This Is Apologetics: An Argument from Foreshadowing

If there are indisputable examples of foreshadowing in the Bible, then the author of the Bible is God. There are indisputable examples of foreshadowing the Bible. Therefore the author of the Bible is God.  The use of foreshadowing is so obvious in the Bible, that if we denied it for the Bible, we would have to deny it for all literature.

***Note: the formatting of this piece is a mess. I’ve fixed it twice, and WordPress seems to keep mucking with the changes somehow. Thanks for bearing with me.***

I don’t remember everything from my literature classes in high school and undergrad, but I do remember learning about the use of foreshadowing.

To foreshadow is to, “show or indicate beforehand” or “prefigure” (Dictionary.com). When an author uses foreshadowing by incorporating elements that ominously allude to events that will happen later, we readers admire their ingenuity.

An adept reader or literary critic can spot foreshadowing. The use of foreshadowing is a sign of a skilled author and a well-told story.

Foreshadowing Presupposes Authorship

Now, he concept of foreshadowing only makes sense in terms of literature with an author guiding the story. It wouldn’t make sense to look for foreshadowing in a newspaper or scientific journal. Without an author shaping the narrative, there might be interesting coincidences, but we couldn’t rightly call it foreshadowing.

This is what makes the Bible so fascinating: it is rife with apparent foreshadowing.

It works like this: an Old Testament prophet living in, say, the year 800 B.C. will have proclaimed something purportedly from God or else have had some sort of extraordinary life experience. Eight centuries later, an event in Jesus’ life will happen that displays an eerie similarity to the Old Testament occurrence. One or two instances of this could be written off, but it happens over and over.

Biblical Foreshadowing Presupposes Divine Authorship

Here’s the point: we can recognize foreshadowing when we read it in literature, and we give credit to the author responsible for it. When we find foreshadowing in the Bible, it only makes sense to attribute it to the author for it as well. But who is that? Not the prophets who wrote hundreds of years before Christ—they were long gone by the time the events were fulfilled. And not the authors of the Gospels—they recorded eyewitness testimony, but they weren’t responsible for the original Old Testament allusions. Who, then, gets the credit?

The answer: if there are indisputable examples of foreshadowing in the Bible, then the author of the Bible is God. There are indisputable examples of foreshadowing the Bible. Therefore the author of the Bible is God.  

These apparent examples of foreshadowing and fulfillment occur throughout Jesus’ life, however I am going to focus on 20 of them related specifically to his death. It’s almost Good Friday, after all.

There is just no plausible way that Jesus or his disciples (much less his accusers and executors!) could have, or would have, manipulated the circumstances surrounding his death in order to so closely parallel so many Old Testament passages.

The accumulation of all these various allusions, predictions, and eerily specific similarities between Old Testament passages and the details of Jesus’ death is proof of the Bible’s divine authorship, to the extent that to deny it would be to give up literary criticism altogether.

In other words, foreshadowing is so obvious in the Bible, that if we denied it for the Bible, we would have to deny it for all literature. 

The OT Foreshadows Jesus’ Death with Astonishing Specificity

Here are the examples:

  1. He would be betrayed by a friend who ate his bread.Foreshadowed: Psalm 41:9 – “Even my friend in whom I trusted, one who ate my bread, has raised his heel against me.”Fulfilled: Mark 14:10, 32-42 – “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them… “Jesus said, ‘…one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me… the one who is dipping bread in the bowl with me.”
  2. The Lord would be valued at just 30 pieces of silver.Foreshadowed: Zechariah 11:12-13 – “Then I said to them, ‘If it seems right to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.’ So they weighed my wages, thirty pieces of silver’ …the Lord said to me–this magnificent price I was valued by them.’”Fulfilled: Matthew 26:15 – “‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?’ So they weighed out thirty pieces of silver for him.”
  3. The coins would be thrown into the temple and would go to a potter.
    Foreshadowed: Zechariah 11:13 – “‘Throw it to the potter,’ the Lord said to me… so I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw it into the house of the LORD, to the potter.”

    Fulfilled: Matthew 27:5, 7 – “So he threw the silver into the temple and departed… They conferred together and bought the potter’s field with it….”
  4. He remained silent while being treated unjustly.
    Foreshadowed: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth.” 

    Fulfilled: Matthew 27:12 – “While he was being accused by the chief priests and elders, he didn’t answer.”

  5. He would be hated without cause.
    Foreshadowed: Psalm 69:4 – “Those who hate me without cause are more numerous than the hairs of my head….”

    Fulfilled: 
    Luke 23:4 – “Pilate then told the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no grounds for charging this man.’”
  6. He would be surrounded and mocked by strong, evil men.Foreshadowed: Psalm 22:12 – “Many bulls have surrounded me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me. Foreshadowed again: Psalm 22:16 – “For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me”

    Fulfilled: 
    Mark 15:16-19 – “The soldiers led him away… and called the whole company together. They dressed him in a purple robe, twisted together a crown of thorns, and put it on him. And they began to salute him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They were hitting him on the head with a stick and spitting on him.”

  7. His hands and feet would be pierced.
    Foreshadowed: Psalm 22:16 – “They pierced my hands and my feet.Fulfilled: Mark 15:24 – “Then they crucified him”
  8. He would entrust his spirit to God.Foreshadowed: Psalm 31:5 – “Into your hand I entrust my spirit”Fulfilled: Luke 23:46 – “And Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.’ Saying this, he breathed his last.’”
  9. He would be scourged.
    Foreshadowed: Isaiah 53:5 – “By his wounds [scourging] we are healed.”
    Fulfilled: 
    Matthew 27:26 – “Then he released Barabbas to them and, after having Jesus flogged, handed him over to be crucified.”
  10. He would be positioned among criminals. Foreshadowed: Isaiah 53:12 – “…he was counted among the rebels….”Fulfilled: Luke 23:33 – “When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.”
  11. His bones would not be broken.Foreshadowed: Psalm 34:20 – “He protects all his bones; not one of them is broken.”Foreshadowed again: Exodus 12:46 – “You may not take any of the meat outside the house, and you may not break any of its bones.” (Referring to the Passover lamb).

    Fulfilled: John 19:33-36 – “When they came to Jesus, they did not break his legs since they saw that he was already dead…For these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: Not one of his bones will be broken.”

  12. He would gain the approval of God by going to his death willingly.

    Foreshadowed: Isaiah 53:12 – “Therefore I will give him the many as a portion, and he will receive the mighty as spoil, because he willingly submitted to death….”

    Fulfilled: 
    John 10:18 – “This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life so that I may take it up again.”
  13. He would be condemned to death with the wicked, but he would be given to a rich man after he died instead, because he had spoken and lived righteously. Foreshadowed: Isaiah 53:9 – “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, but he was with a rich man at his death, because he had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.”Fulfilled: Matthew 27:57-60 – “When it was evening, a rich man… named Joseph came, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus… So Joseph took the body… and placed it in his new tomb….”
  14. He would be gazed at by residents of Jerusalem responsible for piercing him.Foreshadowed:Zechariah 12:10 – “…the residents of Jerusalem… will look at me whom they pierced.”Fulfilled: John 19:20, 34 – “Many of the Jews read this sign, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city…. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear….”
  15. He would be mocked for not being saved.
    Foreshadowed: Psalm 22:7-8 – “Everyone who sees me mocks me; they sneer and shake their heads: ‘He relies on the LORD; let him save him; let the LORD rescue him, since he takes pleasure in him.’”
    Fulfilled: 
    Mark 15:29-30 – “Those who passed by were yelling insults at him, shaking their heads, and saying, ‘Ha! The one who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross!’”
  16. He would be mocked by those who accused him.  Foreshadowed: Psalm 109:25 – “I have become an object of ridicule to my accusers”Fulfilled: Mark 15:31 – “In the same way, the chief priests with the scribes were mocking him among themselves….”
  17. He would be offered gall. Foreshadowed: Psalm 69:21 – “Instead, they gave me gall for my food…Fulfilled: Mark 15:23 – “they gave him wine mixed with gall to drink.”
  18. He would be offered vinegar.Foreshadowed: Psalm 69:21 – “…and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”Fulfilled: Luke 23:36 – “They came offering him sour wine”
  19. His garments were divided among those nearby.
    Foreshadowed: Psalm 22:17-18 – “People look and stare at me. They divided my garments among themselves….”Fulfilled: 

    John 19:23-24 – “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, a part for each soldier.

  20. Lots would be cast for his clothing.Foreshadowed: Psalm 22:18 – “…and they cast lots for my clothing.”Fulfilled: John 19:24- “They also took the tunic… they said to one another, ‘Let’s… cast lots for it, to see who gets it.’”

Convinced?

Isn’t it gob-smacking how utterly, ridiculously specific these examples are?

Now, I have not been referring to these examples as prophecies, because I wanted to avoid misconception. Sometimes, when people hear prophecy, they think of a plain statement that clearly predicts a future event. Some of these just don’t fit that description. Yet doesn’t it take much more skill for an author to seamlessly weave clues into the narrative, rather than blatantly announcing what is going to happen later?

To be sure, the Old Testament has no shortage of clear predictions of the future. While we can recognize and appreciate those, I for one am glad to see God’s creativity and literary skill in the way he uses foreshadowing, as seen in the above 20 examples.

Even if one wanted to be hyper-skeptical and deny a few of these examples, there is just no reasonable way to deny all 20, or even the majority of them. To do so, one would have to abandon all recognition of foreshadowing in any literature. Someone bent on disbelieving the Bible’s divine authorship might be willing to go that far, but that’s a high price to pay.

The Implications of All This For You

So what does it mean that the Bible has been authored by God? It means God is real. And he really is behind the authorship of the Bible. And he really did foreshadow and fulfill the death of his Son, Jesus Christ. An event that God Almighty would spend so much time (literally centuries) crafting and pointing toward must really be important.

Don’t you think you really ought to find out more about why God did that? If you’re ready to learn more, go here.

3 thoughts on “This Is Apologetics: An Argument from Foreshadowing”

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