(A Response to Christopher Hays & Co.)
Over the past week, Biblical scholar and theologian Peter Enns “hosted” a three-part series on the parousia, a.k.a. the second coming of Jesus, that takes its starting point from some of the arguments put forth in a new collection of essays entitled When the Son of Man Didn’t Come: A Constructive Proposal on the Delay of the Parousia.
I’m going to spend a little time here going over all three posts on Enns’ blog, and then respond to these.
The first post, “Was Jesus Wrong about the End?“, written by Christopher Hays (fellow Biblical scholar, and one of the editors of the new volume), is mostly ground-laying for the posts to follow. Hays begins by recounting a moment when he became acutely aware of the theological problem of the second coming of Jesus—the uneasy juxtaposition of the early proclamation of its imminence with the failure of the second coming to actually manifest itself, now nearly 2,000 years having gone by since then.
Hays briefly discusses some of the New Testament texts that are typically understood to suggest this imminence. I’ll let you read his post, or mine here, if you want a little more info on this in particular; but the salient point is, as Hays writes, that
in general terms, Jesus definitely prophesied that he would be back before the end of the first century.
And since we are still here, it seems like he was pretty wrong!
After this, he briefly mentions other scholarly efforts to deal with this problem, such as those of N.T. Wright, who—to oversimplify—sees much of the New Testament language of Jesus’ return simply as metaphor for events that have already transpired, either in the first century or in heaven.
But Hays notes (correctly) that, for various reasons
it’s hard to take refuge in Wright’s thesis. It still seems like Jesus miscalculated when he foretold that he would return before the first generation of apostles died.
If Jesus’ prophecy about the timing of the Kingdom’s coming was not fulfilled, then isn’t this Christianity thing really just all wrong?
As might be imagined though, for Hays and others, this will not stand; and he concludes his post by briefly mentioning a new solution to this issue that he and the other contributors have come up:
You see, even though Jesus did prophesy that he would return before the first generation of disciples expired, the important thing to remember is that Jesus was making a prophecy. And . . . contrary to popular belief, prophecies do not purport to forecast fixed future events.
Instead, it’s highlighted that Biblical prophecies are always conditional—”A prophesied outcome may or may not transpire; it all depends on how the audience responds to the message of the prophet.”
Building on Hays’ suggestion that prophecy functions differently than is typically supposed, Strine writes that “The Book of Jeremiah comes closest to giving a model for how predictive prophecy works, and it is rather different than the ‘predict the future’ model.” To this end he quotes Jeremiah 18:5-10,
Then the word of the LORD came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.
This should all be pretty self-explanatory: here, God’s having “declared” some prophecy isn’t actually his ordaining future events that are set in stone in terms of their fulfillment. Instead, pre-ordained events can actually change—specifically, God can change his mind—depending on how people act in the wake of these declarations.
Now, Strine doesn’t mention the theological problem here of God “changing his mind” about events he apparently ordained; though you can certainly find a voluminous literature dealing with this issue.¹ But he does suggest a couple of other instances throughout the Hebrew Bible where prophecy is (explicitly) delivered not simply “to predict the future, but to change the present.”
An apparent illustration of the same principle as in Jeremiah 18, quoted above, can be found elsewhere in the same book—for example in Jeremiah 26:
Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “It is the LORD who sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will change his mind about the disaster that he has pronounced against you.” (Jeremiah 26:12-13)
Further, Strine connects this with the plot of the book of Jonah:
Why does Jonah resist going to Nineveh? Precisely because he knew that alerting the people of this foreign nation to the potential of God’s punishment would cause them to change their ways (Jon 4:1-4). Jonah wanted God to punish Nineveh; he knew his “prediction” of punishment could change their behavior and avoid that outcome; so he ran away.
(A little later, I’ll get into the issue of whether this is the best interpretation of Jonah.)
Strine notes that the “same view of prophecy lies beneath passages in Isaiah, 2 Samuel, early Jewish texts,” and—most importantly—suggests how this might also be extended to the New Testament, and as such to the predictions of Jesus himself.
The third post (“The New Testament Tells Us Why Jesus Hasn’t Come Back”), again by Christopher Hays, finally arrives at the crux of the matter.
Picking up on what was suggested in the last two posts—which might be summarized in the words that William Hasker had offered many years before all this, particularly in conjunction with Jeremiah 18, that “[Biblical] prophecies are to be interpreted as conditional even when this is not explicitly stated”²—Hays asks “Why not take this same stance towards the Gospel texts prophesying the return of Jesus in the first century?”
In fact, though, the text that Hays first turns to here is one in which we do appear to have an explicit suggestion of prophecy being conditional—from the third chapter of the second epistle of Peter (or 2 Peter for short).
Here, Peter mentions skeptics of the prophecy/”promise” of God’s grand return to earth at the end of time (with all the events to accompany this), who were wondering why it hadn’t been fulfilled yet, despite its having been proclaimed for some time now. After this, however, Peter offers a rationale for this apparent delay, which Hays quotes and comments on:
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet 3.9).
Peter explicitly affirms that the delay of the parousia is God’s response to human behavior: God defers his final judgment in order to allow more people to come to repentance. In other words, Peter affirms the conditional character of the timing in which the parousia was prophesied to occur.
Hays goes on to write that
This does not mean that Peter has written off the second coming. Instead, he reasserts the certainty of the eschatological judgment, and uses that very eschatological certainty to motivate Christian ethics.
And it’s here that I want to jump in with my own response/criticism on what’s been suggested so far.
It’s not simply that 2 Peter reiterates that the certainty of the second coming should motivate Christians to be on their best behavior, as Hays claims—and as the verses after this indeed go on to suggest. More importantly, I don’t think the best interpretation here is that the author of 2 Peter foresaw an untold delay lasting deep into the future (or even thousand of years, as it were), in which people would have ample time for repentance.
As I’ve noted in a recent post that spends a great deal of time on 2 Peter 3 and its background, one thing overlooked surprisingly often here is that the very first line that introduces this section of 2 Peter is “in the last days scoffers will come . . . saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’” That is, at the same time that it offered an explanation for the delay thus far—presumably between whenever the author of 2 Peter imagined that the end had first begun to be proclaimed and when 2 Peter was actually written, probably in the late 1st century—it in fact seems to double down on the expectation of its imminence, suggesting that contemporary skepticism about the grand eschatological return of God was itself one of the signs that its own time really was the last days.
On this interpretation, then, the opportunity for repentance may have been open before this, but was now truly drawing to an close. Otherwise, we might be led to ask how it makes sense for this interim period (for repentance) to be extended well beyond the current generation, as it clearly has been, considering the near-2000 years since the time of (2) Peter.
What I mean is, considering that future generations—the countless generations that, again, have come into existence since 2 Peter—obviously didn’t even exist at the time 2 Peter was written, does it even really make sense to imagine them being granted additional time for repentance on account of God’s mercy? Wouldn’t it make more sense if this extension applied only to the generation living at the time of 2 Peter? (I elaborated on this point in my earlier post in conjunction with the Jewish tradition that Noah’s generation was granted a time extension to repent before the flood came.)
However, overlooking some of these things, Hays goes on to focus on verses from later in the chapter (2 Peter 3:11-12), in which “Peter proclaims that lives of holiness and godliness can actually expedite the Day of the Lord.” He then connects this with a similar message of Peter from the book of Acts (Acts 3:19-21), in which Jesus/God will only return in response to repentance. (We could also mention Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 13:31-35 here.)
Most importantly, for Hays, this all suggests a more fundamental principle underlying New Testament prophecy relating to the return of Jesus, that
Repentance is a precondition of the second coming of Christ.
Earlier, in summarizing the second post of this series, I had mentioned Strine’s appeal to Jonah for the idea that prophecy was thought to be conditional, even if given by God. And while I don’t want to spend more time on this than I have to, it’s important to note that the book of Jonah begins by God explicitly telling Jonah to go to Nineveh in order to “cry out against it; for their wickedness has ‘come up’ before me” (1:2).
In its third chapter, we hear a bit more about the message that Jonah was tasked with: “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (3:4); and as recounted there, Jonah finally accepts this mission, not skirting from it, as he had originally.
But as for why Jonah had resisted his task at first, Strine had written
Why does Jonah resist going to Nineveh? Precisely because he knew that alerting the people of this foreign nation to the potential of God’s punishment would cause them to change their ways (Jon 4:1-4).
Similar sentiments appear in virtually every academic commentary on Jonah. A representative comment is found in James Limburg’s commentary, where he writes that “Jonah did not want the people of Nineveh to repent and be forgiven, which is why he tried to run away to Tarshish” (Jonah: A Commentary, 90).
That being said, upon close inspection, the logic of this explanation is unclear. There’s in fact no indication that Jonah resisted the mission because he somehow knew that it would ultimately lead to the Ninevites’ repentance. From what we gather from Jonah 1:1-2 and 3:1 and 3:4, all that we can say for certain Jonah knew is that he had been tasked with a message of condemnation to Nineveh.
In 4:2, Jonah indeed offers a reason for his resistance, having to do with God’s mercy. But from one perspective, in context, this is more easily understood in the sense that Jonah thought that the very mission of judgment he had originally been tasked with by God was simply contrary to God’s merciful nature—not the more complicated explanation that he knew that the mission itself would provoke a positive response from the Ninevites and that this is what Jonah opposed.
Nevertheless, however, statements such as that Jonah “did not want the people of Nineveh to repent and be forgiven” are nearly universal in commentaries on this; and this is then used as a negative illustration of onah’s character.
I dwell on this for an important reason. If, as is suggested throughout the posts on Enns’ blog and in the volume When the Son of Man Didn’t Come, one of the major factors that makes Biblical prophecies conditional is that they’re intended to elicit repentance from those who hear them—but if Jonah seems to be condemned precisely because he cynically resists and disagrees with this purpose—there’s a problem in the fact that the same sentiment that Jonah (purportedly) offers here is expressed on at least one occasion by none other than Jesus himself!
In the early chapters of the New Testament gospel of Mark, Jesus is portrayed as teaching various groups via “parables,” sometimes obscure little symbolic stories or sayings meant to illustrate important theological points. And as recounted in the fourth chapter, when they’re alone with him, Jesus’ own disciples ask Jesus why he teaches in this way. In response, Jesus says
“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that ‘they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.'” (Mark 4:11-12)
Here, then, Jesus unambiguously suggests that his mysterious/obscure parables are intended to prevent certain people—those metaphorically “outside”—from repenting!
To be sure, there’s no question that Jesus’ mission was oriented toward encouraging repentance, as well. In fact the first words of Jesus from Mark, the earliest gospel, are “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:14). Nevertheless, the very eschatological connotations of “the time is fulfilled” seem to weigh against a proposed conditionalism in some aspects; and verses like Mark 4:11-12—and John 9:39; Matthew 10:34-35 (Luke 12:52-53), etc.—clearly show that there was also a broader element of eschatological determinism, we might say, in Jesus’ mission here too. And perhaps nowhere are these two concepts brought together more clearly than in the closing words of the book of Revelation:
…the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy. See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. (22:10-12)
(Interestingly, just three verses after this, these sinners are also specified as being “outside,” like those in Mark 4:11; though here in Revelation they’re not just figuratively outside, but more literally outside the New Jerusalem.)
In connection with all this, then—and again we might also look to 2 Peter 3 here, in terms of the final consummation of time itself—can’t we say that there’s at least some element of an overarching temporal and even epistemological determinism here that diminishes the proposed place for conditionality here, as has been suggested by Hays and others?³
Another reason this is all significant is that, in explaining the purpose of his obfuscating teaching as quoted above from Mark 4, Jesus quotes a passage from the story of Isaiah’s commissioning, from the sixth chapter of the book of Isaiah (6:9).
Now, a little background before getting further into this: as he’s portrayed in the Bible, the prophet Isaiah lived on the cusp of the Neo-Assyrian conquest of Israel in the late 8th century BCE, and delivered prophecies related to this and other subsequent events. One of the overarching messages of this section of Isaiah, and of the book in general, is that Israel’s fate here was actually due to various sins of its inhabitants.
As prophets were, Isaiah was tasked by God (Yahweh) with delivering various messages and warnings to the unrighteous of the Kingdom of Israel; and, as mentioned, it’s in Isaiah 6 that we find the source of Jesus’ quotation. More fully however, this original passage reads as follows:
And [God] said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate…” (Isaiah 6:9-11)
(Again, this is Isaiah speaking in first-person, recounting his encounter with God; and the end of these lines presumably refers to the destructive effects of the Assyrian conquest.)
In any case, relevant to my purposes here, the salient message of this passage, as Matthijs de Jong describes it, is that “the people rejected Isaiah’s message because Yahweh made them unsusceptible.” As de Jong notes, however,
as it is formulated the message of 6:9-10 is hardly communicable at all. Scholars therefore widely agree that 6:9-10 is not really a prophetic message, but either a reformulation of what was from the outset the message Isaiah was to deliver, or a revision of his prophetic message based on his reflection on the lack of effect of his ministry. (Isaiah among the Ancient Near Eastern Prophets: A Comparative Study of the Earliest Stages of the Isaiah Tradition and the Neo-Assyrian Prophecies, 74)
Indeed, he goes on to suggest that
Joosten takes 6:9-10 as a pseudo-quotation; instead of being a real word of Yahweh, it represents what Isaiah, through his experience of a long and ineffective ministry, had discerned to be Yahweh’s intention.⁴ (74-75)
6:9-10 can only be regarded as Isaiah’s reflection on his failed ministry if his ministry aimed at repentance. (75)
(De Jong emphasizes, however, that these are not actually the reflections of the historical Isaiah on his ministry, but simply the reflections of “Isaiah” as a character.)
In light of this and other things, there’s a sense in which Biblical prophecies being “conditional” is only half the story. Indeed, as we learn from the analysis of de Jong and others, from the very outset here in Isaiah the prophetic mission is framed in terms of inevitability—as if the players here already knew what the outcome would be.
Of course, when it comes to prophetic and apocalyptic predictions more generally, inevitability is a dangerous game. Over and over again throughout history, we see prophets and their followers having absolute conviction that their predictions will come to pass—to the point of abandoning family and lives—only for them to fail miserably.
But this isn’t the end of the story for them, either.
In some cases—perhaps even in many, or most—apocalyptic failure isn’t met with a straightforward admission of error, followed by an abandonment of the predictions or the ones who made them, as one might expect. Instead, it’s often met simply with a reinterpretation of the predictions. It’s suggested that perhaps the predictions were fulfilled, only in some more obscure or metaphorical way than previously thought. Or often times the failure is simply reinvented as success: thank God that they were averted; that we did something to prevent their coming true!
This type of response is in fact well-documented in the socio-psychological and religious literature on prophetic prediction—perhaps most famously in Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter’s When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group That Predicted the Destruction of the World. And this applies much more broadly than just to apocalyptic predictions (those forecasting the “end of the world”) proper, too.
Most importantly for my purposes here, the work of Matthijs de Jong, referred to above, has largely revolved around situating ancient Israelite/Biblical prophecy in its wider ancient Near Eastern context; and it’s precisely here that he’s called attention to prophecies being couched in the language of inevitability, and yet the non-fulfillment of “failed” prophecy being transformed and celebrated as success.⁵
Of course, in this, the very dichotomy of “false” and “true” prophecy is dissolved. De Jong illustrates how this plays out in several cultural situations, for example in prophecies in Akkadian texts from the ancient Syrian city of Mari. Further, speaking of the wider corpus of Mesopotamian omen texts, he notes that “negative apodoses to omens are formulated as if a disaster is going to happen, but likewise with the purpose of averting it, by performing the appropriate apotropaic ritual.”
[The prophet] revealed otherwise hidden knowledge concerning a threat to the general well-being [of a city or society]. If the predicted outcome was successfully averted, this did not make such a prophecy false. Rather, a prophet protecting society by revealing a threatening disaster was only doing his job. (Isaiah among the Ancient Near Eastern Prophets, 311-12)
In more recent times, Daniel Wojcik has explored how modern Catholic groups devoted to the eschatological prophecies of those behind various Marian apparitions have interpreted non-fulfillment of these predictions as the successful aversion of apocalyptic threats, on account of the great faith and repentance of the chosen faithful—a concept Wojcik has called “avertive apocalypticism.” (And here we don’t just find the concept of aversion as a post hoc explanation that sprung up from the dissonance of the followers of Marian cults here, but also as a common feature of the original apocalyptic Marian messages themselves!)
It’s in light of these things that we can start to look at ancient Jewish and Christian prophecy in a new way. For example, what are presented as the words of God in Jeremiah 18, originally quoted by C. A. Strine and discussed earlier in this post, might be understood instead as a unique ancient expression of the rati0nalizing principle itself that underlies how prophetic fulfillment and non-fulfillment is interpreted:
At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.
To the extent that what truly lurks in the subtext here are (human) prophetic pronouncements/declarations, it’s a true “tails, I win; heads, you lose” situation: unfulfilled prophecy of doom is explained as a successful aversion of crisis, while apparently erroneous prophecy of prosperity (when in fact a nation experiences some disaster) is due to its lapse into sin; except, here in Jeremiah, this sort of post hoc rationalizing explanation is put into the mouth—and mind—of God himself, in terms of him having “changed his mind”!
We might also note, in conjunction with all this, that prophecies written after the very event that they purport to be predicting are by no means exclusive to Judaism and Christianity—or certainly not just to the Biblical iterations of this phenomenon—but are attested much more widely than this. And for that matter, the idea that this purported principle of God’s will is actually only discerned in hindsight, from these things having taken place or not, helps to resolve the otherwise thorny theological issue of God having “changed his mind.”
Finally, if what might have formerly looked like very obvious or even genuinely divinely-ordained explanations/principles in this regard (at least in the eyes of the ancient Near Eastern cultures that were able to make sense of prophecy no matter what its outcomes) are now revealed as artificial and ad hoc, what reason is there to think that the same principles when used to explain the delay of the second coming and Christian eschaton are any less artificial? And especially if we recontextualize the rationalizing explanation of 2 Peter along the lines of what I’ve suggested, don’t we again come to face-to-face with the prospect of prophetic failure?
There are a couple of other outstanding issues here that I haven’t been able to cover yet.
For example, it’s suggested in Mark 13:10 that, before the end can come, “the good news [=the gospel of Christianity] must first be proclaimed to all nations.” Matthew 24:14 makes this even more explicit: “this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.”
In case it hasn’t been made clear thus far, the suggestion that “the end” itself might be averted due to the fundamental conditionality of prophecy isn’t an issue on the table here. It’s certainly not something that the authors on Peter Enns’ blog or (presumably) in the academic volume consider. But to be clear, the idea that Christianity is still viable without an eschaton ever happening—without the resurrection, final judgment, or any other of the promised events at the end of history that Christian look toward—is no less ad hoc than are the other things that I’ve discussed.
Yet here in Mark 13:10 and Matthew 24:14, in some senses we have the most ad hoc explanation of all; or at least one that can used in such a way. If the end isn’t going to come until the gospel has been proclaimed to all (=all people or all nations), then it shouldn’t escape notice that as long as children continue to be born in the world and nations continue to rise and fall, there are always going to be people who the gospel hasn’t reached yet. Thus apologists seem to have a ready-made explanation that can be used to explain the delay of the eschaton indefinitely.
But even if we interpret these verses more charitably to mean that the end will come once a certain threshold has been crossed in terms of a great number of people who the gospel has reached, is there any reason to think that perhaps we haven’t already crossed this threshold? For example, what if in centuries to come, following the lead of many places in the Western world today, Christianity starts to decline, and thus starts to reach less and less of the global population?
For that matter, as the climax of “the end” in Matthew 13 and Matthew 24 is “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Mt. 24:30), how is this to be reconciled with Jesus’ own statement to his disciples from earlier in Matthew, that “you will not have finished traveling through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (10:23)⁶?
Indeed, in light of these things, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that on all accounts here, the earliest Christians—almost certainly including the historical Jesus himself, but certainly the authors of the New Testament—had an overly optimistic view of the imminent transformation of the world and when the end would come: one that not only they themselves were soon forced to rethink, but one that, even still, the rest of history has failed to live up to (and which perhaps cannot ever live up to anymore).
The fundamental aim and argument presented in the posts on Peter Enns’ blog (and presumably in the academic volume having inspired them, When the Son of Man Didn’t Come, too) is made most clear at the end of Christopher Hays’ final post: “the delay of the parousia does not falsify Christian hope.” More specifically, Hays writes that
You can be a critical scholar, an honest reader of Scripture, and still pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
But I can’t but think that if analyses such as these had been truly critical, and if on this account the authors had more integrally taken the full gamut of academic research here (beyond the immediate Biblical world itself, and also fully taking into account the socio-psychological dimension of these things, as discussed)⁷ into consideration, it perhaps would have been noticed that if all prophecy is conditional, it doesn’t really even matter what the prophecies were in the first place; at least not as long as you can come up with some rationale to explain away their non-fulfillment.
In this sense then, perhaps the authors have inadvertently opened the door not just for a defense of Christianity, as they might have hoped, but for a defense of all religions or all groups or sects that deal with prophecy—and especially those that deal with its apparent non-fulfillment—on the grounds that no prophecy that’s been delivered can ever truly be falsified, as long as there are people around to make excuses for it.⁸
To be sure, a full response to the arguments presented in brief in the posts on Enns’ blog can only be made by engaging with the form that they’re presented in in the edited volume. But as long as they ignore some of the more fundamental implications of the comparative research here—research which truly reveals the ad hoc/post hoc origins of prophecy and its interpretation—I see no reason to believe that the arguments in their fuller form are going to be any more persuasive.
⁂ ⁂ ⁂
 See the IEP article “Omniscience and Divine Foreknowledge“; see also William Hasker’s God, Time, and Knowledge.
 God, Time, and Knowledge, 194.
 I use “epistemological” here particularly with an eye toward Marcus’ “Mark 4:10-12 and Marcan Epistemology.” Shortly after this, I found that the connection between Mark 4:10-12 and the passages from Revelation 22 was also made in Marcus, Mark 1-8: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, 307. For another background text to these, see Daniel 12:10.
Another later hint of this same idea can be found in Tertullian, Apology 21: after Jesus’ resurrection “He did not shew Himself forth to the people, lest they should be delivered from their wicked error, and in order that faith, destined to receive no mean reward, should not stand firm without difficulty”
 Citing Joosten, “La prosopopée, les pseudo-citations et la vocation d’Isaïe (Is 6,9-10),” especially 239-242.
 See also his “Biblical Prophecy—A Scribal Enterprise: The Old Testament Prophecy of Unconditional Judgement considered as a Literary Phenomenon” and “The Fallacy of ‘True and False’ in Prophecy Illustrated by Jer 28:8–9.”
 My own translation. I translate τελέω here as “travel through” as if having an implied ὁδός (compare ἀνύω; διανύω). Further, I render ἕως here like Syriac ܩܕܡ or Hebrew טֶרֶם (the former of which obviously renders πρίν; and yet πρίν itself is also rendered by ܥܕ on occasions in the Peshitta, as is טֶרֶם too).
 From a search on Google Books, I find at least two references to Carroll’s When Prophecy Failed: Reactions and Responses to Failure in the Old Testament Prophetic Traditions, which is obviously indebted to Leon Festinger, Riecken, and Schachter’s When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group That Predicted the Destruction of the World. But there’s a glaring absence of reference to or citations of the latter, as far as I can tell. (And if I had to make a guess, I’d say that this latter line of research—that of Festinger, Riecken, and Schachter, and all those subsequent to them who drew on their influence—probably isn’t addressed too closely, if at all.)
[Edit: I’ve now confirmed that Festinger’s name is absent from the Index of Names.]
 Alternatively in terms of Biblical principles for interpreting (apparently) failed prophecy, however, we shouldn’t overlook Deuteronomy 18:21-22:
You may say to yourself, “How can we recognize a word that the LORD has not spoken?” If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.