The passages that we are covering in class today are Jeremiah's prophecy of a "new covenant" in Jeremiah 31, and Isaiah's servant songs (Isaiah 42, 43, 49, 53). It is certainly true that these passages are referred to in the New Testament as prophesying about Jesus, but were they meant to be about Jesus in their original contexts.
My hard and fast rule for reading any scripture is that it should be read in its own historical context. Therefore, for Old Testament texts, that context is a historical Jewish context. What did these texts mean to the Jews at the time of writing? What do they mean for the Jews now? From a Jewish perspective today, these texts certainly weren't referring to Christ.
A second problem arises in saying that these texts were specifically written about Jesus, whether or not the author knew what he was writing, and that is that these texts do not line up perfectly with what the New Testament says about Christ. For example, if Jeremiah's "New Covenant" was fulfilled in Christ, then why doesn't everyone "know the Lord?" For Jeremiah states,
No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD (Jer 31:34).Or again, if Jesus is the servant from Isaiah 49, how does Isaiah say this,
And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”It seems clear that the servant in this passage is "Israel," not Jesus.
Finally, the big one, Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Both Matthew and I Peter quote 53:4 and tie it to the work of Jesus. Yet, not everything in this passage works with what the New Testament says about Jesus. I find this section of Isaiah 53:10 difficult, especially in the Old Testament context:
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;In the original OT context, seeing his offspring and having prolonged days would refer not to some spiritual reality, but rather to this leader having children, which the New Testament says nothing about and which the church utterly rejects (remember the uprising about the Davinci Code).
Now, the picture of Jesus as conforming to some of these Old Testament passages is compelling. There seem to be only three options, 1) these passages were written about Jesus whether or not the author of the passage knew it, i.e., the typical Christocentric reading; 2) These passage were not about Jesus in their original context but the authors of the New Testament made their portrait of Jesus conform to some of these Old Testament passages; or 3) These passages have nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus and all similarities between them and the story of Jesus in the New Testament is mere coincidence. What say you?