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Hosea 6:1-3 reads:

“Come, let us return to the LORD;
    for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
    he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will raise us up,
    that we may live before him.
Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;
    his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
    as the spring rains that water the earth.”

—Hosea 6:1-3 (ESV)

N. T. Wright notes on this passage:

From a later perspective, this appears as it stands as a prayer of faith in the life-giving, restorative power of YHWH. However, in its original context it almost certainly was intended as a description of a prayer that the prophet regarded as inadequate. It indicated a failure to repent at a deep level, a simplistic hope that maybe YHWH could be bought off. Once again, though, it is entirely possible that later readers, including later biblical writers, would have taken it in a more positive sense. When read in this sense, the passage has a claim to be the earliest explicit statement that YHWH will give his people a new bodily life the other side of death. It appears to have influenced Daniel 12, perhaps via Isaiah.—N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, pp. 118-119.

Assuming that the prophet is speaking these words and they are not a quotation, can this passage be reasonably interpreted as a prophesy of Jesus' death and resurrection?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Jon Ericson Jan 10 '14 at 22:44

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

You've got a few different questions here -- "is this Jesus?" (title), "could it be Jesus?" (body), and "can unrepentant people prophesy?" (body). This has led to answers addressing different subsets of that. Is any clarification possible? –  Gone Quiet Jun 30 '13 at 16:58
Asking if a passage from the Jewish Bible is "about Jesus" is more a question of theology than hermeneutics, and is probably better served at C.SE. The question about whether an unrepentant group can prophesy seems right at home here. –  Bruce Alderman Jan 9 '14 at 21:36

2 Answers 2

If this is not a quotation of an unrepentant group, the Christology is abundantly clear (all the points below apply to this case). Even if it is a quotation from an unrepentant group:

There is Scriptural precedent for prophecy by unregenerate individuals...

  1. both those who are aware that that they are prophesying (Saul)
  2. and those who are not (Caiaphas)

(On the other hand, in both those cases the person who prophesied was acting from his God-ordained office.)

The doctrine of the Christological character of all of the Old Testament is very strong:

  1. Christ's own statements about how to interpret the Scripture (Matthew 26:24; Mark 9:12; Luke 24:25-27, 44-46; etc.)
  2. Christ and the apostle's use of Scripture in the same manner throughout the New Testament, including uses that are surprising from the original context (Matthew 2:18, 23; Galatians 4:21-31; Hebrews 1:10; etc.)

According to the index of quotations at the back of my Greek New Testament, there is no use of 6:1-3 in the New Testament, and so there is no authoritative word specifically for this passage. However, the person who would claim that it does not refer to Christ bears the burden of proof.

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+1 "The doctrine of the Christological character of all of the Old Testament is very strong:...the person who would claim that it does not refer to Christ bears the burden of proof." The basis of sensus plenior. –  Bob Jones May 26 '12 at 1:28
In SP: 'us' - Christ :: 'Lord' - God the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ :: 'torn' - God was separated Father from Son on the cross :: 'showers of spring' - living water/word. –  Bob Jones May 28 '12 at 23:17
-1 for "However, the person who would claim that it does not refer to Christ bears the burden of proof." The burden of proof should never rest on proving a negative. –  Bruce Alderman Dec 14 '13 at 1:28

Prophecy for Israel can come from the mouths of anyone, even gentiles (Bila'am). The prophecy in Hosea refers to divine retribution in the form of destruction of the two temples (two days), and a future raising of the third temple and restoration of Israel's worship through it (third day).

On the "days" passage (v2), Rashi says:

He will revive us from the two days: He will strengthen us from the two retributions which have passed over us from the two sanctuaries that were destroyed.

on the third day: With the construction of the third Temple, He will set us up.

This goes hand in hand with us striving to know God (v3), who will come to us "like rain": like the essential, heaven-sent nourishment promised -- if the people obey God's commandments -- in Deut 11:13-15. Perhaps this verse refers to that gift from God, or perhaps it refers to God Himself coming to the people. How does He do that? From Exodus and Leviticus we know that God descends in a cloud in the tabernacle "to dwell among them", and it seems reasonable to believe that God is equally (and similarly) present in the temples that follow(ed).

So while it's almost always possible to find any interpretation you want in a text if you look hard enough, an interpretation based on prior events and current context is more likely to be correct than one that speculates about new, unprecedented events. Nothing in Hosea suggests that God will take human form, but texts known to Hosea and his audience talk about God coming, and sending bounty to, the people in other ways. The simplest explanation, therefore, is that Hosea meant that. The one who would claim it means Jesus bears the burden of proof.

Please note: This answer was written for a neutral, academic audience and is not intended to be interpreted in the context of any religious belief or doctrine.

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Why is "an interpretation based on prior events and current context . . . more likely to be correct than one that speculates about new, unprecedented events"? –  Jas 3.1 Jun 30 '13 at 22:54
@Jas3.1, don't we generally assume that a text is meant to be accessible to the people in the time, and for whom, it was written? If Hosea hadn't been written until the common era that might be completely different; then you could argue retrojection by the author. But since Hosea was rather earlier, and assuming that prophetic works are meant to cause the people hearing them to take action, it seems more plausible that the themes it uses would be ones known to them. –  Gone Quiet Jul 1 '13 at 0:43
Yes the themes should be familiar, but in the case of predictive prophecy the events themselves are not. (Because they haven't happened yet.) –  Jas 3.1 Jul 1 '13 at 4:54

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