Examining Biblical Prophecy – pt. 2 – first prophecy

Examining Biblical Prophecy – pt. 2 – first prophecy April 8, 2016

Here we continue examining some Biblical prophecies (Index). It’s not explicitly stated, but I’m assuming they didn’t choose a handful of worst examples, of the 2500, to present.

Our author says,

Some time before 500 BC, the prophet Daniel proclaimed that Israel’s long-awaited Messiah would begin his public ministry 483 years after the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25-26). He further predicted that the Messiah would be “cut off,” killed, and that this event would take place prior to a second destruction of Jerusalem.

Here’s what the ESV (author doesn’t specify translation) says (from BibleGateway.com):

24 “Seventy weeks[a] are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.[b] 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again[c] with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its[d] end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.

As many of you already, and instantaneously grasp, this is fan fiction:

  • Step 1: Read fictional Book-A that makes claims about the future.
  • Step 2: Grab a pen and paper
  • Step 3: Start writing a work of fiction (Book-B) that claims that these events happened.
  • Thus, Book-B shows that the author of Book-A had magical powers?

The author disagrees,

Abundant documentation shows that these prophecies were perfectly fulfilled in the life (and crucifixion) of Jesus Christ.

Abundant documentation, that isn’t really provided. We shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss these claims as postdiction (they are…). If we can confirm that the original prediction text existed previously as described, and independently verify the predicted events occurred, as described, they may have something (if it’s not too mundane).

One thing you may notice is a pattern of resume-stuffing. Dubious claims are lumped in with probable claims. It’d be like predicting that Maine will be both hit by a meteor, and accumulate snow, next winter…. and then claiming victory when it inevitably snows. There’s two aspects to the author’s claim – Jerusalem and Jesus’s life story.

For Jerusalem, the Old Testament is rife with war and destruction, particularly in the middle-east (where Biblical events took place). It’s not exactly going out on a limb to claim that Jerusalem would be “destroyed” and “rebuilt” (to whatever degree), in the future.

For Jesus’s life events… do we know those actually happened? The expert consensus is that there was a historical Jesus (even if I may disagree), but if we grant this, that doesn’t actually satisfy this prediction. That merely says the person existed, not that particular events in the Bible actually occurred. From what I understand, crucified messiahs where fairly common, so it would have been only a matter of waiting, for the one example to occur in the “correct” timeframe.

Recall that the author said the prophecies contain no errors, down to the letter? This establishes two requirements for a prophecy to be “fulfilled”.

  • All the stated requirements are met.
  • There’s no unjustified interpretation (If it says 10 weeks, it doesn’t “really mean” 10 years)

This prophecy has a bunch of claims loosely lumped together. How do we determine where the scope begins and ends? There’s a big difference between predicting:

  1. There will be a man, wearing a red shirt, who will play baseball on a leap day in London.

And the claims:

  1. There will be a man.
  2. Someone will wear a red shirt.
  3. Someone will play baseball.
  4. There will be a leap day.
  5. Something will happen in London.

Do we have to satisfy all 5 of the above for the whole thing to be “true”? If the combined statement prior came true, that may be impressive… but it’s far less impressive if I merely demonstrate #1 and #5 above. I can’t just skip over parts of the prediction, can I? We go from a statement that has a <100% chance of occurring, to split statements that have a 100% chance of coming true. It’s the difference between:

  • A and B and C
  • A or B or C

Yes, there will be a leap day. I don’t need a god to tell me that.

Does the 1:10^5 probability include or omit anything that hasn’t been shown to be true? I’m going to look at Daniel 9:25-26 below… but why is the scope 9:25-26? Why not 9:24-26, or just 9:26? Where does the actual prophecy begin and end?

We can examine the Biblical verses:

  • … to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks” – do we know that happened? This must be independently corroborated to validate the prophecy as fulfilled.
  • Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again[c] with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.” – where’s the independent verification that it (Jerusalem) was rebuilt in precisely 62 weeks (remember, it must be correct to the letter)?
  • .. in a troubled time“? Like, as usual? I’ll mark that as high probability.
  • And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off.” – the hell does “cut off” mean? Was he out-flanked? Or did his parents revoke his weekly allowance?
  • … and shall have nothing” – “nothing”? As far as I remember, Jesus was given a cross… and a hat.
  • And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its[d] end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.” – was Jerusalem destroyed by a flood? What qualifies as “destroyed”? Does it have to be completely turned into rubble, or are we talking about having the replace the couch on the first floor?

It sounds like I may be excessively nitpicky about the last few, but there’s an important point there. The moment something is open to interpretation, the possible events and scenarios that can “fulfill” the claim skyrockets. All bets (and probabilities) are off… literally. With enough interpretable aspects, the probability of something fulfilling the claim isn’t low… it reaches inevitability.

If the author is going to claim the prophecies are correct “to the letter”, and then claim Jesus “had nothing”… Jesus had better not have something. If the objection is that this is too literal, then claiming the prophecies are correct “to the letter” loses any meaning.

These are the reasons I don’t find this compelling. As far as I can discern, this “prophecy” hasn’t even been remotely “fulfilled”, perfectly or otherwise (let alone the mechanic of prediction demonstrated to be a god).

So how did they figure 1:10^5 probability? The author has a footnote about that… (next)


Browse Our Archives

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment