“… And on the third day He rose again, according to the scriptures.”
Let us begin by taking the second half of this line first. Our English word ‘scripture’ comes from the Latin word for something which is written. For Christians, the scriptures are divided into two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament begins with the creation of the world and of human beings, and the fall of Adam and Eve. It continues through the time of the Patriarchs, beginning with Abraham. We read about Moses and the Exodus and the entrance into the Holy Land. There is the Book of Psalms, which is the prayer book for synagogue and church. Finally we read the books of the prophets who announce God’s will for the Jewish people (and us), either criticizing or comforting.
The New Testament begins with the Gospels, telling of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Book of Acts tells us the history of the early church and the Epistles are letters written to various communities and individuals in the early church. The last book of the New Testament is the Book of Revelation. People often think of this book as a book of prophecies about the end times. It is this, but it is also a book of comfort for Christians of any age suffering for their love for Christ.
We should note that the Jews do not use the term “Old Testament”. This is because they do not accept the “New Testament” view of Jesus Christ, so what we call the Old Testament is simply the Bible or the Hebrew scriptures for them.
Throughout the Old Testament there are many prophesies of the Messiah, i.e. Jesus Christ. The Hebrew word Messiah means “the anointed one”. The Greek equivalent of this is “Christ”, from the Greek word “Christos”. In the Old Testament prophets, priests and kings were anointed with oil before they began the service. It implies a special commission from God and Jesus Christ fulfills their roles. The author of the New Testament thought it was very important to show how Jesus Christ fulfilled these prophesies through his words and deeds, so we often encounter the phrase “This was to fulfill what was spoken [by the prophets]…”
This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” (Mt 8:17)
For example, Psalm 16:10 and Psalm 49:15 are understood in the church to refer to Christ’s resurrection, which is this specific prophesy referred to in the line of the Creed.
But there prophesies of Jesus Christ right in the very beginning of the Bible. For example in Genesis 3:15,
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Which comes after the sin of Adam and Eve. In this verse about the woman and the seed, the seed of the woman is Jesus Christ and the seed of the serpent is the devil. The Old Testament in many places makes it clear that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David. It is also prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. As Isaiah 7:14 tells us, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.” We see fulfilled in Matthew 1:22-23, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel’ (which means, God with us).”
There are literally hundreds of places in the Old Testament which point forward to Jesus Christ. But we have to understand that this is a Christian reading of the Old Testament. For the Jews these prophecies do not refer to Jesus Christ. However, when we, as Christians, read the Old Testament we read it from the point of view of the New Testament as interpreted in the Church. So for example, the Jews don’t think that the above mentioned verse from Isaiah refers to the virgin birth of the Messiah. For them it has various other interpretations.
In general, there are many prophesies in the Old Testament that depict the suffering of the Messiah. The Jews do not interpret these texts as prophesies of the Messiah, as we shall see in the next article.