Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe (an old-earth Creationist ministry) claims that the Bible has thousands of fulfilled prophecies, and he gives us his top 13. These last two “prophecies” will conclude our critique (part 1 here).
12. Jehoshaphat wins a battle
“Jahaziel prophesied that King Jehoshaphat and a tiny band of men would defeat an enormous, well-equipped, well-trained army without even having to fight. Just as predicted, the King and his troops stood looking on as their foes were supernaturally destroyed to the last man.”
2 Chronicles 20 tells of a great army approaching Judah. King Jehoshaphat prayed to God, and the prophet Jahaziel reported that God would deliver them. The next day, God caused the individual tribes within the opposing alliance to fight each other until they were all dead.
What is there to say except that it’s a fanciful story? Just like #11, this is a self-contained story with a prophecy. The dating problem is also similar: King Jehoshaphat reigned in the 9th century BCE, while the books of Chronicles document events up to Cyrus the Great allowing the Jews to return after his conquest of Babylon 539 BCE. They were probably written later still, in the 4th century BCE. Not only would we doubt the original oral story, we’d question whether it was recorded correctly.
Half a millennium passes from event to documentation, and Ross wants us to credulously accept the story as true?
13. When priests back the wrong horse
“King Jeroboam of Israel (922–901 BCE) encouraged worship of deities other than Yahweh. A prophet told him that a future King Josiah of Judah (641–609 BCE) would burn the bones of Jeroboam’s wayward priests on their own altar. And that’s indeed what happened.”
The prophecy is in 1 Kings 13:2, and the fulfillment is in 2 Kings 23:15–18. Here Ross makes the same mistake: the two books of Kings were originally one book. It documents events up to the year 560 BCE, and it received its final editing at about that time. There is no credible prophecy if an editor tweaked the prophecy and the fulfillment at the same time.
Hugh Ross’s probability conclusion
Since the probabilities were stated without justification, I haven’t been critiquing them, but Ross has attached one to each prophecy, from one chance in 105 to one in 1020. They’re outlandish figures, since none are fulfilled prophecies and all have obvious natural explanations, but that doesn’t stop Ross from computing the final probability.
Since these thirteen prophecies cover mostly separate and independent events, the probability of chance occurrence for all thirteen is about 1 in 10138.
Then he talks about how unlikely “the second law of thermodynamics will be reversed in a given situation” and concludes,
Stating it simply, based on these thirteen prophecies alone, the Bible record may be said to be vastly more reliable than the second law of thermodynamics.
The Christian who wants to accept this as true has their sound bite, though a brittle one. As these posts have shown, each of these prophecy claims crumble with a little investigation.
Each reader should feel free to make his own reasonable estimates of probability for the chance fulfillment of the prophecies cited here.
There is no “chance fulfillment of the prophecies” when there was no prophecy and the natural explanation works fine, but I accept your challenge. 1×1×1×1×1×1×1×1×1×1×1×1×1 = 1 (no, not 1 in 10138).
Ross wraps up by saying that, given that the Bible is so fabulously correct, the Bible’s 500 upcoming prophecies “will be fulfilled to the last letter.” Who can risk ignoring these upcoming events, missing out on the blessings of Jesus, and blah blah blah?
As I’ve researched each of Ross’s claims, I’ve been amazed at how elementary these mistakes are, and this is from a guy with a doctorate in physics. But perhaps I should be more accustomed to this. We see many credentialed scholars who ineptly step in to help out their powerless Jesus. William Lane Craig has two doctorates, and John Lennox and John Warwick Montgomery have three.
You say the Bible has a prophecy from God? First make sure that it avoids the childish mistakes that Ross made in these 13 claims. Next, make sure that the prophecy meets the straightforward criteria I explore here—criteria that you’d instinctively demand from any foreign religion or supernatural claim.
Thirteen certainly hasn’t been Hugh Ross’s lucky number. That he had to cite this many rather than offering just one compelling prophecy is a clue that even he thinks they aren’t convincing.
These 13 claimed prophecies have been a useful exercise in seeing what prophecies from a perfect holy book would not look like.
by suggesting you believe what you just said.
— William F. Buckley
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 10/3/16.)