Probability Proves Bible Prophecy (or Not)

Now and again I come across bold statements that are widely accepted within Christian circles, but they’re often passed along without evidence, like urban legends. The Christian who shares them usually doesn’t know why they should be believed.

For example, the claim that Mark was the assistant to an eyewitness and wrote the gospel named Mark (I wrote about that here).

That the apostles wouldn’t die for a lie (I wrote about that here).

And that the probability of just eight of Jesus’s 300 fulfilled prophecies coming true randomly—that is, without him being the real deal—is 1 in 1017.

Cover the state of Texas in silver dollars two feet deep and find a particular one, blindfolded, by dumb luck—that’s the equivalent probability. In other words, probability shows the reliability of the evidence for Jesus. Who’s going to argue with probability?

At least, that’s the question we’re meant to focus on. The proper question: Who says the probability is 1:1017? And what was the calculation?

I finally had a chance to explore this claim when I recently stumbled across the source, Science Speaks by Peter Stoner, originally published with a different title in 1944. The online version is here (go to chapter 3).

The computation examines eight different prophecies, determines the likelihood of their happening to anyone, and then multiplies them together to get the minuscule 1:1017.

Stoner was the chair of the departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College, so he should know something about reasoning. Let’s step through these eight prophecies and see.

1. Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Stoner asks the probability of someone being born in Bethlehem as opposed to anywhere else in the world and concludes that one birth of every 280,000 worldwide happens in Bethlehem. In other words, if Jesus could have been born anywhere, that he was born in Bethlehem was quite unlikely.

Let’s ignore the fact that a character in a book about Israel was far likelier to be born in Bethlehem than in Bermuda, Brazil, or Borneo, so comparing Bethlehem against the rest of the world is unrealistic. Let’s also ignore that Stoner simply assumes that Jesus was divine.

At least we have it on good authority that the Micah reference, “out of you [Bethlehem] will come … one who will be ruler over Israel,” actually refers to Jesus, because the gospel of Matthew says so (Matt. 2:6).

Or do we? When you actually read Micah 5, it is clear that this ruler of Israel will be a warrior who will turn back the Assyrians, the empire that began conquering Israel piecemeal beginning in 740 BCE. “Your hand will be lifted up in triumph over your enemies, and all your foes will be destroyed” (Micah 5:9) doesn’t sound like any event in the life of Jesus.

Additionally, Stoner takes the historical accuracy of the gospel story as a given, but why assume that? The authors of Matthew and Luke were obviously literate, and they would have read Micah. Did they accurately record Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus, or did they just throw in Bethlehem to jazz up the story with a “fulfilled” prophecy?

2. Jesus didn’t enter Jerusalem carried in regal splendor but riding humbly on a donkey (Zech. 9:9). Stoner asks: Of all the men who entered Jerusalem as a ruler, what fraction did so on a donkey? He gives this a probability of 1 in 100.

But again, this simply assumes the historicity of the gospel story. It’s like asking, “How many people who walked the Yellow Brick Road did so after landing on a witch in a house?”

Let’s take a closer look at Zech. 9:9. It says that the victorious king will come

lowly and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

What are they saying here? Is this a mother donkey with its colt? No, this is synonymous parallelism, a poetic form found in the Old Testament, where the last line simply echoes or restates the previous line.

All four gospels have Jesus enter Jerusalem on a donkey, and Matthew and John both mention the prophecy. But Matthew doesn’t understand the poetic structure and thinks that it means two donkeys: “They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on” (Matt. 21:7).

What’s more likely—that Jesus rode two animals like a circus acrobat or that Matthew was inventing the fulfillment of a prophecy?

And like the previous prophecy, the king is a warrior. This time, his domain after his victories will extend from sea to sea, which (again) doesn’t match the Jesus of the gospels.

3. Jesus was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12). Stoner’s question: “Of the people who have been betrayed, one in how many has been betrayed for exactly thirty pieces of silver?”

The gospel fulfillment (Matt. 27:9) refers to Jeremiah, not Zechariah. Oops—I guess divinely inspired authors are only human. But even when we find the reference in the correct book, the Zechariah story has nothing to do with betrayal.

And so on. There’s no need to dig into the remaining prophecies; you see how this plays out. Not only are these “prophecies” poor matches for the Jesus story, the probability calculations for these eight examples simply beg the question by assuming that the gospels are history (which is the question at hand) and make meaningless estimates of probability to create the fiction that actual science is going on here.

Are we dealing with actual prophecies? No—the allusions to Old Testament stories are easily explained if we suppose that the authors of the gospels simply searched the Scriptures for plot fragments that they could work into the Jesus story. The probability calculations are meaningless.

Don’t suppose that the gospel authors were journalists writing history. Scholars don’t categorize the gospels as biography but as ancient biography, which is not the same genre. An ancient biography isn’t overly concerned about giving accurate facts but with making a moral point.

When we have a plausible natural explanation like this, the supernatural explanation doesn’t hold up.

When I feed the hungry, they call me a saint.
When I ask why people are hungry, they call me a communist.
— Archbishop Helder Camara

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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Christians: Can ANYTHING Change Your Mind?
Guest Post: Still Waiting for Jesus
An Honest Way for Christians to Separate Fact From Fiction
About Bob Seidensticker
  • wtfwjtd

    Oh, I get it Bob: The “Jesus fulfilled prophesy” bit is the “Paul is Dead” concept in action, huh?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Interesting comparison.

  • Winston Smith

    There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Especially when the purpose of the person being “discredited” is to reveal the lack of inner peace within the people trying to discredit him.

  • http://pleonast.com/users/closetatheist Mr. Two

    My favorite is that of the virgin birth. Isaiah 7:14 prophecies it, and it’s fulfilled in Isaiah 8:3-4! Why? Because it was supposed to be a sign to Ahaz that Israel and Assyria would not defeat Judah. But wait! A virgin birth before Jesus? What Christian would admit to such? And this is where we discover that the Hebrew word translated to “virgin” in the Greek didn’t mean virgin at all.

    These “prophecies” with dual-fulfillments are one of the best things I discovered after the idea of Biblical inerrancy started to unravel for me. As a Christian it always baffled me that the Jehovah’s Witnesses took a prophecy about Nebuchadnezzar and claimed it had a second, modern fulfillment. Imagine my surprise when I realized that a lot of the ones I believed were about Jesus were actually about something else!

  • Untested

    Seems like there is a mixing/confusion about the identification of future and past prophecy … not to mention progressive revelation.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Tell me more. Is there an error in the post? If so, I’m not seeing your point.

      Progressive revelation seems to me to be a flimsy argument to explain why Christianity looks like a progression of claims. Why would God appear so addle-headed to make clear that it’s supposed to be one way, and then change things up later? That it’s simply ancient mythology explains the facts nicely.

  • Mikeydarev

    Hey there Bob and others. Came to this site as I was trying to find verification of the method used to define the odds quoted for Jesus fulfilling prophecy. Seems to be an example of stretching things a little, particularly choosing a set of whole world population for a Jewish Messiah is pretty rich.

    You have mentioned things I have wondered myself. How the Old Testament references tie in for some of these passages mentioned in the NT. It will lead to some definite thought processing for me.

    One thing I would like to finish with is an apology from myself on behalf of Christians who throw statistics around like this without checking them out. It didn’t take me long to figure out some of these astonishing figures were derived in a flawed and biased manner. I don’t like that stuff like this is sometimes used with an air of self righteousness.

    My experience is that I have a subjective experience of God that I am finding is an outworking of implications that align more and more with the statements presented in the bible that I have found can be verified as historical, objective fact.

    Thanks for the food for thought.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      And thank you for the thoughtful response.

      What arguments do you think are most compelling when presented to atheists?

      • Mikeydarev

        Hi Bob,

        I haven’t really compiled a list of most compelling
        arguments to present to atheists yet. Mainly because I think atheists is
        a rather broad category in terms of people it includes. From raised
        that way, to left church and became one, to people who haven’t thought
        about it. Atheists are people first.

        That being said. I feel some
        of the best things to discuss are the life and teachings of Jesus
        himself and how he changes God and religion for so many. By saying he
        was God (or one of the “God” community”), he showed God was no longer an
        enigma that can be abused by the religious elite (Not once his message
        goes public anyway). By saying his death provided forgiveness for sins,
        he abolished the religion of fear that has perpetuated society
        throughout the history of the world (and has led to cruel practices like
        human sacrifice and cannibalism) . By his resurrection from the dead he
        proved his deity and gave us power over the sin that so easily
        entangles the best of us and tied in with that is the promise of his
        Spirit to lead us joyfully through life. It’s actually great news!

        The
        great thing I’ve found about these is that in contrast to Mormons,
        Muslims, Bhuddists, and many others. Christianity can be objectively
        tested, hence this discussion.

        I am trying to digest a lot of
        apologetic information about creation
        itself. Whilst there is no single argument alone that says, “God
        definitely created the world”, There is enough good scientific writing
        that indicates that to believe in a Creator does not mean you’ve
        dismissed critical thinking from your life. From the real phenomena of
        natural selection itself, to the information necessary for life to exist
        and propogate, to irreducible complexity; there’s a lot out there. But I
        don’t have doctorates in five different sciences that would mean I
        would win all these points as arguments but they seem like reasonable
        arguments to me.

        Sorry about the late reply. I’ve been sick after
        speaking to a hundred odd kids about bible stuff last week at a kids
        camp. I will be frequenting this site it seems to get the other side of
        the argument for some issues Christianity has for it’s validity. So look
        forward to keeping up the conversation.

        Mike

        • MNb

          I don’t have any doctorate, but I know irreducible complexity is bunk.

          http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe.html

          “I feel some of the best things to discuss are the life and teachings of Jesus himself”
          Why?

          “he abolished the religion of fear”
          Only a few minutes ago the Australian christian Norm tried to invoke fear. I quote:

          “When your standing in front of Him you will know. You will feel a whole lot better with Jesus by your side when the time comes,get to know Him now.”

          Other christians on this very blog have implicetely admitted that they suffer from existential fear – they suffer from fear for non-existing. I got over that as a kid.
          So I’m afraid Jesus was a failure when he tried to abolish the religion of fear.

          “It’s actually great news!”
          It’s bad news. I don’t want someone to die a horrific death (I somewhat disagree on this point with BobS) to enable me to deal with my shortcomings (your phrasing is: to give me power over my sin, which I think meaningless). I never asked him to do this and don’t see why it should make me happy. Moreover I don’t need it to go joyfully through my life. I had plenty of joy again today.

          “Christianity can be objectively tested”
          Quite a few christians disagree, so what kind of tests are you thinking of?

      • old_303

        I love asking atheists to prove that God doesn’t exist.
        So, I guess that’s my question Bob – What is the best argument that God doesn’t exist?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I can’t prove that God doesn’t exist. And why would I want to? The burden of proof is yours, my friend.

          Look at my recent debate video. That has 8 arguments against God’s existence.

        • old_303

          So, you don’t care about the Truth – that’s why you’d want to. If you’re not in possession of the truth wouldn’t you want to be in possession of it? If you can’t prove God doesn’t exist are you saying that he does?

        • Pofarmer

          Read some Victor Stenger or Carl Sagan.

        • old_303

          Pleeeease……..read some John
          Lennox or Francis Collins or Michael Behe. I read non-Christian writings like Russell, Hume, Flew, and Dawkins.

        • 90Lew90

          I’m willing to bet the farm you’ve never read Hume and I’d go each way on Russell and Dawkins. Michael Behe is a fink. Collins keeps his faith strictly separate from his science. Newton was also an alchemist. It does as much good for modern alchemists to claim him as it does for Christians. Nothing. Ditto Collins.

        • old_303

          I’m looking forward to owning your farm

        • 90Lew90

          I’ll be holding onto it. What Hume have you read by the way?

        • Pofarmer

          Francis Collins and a Michael Be he don’t impresssme. sorry.

        • old_303

          So your smarter than Francis Collins?

        • Pofarmer

          No, but I,don’t claim an emotional conversion and then write apologetics.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Slow learner? You have the burden of proof.

        • old_303

          Not if there’s a God. You have yet to showcase convincingly how your worldview is consistent. Consider this Bob – you’re an educated man right? You believe in the Big Bang?

          Essentially what you have with the “Big Bang” – you know the big explosion that just made everything start happening? Essentially what you have there is a giant ass fart in the sky. So, that’s what you believe in. That’s as otherworldly as you can go – a giant ass fart somewhere in space. What I picture is Richard Dawkins in a yellow chicken suit looking a little constipated trying to push out an egg and out comes a giant ass fart that creates the universe. So, that’s really all you have when you think about it. And yet you don’t believe in miracles and yet the giant ass fart in the sky would be a miraculous event (because it’s definitely not proven by science). Oh but you say – “it will be, it will be we’ve already discovered so much.” Riiiiiiight – keep saying that you don’t have faith in your giant chicken farting in space but some of us can put 2 and 2 together. Your god is a “Big Bang”, i.e. a big “fart”. A big “poof” that made the universe. For those of us who want to “put on our thinking caps like big boys and girls” try this one on for size.

          “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”

          Which is better?

          a. The ass fart in space…..OR
          b. God who created everything

          ?

        • adam

          The Truth about leprechans, Zeus, Mithra and Ganesh?
          What about Invisible Pink Flying Unicorns?

          If you can’t prove they exist are you saying that they do?

        • old_303

          Celestial Teapot – nice try Adam Steidensticker

        • adam

          Same as YOUR god….

          Lame try on your part Whisky….

        • Pofarmer

          The best argument that God doesn’t exist is that there is absolutely no evidence for him, at least the Christian variety. We can’t rule out a deist God that started the big bang, but even the big bang doesn’t look “started” because of conservation of matter. So, it’s not that there is evidence for no God, it’s just that there isn’t evidence For, a God. And something for which there is no evidence, well?

    • Pofarmer

      The chances of fullfilling prophecy are pretty good when you are writing the story with the prophecies in front of year.

      • old_303

        Really? Isaiah was written at least 700 years before Christ. Are you saying Isaiah 53 was written after Christ. That’s impossible. That’s going beyond biased to just ridiculous and laughable. Read the “Isaiah Scroll” article on Wikipedia (it will get you started). Those manuscripts have been carbon dated over and over and consistently show a date between the 3rd and 4th centuries BC! So, if you’re going to disagree with Isaiah find something else to disagree with but don’t say that Isaiah, i.e. “the prophecies” were written after Jesus lived – not even legitimate skeptics believe that.

        • Pofarmer

          Uhm, no, the writers of the New Testsment would have been versed in the old testament. It is easy to have a charachter fulfill prophecies when you have them in front of you. There. I typed it slow.

        • old_303

          Your both confused. How can you make Jesus be born in Bethlahem to the Son of David, etc. You can’t make that happen by any human means

        • Pofarmer

          How could Jesus be Born in Bethlehem when Archaeologists think it wasn’t even occupied in the correct time frame?

          You can go here https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/%CE%BA%CE%AD%CE%BB%CF%83%CE%BF%CF%82-to-become-a-book-project/ and search and see what a Ancient Historian says about the Gospels. You probably don’t realize this, but the Gospels don’t meet the standards of what would have been considered the Ancient histories of their day. They are missing some key components. Do you know what they are?

        • old_303

          you mean to say “some” archaeologists – not all. please tell the class what’s missing

        • Pofarmer

          What’s missing is signs of habitation between about 700 B.C. and 100 A.D. But, even that not withstanding. You have no physical evidence for a Jesus in Bethlehem. You have no physical evidence for a Mary or Joseph. You have no contemporary evidence for the Star or any of the birth miracles, and you have 4 contradicting accounts of it. So, what you really have, are 4 old stories, which are almost entirely based on one(Mark) and which almost entirely come from a retelling of OT stories, to the point where you can’t tell what, if anything, that’s in them might be historical and might be embellishment. I get that you’re a True Beleiver. I also get that you probably won’t read anything you don’t agree with. But Give Randal Helms a try.

        • old_303

          1. Bethlehem is not contested – what sources are you using?
          2. 4 contradicting accounts? Please, Lee Strobel covered that in his books. Collusion is never accepted in courts so the fact that they differ slightly demonstrates that the authors did not collude together therefore there testimony is much more authentic than if they would have done otherwise.
          3. You’re wrong – I used to be an unbeliever but I had a dramatic change after doing extensive research on evolution which I doubted as being true even when I was not a Christian.

        • Pofarmer

          Sorry, should have been Nazareth.
          Lee Strobel is not a credible source. Read some Ehrman.
          So, you’re a science denier, too. Not surprising.

        • old_303

          Why should it have been Nazareth you twit? He was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth. But no – wait – stop – it can’t be true —– someone can’t be born in one place and then raised in another ——ohhhhhhhhhh

        • old_303

          obviously I know where you got that one from since big man Bob brought it up in my post

        • Pofarmer

          No, it just follows from the evidence. When I ‘m replying to your stupidity in my Disqus homepage, I can’t see anybody elses replies.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          There are lots of smart commenters around here. I’m about in the middle of the pack.

          You’ll regret underestimating other commenters.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That’s not the point. The point is that the “fulfillment” was written after both the prophecy and the events of Jesus. That makes them inherently useless as valid prophecy.

        • old_303

          Well of course it was – do you expect them to write them down as if some 1st century journalist is running around with a portable ink well and papyrus chest? That’s absurd and frankly a limitation you can’t press on the 1st century. Check out my post to Pofarmer – you can’t control the fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem or in the lineage of David. Furthermore, he was in the tribe of Judah, etc. These are all things that can’t be controlled by Jesus or his followers or anyone else but God.

        • Pofarmer

          See, the problem you have here, is that there is no “Fact” that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. We have it written in a religious Hagiography, written late, after the destruction of Jerusalem. Ditto for the lineage of David, and you have two conflicting lineages, neither one you can check out. Might I suggest you try Randal Helms “The Gospel Fictions”?

        • old_303

          your forgetting that the Gospels are the most historically reliable documents

        • Pofarmer

          And you’re ignoring the fact that they aren’t reliable history about factual happeningst all. Unless you are willing to step outside your comfort zone, maybe just to some Bart Ehrman even, we aren’t going to get anywhere.

        • old_303

          what constitutes reliable history?

        • Pofarmer

          I’ll ask you again, what we find in the good history of the day that we don’t find in the Gospels?

        • old_303

          Which would be what?

        • Pofarmer

          Two main things. number one, the authors don’t name themselves. number 2 the authors don’t name their sources.

        • old_303

          Neither do other ancient sources. They weren’t “sourceaholics” like modern day historians. A source doesn’t make something credible anyway.

        • Pofarmer

          Uhm, actually, the best sources do. And yes, both knowing the author, and the sources, is how you can determine credible history from, say, pious fiction based on OT “prophecies”. You would do well to get some info from sources who are not also Apologists, which includes all those you have mentioned.

        • old_303

          Riiiiight.

          What would you consider “credible history”? Let me guess, MSNBC?

          the minions of Bob Seidinsticker (cue music) dut du du duuuuu

        • Pofarmer

          Credible history allows you to check the sources and verify the authors, its a pretty simple concept, your snark notwithstanding. We have this for, say, the biographers of Ceasar, for instance, or, even, the biographers of Alexander the Great which apologists like to trot out. There’s generally only one case where we don’t know the authors of the work, and that is the case where the author is writing fiction. That is, unless you really believe that prophets in olden days ran about casting out demons and raising people from the dead. Oh, you do believe that……………

        • Pofarmer

          Tell ya what. From the Epistles of Paul, which are our earliest writings. Where does Paul say Jesus was,from and what miracles did he do?

        • old_303

          That’s easy – 1 Corinthians 15 is without dispute (even among the most agnostic/atheistic scholars) the earliest section and oldest of the NT. Bart Ehrman believes this without contest check out his debates

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I expect the documentation of the fulfillment to be written without knowledge of any prophecy. That’s simply the minimum a prophecy claim should have (there’s more).

          That’s absurd and frankly a limitation you can’t press on the 1st century.

          You’re saying that your evidence is inherently weak, but we’ll just have to accept what little evidence we have? Nope. If it’s poor evidence, then I discard the claim. You should, too.

          you can’t control the fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem or in the lineage of David.

          You don’t get it, do you? This is all part of the story. The authors of the gospels could’ve added those details to create the impression of a fulfilled prophecy.

        • old_303

          Riiiiiight.
          Again, disappointing Bob you’ll have to try a little bit harder.
          1. So your saying that everything about Jesus was all an act to make him look like the Messiah? Everyone was in on it like a big production of a Broadway show or something? Are you nuts? Obviously your admitting that Jesus fits the description but your saying that’s only because everyone formulated their writings around him. So, let me get this straight (1) you essentially believe the entire Jesus story was an act because you believe Jesus fits the description of the Messiah (other than the king/warrior which your still confused on) and (2) that everyone in 1st century Palestine is essentially a liar?
          2. About “weak evidence”. Would your ideas hold up in court Bob? No. Why? Because evidence is evidence even if its a small amount. Poor evidence (as you define it) is still evidence.
          3. What do you mean “its all part of the story”? Again, your saying that they essentially “casted” Jesus for the role in their Messiah production. That’s the dumbest crock of bull shit I’ve every heard! Furthermore, Jesus was born in the lineage of David, in the town of Bethlehem, to a virgin – all things that your so called “production people”, i.e. “the writers of the New Testament” put together? Your nuts man

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So your saying that everything about Jesus was all an act to make him look like the Messiah?

          You really don’t know how legends can grow? This isn’t deliberate; it just happens with the retelling.

          So, let me get this straight (1) you essentially believe the entire Jesus story was an act because you believe Jesus fits the description of the Messiah (other than the king/warrior which your still confused on) and (2) that everyone in 1st century Palestine is essentially a liar?

          Nope, not what I’m saying.

          Because evidence is evidence even if its a small amount. Poor evidence (as you define it) is still evidence.

          True. And “I heard from a friend that he knew someone who saw a unicorn” is evidence. It ain’t much. It’s basically zero. It wouldn’t convince any thoughtful, appropriately skeptical person that unicorns exist. But it’s evidence.

          What do you mean “its all part of the story”?

          The gospels are words on paper. Words can be made to say pretty much anything. The story can innocently change with the retelling so that it’s accumulated lots of false stuff without anyone trying to deceive.

          You say that the gospels are history? You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you showing that as the best explanation of the facts.

  • old_303

    Bob,
    specifically regarding #2
    Mathew is definitely not confused, you’re confused and I’ll explain why. By the way you have you’re own bias in your entry (like Peter Stoner) that obviously your against supernatural explanations of things. We all have bias – it’s just a matter of who’s correct. So, lets see if your thoughts on point 2 are correct and hold up to scrutiny.
    a. You claim the gospel story is fallacious
    To this I’ll say unequivocally that the Gospel narratives (which are more like ancient biographies than just stories) are the most uncontested historically reliable documents for the life and times of Jesus Christ. They are nearest in terms of dates to the actual events. For instance many scholars think we have reliable documents for Alexander the Great but guess what – the nearest biographer is over 200 years out! Feel free to dispute but if you follow the evidence you’ll find that the Gospels are historically accurate and reliable. The Gospel stories are not “The Wizard of Oz” as you claim. In fact, your engaging in caricatures that are common with individuals who lack credibility on these matters. Bart Ehrman the worlds leading skeptic agrees that 1 Corinthians 15 is the earliest creedal statement of Christianity and predates the Gospels. That being said he doesn’t believe Jesus is Lord but he without qualm states that the early church believed Jesus was God and was resurrected after his death and appeared to the disciples in bodily form.
    b. Your correct about the parallelism of Zech. 9:9 but…
    But you fail to grasp what’s happening in Mathew. Mathew is not confused at all – the disciples are confused! You’re not grasping this Bob! The Disciples obviously encountered the donkey with its colt and in their lack of understanding they brought both animals. Jesus obviously still rode the one which Zech. 9:9 speaks of – he didn’t balance on them like circus animals. Are you twit? Furthermore, Jesus did not ride the donkey which was already broken in. Zech. 9:9 is specifically referring to the animal who had yet to be broken, i.e. the colt because it was still considered a “wild animal.” The fact that Jesus rode a wild donkey is incredible and showcases his power of nature. So, Mathew is not confused – you’re confused and would do well to understanding what you’re reading.
    c. Jesus IS both king AND warrior
    Essentially you’re falling right in line with those in the NT who failed to recognize the Messiah. Your view was the prevailing view of the time – that the Messiah would literally conquer the Hellenistic world like a military ruler. Jesus’s conquest is spiritual. He has to pay the sin debt owed by humanity and the Messiahs job is exactly that. You’re failing to read all the prophecy concerning Christ and you’re concentrating on one prophecy. With this in mind Jesus will overthrow those who refuse to acknowledge him as Lord when he returns. In the meantime there is grace available to any who should call upon his name. I would urge you to (1) be unbiased in reading the Gospels and looking at the evidence and (2) go where the evidence leads. I am confident that if you truly seek to understand you’ll find that Jesus is Lord, that he paid our sin debt on the cross and that he is coming again in the future.
    If I have time I’ll be sure to take apart your other arguments as well.
    Blessing to you during the Christmas season

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      a. You claim the gospel story is fallacious

      I ask that the gospel story be shown to be accurate before it is assumed in Stoner’s analysis.

      To this I’ll say unequivocally that the Gospel narratives (which are more like ancient biographies than just stories) are the most uncontested historically reliable documents for the life and times of Jesus Christ.

      (1) They are indeed like ancient biographies, which are not like modern biographies. Not a good thing for your position.

      (2) Yes, they’re our best biographies. They’re our only biographies. They’re not especially reliable history.

      we have reliable documents for Alexande r the Great but guess what – the nearest biographer is over 200 years out!

      So what? If there are errors in Alexander’s story, no one cares. Errors in the Jesus story must be, to Christians, insanely important.

      if you follow the evidence you’ll find that the Gospels are historically accurate and reliable.

      Nope.

      your engaging in caricatures that are common with individuals who lack credibility on these matters.

      I’ve blogged on many aspects of these issues. Point out specific errors. Vague, “you look like you don’t know” doesn’t help.

      he without qualm states that the early church believed Jesus was God and was resurrected after his death and appeared to the disciples in bodily form.

      Uh, OK. Other religions point to early believers as well. Not convincing.

      The Disciples obviously encountered the donkey with its colt and in their lack of understanding they brought both animals.

      Oh? Explain how this is apparent just from Matthew.

      Jesus obviously still rode the one which Zech. 9:9 speaks of – he didn’t balance on them like circus animals. Are you twit?

      Not me. As I made clear, however, that’s what Matt. is saying.

      The fact that Jesus rode a wild donkey is incredible and showcases his power of nature.

      It’s a story. If you think it’s history, you need to show that remarkable fact.

      Jesus’s conquest is spiritual.

      Then don’t whine when I point this out. Zechariah is talking about a king/warrior. See the problem?

      He has to pay the sin debt owed by humanity and the Messiahs job is exactly that.

      Tell Zechariah.

      In the meantime there is grace available to any who should call upon his name.

      Gotta believe first. And I can’t. I guess the grace of Jesus isn’t available to all.

      I would urge you to (1) be unbiased in reading the Gospels and looking at the evidence and (2) go where the evidence leads.

      I will if you will!

      • old_303

        Bob,
        Creative response.
        1. Ancient Biographies
        Bob, your understanding here is lacking. Ancient Biographies operate under different criteria than modern biographies. This is a horrendous argument on your part. Should I read Kitty Kelley’s book on Sinatra or the one by Nancy Sinatra – hmmmmmm? Just because it’s modern doesn’t mean its accurate. Furthermore, just because it’s ancient doesn’t mean its inaccurate. Prove how old you are Bob. Let me guess – drivers license – birth certificate? So, whaaaat I can’t know if those are true. How can we know anything, right. Bob, get serious. Almost all ancient biographies contain miracles. For instance, you would have to throw out the works of Herodotus (the so-called father of history who was not a “believer”). This being said, read Craig Keeners book “Miracles”. Miracles happen every day – how do you think you came into existence, your body just somehow formed itself? Every day in the life of a child in the womb there are miracles happening. You don’t think blood clotting is a miracle – without it you wouldn’t be here.
        2. You seem to reject the Gospels “out of hand”. Your bias is clearly getting in the way. If one is biased with the truth shouldn’t that be okay? Don’t we want to be biased towards the truth rather than biasedly opposed to it? You seem to be biasedly opposed. Why would the disciples go to their deaths for a lie? Please see Lewis’s Trilemma from Mark 3:20-35. Christ can only be Lord, liar or a lunatic but please investigate the material properly don’t just discredit “out of hand.” I dare you to prove Jesus was a lunatic or a liar – it’s just not simply possible. I’d love to see you try – in fact I’d love to see your absolute best attempt at it with a fresh post on that very subject.
        3. Mathew is not saying that Jesus road on two donkeys Bob! Do you understand English grammar – it’s an antecedent phrase for crying out loud! The pronoun “them” is referring to the noun “cloaks”. When Mathew says he is sitting on “them” he is saying the cloaks. Are you tracking with me?
        4. For a story that you think is fabricated why didn’t the writer just say Jesus road on the female donkey (the one that had been tamed already) and not the wild colt? If I were disseminating false information I’d want to make it as easy as possible for people to digest. Are you tracking? But that’s not what the writers claim or Zechariah for that matter – the Messiah will ride a “colt” a wild donkey that has not been tamed before. How can that not stir sincere interest from you?
        5. Your definition of King/Warrior is a misunderstanding of the text Bob. Your guilty of the same thing the unbelieving generation was guilty of in the 1st century. You have to understand the culture of the time, i.e. the Jews were looking for a specific Messiah. In other words, they were looking for what they wanted and not what all the prophecies indicated. When we combine Zechariah 9:9 for example with Isaiah 53 its completely obvious that the text is talking about Jesus Christ. Jesus was a King (not of this world). Again, as a warrior Christ overthrew the bonds of Satan on the Cross. You’re not understanding basic Satisfaction Theory elements. Read about St. Anselm and the Ransom Theory for instance. If he’s correct (which is highly plausible) that Christ was certainly a warrior. The first time Christ came as Messiah. The second time he will come as the warrior you so desire – but I wouldn’t shrug that off too much, if He is God (again, check out “Lord, liar, lunatic” – the Trilemma) then he comes to judge the second time. Thankfully were in a time of grace at the moment.
        6. Zechariah is talking about one aspect of the prophecies. It’s like your saying unless Zechariah unpacks every detail about Christ including the number of hairs on his head your just going to “write him off” as an invalid source concerning the Messiah being a suffering servant. He is a prophet of God Bob. God used all the prophets to speak the message that came forth.
        7. You say “you can’t believe”. That’s certainly not true. You’re able to believe but you’re too stubborn but I think God is working on you, in fact I know he is. The Bible says that he will go after every lost sheep.
        I’m looking forward to future banter :)
        I’m praying for you
        Christ is everything,
        old303
        Christ is everything

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Ancient Biographies operate under different criteria than modern biographies.

          Yeah. Like I said. And this isn’t a good thing for your position (like I said).

          just because it’s ancient doesn’t mean its inaccurate.

          ?? No one said otherwise. Ancient biographies are unreliable from our standpoint in many ways–that’s the point.

          Almost all ancient biographies contain miracles.

          And modern historians reject every miracle story.

          read Craig Keeners book “Miracles”

          Blogged about that. Search for it.

          Every day in the life of a child in the womb there are miracles happening

          That’s what neither Keener nor I are talking about. Stay on subject.

          2. You seem to reject the Gospels “out of hand”.

          Wrong again.

          Your bias is clearly getting in the way

          Yet another claim without evidence. Suggestion: find a problem and then point it out. Vague “you’re biased” without any grounding doesn’t help us.

          Why would the disciples go to their deaths for a lie?

          Blogged about it. Seek and ye shall find.

          Christ can only be Lord, liar or a lunatic

          Blogged about it.

          Mathew is not saying that Jesus road on two donkeys Bob! Do you understand English grammar – it’s an antecedent phrase for crying out loud! The pronoun “them” is referring to the noun “cloaks”. When Mathew says he is sitting on “them” he is saying the cloaks. Are you tracking with me?

          Nope. The verse in Matthew is: “They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.” Multiple cloaks, and multiple donkeys for Jesus to sit on. Are you tracking with me?

          When we combine Zechariah 9:9 for example with Isaiah 53 its completely obvious that the text is talking about Jesus Christ.

          I’ve blogged about Is. 53.

          Read about St. Anselm and the Ransom Theory for instance.

          Sounds like the Courtier’s Reply.

          You say “you can’t believe”. That’s certainly not true.

          Demonstrate this for me. Believe in unicorns or leprechauns and then tell me how that went.

        • old_303

          1. “Ancient biographies are unreliable”
          Modern historians don’t reject miracles. Craig Keener is a fantastic example. So, your essentially calling most of the human race a bunch of liars?
          2. miracles in the womb
          I’m saying that what happens in the womb is miraculous – Keener wouldn’t object to that he would agree with it. You have to understand that the Miracles book came out of his research on the book of Acts and of course acts doesn’t talk about children in the womb. Obviously that’s not a miracle he would cover concerning Acts if its not in there. My point still stands, what happens in the womb is miraculous – prove how its not.
          3. Me being wrong about your bias getting in the way
          Well for one you rarely ever (if you even do at all) showcase the other side of the argument and you provide virtually no support for your arguments even from experts that are agnostic/atheist or just plain skeptical.
          4. “Seek and ye shall find”
          That’s what the disciples died for? Please, that’s a terrible argument. So, essentially your saying that the disciples died gambling? In other words when they died for their faith they hoped to find what they desired on the other side – like a 50/50 deal? The empty tomb is the most concrete fact in history Bob.
          5. about Mathew 21:7
          I’m really disappointed here Bob. Eh hem – what translation are you using there buddy the BSV (Bob’s Standard Version)? You’re misquoting the passage but can’t admit that its an antecedent phrase Mathew is using. I’d love for you to show the class what translation you’re using.
          6. about Courtier’s Reply
          read the Wikipedia article – this is a “pseudo-defense”. Seriously, read about St. Anselm and the Ransom theory and you’ll understand how Zech. 9:9 and Isaiah 53 are perfectly in agreement.
          7. about not believing
          Bob, you’re running out of ammo because now you’re saying God is like a unicorn or a leprechaun. You ask me to “believe in unicorns” and you’re equating that with belief in God. You’re argument is in the camp of the Celestial Teapot (Russell’s Teapot) because your making scientifically falsifiable claims. In other words I could claim a teapot orbits the sun and you can’t prove me wrong therefore I’m right (this is an example of what you’re adhering to not me by saying God doesn’t exist).

        • Pofarmer

          Craig Keener is an apologist.

        • old_303

          He’s a historian, professor and defender of miracles

        • Pofarmer

          Are we talking about the Craig Keener that works at Asbury Theological Seminary?

          The one who got his BA from Central Bible College and his Masters from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary?

        • old_303

          he has a Phd from Duke as well but yes

        • Pofarmer

          Yes, a PhD. from Duke after the Other two. My statement stands. He is an Apologist.

        • old_303

          Right – he’s a beast are you saying he’s not a good source or something?

        • Pofarmer

          He’s an apologist.

        • old_303

          which means you might want to clean your ears out and pay attention or do you “bow at the altar” of your blog hero Bob Seidensticker (cue music) dut du du duuuuuuuuuu

        • Pofarmer

          No, what it means is that he went and got his degree from Duke to use as a tool to support his beleifs as a Christian. It should be fairly easy to recognize to someone who’s honest.

        • Otto

          Yep…the validity of miracles…

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Modern historians don’t reject miracles.

          You’re right–I wasn’t clear. The field of History rejects miracles.

          I’m saying that what happens in the womb is miraculous

          And it doesn’t help if you go off on tangents.

          what happens in the womb is miraculous – prove how its not.

          There’s no evidence of supernatural intervention.

          you rarely ever (if you even do at all) show case the other side of the argument

          Doesn’t make for much of a blog post if I give a response to a nonexistent argument. Of course I give the other side.

          you provide virtually no support for your arguments even from experts that are agnostic/atheist or just plain skeptical.

          Point out a specific error.

          That’s what the disciples died for? Please, that’s a terrible argument.

          ?? I’m saying: use the fucking Search box and find my post on that subject. I’ve already written about many of these topics. I’ve spent hours shaping my opinion into a short post. Go read it. There’s no point in my trying to recreate it here.

          The empty tomb is the most concrete fact in history Bob.

          Then I’m pessimistic of our making much progress here.

          I’m really disappointed here Bob.

          Dang. One more thing to be carried over to tomorrow’s To Do list.

          I’d love for you to show the class what translation you’re using.

          “They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on” is the NIV translation.

          Seriously, read about St. Anselm and the Ransom theory and you’ll und erstand how Zech. 9:9 and Isaiah 53 are perfectly in agreement.

          Seriously, read my post on Isaiah 53 and you’ll see how it’s not a prophecy of Jesus.

          Bob, you’re running out of ammo because now you’re saying God is like a unicorn or a leprechaun. You ask me to “believe in unicorns” and you’re equating that with belief in God.

          One happy day, I’ll read something from you that simply makes an argument. Your adding of additional critiques (“running out of ammo”) is a place holder for an actual, y’know, argument.

          I’m demanding that you believe in something that you don’t now believe in. Walk the walk. When you can do that, show me how, and then I’ll know how to believe in God (which I don’t now believe in).

        • old_303

          I’ll reply more later but the most important thing here is that your still not understanding the antecedent phrase.
          Your still confused. They obviously weren’t sure which donkey Jesus was going to ride Bob so they put cloaks on both thereby giving Jesus the option. People aren’t stupid – what your purporting here is pure bologna. You have to understand that the NIV is a “thought for thought” translation and the ESV (for instance) is a “word for word” translation and the verse is much clearer (still the same) in the ESV because the ESV shows the pure antecedent

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Your still confused.

          Luckily you’re never confused about which homonym to use.

          They obviously weren’t sure which donkey Jesus was going to ride Bob so they put cloaks on both thereby giving Jesus the option

          … in contrast to the other gospels, which had just one donkey. You lose.

        • old_303

          Are you dense? Obviously the other gospels just left out the other detail it doesn’t change the story he still rides the colt look at the interlinear Greek. Also you need to understand that the NIV is a “thought for thought” translation and not a “word for word” translation like the ESV or the KJV. It’s clearer in those translations. Essentially you chose the weakest translation to parrot back your theory which clearly showcases your bias. If you were unbiased you would look at a variety of translations and show your work honestly in your blog. I dare you to do this: put up Mathew 21:7 in the NIV the ESV and another translation of your choice and then well see where your at

        • old_303

          So your opposed to Herodotus (the “father” of history)? O wait he has miracles in his writings…

        • adam

          Do historians accept those miracles as Factual History?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The consensus view of history never has miracles. Deal with it.

        • old_303

          the “consensus” view? Who’s view is that? Your painting a little bit broad there Bobby boy.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And I’m wondering if you’re worth the time to talk to.

        • Pofarmer

          He ain’t here to talk , he’s here to prosyletize-badly.

        • MNb

          “I’m saying that what happens in the womb is miraculous”
          What you’re saying is irrelevant for biology.

          “The empty tomb is the most concrete fact in history Bob.”
          Eh no – only one independent source. But even if the empty tomb is a historical fact it doesn’t follow that it’s the result of some divine intervention. It’s easy to think of an explanation that agrees with natural laws.

        • old_303

          because biology isn’t miraculous – prove how its not

        • MNb

          Biology is a branch of science and science is not miraculous by definition. A synonym for the scientific method is methodological naturalism. That means not accepting miracles as explanation.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Still having a hard time with this point? You have the burden of proof when you make a remarkable claim. Sure, you could be right, but you’ve got to show us.

          “you didn’t prove me wrong, so therefore I’m entitled to this belief” doesn’t work. That doesn’t get us to God belief any more reliably than God belief.

  • D. L Peters

    Pretty thin intellectual soup.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      What is? Stoner’s article or my response?


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