Jesus and “Self-Fulfilling Prophecies”
By Jeff Laird
I was recently asked if Jesus’ completion of predictions of the Messiah were really just “self-fulfilling prophecies.” In other words, was there a loop of expectations and behaviors which made the predictions “come true” just by the very fact that they had been predicted? Or, to put it yet another way, did Jesus act to fulfill the prophecies because people thought He was Messiah, or did people think He was Messiah because He fulfilled the prophecies? It’s not a common attack, per se, but it is one that comes up occasionally when discussing Biblical prophecies.
In practice, self-fulfilling prophecies can only be specific, personal issues which are primarily under that person’s control. For example, “I’m going to lose my job because I worry too much,” or “this class is too hard, I’m never going to understand the material,” or “I’m sure I’ll wind up buying that thing sooner or later.” The person making those claims is the one with the most control over whether or not they’re fulfilled. Their belief can inadvertently cause the prediction to come true, and the same principle could apply to a group or culture. Those could legitimately be called “self-fulfilling prophecies.”
That concept does not apply to all predictions, though. Comments like, “lightning is going to strike my house”, or “it’s going to snow every day while I’m on vacation,” or “those guys are going to hit me in the face, but not the stomach,” can’t be “self-fulfilling” prophecies, because the person doesn’t have control over those details.
Self-fulfilling prophecies are also not the same as when a person deliberately acts to fulfill a prediction, such as when Christ rode into Jerusalem on a colt (Zechariah 9:9). Or, even His own resurrection (John 2:19). Those, one could argue, were purposeful fulfillments of which Jesus was in total control. Those fulfillments were not incidental or accidental or circumstantial, they were intentional. And yet…
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