During a dialog with a commenter the topic of prophecy in the Bible came up, and so the following observation was made …
Actually the largest argument against fulfilled Biblical prophecies is that there is no way to verify that they were actually predicted before the event happened and not after. In fact, there are so many prophecies given in the Old Testament that have “come to pass” that it’s hard to address it in a comment section. Here’s a decent link- http://www.bibleevidences.com/prophecy.htm , but again I’ve already given you the strongest counter argument ;)
OK, so let’s take a look at that link and see what we find.
The site itself presents various arguments for the Bible being the word of a God and one of those concerns Prophecy. I’ve not examined all the others, (life is too short) and so will restrict myself to just the Prophecy page (but did note that one section was making the “Modern Science in the Bible” claim, and so I rolled my eyes at that and also permitted it to set my expectations for the Prophecy page).
The Jewish Nation
The claim is this …
Perhaps the greatest and most obvious testimony to the accuracy of Biblical prophecy is provided by the people and nation of Israel. The Jews went without a homeland for 1900 years, just as God had promised numerous times in the Old Testament, as a reluctant judgment on His rebellious chosen people. Moses warned Israel that if they corrupted themselves, then “the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other (Deut 28:64, KJV)”. Remarkably, this century God restored the Jews to their ancient homeland, fulfilling many other specific Old Testament prophesies
This is not, from my viewpoint, evidence for anything at all except a self-fulfilling prophecy. There has existed throughout the centuries an aspiration for a Jewish homeland, and so it is not surprise that it eventually happened. In fact, given the strong motivation that religious belief can inspire, it would have been quite surprising if it had not happened.
Interestingly enough, the section that makes the claim is not able to present even one verse that specifically makes a prophecy about restoring the Jews to their homeland (such verses do exist), but rather a series of verses that simply state that if they don’t fall in line, then God will scatter them. To be honest, I think you would be extremely hard pressed to find any nation state from that time that has not seen their descendants scattered across the earth.
Do I find the argument presented credible? Nope, especially when we face claims such as “God restored the Jews to their ancient homeland, fulfilling many other specific Old Testament prophesies”, and yet can’t be bothered to even reference one of them.
The claim is that the bible is super accurate in every way regarding what happened to Tyre, except, as pointed out in RationalWiki, this claim is wholly wrong …
Here God explicitly states that Nebuchadnezzar would completely sack and destroy the city of Tyre and that Tyre’s land would never be built upon again. However, this never occurred. After a 13-year siege, Tyre compromised with Nebuchadnezzar and accepted his authority without being destroyed. Despite being conquered and razed by Alexander the Great 240 years later, Tyre still exists.
The Various Messianic Prophecies
The claim here is that what was written within the Gospels is supposed to align in great detail with various statements contained within the Old Testament. That does indeed appear to be the case, but there is however an underlying assumption that is often overlooked – it is commonly assumed that what was written within the gospels describes events that actually took place and so when making such claims that these supposed historic events match precisely the old testament text, the claimant needs to address the far more obvious criticism that the gospel text was simply contrived to fit the prevailing belief.
That rather fundamental criticism has never been resolved.
The earliest Gospel, Mark was written in 65 CE, with Matthew and Luke coming about 15 years later (and also copying most of Mark), and John then coming in about 100-110 CE. These are not contemporary accounts, but rather are texts that were written many decades later to promote a specific well-established belief that Jesus was the Messiah. They don’t align, but rather conflict, and there are no other sources available to establish any of these details.
Why oh why would I ever accept that some uncorroborated texts written by some rather biased believers are accurate and reliable and not contrived to fit their beliefs?
The author writes …
Some critics will point to the “success” of non-biblical “prophets” such as Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, and Jeane Dixon, to name a few. A careful and subjective check of their methods, however, reveals that their predictions were really no better than you or I or the local fortune-teller could make. [Goes into some examples]
Hey, I agree, and then goes on to state …
These “prophets” were also frequently so vague in the predictions they made that you could mold them into about any historical event you wanted.
Yep, still agreeing, but I would lump many of the claimed Bible prophecies into the mix there as well.
He finishes off like this …
The Bible contains over 2000 prophesies that have been fulfilled, many with very specific details. One must ask himself why he would remain skeptical in light of this incontrovertible evidence.
… and to answer that question, as you have seen, they are not exactly “incontrovertible”, and to be frank, I’m not impressed or even convinced that there is one decent example that does not withstand any analysis.
- Good resource over on Rational Wiki that dissects many of the bible prophecy claims
- Skeptical article on it all here – long read that goes in specific details
- The Skeptics Annotated Bible also covers the topic quite well here.
6 thoughts on “Claimed Evidence: Prophecy in the Bible”
Explain Isaiah 53. Manuscripts of Isaiah date before Christ existed. And Jesus did live upon this earth, at least thats what Roman Historian and Senator Tacitus believed, as well as the Jewish Scholar Josephus. There is also precedent to say Jesus existed because of the divide between Judaism and Christianity. Even the Jews, those whom hated Him believed that He existed.
Point 1 – Both you and I would both agree that Joseph Smith existed, and yet we would also both reject the Mormon claims regarding many events in his life. The essence of your position is not if Jesus existed but rather is if what was written in Isaiah 53 refers to Jesus or if it was simply claimed to apply later.
Point 2 – The Josephus references are generally deemed to be fake by the vast majority of historians. Even if we accepted what he wrote as accurate and true, it does not confirm that Isaiah 53 is an accurate precise description of Jesus
Point 3 – Tacitus was not an eyewitness, he simply records what people believed. People who take what he says as 100% accurate, will also dismiss him calling it all a “most mischievous superstition”. You can’t embrace the former and yet dismiss the latter. Clearly Tacitus did not believe it, so why should anybody else?
Point 4 – Isaiah 53 is not specific, it is vague and can be claimed to apply after the fact. In general the jewish community, whose text it is, in general do not believe it describes Jesus, so why should anybody else believe it?
etc… I can keep going, but I’ll pause and offer up my own prophecy. Even if you read this rebuttal, it will not make any difference. Facts tend not to, because belief is not intellectual nor evidence based, it is simply wishful and emotional.
Hey sorry for the slow response it was a busy weekend/monday and I knew this one would take some time.
I guess your desire is to keep the topic strictly on prophecy even though we began to discuss reasons to believe. I guess that’s fine, but I warn you there will be no complete answer in this, as the end result can always be “you can’t prove that was written before the event” to which I will say “No but I can give reason to believe that that is unlikely” and in the end it all becomes a probability game to where one does not have to accept what is most probable (as other conclusions upon other areas of reasoning will dictate how much probability you are willing to conceed on any one argument)
Nevertheless, I can at least comment on your issues with each concern you have addressed. I’d also like to say that I don’t agree with everything that is on that site and Christian arrogance that might be portrayed by it. (It is not strong belief that makes you arrogant, it is the certainty of belief coupled with “I don’t understand how dumb you can be” that makes one arrogant)
The Jewish Nation- So your argument against this being prophecy is that the expectation for this to occur increases the likelihood that it happens. I do however want to point to HOW it occured rather than the fact it just simply occured. World war 2 the Jews saw horrendous persecution, not really fighting or influencing anybody (save for the groups some popular movies show). At the end of the war, it was not the begging or pleading of the jews that gave them a nation, nor was it done in an attempt to fulfill a prophecy. It was done to recompensate the Jews for the horrors suffered. In this way, I don’t believe that the jews had anything to do with getting their own nation.
Tyre- I wish you would do counter-claim research to save me the trouble of informing you what is already contested and where the argument stands. The Tyre one may have an issue, and it may not. The issue here is that if you start on Ezekiel 26, and continue reading to the part you have posted, the prophecy starts off by stating that it will be many nations that come against Tyre (which is historically true), that the prophecy starts to talk about Nebuchadnezzar and what his army will do, and goes from saying “He this” and “He that” to “They”. Now this switch is meant in the Jewish language to indicate a shift in the one being talked about to another or in this case a group, and in this case, the group of nations previously mentioned. And please, before you state that it’s in the same paragraph so its about the same topic, know that Jewish writting doesn’t break into paragraphs. That was us who made the paragraphs where they go.
Messianic Prophecy Fulfillment- You make the argument that because they come many years later, they are not credible and per your opinion, they were political. It doesn’t appear that you know how we credit history lol. What we know of almost any history, such as Alexander the Great, or Genghis Kahn, is written about hundreds of hundreds of years after the event. To note as well, we get a lot of our history from one or two scribes. In this retrospect, even having one witness within 75 years of an event is very historically strong. In this case we have 4, as well as Jewish custom for writing (Nothing may be written as fact without 2-3 witnesses who testify alongside of you). Also note that the leaders of the day did not argue against the validity of what Jesus was doing. No Jewish scholar (who cared a great deal on discrediting Jesus) took the approach of “He really didn’t do these things. What we constantly see is them arguing on how they were done, not that they were or weren’t done.
Other Prophets- You state that they just got lucky. Ok, that’s fine. We are after all playing a probability game, and we cannot distinguish between luck and foreknowledge with certainty. Even if the odds ever end up being 100,000/1, than it could still be luck. Like I stated at the beginning of this analysis, other factors determine how much probability it will take to convince (desire to believe, past experiences, false beliefs, bias, ect). For a fortune teller to “prove” fortune telling, we could say it would take X amount of predicted events for those who believe in supernature to believe and Y for those who do not (with Y being much greater than X)
My Summary- Too much of the Atheist/Deist game is played in probability. Probability will never make you believe while you have your own biases against it that I will never see (Such as I’ve argued with 100 Christians and they were all idiots, or magic tricks all are illusions so there really is no supernature) and all these outside sources interpret the way we interpret the data/probability we receive.
Again, this is why I was trying to take the argument towards philosophy. If God transcends molecules and energy, no matter what we look at, and no matter how we see it, it will not be God, nor could ever prove God. I left my skepticism when I realized that if I could imagine truths that science could never prove, that science could not prove all truths, and that inferance has it’s proper place.
It seems you two are having a private discussion, but I’ll come in anyway. I’m nosey.
//“you can’t prove that was written before the event”
I don’t think that’s the issue. It’s completely irrelevant to determine whether it was written before. Of course, if it was written later, than the argument is settled, but even if it was written before, that’s not nearly enough to count as a fulfilled prophecy. So you can go on and on about when it was written, it won’t matter.
//in the end it all becomes a probability game
No, it doesn’t. You can’t calculate how probable it is that some prophet was right. You can only discuss probability if you actually know the probability. Otherwise you are just making pointless statements. So any statement in the form of “this is more probable than that” is meaningless
Jewish Nation – Your claim is, simply put, ill informed. Not only the jews had everything to do with the foundation of Israel, they actually went to war for it. You can google it all about the history of Israel and Palestine. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy because the mere existance of the prophecy drove jews into wanting to fulfill it (and actually going to war for it).
Tyre – I did not get what you meant by “shift in the one being talked about to another or in this case a group”. You would have to elaborate more on that.
Messianic Prophecy Fulfillment –
I feel you didn’t get the point. No serious historical account for Alexander the Great or Genghis Kahn attribute them super powers. If there are texts that do this, they are not taken as historical accounts. So there is no way you can compare their accounts to that of Jesus. There is simple no amount of eye witness, contemporary or not, that would give credibility to a story about a super human. You would need strong evidence for that. And you don’t have any. And that’s the point. You can’t say the New Testament fulfills a prophecy if you don’t prove the New Testament to be accurate in the first place. And the New Testament, in fact, is not accurate, as it conflicts with itself. So, no, there are no fulfilled prophecies there.
Other Prophets –
//You state that they just got lucky
No, he’s not. That’s not it at all. He’s saying that the prophecies are so vague that a number of events could be said to have fulfilled the prophecy. If I say to you “you’ll have a pleasant day today”, and, in the end of the day, you come to the realization that you did have a pleasant day, does that mean I have super powers? Or no, it means I just got lucky? No, it means none of it. I gave you a vague prophecy that could be fulfilled in a number of different ways. There are lots of things that could happen to you during your day to make it “pleasant” and I’m not predicting any of them with accuracy.
Do you want a real prophecy? I’ll give you a real prophecy. Ready? Here it goes: E=mc2. That’s my prophecy. I’m predicting that E will be equal to m times c squared. I predict that every time (in certain conditions) you have a mass equals to m, the energy will be mc2. See the point? I’m not predicting that E will be close to mc2. I’m not predicting that E will look like mc2. I’m giving you a precise statement: E=mc2. If it turns out that E=mc2 + 3 then I was wrong. My prophecy was not fulfilled, no matter how you interpret it. And that’s not what happens with these prophets or the Bible.
The point is prophecies are a cowards play. It’s easy to claim some event fulfilled a vague prophecy. It’s not easy to claim some event fulfilled a precise one like E=mc2. If one is brave enough they will not give vague prophecies and later claim some event fullfilled it. If one is brave they will say exactly what it is that is going to happen, with a large amount of accuracy and jeopardize his carreer on doing so. If it turns out to be right, he’ll become the new Einstein, not the new Nostradamus.
Your summary –
//Too much of the Atheist/Deist game is played in probability
No it is not. Again with the probability. You can’t claim how probable something is if you didn’t do the necessary math. And if you can’t do the math, as it is the case here, then it’s a meaningless statement. I don’t know how probable some prophecy is to be real, because I don’t know how to calculate this probability. So, I don’t dismiss prophecies because there are not probable enough for my liking. I dismiss them because they are pointless.
//If God transcends molecules and energy, no matter what we look at, and no matter how we see it, it will not be God, nor could ever prove God
If that’s true, then what does it mean to say god exists? What’s the difference between something that doesn’t interact with the phisical world, leaving traces for us to find, and something that doesn’t exist?
//I realized that if I could imagine truths that science could never prove, that science could not prove all truths, and that inferance has it’s proper place.
Good old argument from ignorance. But more than that, why trust inferance? You are undermining humans capacity to fail hard.
I like how you are very logical in your rebuttal, and being a skeptic myself, I find that perfect to have a rational discussion in this(?)
Oracle: And don’t worry about the vase.
Neo: What vase? [knocks vase down and breaks it]
Neo: I’m sorry.
Oracle: I said don’t worry about it. I’ll get one of my kids to fix it.
Neo: How did you know?
Oracle: Oh, what’s really going to bake your noodle later on is: would you still have broken it if I hadn’t said anything?