When trying to reason with Biblical literalists, they’ll say their Bible is historically accurate even though the best they can show is that only some of the people and places mentioned in those fables were real; which of course they would be since fictional stories are usually set in real places and often mention famous people of that time. But there is absolutely no historical or archaeological evidence that the stories are true, and Bible scholars often admit that they’re evidently not true.
Believers might also argue that the Bible is scientifically accurate even though the earth is not flat, there is no firmament, the sun is just another star, snakes and donkeys can’t talk, whales are not fish, and bats are neither birds nor locusts. Ritual spells won’t purify anything, much less cure anything, because diseases are caused by pathogens rather than demons or curses, and looking at a striped stick will not cause a cow to conceive a striped calf. There was never a global flood either, nor could there have been. Everything the Bible says about any field of science is laughably and indefensibly wrong.
Failing both past and present, defenders of the faith typically turn to the future, citing prophecies in the Bible, which believers imagine to have been fulfilled. Because religion is all about make-believe, and the Bible says that interpreting prophecy is one way to convince yourself—if you really just have to swallow all this supernatural mumbo jumbo some way.
It’s not just Christians who do this. Hindu scripture shows that one way to fulfill prophecy is to amend the texts to insert a prophecy after it has already been fulfilled.
In similar fashion, the authors of Jesus’ early biography in the gospels have him traveling around as a baby apparently to artificially contrive fulfillment of a handful of different prophecies: that he would be a Nazarene but at the same also from Bethlehem, and yet still somehow come out of Egypt. Even though that last prophecy was obviously talking about the people of Israel, personified as a person in a tale that was supposed to be from centuries earlier.
Likewise Isaiah 53 is again talking about Israel personified and not Jesus. Christians interpret this chapter as the Jews explaining why they rejected Jesus centuries before they ever heard of him, and how they would eventually atone for their current faith by coming to believe in Christ at some point in their future. Seriously?
But of course Isaiah was not talking about why he didn’t contradict himself and other Hebrew prophets. From the mainstream Jewish perspective, Jesus doesn’t qualify as mashiach because he failed to do any of the things the mashiach was prophesied to do. So he didn’t fulfill Old Testament prophecies at all.
Isaiah 52 clarifies that chapter 53 is talking about Israel, not Jesus. 52 was hopeful for Israel and 53 described their eventual redemption, though obviously not through Christ.
While Isaiah 53 has a few notable parallels with the Jesus story, that doesn’t matter. It’d be like saying that the original story of Sargon’s childhood prophesied that of Moses, being so similar: or that the story of Moses’ childhood prophesied Jesus for the same reason. The similarities don’t make a prophecy.
There are also important distinctions: like Jesus was never crushed and he never shut up kings, because he was never recognized by kings, and he never had any descendants.
The word, ‘seed’ is consistently used in the Bible to describe offspring, rather than unrelated followers of a precedent. So when Isaiah mentions ‘seed’, it refers to the Jewish children of Israel, not Jesus’ followers.
And Jesus was never a mere servant of God like Israel was, so he was never beaten and afflicted by God like Israel was. His life wasn’t prolonged either, obviously. Nor did he share spoils with his peers because he didn’t have peers, and he wasn’t a conqueror with spoils to share, like Israel was.
So this chapter is not talking about Jesus. Most of it is in past tense, so it can’t be a prophecy of any kind; which is why none of it is messianic, according to Jewish sources. Isaiah never mentions resurrection either, which would have been the whole point of the story if it was about Jesus. So this chapter obviously is about Israel, just like it says, and can’t really secretly be a prophecy about Christ.
Isaiah 9 isn’t a prophecy either. It’s a 7th century [BCE] coronation hymn, in which any new king would bring hope for better or more peaceful times, and any king of Jerusalem would be the “might of God”, as it is sometimes translated, or as “messenger”, as it is in the Septuagint.
It doesn’t refer to Jesus because Jesus is not “the everlasting father”. Some believers argue that Jesus could be considered the father of eternity, but that’s a stretch. Referring to a king as ‘everlasting’ is really no different than saying “long live the king” after you learn that the king is dead. This is just a traditional reference of reverence recognizing royalty.
Many of the prophecies that Christians point out as being fulfilled by Jesus or that were supposed to have predicted Jesus are either Jewish prophecies talking about someone or something else, or they aren’t written as prophecies at all: like pretending that King David was writing about Jesus rather than himself.
David wasn’t even a prophet and his psalms are not considered prophetic within the Jewish religion. David is talking about being encircled by his enemies, hunting him with dogs biting at his hands and feet. That may work from David’s perspective, at least metaphorically as he seems to imply it here, but it doesn’t work in any sense at all for Jesus, now does it?
Christians imagine this passage to be about crucifixion. This misinterpretation is based largely on a mistranslation, which has resulted in a few other misinterpreted prophesies too. For example, Isaiah 7:14 talked about a young maiden who was unmarried; not necessarily a virgin.
The Gospel of Matthew claims Jesus to be a fulfillment of this prophecy, which it can’t possibly be. Isaiah did prophesy, but about an entirely different situation with no possible connection to Jesus, regarding an unremarkable kid who lived and died centuries before Jesus. So not only does this new interpretation of this prophecy fail but the original version failed too, spectacularly, every way that it could fail.
Isaiah had written in a time limit. Every good prophesy should have that, but very few of them do, because that’s how we know when they’ve failed, once they’ve passed their expiration date.
For example, the Mormons brag that their prophet Joseph Smith accurately predicted where and why the Civil War would begin, because he was right about that. Which is weird because he spoke in plain language, not in any convoluted code like so many prophesies are interpreted to be.
But the Mormons don’t mention that the very next passage after that predicted that Jesus would return in the year 1891. Awkward. Though the second coming seemed to be contingent on Smith living that long, which shows you how close he was to God. “If my prophet isn’t there, I’m not going”.
Jesus himself said that some–but not all–of his disciples would still be alive to see him return to earth in the clouds at the right hand of power. But every one of his disciples are dead now, and our boy is at least 1,950 years late. So I think it’s safe to say, we’ve been stood up. He ain’t coming.
For a prophecy to have any value at all, it should state clearly and unambiguously what’s going to happen to whom, where and when, and not in symbolic lingo that has to be decoded. It should be something that wouldn’t have happened eventually anyway, but if it is, then it should definitely have a time limit. Without that you can’t claim success either. Because anything that can happen will happen if given enough time.
Just look at Jesus’ prophecy of the end times. “For many will come in My name, saying, `I am Christ,’ and will mislead many”. And “you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.” And people hear this and think, “wow, that’s how it is now”. Well of course it is. That’s how it’s always been. Every year of the last few millennia at least has met every one of all those criteria.
But none of that ever happened. Nebuchadnezzar never took the island city. Someone else did a century or so later, but not the guy who was prophesied to do it. And the city was quickly rebuilt, when it wasn’t supposed to be. And people still live there—when it was supposed to be abandoned—because the island never sank.
Every part of this prophecy failed, and Ezekiel even admitted that in another of his prophecies, which also failed. This time he said that the land of Egypt would become a desolate wasteland where neither man nor beast would ever set foot for at least forty years. Again this was supposed to have been at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, but it never happened at all, neither then nor at any other time.
Even when it is this obvious, believers will never admit that none of these prophesies were fulfilled as described, and the excuses they use to rationalize this can be desperate indeed. These include the nebulous use of prophetic language, where the same story can be read both literally and figuratively at the same time. As if a Jewish prophecy can be applicable to the Jews who composed and recount it, but that the entire text of the same story can be equally true as an entirely different prophecy for Christians. Any excuse will do as long as they never have to admit that they’re wrong.
Prophesies particularly appeal to the paranoid and are especially popular with conspiracy theorists, seeking patterns that are not apparent to any rational person. Believers determine their interpretations by arbitrarily shifting from literal to metaphorical and back—with no rhyme or reason or any discernible distinctions: reading between the lines and then ignoring the lines. Such that one verse is taken to refer to a whole other topic than the rest of that chapter—just because it sounds similar to something else—as if every author of the Bible has Attention Deficit Disorder.
What the scripture actually says is seldom what it means to whoever believes in it. When it says this it really means that: connecting the dots between discordant verses in unrelated books by different authors talking about disparate things, that are not all connected. But where devotees believe that every seemingly random coincidence is somehow intentionally orchestrated, and all the evidence of reality is dismissed as only an illusion.
This is why prophecies shouldn’t be written as vaguely as a fortune cookie or an astrology chart, because then it’s like reading the quatrains of Nostradamus. It’s hard to disprove any of his predictions. But when it’s that malleable, you can take almost any curren event and link it to something he said, or that the Bible said, as if Nostradamus or the Bible predicted it.
For example, the ‘60s psycho-killer Charley Manson thought that the Beatles were the four “locusts” with “the hair of women” that are mentioned in Revelations 9. He thought this because of the song, Revolution #9; which is on their unlabeled “white album”, which Manson took as a personal message to stage a white revolution, called Helter Skelter, after another song on that album.
He thought they were talking to him because another song on that album was sexy Sadie, and his main squeeze at that time was Sadie Mae Glutz. That and because his name was Manson, which of course means son-of-man, which meant that he must be our savior.
He thought the Beatles were sending him secret messages in their lyrics, as if they couldn’t communicate with him directly in plain English. He lived with the Beach Boys at that time. It would’ve been easy for the Beatles to reach him. But he had the sort of mind that looks instead for coded messages in every song and subtly symbolic meanings for every image, because everything happens for a reason and nothing is as it seems.
Christians prefer to adapt Jewish prophecies for their own purposes. For example, all four gospels point to Zechariah 9:9 as referring to Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem. However again, this is a Jewish scripture, and the rabbinical interpretation is that the Philistines were supposed to be converted and the land of Israel enlarged by this prophesied king. But that didn’t happen with Jesus. The story says he was rejected by rabbinical assembly, where fulfillment of this prophecy would’ve required Jesus to have been accepted.
There are also prophecies referenced in the new testament that don’t appear in the old. No one knows what they are, because there are books referenced in the scriptures that don’t exist anymore at all. How did the prophets not foresee that?
Why did no one ever predict the age of automotive automation? All these ancient seers could foresee current events, thousands of years into their future, but none of them noticed airplanes?
What’s the point of a prophecy anyway? If God or his prophets really could see into the future, that means the that future is fixed just like the past. He knows what we’re gonna be and we can’t change it. That means we have no free will.
Ironically, about the only clear and unambiguous prophesy that actually did come true was Ezekiel’s prediction that Jerusalem would be restored; which is not surprising. Anyone suffering a defeat like that is likely to say that this isn’t over, and we’ll be back, once we rise again.
What makes this prophesy interesting is that Isaiah made the same prediction, but he added that the nation would be born all at once in one day. And that certainly sounds like May 14th 1948, when the nation of Israel was founded. But there are a handful of problems even with that.
One is that there isn’t a time limit or even a frame of reference to allow an event 2,500 years into his future. Especially not if it mentions the establishment of Israel but fails to mention to holocaust that preceded that. That’d be kind of a big deal for Jewish people. But then anything happening more than a hundred generations in the future is probably beyond anyone’s cultural interest.
There are a number of Christians who dispute this prophecy also, saying that Ezekiel only referred to when the Jews would return to Palestine in the 5th century BCE, when the temple was rebuilt.
Isaiah prophesied that the nation would not be founded by men, but by God. The problem with that is that God is not recognized as the founder. He’s not mentioned anywhere in the proclamation of statehood. Instead modern Israel is a secular state, citing the natural and historic right of Jewish people. So God didn’t get the credit that the prophecy said he would.
Another problem is that this is also a Muslim prophecy cited as proving the Qur’an. This was a thousand years later than Ezekiel or Isaiah, but well more than a thousand years before the fact.
So are all you Christians gonna turn Muslim now? Because if Qur’anic prophesy doesn’t matter to you at all, then imagine how little your misinterpretation of Jewish folklore means to me.
I asked Christians to give me their favorite examples of fulfilled prophecy, and the ones I just talked about were the best y’all could do? Nothing that was unambiguous, meaningful, or in any way helpful, or compelling, nor that even met the minimum required to be fulfilled.
Christians brag that Jesus fulfilled hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament. But if they’re all as contrived as these, then it’s no wonder the Jews are still Jewish. It’s a wonder any of you still believes in God at all.