The Bible misquotes itself

The Bible contains a lot of attempts to quote earlier parts of the Bible. Most of the time, those quotes are either misinterpreted, misquoted, or don’t even appear in the earlier scriptures at all.

Made-up quotes

The gospel of Matthew claims that the prophets said the Messiah would be called a Nazarene. But it doesn’t say that anywhere in the Old Testament. (Maybe the author was thinking of the part where it says somebody will be a Nazirite… which is not the same thing as a Nazarene. And was not said by the prophets. And was clearly about Samson, not Jesus.)

The gospel of John says people knew that when the Messiah came, no one would know where he was from. And that he definitely wouldn’t come from Galilee. I don’t know where they got those ideas. There is nothing like that in the books of the prophets.

Jesus claims that the Old Testament Law says the priests are allowed to “desecrate the Sabbath“. That would be a pretty weird rule. I don’t think that’s in there.

Jesus told his disciples that everything that was written by the prophets about him (also in the books of the law and the Psalms) was about to be fulfilled: He would be handed over to the Gentiles to be tormented and killed. He would come back to life on the third day. And forgiveness through repentance would be preached everywhere in his name. Paul said the prophets predicted something like that as well. None of that is actually in the Old Testament, though.

Jesus also claimed that Judas had to be doomed to destruction so the scriptures would be fulfilled. But there doesn’t seem to be anything about that in the Old Testament scriptures.

Peter claims that all the prophets said that anyone can get their sins forgiven by believing in Jesus. Really, all of them? I’m not sure I can find even one Old Testament prophet who even sounds like he was saying that.

Paul, who never actually met Jesus and never really learned anything about him from anyone who had known him, claims that Jesus said it’s more blessed to give than to receive. I’m pretty sure being blessed itself involves receiving what you want, so that statement doesn’t make much sense. I won’t blame that one on Jesus though, since it doesn’t appear in the gospels. I’ll assume Paul made it up.

Paul attempts to quote a passage about a deliverer coming from Zion and changing Israel’s behavior. Paul seems to think that’s a prediction about Jesus enabling both Jews and Gentiles to be saved, or something. But that passage doesn’t even appear in the Old Testament at all. The closest thing I can find is Isaiah talking about a redeemer coming to Zion in response to Israel’s behavior changing.

Paul also has a quote that he claims “is said”, about Christ shining on a sleeper who rose from the dead. I don’t know what he’s trying to quote, but that’s obviously not in the Old Testament.

1 Timothy has Paul quote “scripture” saying the worker deserves his wages, even though that’s not in the Old Testament. It’s from the gospel of Luke, which wasn’t even written till after Paul died. Clearly Paul didn’t actually write that. It was written by someone who lived in a time when the gospel of Luke existed, and was considered scripture.

James claims that scripture says God “jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us”. I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean, but it’s not actually in the Old Testament.


Joshua claims that Moses promised that a certain part of the promised land would belong to Joshua. Moses did say something like that in the Bible… except he was promising the land to Caleb, not Joshua.

When the Jewish religious leaders ask Jesus if he’s the son of God, he falsely accuses them of stating that he’s the son of God. Then they falsely accuse him of stating that he’s the son of God, when all he’d said was that they said so. They’re each disastrously misquoting what the other just said.

Peter quotes something from Deuteronomy about a prophet who was to be Moses’s successor, which Peter would like you to think means Jesus. It says the Israelites must listen to this prophet. But Peter tacks on a specific threat toward people who don’t obey the prophet, like it’s part of the quote, even though that part is not in the original passage in Deuteronomy.

The book of Acts has James quote a Greek mistranslation of Amos, even though both he and the people he was talking to really should have known that the original Hebrew said Edom, not “Adam” or “man”. He takes Amos’s statement about God’s people possessing the remnant of Edom and other nations, and changes it into a statement about all of mankind seeking God.

Paul criticizes the sin and hypocrisy of some of his followers by trying to quote a biblical passage about certain people causing Gentiles to blaspheme God’s name. It sounds like he’s trying to quote something from Ezekiel. But of course Ezekiel wasn’t talking to, or about, the same people Paul was. And the Gentiles Ezekiel mentioned were unimpressed with God because of God’s own actions, not because they disapproved of anyone’s sin or hypocrisy.1

Paul correctly quotes2 a psalm that says God put all of somebody’s enemies under that person’s feet. But then he tries to say it again and gets it wrong, this time saying that God put everything under that person’s feet. And then he has to spend almost twice that many words trying to explain away the inconsistency he just created by saying it wrong.

The book of Hebrews says Moses said he was “trembling with fear” at the sight of the scorched forbidden mountain where God tried to talk to his people. But the closest thing to that in the Old Testament is when Moses says he feared God’s wrath a while later, when God was threatening to kill all his people over a golden calf.

Isaiah states that no one has seen or heard any god besides God that ever does anything for anyone. But when Paul claims to be telling what’s written there, he roughly quotes the first half of the sentence, adds something about minds conceiving things as if that was part of the quote, and then makes up his own ending for the sentence, without even mentioning other gods, which are what the original verse was about.

A psalm says God will vindicate his people. But Hebrews misquotes that verse as if it was about God punishing people.

Hebrews quotes part of a verse from Habakkuk, but makes up something about people shrinking back and adds that to the quote.

It also claims that Enoch never actually died… based on a quote that could easily mean he did die. Even if you ignore the fact that the actual verse in Genesis says “he was no more“, rather than “he could not be found”.

Peter misquotes Proverbs, claiming it says it’s hard for the righteous to be saved. What it actually says is that everyone gets what they deserve.

Misquoting the rules

There’s a verse in Deuteronomy about God giving people bread to somehow teach them that they need something other than bread. Jesus uses this verse as an excuse for refusing to eat bread. He’s misquoting it as if it was a command to not eat bread, or something.

When Jesus shares his thoughts on the Law, he shows not just his contempt for God’s Law, but his ignorance of it. He claims that the Law says a divorce must involve a man giving his wife a certificate of divorce. The closest thing to that in the Old Testament is a law about remarriage, which just mentions in passing that the divorce certificate thing is something that could happen. And then the actual law is about something else, that could happen after that.

Jesus also claims that the Law says you should love your neighbor and hate your enemy. His focus is on the part about your enemy… which is the part that isn’t actually in the Old Testament verse he’s trying to quote.

Peter quotes little pieces of two different psalms out of context, to try to make it sound like David had been writing instructions for the twelve apostles so they would know what to do now that there were only eleven of them. The two supposed instructions contradict each other (which Peter doesn’t acknowledge), and the first of those verses isn’t even quoted correctly. They’re both actually about David’s enemies, but the first one is specifically about multiple enemies. Peter changes it to make it sound like it’s about one person, Judas.

There’s a passage in Isaiah where the Israelites complain that God is acting like they don’t know anything. He’s patronizingly teaching them basic moral rules that are obvious to them. God just sees his people scoffing and not listening to him, so he chooses to respond by going too far in the other direction. He decides to talk to them in foreign languages so they can’t understand him, and can’t benefit from his instructions.

So that was stupid, but when Paul tries to quote that passage, he gets it wrong and ends up making God look really stupid. He makes it seem like God was expecting the people to understand him better because he used a language they didn’t know. And this somehow leads Paul to the conclusion that people should only speak in tongues to unbelievers. Even though Isaiah had said nothing about people speaking in tongues, or about unbelievers.

Paul quotes three passages to try to back up his opinions about Christians being “yoked together with unbelievers“. But he does it so badly you can’t tell exactly what passages he’s trying to quote. Obviously there aren’t any Old Testament passages that are actually about Christians. And two of the “quotes” Paul gives just have absolutely nothing to do with anything he was saying at all.

The other quote he gives is about people coming out from another nation and separating themselves and avoiding unclean things. He seems to be trying to quote a verse where Isaiah tells Jewish priests (not Christian laymen) to come out of something (it doesn’t say what) and avoid unclean things (not people). And that doesn’t say anything about what people believe.

The author of Hebrews is apparently trying to quote Proverbs when he says to make level paths for your feet. But in Proverbs, it doesn’t actually say anything about making them level.

Misquoting Jewish scriptures to make them sound Christian

Jesus told one of his disciples that he would see heaven open, and angels ascending and descending on Jesus. He said that like he was quoting a passage from Genesis, but that passage doesn’t say anything about angels climbing on Jesus. It says they were climbing on a stairway. It doesn’t say anything about heaven opening, either.

When some Jews don’t find Paul’s arguments for Christianity convincing, Paul decides that when God told Isaiah he would be appointed to preach to the Gentiles and bring salvation to the world, God must have actually meant to say that to Paul. And he leaves out the “also” part, so he can conclude that all the Jews will be excluded from all this.

Paul appears to be quoting the Old Testament when he says God will repay everyone in the afterlife according to what they’ve done. Except the Old Testament verses he appears to be quoting don’t actually say anything about the afterlife.

Paul and Peter both try to quote what Isaiah said about a stone, but they don’t get it quite right. In particular, unlike Isaiah, they talk about the stone like it’s a person, because they want that verse to be about Jesus.

Paul quotes David as saying Jesus gave gifts to people, when what David actually said was that God received gifts from people.

The book of Hebrews tries to prove that Jesus is willing to call Christians brothers and sisters, by quoting something David said about the Israelites without mentioning brothers and sisters, and misattributing that quote to Jesus.

Hebrews also misattributes to Jesus another misquotation of David. Instead of what David said about opening his ears, it says something about God preparing a body for Jesus. It doesn’t even make sense to quote this passage about God not wanting sacrifices, when it’s trying to make it seem like this is about God preparing to sacrifice Jesus.

Hebrews has a quote saying the one who is coming will come in just a little while, and will not delay. The closest thing to that in the Old Testament doesn’t say anything about anyone coming. It’s just about the time of the end coming.

The book of Revelation misquotes Daniel saying he looked and saw someone coming with the clouds. Instead, it tells people to look and see Jesus coming with the clouds.

A psalmist claimed that God wanted him to break the nations with a rod of iron. Revelation repeatedly misquotes that psalm, as if it was about Jesus and some other person ruling the nations with an iron scepter.

Changing passages to make them seem like fulfilled prophecies

When Jehu killed one of Ahab’s sons and then had him thrown into Naboth’s vineyard, he attempted to quote a prophecy that he thought he was fulfilling. The actual prophecy was a lot more clear that it was about Ahab dying in the vineyard, not Ahab’s son dying and then getting thrown into the vineyard.

Some of the gospels claim that Jesus came from a virgin birth. And they claim that the prophet Isaiah had predicted that would happen. But Isaiah never actually said anything about a virgin giving birth. Thinking Isaiah was predicting the miraculous birth of an important individual in the distant future misses the point of what he was saying. Isaiah’s point was to give an idea of how soon the kingdom of Israel was going to end. He was definitely not talking about someone who wouldn’t even be born till hundreds of years after Israel was conquered.

If Isaiah had actually intended to predict a miraculous virgin birth, he would have made that clear by using the Hebrew word that specifically means a virgin. Instead, he used a Hebrew word for a young woman. So where did the gospel writers get that whole idea about a virgin? It looks like they got it from a previous mistranslation of the scriptures. This mistranslation of “young woman” as “virgin” first occurred a few hundred years after Isaiah and a few hundred years before Jesus, in the first-ever attempt to translate the Bible.

(Now, since the New Testament needs the Old Testament to provide a prediction of a virgin birth for Jesus to fulfill, most Christian Bibles opt to also translate that part of Isaiah from that Greek mistranslation instead of from the original Hebrew, which makes it harder to notice the misquotation.)

Two of the gospels say Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Though their two stories of Jesus’s birth have almost nothing in common besides that. It’s like they both independently decided to make up an origin story for Jesus, just so they could say he was born in Bethlehem, to make it seem like he had fulfilled a messianic prophecy. But the prophecy the gospel writers are trying to “fulfill” might not even be about the town of Bethlehem. Micah actually referred to the clan of Bethlehem Ephrathah.

(The gospels also ignore the original context of the Old Testament passage, where Micah says the guy he was talking about is going to rescue Israel from the Assyrians, making it clear that this is not about Jesus.)

The gospel of Mark claims to be quoting a prediction of John the Baptist from Isaiah. But he starts it with a verse that comes from Malachi, not Isaiah. Then when he gets to the part that actually is from Isaiah, he says it like the one calling is in the wilderness. The original passage appears to have meant that the way would be prepared in the wilderness. This doesn’t look like it was even meant to be a prediction. And if it was, it’s an excessively vague one, that could have just as well meant a lot of other things.

The gospels have Jesus misquote Malachi, mentioning a messenger sent by God to prepare the way for someone else. Malachi actually said the messenger was to prepare the way for God, and didn’t say anything about a man coming.

The gospel of Luke says Jesus read a passage from Isaiah and claimed to have “fulfilled” it. Even though it was just Isaiah talking about what God had told him to do, not predicting what somebody else would do. Jesus also throws in a line about healing the blind, which isn’t actually in the original passage. Which is too bad, because that was the main thing that made it sound like it could be about Jesus.

The gospel of Matthew misquotes a verse from Isaiah in order to claim that it’s about Jesus healing people. But even Matthew’s version of that verse doesn’t accurately describe what the gospels say about Jesus. He makes it sound like Jesus ended up suffering from all the conditions he took away from other people!

The gospel of John suggests that Jesus’s temple tantrum was a fulfillment of a scripture about being consumed by zeal for God’s house. Paul thinks the other part of the quoted verse, about someone getting insulted, is about Jesus too. But if you look at the psalm they’re quoting from, what the New Testament writers imagine is about Jesus is clearly just David describing his own current situation, as usual. John even misquotes it, putting it in the future tense to make it sound more like a prediction.

Matthew gives a mangled attempt at a quote that he thinks is from Jeremiah. He claims this was fulfilled when Judas gave the 30 pieces of silver back to the priests and they bought a potter’s field with it. Jeremiah did mention buying a field, but not from a potter or for 30 pieces of silver.

Perhaps what Matthew was trying to quote was Zechariah’s confused shepherding story, where he gets paid 30 pieces of silver for his work, and then “throws it to the potter”. Either way, neither of the prophets’ stories really matches the gospel account very well.

Paul attempts to quote a verse from Isaiah, which he thinks is about a descendant of David ruling over foreign nations. Why should anyone take that to be about Jesus, rather than about one of the actual kings descended from David who reigned after Isaiah said that? Maybe none of them ruled over foreign nations? Well, Jesus didn’t rule over any nations. (Not that the original passage actually said anything about ruling in the first place.)

Misinterpreted quotes

The Bible doesn’t always get the quotes themselves wrong. More often, it just blatantly misinterprets them, ignoring the original context.

Jesus misinterprets God’s statement, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The present tense word “am” is clearly referring to God, and the statement says nothing about the status of the other people. But Jesus thinks God can only make that statement if those people are still alive.

According to Luke, the last thing Jesus said before he died was to declare that he was committing his spirit into God’s hands. He seems to be quoting a psalm of David, but if he is, he seems to be completely misunderstanding it. David wasn’t talking about surrendering to death. He was saying just the opposite, that he was relying on God to keep him alive.

Paul tries to convert the Greeks by quoting some of their poets out of context and pretending they were talking about his God. They were actually talking about Zeus.

In one of his letters, Paul quotes some things Isaiah said about God almost completely destroying the Israelites. I’m not sure what his point was with those. Maybe he thinks they show that God has completely rejected the Israelites, despite having just quoted Hosea saying the opposite of that.3 Because Paul then misquotes another thing from Isaiah that says nothing about the law. And Paul thinks that passage means that God gave the Israelites the law to distract them from faith so they would fail to be righteous, and then he wouldn’t have to save them.

Paul also quotes something Isaiah said about messengers having beautiful feet, because Paul apparently thinks that proves that no one can preach unless someone sends them.

Paul asks, “Did Israel not understand?” That sounds like he’s trying to say they did understand. But then he tries to support that by quoting a verse that seems to be talking to the Israelites about a different nation, one that didn’t understand anything. And then he tries to contrast what it says in the first verse of Isaiah 65 with what Isaiah says about Israel… even though there’s no indication that the verses he quotes aren’t both about Israel.

In Psalm 69, David king of Israel talks about the things he wants God to do to his enemies. Paul quotes some of that, but he absurdly pretends that David was saying he wanted God to do those things to Israel.

Hebrews badly quotes Haggai saying God will shake the heavens and earth once more. Then he unjustifiably claims that the only way the “once more” part can possibly be true is if the heavens and earth aren’t going to exist anymore.

1 John says God will listen if you ask him for anything that’s according to his will. Then it immediately misquotes itself in the next sentence, leaving out that important qualifier that negates the whole remaining statement.

Misinterpreting the rules

When challenged to prove he’s the son of God by jumping off a building and letting God save him, Jesus refuses. His excuse is that the Bible says you shouldn’t “put God to the test”. What it actually says is that Moses told the Israelites not to put God to the test the way they did at Massah. And looking at what it says happened at Massah, it sounds like what Moses meant was that they had been testing God’s patience, risking making him angry with their ingratitude. That’s what he’s telling people not to do.

Moses was not saying you shouldn’t ask God to do something unnecessary for you just to see if he’ll do it, since that’s not at all what happened at Massah, and since the Bible shows that God is willing to do that kind of thing.4

Jesus accuses people of acting against the scriptures by turning the temple into a den of robbers. Why would he say that? Just because people were selling stuff there. I don’t think the verse he quoted was meant to be about selling stuff. It sounds like it was about actual robbers.

Paul blatantly twists a quote that says when Abraham believed God, it was credited to him as righteousness. Paul claims that this verse is also saying God will credit other people with righteousness if they believe a different thing from what Abraham believed.

Then Paul quotes Joel saying that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But what will they be saved from? Paul presumably means they’ll be saved from hell. But the Jews didn’t really have a concept of heaven and hell back in Old Testament times. Joel probably meant they would be saved from all the earthly disasters that he had just been talking about.

When Paul isn’t sure his followers are going to accept what he’s teaching, he claims that God’s law says the same thing. To prove this, he quotes a law that says something completely unrelated, something about animals. And Paul can’t imagine that God has any concern for animals. So he concludes that God must have really meant to be talking about humans when he was telling people how to treat animals.

Sometimes Paul quotes something and concludes an entirely different thing that just has absolutely nothing to do with what it said in the quote.

Paul quotes part of a sentence from a psalm that says something about believing and speaking. The psalmist was writing about speaking about being afflicted. But Paul seems to think that passage is some kind of example of preaching that he should follow.

Paul tells different groups of his followers to give each other what they need, with the goal of equality. And he tries to convince them by quoting a verse from Exodus that says nothing about equality. What that verse actually says is that some people had much, and some had little, and that was okay.

Paul quotes a verse from Isaiah as if it had something to do with Abraham’s wives Sarah and Hagar. That’s obviously not what it’s about, because if it was, it would be contrasting Abraham’s wife Sarah with “her who has a husband”. Paul also quotes Hagar’s jealous rival Sarah saying to get rid of Hagar and disinherit Hagar’s son as if that was some kind of authoritative command, with implications for people living thousands of years later.

James quotes a verse that says Abraham was considered righteous because of his faith, and says nothing about his deeds… and James thinks that somehow proves that faith without deeds is useless.

Isaiah says God told him not to go along with the people around him, and not to fear the things they fear. Peter quotes this as if it was saying that if you’re suffering for no good reason, that’s no problem, and you should just act like you have nothing to fear.

Liars loosening the Lord’s laws

The biblical law says a person can only be convicted of a crime based on the testimony of at least two or three witnesses. But Jesus makes up a new rule and uses that verse to justify it, even though it doesn’t sound like his rule has anything to do with getting legal authorities involved at all. He’s using that verse from the law as if the “witnesses” are just supposed to be convincing the sinner of something. (Paul later outdoes Jesus, quoting that same rule as if that was somehow relevant to the fact that he was about to visit the Corinthians for the third time.)

Jesus quotes God saying “You are gods”, and he concludes that it must be okay for humans to call themselves gods. But it’s unclear who God was supposed to be talking to in the psalm Jesus quoted. Was he indeed talking to humans, or was he talking to gods? It sounds to me like he was talking to gods.5 The first verse of the psalm indicates that what follows is aimed at the gods. If God was talking to ordinary mortals here, why wouldn’t he just tell them they were mortals? Why would he instead tell them they were gods, and that they would just die like mortals?

Paul points out that the Law says if a man dies, his wife is released from certain requirements that the law would otherwise demand of her. And then he somehow concludes based on this that if anyone dies, that same person is released from the entire Law.

There’s a passage in Deuteronomy where Moses tells the Israelites that the commands he’s giving them are right there with them. So they don’t have the excuse of having to send someone far away to find them before they can obey the law. The point is obviously to encourage people to obey the law of Moses. Paul quotes bits of that passage, leaves out the parts that mention the commands, and “clarifies” that Moses was actually talking about Jesus, and about Paul’s message that says you don’t need all those laws.

Paul quotes a psalm that says everything in the world belongs to God… because he thinks that somehow proves that it’s okay to eat anything you want, even if God said not to.

Deuteronomy says you’ll be cursed if you fail to obey everything in the Book of the Law. But when Paul quotes that, he pretends it’s saying you’ll be cursed if you try to obey everything in the Book of the Law. He says all you really need is faith, citing a verse in Habakkuk that’s probably not actually about faith in that sense of the word.

Misinterpreting Jewish scriptures to make them sound Christian

The Messiah is supposed to be a king descended from David. And the inheritance of kingship in David’s line was always patrilineal. But the Bible says Jesus’s father was God, not Joseph. And God wasn’t a descendant of David. If it’s true that Jesus is the son of God, he can’t be the Messiah. That must be why Jesus felt the need to try to convince people that the Messiah didn’t have to be a son of David, by quoting David and claiming he was talking about the Messiah.

Paul asserted that God was offering a promise of grace to all Abraham’s offspring. And that this included everyone who had the faith of Abraham. Paul tries to support these claims by citing a verse from Genesis where God says he has made Abraham a father of many nations. Even though that verse says nothing about anything Paul was saying.

In Genesis, God states that the descendants of Abraham’s son Isaac are the ones who are to be considered legitimate children of Abraham. Then Paul quotes that statement to try to support a claim that it absolutely does not support at all: that you don’t even have to actually be descended from Abraham at all to be considered Abraham’s offspring.

Hosea said God was going to un-reject the Israelites who he had rejected. Paul quotes him and somehow concludes that God has decided that Gentiles can be his people now.

Isaiah 53 starts out by asking “Who has believed our message?”… and then goes on to talk about the guy who has believed that message, for the rest of the chapter. Paul quotes that, but stops in the middle of the first sentence, so he can misinterpret it as implying that no one has believed the message. Which he takes to mean his message. And then he also conflates those messages with the silent voice of the sky mentioned in Psalm 19. He acts like that proves that the message has been heard, ignoring the part of the psalm that says that voice is not heard.

The gospel of John also misleadingly quotes that thing about who has believed the message, misinterpreting it the same way Paul does. Then John badly quotes another passage from Isaiah—one about God forcing people not to believe something, because he doesn’t want to have to save them—and claims that Isaiah was talking about Jesus and the gospel there too.

Paul quotes part of a verse that’s bizarrely out of place in its original context. Hosea 13 is all about the sin and punishment of Israel… except for verse 14, which has God suddenly start talking about redeeming and rescuing his people from death… before going right back to telling about his plans to kill their women and children without mercy.

Anyway, Paul roughly quotes part of that one verse, the part about the absence of death. I have no idea what that verse was supposed to mean in the original context of that violent chapter, but I doubt it had anything to do with everyone becoming immortal spirit beings. Or any of Paul’s other ideas that he tries to tie into that.

There’s a verse in Isaiah where God tells what he’s going to do one day for whoever he’s talking to. It’s not clear who or when he means, so Paul assumes it means his own time and his own followers.

Paul insists that God made a promise to Abraham’s seed, and that that can only mean one person, not many. Apparently most Bible translators disagree with him. More often than not, they translate the word in Genesis as unambiguously plural. (Even Paul isn’t consistent about this. At the end of the chapter, he claims that all Christians are Abraham’s seed.)

The book of Hebrews quotes three Old Testament verses to try to make the point that Jesus is the son of God, and superior to the angels. But of course none of those are actually about Jesus. Looking at those verses in context, you can see that one verse is what God said to the psalmist who wrote it, the next is about Solomon, and the other one is about angels worshipping God.6

Hebrews quotes a very confused psalm that can’t decide who it’s addressing, and claims that the psalmists were talking to Jesus.

Then Hebrews quotes three Old Testament verses and misattributes them to Jesus: It quotes David saying he’ll praise God in front of his subjects if God helps him, and it pretends that’s about Jesus declaring Christians to be his brothers and sisters. Then it quotes Isaiah saying something irrelevant that doesn’t even sound like it has anything to do with Jesus considering Christians to be family. And it quotes another thing Isaiah said, calling people his children. Which is hardly the same thing as calling people Jesus’s siblings.

Hebrews claims that God made a promise to let people “enter his rest“, whatever that means. Even though the only related scripture it cites is God promising not to let people enter his rest. From this we’re expected to somehow conclude that Christians have entered that rest. The author also seems to think this “rest” business has something to do with a passage he quotes about God resting on the seventh day. Which supposedly shows that he’s been resting ever since?

Then the author comes up with an unbelievably twisted interpretation of a passage that, even if it did have anything to do with what he wanted it to say, would be saying just the opposite. The quoted psalm tells people what to do today if they want to enter God’s rest. But the author of Hebrews can’t accept that today means today. He thinks that would somehow mean that God’s people had already entered his rest. And he has a preconceived notion that that can’t have already happened. So he decides that when God said “today”, he must have meant some other day, far in the future.

There’s a psalm where David tells what God says to “my lord“. It’s not at all clear who this is actually about. But the author of Hebrews assumes it’s about Jesus for some reason. The fact that David compared this person to Melchizedek doesn’t support the idea that it’s about Jesus either. The author of Hebrews made up all the godlike attributes that he claims Melchizedek had. The Old Testament never said any of that about Melchizedek.

In the book of Revelation, an angel quotes bits of a couple of different verses from Isaiah that are not about the same event or the same people the angel is talking about.

Misinterpreting passages to make them seem like fulfilled prophecies

Matthew claims that by killing lots of babies in an attempt to kill Jesus, Herod fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy about “Rachel weeping for her children“. Looking at the quoted verse in context, it doesn’t seem to be a prediction at all. It’s just a description of how things already were, and the actual prediction comes after that.

The prediction was that the children would come back, which has no fulfillment in the gospel story. It also sounds like Jeremiah was talking about the descendants of Jacob7 in general seeming to be doomed,8 not about somebody’s actual children dying. And that alleged slaughter9 happened in Bethlehem, not Ramah.

Paul says that by appointing Jesus to his role, God fulfilled a prophecy that mentioned God declaring someone to be his son now. But the passage in Psalms that Paul quotes sounds like it’s just the psalmist talking about himself. He says “He said to me”, not “He will say to somebody else who will be born a thousand years from now”.

Matthew says Jesus lived in Egypt as a child, which supposedly fulfilled a “prophecy” about God calling his son out of Egypt. But if you look at the actual verse in Hosea, you’ll find that it’s not a prophecy at all. It’s God talking about something that happened in the past. And when he mentions “his son”, he’s referring to Israel. And when he mentions calling him, he’s talking about calling idolators to repent. But Matthew decided to only quote part of Hosea’s sentence, leaving out the part that makes it obvious that this passage has nothing to do with Jesus.

God told the prophet Malachi that he was going to send the dead prophet Elijah to try to redeem his people before God destroyed everything. Jesus claimed that this had been fulfilled, that Elijah had come, and that the rumors that John the Baptist was a reincarnation of Elijah were true. But according to John himself, this interpretation of the quote is wrong. John was not Elijah. Wouldn’t he know it if he was?

Jesus said everything that was written about this “Elijah” had happened to John… despite the fact that the prophecy about Elijah didn’t actually say anything about what would happen to him, and really doesn’t have any resemblance to anything that happened in John’s life at all.

Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah, remarking that his writings had perfectly described the people in Jesus’s time. But the passage he was quoting didn’t say anything about a future generation. Isaiah was just describing what people were already like in his own time.

There’s a psalm that starts with the writer announcing that he’s about to tell a parable. But when Matthew quotes this psalm, he calls the psalmist a prophet. And he imagines that when the psalmist says “I”, he means Jesus for some reason. There’s nothing in the actual psalm that suggests that it’s about the distant future, or about anyone other than the psalmist.

Jesus’s preferred explanation for his own bad reputation at the time was that it was the fulfillment of a prophecy: “They hated me without reason.” He said that was written in the Jewish law, but that sentence doesn’t actually appear anywhere in the Old Testament.

There are a couple of psalms where David mentions people hating him without reason, though. But those aren’t written in the law, nor are they prophecies. David was just describing his own current situation. So no, there was no prophecy for Jesus to fulfill by being unpopular. He was just unpopular.

The gospels quote roughly what the prophet Zechariah said about a king coming on a donkey, because the writers thought Jesus trying to fulfill that prophecy on purpose proved that he was the Messiah. But they left out the part that predicted that this king would bring peace to the world, because that part proves that the prophecy is either wrong or not about Jesus.

Matthew misinterpreted it particularly badly, and claimed that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on two donkeys at once. Because that’s what Matthew thought Zechariah had said would happen, so it must have been what happened.

Isaiah has a prophecy about a chosen servant of God who will not cry out or be heard in the streets. Matthew quotes that and claims it’s about Jesus, but Jesus did cry out, and was heard in the streets.

Alleged predictions of the crucifixion and its consequences

Jesus “predicted” his death and resurrection by saying something so vague, it could have easily had nothing to do with death. Much like Paul’s “prediction” of his own death.

Peter says David talked about the kings of the earth conspiring against God and his anointed one. Peter interprets that as a prediction about the various people who were involved in getting Jesus killed… none of whom were actually kings.

There’s nothing about the quoted passage that makes it seem like it’s even a prediction about somebody else. It’s probably just David (the anointed king) talking about other kings who were his own enemies. Anyway, whoever it’s about sounds awfully violent and oppressive. Doesn’t really sound like Jesus, does it?

When Jesus quotes a psalm about someone being betrayed by someone he shared bread with, he wants everyone to think it’s a prophecy about him. So he leaves out the context where the betrayed person calls himself a sinner, and plans to get revenge on the traitor.

John quotes something he had had Jesus say earlier, about not losing any of the people God gave him. When Jesus said it, he was talking about ensuring that everyone who believed in him would have eternal life. But when John quotes it later, he acts like Jesus had been talking about what would happen to his twelve disciples in this life.

Jesus quotes a verse about a flock being scattered when God strikes the shepherd, which he thinks is about him. But if you look at the prophecy in context, you can see that God was not talking about one guy getting killed and everyone else getting away. God was talking about his plans to kill 2/3 or more of everyone in the land. That prophecy had nothing to do with the Jesus story.

John claims that the way the soldiers took Jesus’s clothes for themselves happened that way in order to fulfill a scripture. As if the verse he’s quoting was a prophecy, and not just David writing about what was happening to him at the time, as usual.

Philip hears a passage of scripture about someone who didn’t open his mouth when he was tormented, and claims it’s a prediction about Jesus… who did open his mouth when he was tormented.

Jesus said he was going to be “lifted up from the earth“. And the gospel of John later claimed that that was a prediction of how Jesus was going to die. I doubt anyone would have interpreted what Jesus said to mean crucifixion when he said it, though. It sounds like something people might say about a dying person regardless of how they die. And what John interprets as Jesus’s “prediction” of how Peter would die is even more vague.

The gospel of John says Jesus said he was thirsty in order to give people an opportunity to fulfill the scriptures by giving him vinegar to drink. The quoted passage isn’t a prediction at all, just David describing his own current situation. (Notice how different David’s attitude toward his enemies is from Jesus’s. Shouldn’t they be the same, if David is really talking about Jesus?)

John claims that what happened to Jesus on the cross fulfilled two more prophecies. He quotes scriptures about none of his bones being broken, and about people looking at the one they’ve pierced. But there weren’t any prophecies about a specific person’s bones not being broken. The closest things to that in the Old Testament are some laws about not breaking the bones of animals, and a song where David talks about what he thinks happens to righteous people in general.

There is a prophecy about “the one they have pierced”, like John mentioned. But there’s nothing in the original context that indicates that that’s supposed to be about the Messiah. What the original passage does mention is all of Jerusalem mourning for the one who was pierced. And that’s not something the gospels say actually happened with Jesus. Why do you suppose John left that part out when he quoted those scriptures?

Isaiah has a whole chapter about one innocent man taking the punishment for everyone else’s sins, and coming back to life after being killed. Despite the fact that it’s in the past tense, Jesus and his disciples thought this was a prediction about Jesus. But this chapter can’t be about him, because unlike Jesus, this man suffers silently. It says this man was pierced, but then it also says he was crushed. Why should we think this prophecy has been fulfilled by someone who only had one of those things done to him?

After Jesus was gone, Peter quoted something that barely had anything to do with what was happening, and called it a prediction of what was happening. He claimed that Joel’s prophecy was being fulfilled. One that included the sun turning dark and the moon turning into blood. The only thing actually happening at the time that was even close to the prediction was that some people (not all people, like Joel said) were given the Spirit, leading them to speak in tongues (not to prophesy, like Joel said).

Peter then makes up a completely absurd misinterpretation of something David wrote. All David said was that God wouldn’t let him die. Since David did in fact die, Peter concludes that David must have actually meant to say that when Jesus died, God would resurrect him. Paul misinterprets that verse the same unreasonable way. Along with other verses that he imagines are about Jesus, that appear to be about either the writer or no one in particular.

God told Abraham several times that he would bless the nations through Abraham’s descendants. He never explained what he meant by that, but Paul imagines he meant that faith in Jesus would make it possible for the Gentiles to be saved from hell. Despite the fact that the gospels say Jesus never intended to save Gentiles at all.

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