an atheist viewpoint

thoughts from a non-theist

Matthew, Micah, and Prophecy

Over at Pleaseconvinceme, in the comments of one of the articles, a chap called Eddie has been presenting some Biblical prophecies. Here’s what he said –

Ok a fulfilled prophecy…
Micah 5:2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. 700 B.C.
Matthew 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod; Magi from the east came to Jerusalem
Over the years there have been a number of “Bethlehems” in Israel. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Bethlehem Ephrathah, referred to in Matthew as “Bethlehem in Judea”, was a village about five miles south of Jerusalem, and there also was a town named Bethlehem about seven miles northwest of Nazareth. (Per footnote Matthew 2:1 of the Zondervan NIV Study Bible, 10th Anniversary Edition, (c) 1995)
It’s not just Jesus fulfilling one prophecy, but there are dozens. No-one else can fit these Messianic prophecies but Jesus.

As is often the case, these things look good when you first glance at them, but the truth is often more interesting. Here’s what I said in reply….

1. The passage in Micah goes on…

“5:3 Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.
5:4 And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.
5:5 And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men.
5:6 And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.”

it’s clearly speaking of a military leader that would defeat Assyria, not the Messiah.

2. Matthew alters the text from “Bethlehem Ephratah” to “Bethlehem, in the land of Juda”. Bethlehem Ephratah doesn’t refer to a place, rather to the clan of Bethlehem, who was the son of Caleb’s second wife, Ephrathah.

3. You assume that the (actually) unknown author of ‘Matthew’ is writing of an historical event, when it is entirely likely that he was writing his version of the birth of Jesus with Micah in mind. Basically ‘Matthew’ was making sure the nativity story matched (almost) something that he (the writer) thought of as a prophesy of the coming Messiah.

Not only does the Micah passage NOT prophesy the Messiah, the anonymous writer later dubbed ‘Matthew’ is merely imprinting his own belief on the Jesus myth that he’d heard (no, he wasn’t an eye witness, none of the gospel writers were, no matter what some believers would wish)

I’ve yet to come across a single convincing instance of Biblical prophecy….I’ll let you know if and when I do.

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