Predicting the Future

Predicting the Future October 24, 2014

I love this cartoon from the New Yorker. This is precisely the problem with predictive prophecy. If it were to be specific about the distant future, it would be incomprehensible. But because it consistently lacks such information, it is unimpressively vague. There is no way things could be otherwise, is there – regardless of whether you think predicting the future prophetically is possible?


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  • But 1 Kings 13:2 is pretty specific, naming King Josiah, presumably 300 years before his reign:

    “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: ‘A son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who offer incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’”

    This is either an amazing proof of predictive prophecy, or an obvious indication that the text was actually written during Josiah’s reign.

    • The latter is obviously more likely.

      • I agree, now if someone could tell Al Mohler and the SBC …

      • Michael Wilson

        What do you think this says about the ethics and morality of the one who invented the prophecy? Could it have been the writer of Kings them selves?

        • Perhaps. Or of a first edition, composed in the time of Josiah.

          • Michael Wilson

            Yes, or a just some lore the author of eithier edition picked by way of hearsay. If the author of eithier edition, (who may have been the same for both) created this fable, one wonders what they actually thought themselves of God’s ability to reveal the future and what was the real motivation for there argument that God favors the faithful if they had to invent evidence that God really favored Josia’s religious reform. Is it ok to fool the marks for a greater purpose? I suspect that the coup that put Josiah on the throne was a peoples uprising against the elite of Jerusalem.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Great cartoon.

    When I get into arguments with conservatives about the Olivet Discourse being Jewish-Roman war post-diction, I always ask “if Jesus was really giving a seer’s vision of the future, why did he stop at when most scholars think the Gospel was actually written? Why not include the discovery of the Americas?; maybe give people a heads-up on the bubonic plague? Or the craze that would be Tickle Me Elmo?

    That all said, I do believe in prophecy in terms of making “prophetic” statements. The wise can assess a current situation and make predictions about the future that come true. But that does not equate to being able to literally “see the future.”

    Did Jesus make any statements about the Temple falling/its future destruction? I think it’s definitely plausible, given the volatile environment that existed around Jerusalem at the time. Did Jesus go into the details Mark 13 does? Highly likely no.

  • arcseconds

    Not only is ‘Hilary will run’ incomprehensible to ancient Hebrews, but I reckon that if anyone did prophesize something to do with Hilary Clinton it simply wouldn’t have been preserved. Why would this be important to anyone living in a distant time and place?

    The biblical prophecy craze is definitely narcissistic. Revelation is all about me!

  • GakuseiDon

    Jesus may have said originally, “Hilaria will run.” From Wiki, the Hilaria was a celebration of the death, mourning and resurrection of Attis, from around the 4th Century CE. So Jesus was predicting the start of this new ceremony, with perhaps a nod and a wink to his own death and resurrection! 🙂

  • plectrophenax

    Why didn’t any of the prophets just tell people that washing their hands would help prevent diseases, now and in the future? Now that would have been useful.