Bible Prophecy Fulfilled: Christmas Trees.

Since it’s the time of year when my Christian friends are preparing to celebrate Christmas, I feel that I must point out something very important, to them.

Christmas trees are mentioned in the Bible. 

Not only mentioned, but prophesied thousands of years before they would become a part of Christmas celebrations.  Not only were they predicted, but they were condemned by the prophet Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord: “Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move.
Jeremiah 10:2-4 (ESV)

Clearly, the Bible condemns the practice of cutting and decorating Christmas trees.   All believers who practice such things are in rebellion against their god - right?  Maybe I will have to tear up my American Atheists membership card.  We have a bona fide example of fulfilled prophesy in the Bible!

“Hold on,” my Christian friends will argue, “Context!  You have to read the passage in context in order to determine the correct meaning.   Sure, it sounds like it is talking about Christmas trees, but when you read verse five, it is actually talking about people carving trees into idols:  “Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk.”  You can’t just rip a verse out of context and misapply it because it contains some details which seem to match up.”

Valid point.  I have to agree, and I’m very glad that you brought up how import context is when trying to claim fulfillment of a Bible prophecy, because, the author of the Gospel of Matthew violates these very same principles.  Like the annoying relative at a family reunion, who repeats the same tired joke over and over, the author of Matthew tirelessly declares that various events in the life of Jesus happened in order to fulfill Old Testament prophecy.

When you look these supposed prophecies up, in their original context, what becomes clear is that Matthew’s author is hijacking passages and repurposing them in order to craft ‘proofs’ that Jesus was  foretold.  Often the verses have nothing to do with Jesus.  Matthew is rife with manufactured evidence of messiahship, even claiming fulfillment of a prophecy (Matthew 2:23) -  “He shall be called a Nazarene” - which appears nowhere in the writings of the Jewish prophets.

Christians, please don’t assume these prophecies are fulfilled, even though Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, and the gospel of Matthew might claim they are.   Put in the effort to actually read the Old Testament references, in their original context, and decide for yourself what they are referring to.

We don’t have time to go through all of these bogus ‘prophecies’ here.  I will dissect several in upcoming blog posts, but for now, let’s look at an example from the first chapter of Matthew:

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 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” (which means, God with us).
Matthew 1:20-23 (ESV)

Right away, the writer of Matthew gets off to a terrible start, with his prophecy manipulations.  He quotes the Septuagint (Greek translation) of Isaiah 7:14, which mistranslates the Hebrew word for “young woman” which Isaiah uses, as “virgin”.  The mistranslation is useful to gospel writer, for the purpose of creating a miraculous pedigree for Jesus.   Also, the “shall conceive’ in the Hebrew, can also mean “is pregnant”.   The New Revised Standard Version is one of the few Bible translations which renders the version in a manner which is honest to the Hebrew text:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Next problem, the prophecy says that the young woman’s child will be named “Emmanuel” even though angel of the Lord tells Joseph to name Mary’s child “Jesus”.  Who in the New Testament ever calls Jesus Immanuel?  Oh, that’s right.  No-one, ever.

Looking at the context of chapter seven of Isaiah, we see that the ‘sign’ of the young woman giving birth is to reassure king Ahaz of Israel that he will be successful in defending Jerusalem against the attacks from enemy kings:

Then the Lord said to Isaiah, Go out to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field,  and say to him, Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah.

Isaiah 7:3-4 (NRSV)

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying,  Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.   Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.  Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:10-14 (NRSV)

The ‘sign’ was to show that God would be with them in the battles.  But wait, there’s more…  Matthew’s gospel fails to quote the rest of the prophecy:

He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.  For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.
Isaiah 7:15-16 (NRSV)

The rest of the prophecy indicates that the defeat of the kings will occur before the child is old enough to know right from wrong.  Matthew’s writer makes use of certain elements within the prophecy, recycling them into material he can use to construct his narrative about Jesus.  I guess he couldn’t figure out how to work the defeat of two kings, or the eating of curds and honey into his gospel.

Some biblical scholars try to argue for a ‘double-fulfillment’ of prophecy,  with the Isaiah passage – saying that it came to pass with an ordinary child in Isaiah’s time, and then happened again with a virgin-born Jesus, hundreds of years later.  Considering the multiplicity of problems presented by the Isaiah 7 prophecy, theologians have to engage in a convoluted game of Twister, in order to try to defend Matthew’s shameless abuse of the passage.  Most English translations of the Bible lend an assist to their efforts, by perpetuating the “virgin” mistranslation.

 Written by J. M. Green