The Old Testament As Messianic Prophecy -- By: Robert D. Culver

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 007:3 (Summer 1964)
Article: The Old Testament As Messianic Prophecy
Author: Robert D. Culver


The Old Testament As Messianic Prophecy

Robert D. Culver

Shortly before his ascension our Lord spent several days with the Apostles explaining the significance of his own earthly career, now closing, and their own future mission to the world. On this occasion he explained both his career, i.e., Gospel history, and their great mission to the world as fulfillments of Old Testament prophecy. His words are basic to an understanding of Jesus’ own hermeneutics as regards Old Testament messianic prophecy and must therefore be quoted at this point.

Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself… And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you that all things must be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and he said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem (italics mine, Luke 24:24-27; 44-47).

Now, among the many discussions of Old Testament messianic prophecy there are precious few that take into consideration all the words of Jesus in this definitive text. Terms used (see underlining) make clear that Jesus held all 39 books of “prophetic” Old Testament Scripture to be predictive. Jesus seems to say not merely that there are messianic prophecies in all of the books (astonishing in itself) but that all the Scriptures of the Old Testament are, as such, predictive of Christ. Further, not only is the career of Christ predicted in the Old Testament but the spread of the Christian gospel as well.

Older generations of writers were more readily able to see this comprehensive predictive character of the Old Testament. Their perceptive powers had not been dulled by the current frantic interest in relating everything in the Old Testament to its background. No one had yet “discovered” an annual enthronement festival or annual ritual humiliation of the Babylonian monarchs! Their interest was mainly in the “foreground” of the Old Testament, i.e., the New Testament. So a Saint Augustine could write: In vetere testamento novum latet et in novo vetus patet (“In the Old Testament the New lies hidden and in t...

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