Jesus in the Old Testament
The very term Christian stems from the Greek word meaning Messiah, and indeed in Christian theology, the terms Christ and Messiah are relatively interchangeable. The emergence of Christianity among Jewish communities in the first century is often attributed to the belief that Jesus is the messiah that Jews had awaited, as prophesized in the Old Testament of the Bible.
References to the Birth of Jesus
Those who believe that Jesus is the messiah who is prophesized in the Old Testament books of the Bible often refer to passages that seem to describe the birth of Jesus as it is understood within Christian religion.
The following are some of the more common passages referred to regarding this messianic interpretation and the birth of Jesus in the Old Testament:
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Regarding this passage, interpretations have been set forth about issues of translation – particularly, in association with the term "virgin." Nonetheless, many support this translation of the Old Testament, and further refer to the interpretation of the name "Immanuel" as it is presented in the Bible. In Matthew, the meaning of the name Immanuel – God is with us- is believed to signify Jesus, as opposed to the actual name itself.
This passage is said to prophesize the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem:
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.
In the New Testament, we find references to Jesus' birth in Bethlehem:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod. (Matthew 2:1)
The Life of Jesus
With regard to references to the life of Jesus in the Old Testament, the following passages are among the most noteworthy:
In Isaiah, it is prophesized that the Messiah would be preceded by a messenger, who has been equated with John the Baptist:
A voice of one calling: In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.
In the Old Testament, the Messiah is believed to enter Jerusalem on a colt:
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
A similar passage describing the entrance of Jesus is found in the New Testament:
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen. (Luke 19:35-37)
I told them, "If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it." So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.
Jesus is also sold for thirty pieces of silver in Matthew 26:14-15:
"What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" So they counted out for him thirty silver coins.
The Death of Jesus
Some of the most common references made to the prophesies of the Old Testament are those related to the death of Jesus. Among these is the famous betrayal by Judas, which is sometimes believed to be revealed in Psalms 41:9:
Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
Other Old Testament references to Jesus' death include the following:
Passages in the Old Testament are believed to prophesize not only the crucifixion of Christ, but also that Jesus would be crucified among thieves:
Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. (Psalm 22:16)
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12)
Interestingly, some believe that a passage in the Old Testament - that is also outlined in the New Testament - predicts the Messiah's burial in a rich man’s tomb:
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth (Isaiah 53:9).