Here we continue examining some Biblical prophecies (Index) – Cyrus, Babylon and Jerusalem.
#5) 100-150 years prior Cyrus is predicted to Babylon, and that they’ll take over the (“known”) world, but let the Jewish people go free. (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1; and 45:13)
This is the first one that’s taken more of a cursory glance to debunk. The problem is, it’s quite involved to research all the details. For instance, the authorship is disputed, and may involve multiple authors at multiple dates. I’ve looked up the basic dates for Isaiah, and Cyrus the Great, and the timelines seem to basically meet the prediction.
It’s noted that it was written as though the person was present, and not as a future prophecy. To me, Occam’s Razor applies. Which is more likely – there’s a mind that exists outside of space and time that can see into the future, or we got the authorship date wrong (or another mundane explanation)?
I can’t fully address or debunk this one without going into much more research. Even if I fully accepted that these events were predicted 150 years ahead, I wouldn’t be granting their proposed mechanism (God) at all. Given that, I don’t feel particularly compelled, as that’s the entire point of this exercise. Though, this topic with Isaiah is just barely interesting enough to me that I might do a followup.
NASA has predicted solar eclipses up through the year 3000. I’m pretty sure they didn’t consult God for that.
#6) “Mighty Babylon, 196 miles square, was enclosed not only by a moat, but also by a double wall 330 feet high, each part 90 feet thick. It was said by unanimous popular opinion to be indestructible, yet two Bible prophets declared its doom.”
Like how the Titanic was said to be “unsinkable”? Humans love their boasting, and don’t learn their lessons in some cases.
Isaiah 13:19-20 does say, “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them. It will never be inhabited or lived in for all generations;“, and Babylon was abandoned around 141BC.
This suffers from similar issues (due to Isaiah) as the previous. It’s also not going out on too much of a limb… I could say that New York City will eventually be destroyed and abandoned, and no one will live there again. Whatever happens to “destroy” NYC would probably be sufficient to prevent habitation. Also, it’s possible Babylon stayed abandoned because, thanks to the holy book, people thought they were supposed to leave it alone. It’s also been turned into a historical site now, which prevents further habitation.I don’t know. I’m not trying to be dismissive, but I also can’t help it if more rational reasons than interdimensional ghosts – for the appearance of fulfillment – come to mind.
#7) “The exact location and construction sequence of Jerusalem’s nine suburbs was predicted by Jeremiah about 2600 years ago.”This rebirth became history in 1948, and the construction of the nine suburbs has gone forward precisely in the locations and in the sequence predicted.“
So it was requested, and people made it happen – no magic/god required.
This one is the most frequently cited as the best prophecy, and it’s the most lame. Yes, the author asserts a 1:10^18 chance of this happening, as though compelling believers to force their religions predictions to come true takes any real effort.
I wish I could do better with #5 and #6. I spent quite a bit of time just trying to find answers to “how do we determine when the authorship was written?” I’m very much a layperson here, and it’s difficult to get any kind of useful description, particularly when it’s hotly debated, even among the religious. There’s more accusations of bias flying back and forth, than anything else.
We’re talking about text that was supposedly written 2500-2700 years ago, without any originals from the time. That makes analysis difficult. The oldest copies of Isaiah are about 335BCE far later than the 559BC Cyrus of Persia.
One of the big ways we identify the timeframe of a writing is based on the contemporary references. If I start talking about “South Park”, future historians will infer that my writing is at least after the late 1990s. With Isaiah and Cyrus, they’re trying to have it both ways… that the references date Isaiah to 700ish BC, but these particular passages apparently don’t date themselves to much later. Maybe it’s a later forgery, and we have no originals to compare against.
To me, this is a UFO. It’s an unexplained curiosity. I can’t explain it, but that just leaves me at “I don’t know”. I see something that defies a cursory examination, but that doesn’t mean I can simply assert unprecedented mechanics as default explanations. We can’t just say, “therefore, magic.”
I have no idea how they plan of hypothesis testing the god claim for the prophecies. They’re usually too busy trying to justify that a prediction has taken place.
It’s funny how the prophecies are intentionally symbolic… except when they’re not.