بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم
Did The Gospel of Matthew Invent “Prophecies” About Jesus? A Brief Response to a Christian Apologist
“‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel…’”
– Matthew 1:21–23 (ESV)
One of the most common arguments used by Christians to “prove” that Christianity is true is to point to alleged “prophecies” in the Tanakh, written hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus (peace be upon him), that were “fulfilled” during his life. While this claim is made throughout the Christian “New Testament”, the Gospel of Matthew especially uses this argument numerous times. We have analyzed Matthew’s “prophecies” in a previous article and demonstrated that these were mostly taken out of context, and in many cases, were not even prophecies about future events at all. After a cursory examination of the specific passages that Matthew cited, it would be immediately clear that the author of the gospel seemed to have either misunderstood many of the passages or deliberately took them out of context in order to deceive his readers, yet Christians still accept his claims on the grounds that he was “inspired”. As a result, Christian apologists have had to manufacture possible explanations. In a recent (brief) discussion on Twitter, a Christian named “AristoCopt” (aka “CopticBoi”) attempted to refute the allegation against “Matthew”. In this article, we will examine his claims and provide a rebuttal, insha’Allah.
Matthew, Jesus, and “New Israel”
In short, “CopticBoi” claims that Matthew cited the “OT” to “prove [that] Christ is the New Israel”. He wrote that:
“[j]ust as the Lord lead [sic] his son Israel out of Egypt, he lead [sic] his only begotten Son out of Egypt. Just as Israel was tempted in the wilderness for 40 years, Christ was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. Israel’s infants were killed, and after Christ’s birth infants were killed. As Moses had received his 10 commandments on the mountain, Christ gave his commandants on the sermon of the Mount. As Moses’ face shone after leaving the mountain, Christ’s face shone after the transfiguration on the mountain.”
He also claimed that Matthew “wasn’t trying to trick any gullible audience with a quick out of context quotation.”
However, this was an expected apologetic response. Whereas I asked about all the different out-of-context “prophecies” that “Matthew” somehow found in the Tanakh, “CopticBoi” essentially appealed to “typology”. But Matthew specifically referred to the verses as “prophecies” that were “fulfilled” in the life of Jesus. If Matthew was really using “typology”, he would not have made it sound like a prophecy was being fulfilled. In fact, Matthew does use a clear example of “typology” elsewhere, and this proves that when he referred to certain events “fulfilling” what was “spoken” by a particular prophet, he was not appealing to typology but to literal fulfillment of a prophecy. In Matthew 12:38–42, Matthew’s Jesus referred to Jonah’s imprisonment in the “great fish” as prefiguring his own death. In verse 40, Jesus says:
“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
This is a true example of “typology”, but more importantly, notice the difference in Matthew’s quote of Jesus from his accounts of the events that were “fulfilled” in the life of Jesus, such as the “massacre” of Jewish children by Herod (see below). Matthew’s Jesus did not just take one verse out of context from the story of Jonah and turned it into a “fulfillment” of a “prophecy”, because it was not a prophecy. Instead, Matthew’s Jesus uses the story of Jonah as prefiguring his own future death (though Jonah did not actually die while inside the fish!).
Matthew also never explicitly stated that Jesus was the “new Israel”. One would think that if that was the point of citing the “prophecies”, he could have just said “Jesus is the new Israel”. Clearly, this is just a Christian interpretation after the fact. Incidentally, one apologetic Christian website claims that there is no “new Israel” at all.
As for the so-called “prophecies”, the “new Israel” claim does not explain why they were taken out of context. Also, in some cases, the “prophecies” weren’t even about Jesus or Israel, or they were not “prophecies” at all! For example, Matthew 2:17–18 claims that Herod’s massacre of the children of Bethlehem was prophesied by Jeremiah 31:15:
“Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.’”
“CopticBoi” referred to this “prophecy” by comparing it to the slaughter of Israelite children by the Pharaoh. However, when read in context, it is easily observable that Jeremiah 31:15 was:
- Not a prophecy, and
- Was about the exile of the Israelites to Babylon.
It had nothing to do with the murders of Israelite children. This can be easily seen in the next few verses (vv. 16–18), which DO contain a prophecy, but it is about the return of the Israelites to the Holy Land from Babylonian captivity! Let’s look at the verses in their complete context (note also the present tense compared to Matthew’s past tense):
“Thus says the Lord: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country. I have heard Ephraim grieving, ‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the Lord my God.’”
In addition, verse 23 clearly states that it is a prophecy in which God says He will “bring them back from captivity”. It could not be any clearer!
So, the question is how did this alleged “prophecy” find fulfillment in Herod’s massacre of the children of Bethlehem, when it wasn’t even a prophecy and was instead about something completely different? How does this “prefigure” Jesus as the “new Israel”? The answer to these questions is clear: it doesn’t.
As another example of Matthew’s (deliberate) misquoting of the Tanakh, let’s look at Isaiah 7:14. Matthew claimed that the “sign of Immanuel” from Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled in Jesus’ birth, and that Jesus was in fact “Immanuel”. Besides the mistranslation of “virgin” from the Hebrew, when we read the verse in context, it becomes clear that “Immanuel” was a child that was going to be born to Isaiah during the reign of Ahaz, king of Judah (Isaiah 7:1). Moreover, the prophecy (yes, it was an actual prophecy this time) stated that before “Immanuel” would learn to choose between right and wrong, the threat against Ahaz from the kings of Aram and Israel would be removed since they would be destroyed by Assyria:
“For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!”
So once again, the question is how exactly does this “prophecy” show that Jesus was the “new Israel”? Was Isaiah’s wife a “virgin” who miraculously gave birth to their son, like Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus (peace be upon them)? Or was that just a mistranslation and Isaiah’s wife was actually not a “virgin”? How can it be reasonably argued that Matthew didn’t just cherry-pick verse 14 and ignored the larger context, even if it was just to develop his idea that Jesus was the “new Israel”? Again, the answer seems clear.
In closing, it does not appear that “CopticBoi” really explained anything. Why do Christians conveniently ignore the context regarding alleged “prophecies” about Jesus (peace be upon him) but suddenly appeal to it when responding to Muslim claims about Muhammad (peace be upon him)? Is it too much to ask for a little consistency? Furthermore, even if Matthew’s intention was to merely show that Jesus was the “new Israel”, that still does not disprove the accusation that he took certain passages out of context. It is obvious that he did.
And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!
 This has always fascinated and confused me. I have always wondered why Christian apologists seem to conveniently ignore the “context” of verses in the Tanakh that the NT writers, like “Matthew”, claimed were “prophecies” about Jesus. It is especially confusing when these same apologists suddenly appeal to “context” when responding to Muslim claims about Biblical prophecies about Muhammad (peace be upon him). See my videos calling out this Christian double standard:
 Even if this claim was true (it is not as we will see), it seems strange to say that Jesus is the “new Israel” because he came out of Egypt like Israel, but unlike Israel, it was not his “infants” that were killed by Herod! For the “typology” to make sense, shouldn’t it have been Jesus’ children (if he had any), like the “children” of Israel, who should have been killed rather than some other Israelite infants from an obscure, small Jewish village?
 Of course, while Jesus served as a “type” of Jonah here, he also made a prophecy that did not literally come true. According to the gospel accounts, Jesus did not remain dead for “three days and three nights”. Rather, the gospels indicate a time period of three days and two nights.
 Exodus 1:15–22.
By the way, Herod’s massacre was most likely an invention of Matthew. Matthew’s timeline of Jesus’ birth also contradicts that of Luke. I have discussed these issues in a pervious article: https://quranandbibleblog.com/2021/09/13/the-gospel-of-matthew-the-massacre-of-the-innocents/
 This was discussed in the previously cited article: https://quranandbibleblog.com/2014/02/02/the-gospel-of-matthew-and-tanakhic-prophecies-of-the-messiah/
 Isaiah 7:16–17.