Ibelieve early Christian preachers simply went into the Old Testament looking for verses that would support their view of Jesus. They took these Old Testament verses out of context and applied them to Jesus in order to support their views of his life and mission. None of the them proves much of anything significant with regard to Jesus' nature or mission.
It is more probable that the New Testament writers were influenced in the construction of their stories about Jesus by making his life fit some of these details. That may also explain Luke’s concoction of a census in order to get Mary to Bethlehem so that Jesus could be born there, according to “prophecy” (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:6).
This only calls for a few comments:
1. Loftus wheels out the usual tray of overcooked chestnuts, viz. Mt 1:23, 2:15, 2:23.
He also quotes from a couple of liberal commentators to prove that liberal commentators don’t believe in Messianic prophecy.
Now, if Loftus were a real scholar or serious debater, instead of a flake, he would actually try to make a case for his position, not by a lop-sided presentation of the exegetical options, but by also quoting from moderate to conservative scholars on Isaiah (e.g. Motyer, Oswalt, Young), Zechariah (e.g. Baldwin, McComiskey, Merrill), Matthew (e.g. Blomberg, Carson, France, Gundry, Hagner, Keener, Nolland), and the Psalter (e.g. Grogan, Van Gemeren), then set up a comparison and contrast between the respective arguments of the liberals and the more moderate-to-conservative scholars.
But let us also note the fault lines internal to his position.
2.Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the census of Quirinius is a literary device. Now, liberals ordinarily accuse Luke of an anachronism by dating the census to the tenure of Quirinius.
If, however, Loftus is going to maintain that the census was only a literary device to “get Mary to Bethlehem,” then Luke is not in error inasmuch as his “concocted” census was never meant to refer to a real world situation.
So Loftus must pay a toll if he’s going to cross this bridge. He can only offer a liberal interpretation of the census as a literary device by forfeiting another liberal interpretation of the census as a literal mistake.
3.Let’s also assume, for the sake of argument, that Matthew and Luke did cite the OT out of context in order to force the life of Christ into a prophetic pattern.
Now, they would only resort to this expedient if they were confronted with certain stubborn facts about the life of Christ. There was no flexibility over what Jesus said or did, or what was done to him. They were stuck with the hard data of history.
So their only recourse was to rip OT verses out of context and misapply them to the life of Christ. But once again, Loftus must pay a toll if he’s going to cross that bridge.
After all, if would be so much easier for Matthew and Luke to begin from the other end of the equation. To cherry pick some yummy Messianic prophecies, and then weave a story around these handpicked prophecies so that you had a seamless fit between the OT job description and the NT applicant.
So Loftus can only offer a liberal interpretation of OT prophecy by assuming a conservative view of Evangelical historicity. He can only deny Messianic prophecy by affirming the factuality of Matthew and Luke.
For Matthew and Luke would only twist OT prophecy to fit the events if they did not feel free to fabricate made-to-order stories about Jesus.
4.So this is the liberal dilemma. There’s no consistently liberal view of Scripture. If Loftus takes a liberal view of apostolic exegesis, then he must take a conservative view of Evangelical history.
There is, by contrast, a consistently conservative view of Scripture, in which conservative historiography and conservative hermeneutics go hand-in-hand.