The Prophecy Challenge

One of the main arguments for belief in the Bible that I encounter is that of prophecy fulfillment. I am asked how I can disbelieve the Bible and not be a Christian in the face of so many prophecies that have been fulfilled from the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is my position that there is not one prophecy in the Bible that can not be explained away through rational, chronological, interpretive or other methods without relying on the supernatural.

In this section of the site I will be examining prophecies sent in by you. Yes, you. As a Christian or even as a skeptic, there are certainly going to be questions when it comes to prophecies that you find in the Bible. From here you will be able to examine each and every prophecy and determine on your own whether you believe it to be of supernatural origin or not. Was it fulfilled and done so completely and to the letter of the prophecy?

So, let me have them. Send me your best prophecies (by verse) and where they can be found to have been fulfilled. I am asking for specific verses. In my attempt to explain away the prophecies I will be using the Bible (of course), modern and historical scholarship and criticism, and logic. At no time will I rely on appeals to emotion so I would appreciate the same in return.

First, a note on so-called “double prophecies”. Many times in conversation with Christians, I have heard that this or that prophecy was fulfilled twice – once in the Old Testament where it was written and once with Jesus. I have been unable to find any reliable information in the Bible or elsewhere that such a thing as a double prophecy exists or was ever intended by the prophet. If you believe that there is some scriptural basis for double prophecies, I would love to hear it.

Now, without further ado, here they are:

Prophecy of Virgin Birth

Probably the most famous of all prophecies is the prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus. As we shall soon see, this is not a prophecy of a virgin birth, not a prophecy about Jesus and probably not a prophecy at all. When examined in the context of the surrounding chapters of this book, this verse looks more like a discussion of an upcoming event in the author’s life.

The verse thought to be a prophecy appears at Isaiah 7:14 – “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman’u-el.”

Before you accuse me of fudging the verse by replacing virgin with “young woman” I assure you that I pulled this out of the most accurate translation of the Bible that there is, the Revised Standard Version. That this is the correct word used here can be seen from comparing how the word translated as “young woman” is translated in other places.

The Hebrew word is ALMAH (al-mah) and it is used 7 times in the Bible. Strictly speaking, it means young woman but depending on the Bible that you are using, it is translated as virgin, maiden and damsel, as well. There is another Hebrew word which is specifically translated as virgin. It is BETHULAH (be-too-lah) and it appears in the Bible 50 times. 38 times it is translated as virgin while the other 12 are spread out over the words maid and maiden. As you can see, there is some question if this word is properly translated.

Beyond the issue of translation is the problem of how the alleged prophecy sits within the verses and chapters around it. Here is some background behind the verse at Isaiah 7:14:

In the first verse of the chapter, we are given the historical context. It is the time of King Ahaz ofJudah. It is not a good time for the kingdom as the two nations ofIsraeland Assyria are marching towardsJudahto do battle. At verse three, we are told that the Lord says to Isaiah that he should go to meet King Ahaz and tell him to go and meet the other two kings. Isaiah is told to tell Ahaz that there is nothing to fear from the two kings as they will be defeated and destroyed.

In verse 11, the Lord tells Ahaz to ask him for a sign that these things would come to pass. Ahaz refuses, stating that he will not put the Lord to the test. In response to this, the Lord says that the sign would be given anyway, and that a young woman would bear a child and it would be named Immanuel.

If this were the end of the prophecy and a new subject was started, we might suppose that this is a prophecy of the coming of Jesus, even though Jesus’ name is not used. Immanuel does mean “god is with us” but that does not constitute that this would be Jesus. There is more to the prophecy, however, as we see in the two verses directly following 7:14:

15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.
16 For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

We can see from these two subsequent verses that the whole purpose of the prophecy is that a child would be born in Ahaz’s time that would be a sign that the two attacking countries would be deserted. Would a birth some 700 years later (when Jesus was born) have been any kind of sign to King Ahaz? No, of course not. He was long dead before Jesus was born.

Finally, we see that in the very next chapter of Isaiah there is a birth. We know that this is the prophecied child to be born simply based on the following two verses from Isaiah 8:

3 And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the LORD said to me, “Call his name Ma’her-shal’al-hash-baz
4 for before the child knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Sama’ria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”

While we do not know the significance of the name Ma’her-shal’al-hash-baz, we do know that it can not be linked up with Jesus’ name or Immanuel. We do see, however, know that this is the child prophecied in Isaiah 7:14 as verse 4 here makes the same claim as the verses following 7:14.

Conclusion

We see above that there are numerous problems with this being a prophecy of Jesus. The first and foremost is the translation problem. We see that Isaiah was familiar with the term BETHULAH and used it when he wanted to convey a woman’s virginity. That he did not employ it at 7:14 seems to indicate that this is not what he meant for this prophecy. In addition to this is the problem that the prophecy was framed in such a way that for it to be true, it would need to occur in the time of King Ahaz. Lastly, we see that the child is indeed born during Ahaz’s time as chapter 8 shows us.

Far from being a prophecy of a virgin birth, we find a regular pregnancy some 700 years prior to the birth of Jesus.

Prophecy busted.

Prophecy of Birth inBethlehem

Our next prophecy that I will bust also comes to us from the book of Matthew. In chapter 2:1-6 we are told that some wise men came toJerusalemto find the child who would be known as the King of the Jews. King Herod heard of this and was troubled as he did not want to lose his kingdom. He brought together all of his chief priests and scribes and asked them to tell him where the Christ would be born. Their response from verses 5 & 6:

5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'”

This alleged prophecy of Jesus comes from the Jewish book of Micah. At chapter 5 verse 2 it reads:

But you, O Bethlehem Eph’rathah, who are little to be among the clans ofJudah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler inIsrael, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

This seems to be a prediction that someone would come fromBethlehemand rule overIsrael. Can we say that this is true of Jesus? While some may say that he did, they are speaking in a metaphorical way. He was never officially crowned nor named a ruler. The closest that he came was being mocked as the King of the Jews.

Again, if we put the verse into context with the verses surrounding it, we will see that this is not descriptive of who or what Jesus was supposed to represent. Micah 5:1-6:

1 Now you are walled about with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike upon the cheek the ruler of Israel.
2 But you, O Bethlehem Eph’rathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in travail has brought forth; then the rest of his brethren shall return to the people of Israel.
4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.
5 And this shall be peace, when the Assyrian comes into our land and treads upon our soil, that we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes of men;
6 they shall rule the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod with the drawn sword; and they shall deliver us from the Assyrian when he comes into our land and treads within our border.

Reading this block of verses, we can clearly see that this is descriptive of a military styled ruler more than a messiah. First, we read in verse 4 that as a result of this person’s coming the people ofIsraelwould “dwell secure.” Anyone familiar with the history of Isarael will know that this is not true.Israelwas crushed by the Romans a short forty years after the death of Jesus.

Further, there is talk of the Assyrian coming into thelandofIsraelandIsraelrepelling them all of the way back to Assyria where the people led by him fromBethlehemwould rule. None of this happened in Jesus’ time because there was no country ofAssyrialeft in Jesus’ time.Assyriaceased to exist some 600 years before Jesus was born.

Conclusion

Since we can see from the gospels that Jesus was never a ruler overIsrael, this does not appear to be a prophecy. Further, we know thatIsraelhas not dwelt secure. If anything, the opposite is true. Lastly, for this to have been a true prophecy, the one coming out ofBethlehemhad to have come beforeAssyriawas destroyed in 609 BCE.

All of this combined leads to another:

Prophecy busted.

Prophecy of “Out of Egypy I will call my Son” in Hosea/GMatthew
Thanks to Joseph Botwinick (a Christian) for the research and letting us know.

GMatthew 2:14-15 states the following:

And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed toEgypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out ofEgypthave I called my son.”

The prophet being spoken about here is Hosea as can be read in Hosea 11:1:

WhenIsraelwas a child, I loved him, and out ofEgyptI called my son.

Is this a prophet of Jesus? Is Jesus known asIsrael?

If Jesus is known asIsraeland Hosea 11:1 is talking about Jesus, the idea that Jesus is sinless is put into serious jeopardy as we read about ‘Israel’ in the next verse:

The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Ba’als, and burning incense to idols.

Conclusion

I think that it is clear that Hosea is not talking about the Messiah. This prophecy – and the author of the Gospel of Matthew being inspired – is busted.

o;msoE�gn0�� �� lt:auto’>Jesus did commit certain acts of violence. Whip in hand, he attacked the merchants in theTemplearea, causing the fracas (Matt. 21:12, Mark 11:15-16, Luke 19:45, John 2:15). He caused the death, by drowning, of a herd of swine by allowing demons to purposely enter their bodies (Matt. 8:32, Mark 5:13, Luke 8:33) and he destroyed a fig tree for not having fruit out of a season (Matt. 21:18-21, Mark 11:13-14).

12. Rev. Zekveld wrote:

Psalm 16:10: “Because You will not abandon Me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” These words are fulfilled in Matthew 28 at the time of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. His body did not see decay! (quote end)

Again according to Psalm 16:10 TEV: “Because you protect me from the power of death, and the one you love you will not abandon to the world of the dead.” I am baffled as to why our Christian brothers take extra steps to read Jesus where he shouldn’t be read.

13. Rev. Zekveld wrote:

Psalm 68:18: “When You ascended on high, You led captives in Your train, You received gifts from men, even from the rebellious – that You, O LORD God, might dwell there.” These words are fulfilled when Christ ascended bodily into heaven. Read Luke 24:50-51 and Ephesians 4:7-9. (quote end)

Again according to Psalm 68:18 TEV: “He goes up to the heights, taking many captives with him; he receives gifts from rebellious men.” By no stretch of an imagination this verse is a prophecy.

Acknowledgment: I owe to C. Dennis McKinsey and his book Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy especially dealing with the topic of prophecy.

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