is what can’t be just left hanging.

    Best, Ed

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Great article brother Yahya.May Allah bless you.

    I would say, the great thing is we do not even need to use Matthew’s techniques at all when it comes to OT prophecies.

    On a different note, let us consider the Christian apologists’ explanation for Matthew’s use of Hosea 11 as a reference to Jesus being “son of God”. Jesus being son of God would then be seen in the same light as Israel being son of God. Jesus for Matthew may be the son par excellence but still completely human and totally subordinate to God.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “Why don’t they have a consistent account of the matter?”

    Maybe the HS is like a split brain patient too. Speaking from one range of knowledge while being ignorant of a different range of knowledge somewhere in his ontology.

    Like

  6. http://www.answeringmuslims.com/2017/01/biblical-typology-and-prophecies-about.html

    Biblical Typology and Prophecies About Muhammad: A Reply to Yahya Snow by Jonathan McLatchie

    Like

    • Why does mclatchie think we have to prove Muhammad(pbuh) is in the bible.The Quran referred to the christians/jews at that time that they’ll find him in their scriptures,and they did.So even if no one in the world believes Muhammad(pbuh) is prophesied,it won’t make a difference,as the people before did find him in their scriptures,thus making the Quran right.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hashim I agree with you. You can bring a stallion near the river but you can not make him drink. Same issue is with Christians and Jews.

      Like

    • Apparently Johnathan thinks Yahya is “notorious”. LOL.

      Anyway brother Hashim is right that people at the time of the Prophet and afterwards found within their scriptures prophecies concerning our Messenger. Abdullah ibn Salam, Kab al-Ahbar, Salman the Persian and others did so.

      Also Johnathan’s point about the theology of the Bible is absurd. As if he can find the Nicean or Chalcedonian creeds in there.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I clicked on it but I didn’t get beyond the opening gambit of appealing to the echo-chamber at AM. I’d imagine I will get to reading it in the future but for now I just left him with these comments

    OK so I clicked on this link but I found your opening couple of paragraphs to be rude and offensive. – not to mention inaccurate.
    I haven’t read the rest.
    I may look back but as you know I copied and pasted your entire article into the comment section of BT so to say I avoided some courtesy by not linking to the blog you published your article on is a little redundant – especially considering that blog is rife with malicious comments about Muslims which portrays us as fifth columns waiting to kill non Muslims and take over amongst all the mockery of Muslims and Islam on there.

    And I’ve told you before I don;t appreciate these backhanded emotive digs such as “notorious polemicist”. This was noted by another Muslim, Fawaz who commented about your post. Going by a PM about your post and Fawaz’s and Hashim’s analyses I think you’ve misunderstood the point of my blog.
    My blog was not designed to argue for the Prophet Muhammad in the Bible. /it was to point out the dismissals coming from Christian apologists to arguments from the likes of Zakir Hussain are inconsistent. Folks can read my piece and see what it was about themselves.
    I may read your piece in the future but I would recommend if you actually want people to engage with you it’s best to leave the dramatics and the divisive language at home – I’ve in the past ignored a multi-part response on the Angel of the Lord from somebody on that site due to him doing exactly what you did (albeit his opening gambit was full of more testosterone than yours) – for all I know he’s still making responses but he shall not get my attention after such an opener to appeal to the echo chamber of anti-Muslim Christians. I would also suggest this is one of the reasons why you have recently been receiving negativity from online Muslims – these young people aren’t stupid they notice that stuff.
    An apologist who PM’d me alerted to me an error on the part of Dr Fatoohi – not a big deal as it is a small issue apparently. According to him you dwelt on it.

    Hashim Khanzada:
    Why does mclatchie think we have to prove Muhammad(pbuh) is in the bible.The Quran referred to the christians/jews at that time that they’ll find him in their scriptures,and they did.So even if no one in the world believes Muhammad(pbuh) is prophesied,it won’t make a difference,as the people before did find him in their scriptures,thus making the Quran right.

    Fawaz:
    Apparently Johnathan thinks Yahya is “notorious”. LOL.
    Anyway brother Hashim is right that people at the time of the Prophet and afterwards found within their scriptures prophecies concerning our Messenger. Abdullah ibn Salam, Kab al-Ahbar, Salman the Persian and others did so.
    Also Johnathan’s point about the theology of the Bible is absurd. As if he can find the Nicean or Chalcedonian creeds in there.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Although I have not actually read Mr Mclatchie’s argument, instinct suggests it would not be radically far from some poorly constructed ‘theological similarities’. Will surely contrast such ‘similarities’ with a few ‘Muhammadine’ verses (such as Isaiah 42 and Deuteronomy 18) when I’m done. Only wish I were an author on Blogging Theology.

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