Predictive Prophecy Proves the Bible's Authority
by R. Totten
accessed before 2/11/2004, [website no longer available]
The prophets of the Bible stated over 3000 times, in various ways, that they were giving or writing God's own word to man: the Scriptures. And several other non-Biblical writings around the world are also claimed as being "sacred," or holy scripture from God, such as the Koran (Qur'an). However, such claims are much easier to make, than it is to show that any of these writings even remotely measure up to the unique qualities of the Bible (the 66-book Judeo-Christian Scriptures).
So, how did the Hebrew people know that the message of an alleged prophet was a genuine prophecy from God? We find the answer in the 5th book of the Bible: Deuteronomy 18:22 says, "If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him." Any "prophet" who spoke on his own, without God's authority, was rejected. Not only that, if the people caught up with such a presumptuous "prophet", he was to be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 13:1-11). This weeded out false prophets in Israel, and made presumptuous prophecy a fearful prospect. As a result, only the prophecies of true prophets are contained in the Bible. Such prophecy accurately foretells human deeds in history.
JEREMIAH, as another example, began preaching as a prophet in about 626 B.C. God declared through him that, because of their sins, God would bring King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon against the Jews to defeat and destroy their land, and to carry them off to captivity in Babylon for 70 years. But when the 70 years were over, Babylon would be defeated (Jeremiah 25:8-14), and then the Lord would bring the people of Israel out of Babylon and back to their land (Jeremiah 29:10-11). Well, archaeology and ancient history confirm the precise fulfillment of this prophecy, because in the year 606 B.C. in fact, Nebuchadnezzar's armies subdued Judah, taking thousands of Jews captive to Babylon. This process continued, including the fall of Jerusalem in 605 B.C., and the captivity of practically all of the Jewish people. In 595 B.C, Jeremiah also foretold the fall of Babylon to the Medes (Jeremiah 51:11,28). The Jewish captivity lasted until Babylon in fact did fall to Medo-Persia, and then Cyrus the Persian King decreed in 536 B.C. that the Jews could return to their land. The captivity had lasted 70 years, just as foretold. None of his prophecies have ever proven to be wrong, thus, Jeremiah is a book of genuine prophecy.
TYRE, had a remarkable prophecy concerning it, in Isaiah 23 (in 715BC) and in Ezekiel 26 (in 588BC). This is what they predicted:
- That Nebuchadnezzar (the Chaldeans) will destroy the mainland city of Tyre. (Isa 23:13 ; Eze 26:8)
- At the end of 70 years, Tyre will recover and to return to business. (Isa 23:15-17)
- That Tyre would give some of her earnings to the Lord. (Isa 23:18)
- That many nations will come against Tyre. (Eze 26:3)
- The rubble of the city will be thrown into the sea. (Eze 26:12)
- That Tyre will be scraped flat like the top of a rock. (Eze 26:4)
- Tyre will finally be destroyed and never be rebuilt. (Eze 26:14)
This is how those prophecies were fulfilled:
- Nebuchadnezzar laid seige to mainland Tyre in 585BC, and overthrew it in 573BC, and the people of Tyre retreated to an island half a mile off the shore, and built up a city there.
- 70 years later, when the Persians overthrew Babylon, island-Tyre recovered to prosper fairly well.
- Cyrus, king of Persia, forced island-Tyre to contribute materials to rebuild Yaweh's Temple in Jerusalem.
- The Assyrians and Egyptians attacked Tyre, and Alexander the Great (Greece) brought military forces from Sidon, Aradus, Byblus, Rhodes, Soli, Mallos, Lycia, Macedon and Cyprus.
- Alexander's forces took the stones & rubble of fallen mainland Tyre, and threw it into the sea, to build a causeway out to the island-city of Tyre.
- To smooth out the causeway, the lose topsoil and "dust" was scraped off [from the mainland city rubble] and added to the causeway.
- Alexander reduced island-Tyre to ruins in 332BC, and although people tried to rebuild it, island-Tyre was completely destroyed by the Saracens in 1291AD. Though a condominium area they call "Tyre" has been built a few miles away, the flat-topped site where the ancient ruins used to be has never been rebuilt, despite a flowing spring of fresh water running through it. That flat site is still only used for the spreading of nets.
(References: "A Ready Defense" by Josh McDowell; "Wycliffe Bible Commentary"; "Truth Triumphant" by S.M. Coder, Th.M & G.F. Howe, Ph.D.)
DANIEL is another book in which we find another example of genuine prophecy began its fulfillment soon after the fulfillment of the above prophecy. Daniel wrote his book in 538 B.C., and was one of the Jews taken in the 70-year Babylonian captivity. In Daniel 9:25, we read that from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, until the coming of Messiah (the "Anointed One", in Hebrew: "Mashiach"), 69 heptads of years would elapse [7+62=69]. Each heptad (or "week", in Hebrew: "Shabuim") is a group of seven years, therefore, from the decree until Messiah, 483 years would go by [69x7=483].
So, what happened in history? An overarching decree, for the purpose of returning the Jews to Israel to rebuild Jerusalem, was issued in 457 B.C. by the Persian king Artaxerxes. If we add the 483 years to this date, we come out to the year 26 A.D., which is about the very year that Jesus of Nazareth was baptized (anointed with water and with the Holy Spirit) to begin his public ministry. This is a strong fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy, but Daniel added a couple other things about Messiah: He said that Messiah would be "cut off" (v.26), which is an idiom for being killed. This happened when Jesus was crucified at the end of his earthly ministry. And Daniel also said that after the 69 heptads (483 yrs) were over, the city [Jerusalem] and the sanctuary would be destroyed ...which happened in 70 A.D. when the Roman legions under Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. It is important to note from this prophecy in Daniel, that the appearance of Messiah had to occur at the end of the 69 heptads [483 years], but before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Jesus of Nazareth was ministering right at the end of the 69 heptads, and, other than he, there is no other credible choice to fulfill this prophecy concerning Messiah. This text in Daniel 9 is the only text in the entire Old Testament which explicitly speaks of the "Messiah", and it says that he will be "cut off" (die). A number of rabbis have boldly said that this passage predicts the exact time of Messiah's appearance, for example, Rabbi Nehumias (who lived about 50 years before Jesus), said that the time fixed by Daniel for the appearing of Messiah could not go "beyond the next 50 years" (cf. The Messiahship, Delitzsch & Gloag, Vol.2, p.226). If Israel's Messiah came, then it had to be during the century in which Jesus of Nazareth lived. In fact, Jesus fulfilled all the "suffering-messiah" prophecies (as we will show next), and he himself specifically claimed to be the Messiah, in the gospel of John, 4:25-26.
ISRAEL, for example, is predicted by a whole group of prophecies (such as Isa 11:10-12; Jer 23:3-8; 30:3-11; Eze 37:11-28; 38:8; Luke 21:23-24; etc.) to be restored to the land of Israel as a politically functioning nation in the latter days. Back in history, as a result of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by General Titus of Rome, the Jews were scattered around the world, and they had no homeland or country of their own for more than 1800 years. The literal fulfillment of this group of prophecies was thought by some to be impossible, but in May of 1948 the establishment of the Jewish State of Israel was announced and recognized by the U.N. Though many of us may not approve of many of the political activities of the Israeli government, the prophecy has still come true, and nothing else even nearly comparable to this remarkable fulfillment has ever happened to any other nation of people in all of history.
There are many other predictive prophecies in the Bible, but the most important ones pertain to the Messiah, of which there are more than 300 prophecies in the Old Testament (the Torah).
A PORTRAIT OF MESSIAH
To give a statistical proof of the power of the Bible in the area of predictive prophecy, I will now list some messianic prophecies, along with their fulfillments. Then will be given a conservative estimate of the mathematical chance that each such prophecy could be fulfilled in the life of one individual by the random events of history.
- Messiah to be a descendant of Abraham & Sarah, Gen 12:2-3; 17:15-17; 18:18 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth - Matt 1:1; Luke 3:33; Acts 3:25.
Logic: How many 90-year-old couples have ever born a child? (From 1500 B.C to 1900 A.D.) Thus...The Chance = 1 chance out of 1,000,000
- Messiah to be a descendant of Isaac, Gen 17:19 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth - Matt 1:2; Luke 3:33
Logic: Abraham had two sons. (But the other son, Ishmael, was not by Sarah). Thus...The Chance = 1 chance out of 2
- Messiah to be a descendant of Judah, Gen 49:10 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth - Matt 1:3; Luke 3:33
Logic: Israel (Jacob) had 12 sons who became the 12 tribes. Thus...The Chance = 1 out of 12
- Messiah to be a descendant of David, Isa 9:7 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus - Matt 1:6; Luke 3:31
Logic: David was one of 8 sons. Thus...The Chance = 1 out of 8
- Birth-Place of Messiah, the "Eternal One", to be in Bethlehem, Israel, Micah 5:2 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus - Matt 2:1; Luke 2:4-7
Logic: How many towns have Jews lived in around the world since 1500 B.C.? Thus...The Chance = 1 out of 1000
- The Time of Messiah's ministry specified, Dan 9:25 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus - (see discussion above)
Logic: How many generations of Jews have there been? Thus...The Chance = 1 out of 100
- Messiah to be born of a virgin, Isa 7:14 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus - Matt 1:18; Luke 1:26-35
Logic: Though basically a miracle, there may be some small chance. (up to 1900 A.D.) Thus...The Chance = 1 out of 1,000,000
- Messiah flees to Egypt to live for a while, and returns to Israel, Hos 11:1 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus - Matt 2:14-15
Logic: What percentage of Jews have ever lived in Egypt? Thus...The Chance = 1 out of 1000
- Messiah to be a prophet like Moses, with miracles, authority over the Scriptures, Deut 18:15 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus - John 6:14; John 1:45; Acts 3:19-26
Logic: How many Jews have major prophetic status, still recognized worldwide long after death? Thus...The Chance = 1 out of 1,000,000
- Messiah to enter Jerusalem triumphantly, as a King, ...riding on a donkey, Zech 9:9 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus - John 12:12-14; Matt 21:1-11
Logic: How many Jews have ever done precisely this? Thus...The Chance = 1 out of 1,000,000
- Messiah, though innocent, is rejected and dies for our sins, Isa 53:3-5,9,12 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus - John 1:11,29; John 8:46; Heb 4:15; John 15:23-25; Matt 8:16-17
Logic: How many people (besides Jesus) are sinless? ...and died for the sins of others? Thus...The Chance = 1 out of 1,000,000
- Messiah to be crucified, bones disjointed, mocked, lots cast for clothing, Psalm 22:6-8,16-18 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus - Matt 27:32f; John 19:16f
Logic: How many have been crucified, also including just these circumstances? Thus...The Chance = 1 out of 1,000,000
- Messiah's side to be pierced at the behest of the people of Jerusalem, Zech 12:10 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus - John 19:34
Logic: The number of crucified victims at Jerusalem with a stab in the side? Thus...The Chance = 1 out of 1000
- Messiah's body does not decay, but is resurrected in three days, Psa 16:10; Isa 53:11 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus - Matt 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20; Acts 1; 1 Corinthians 15
Logic: How many people have come back to life after being dead for three days? Thus...The Chance = 1 out of 1,000,000
- Messiah to ascend into heaven, and rightly called "Lord," Psalm 68:18 -|- Fulfilled in Jesus - Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11
Logic: Very few men have ascended into heaven without mechanical means. Thus...The Chance = 1 out of 1,000,000
ANALYSIS of PROBABILITY:
Statistical probabilities are calculated such that, the combined chance of the first two events (above) happening to one person in his lifetime, is the product of those two chances, which is: 1 chance out of 2, times 1 chance out of 1,000,000 ...which multiplies out to 1 chance out of 2,000,000. Similarly, the combined chance of the first three events happening to one person, is the product of the first three chances, which multiplies out to 1 chance out of 24,000,000.
These multiplications continue in this manner, until you get a total product for all fifteen messianic prophecies. Thus, the combined chance of all fifteen events happening to one person, is the product of all fifteen chances, which comes out to: 1 chance out of 1060 ...( 10 to the 60th power ). This large number is a one with 60 zeroes behind it, and is about the number of atoms in a million stars. A leading authority on probability, Emile Borel, writes in his book Probabilities and Life, (1962), that when you reach one chance out of 1050, it is a statistically impossible event. To overcome the odds of one chance in 1050, would be like marking one electron in a mass the size of Earth, and then finding it blindfolded with one random selection. Therefore, obviously, it is virtually impossible that those fifteen prophecies happened in the life of Jesus merely by chance, ...and remember, the people who did those things to Jesus did not realize they were fulfilling the predictions.
In this, we have virtually a formal proof that God supernaturally gave the prophecies in the Bible, that the Bible is divinely authoritative, and that God is also in charge of the events of history. What's more, when we consider that there are more than 300 fulfilled prophecies concerning Jesus Christ, and that there are many dozens of other fulfilled prophecies concerning additional people, places and events, we begin to see the power of this evidence.
Now, of course, with regard to some prophecies it can quite justifiably be maintained that the person fulfilling the prophecy did it on purpose this idea is certainly true in some instances, and the Bible even says (for instance) that Jesus did a few things to intentionally fulfill scripture. For the purposes of our mathematical calculations of chance fulfillment we would not count such fulfillment, however, the main prophecies in view here are those which are beyond the control of the person involved. For example, Jesus could not control the place of his birth, or the manner of his execution, etc. Also, the re-establishment of the nation of Israel is most probably beyond the control of the people who participated in it.
So, we see the divine authority of the Bible especially clearly demonstrated in the area of predictive prophecy. It seems to clearly demonstrate that the God of the Bible (YHWH) is in charge of the events in the course of history. The Bible exhibits an unequaled capacity to specifically and accurately predict events in history which were done by people who unknowingly fulfilled those predictions. In non-Biblical writings, by contrast, the accuracy level of predictions is either so poor that it is no better than educated guessing, ... or any given prediction is so general and non-specific, that many very different events might be considered to be the fulfillment (such as with Jeane Dixon, Edgar Cayce or Nostradamus).
Furthermore, most truly accurate predictions in non-Biblical religious texts (that exceed educated guessing and chance) are almost always a result of taking the prophetic information from the truths already revealed in the Bible. The Koran of Islam provides one instance of this:
History shows that Mohammed, while in Medina and other places, carried on lively theological discussions with both Jews and Christians, and had evidently studied the Bible to a fair degree. From this he gained some understanding of some genuine prophecies as revealed in the Bible. Mohammed accepted the monotheistic God of Judaism, and even attempted to produce an "arbitrarily contrived Arab version of Judaism" ...and only after being rebuffed on this effort (because the Jews of Medina insisted that it still needed improvement), did a frustrated Mohammed give up on embracing Judaism, and write the Koran (see A History of the Jews, 1987, by Paul Johnson, p.167). It is quite evidently as a result of this background of Mohammed, that the Koran includes a few somewhat accurate prophetic images of the apocalyptic end of history, only because they were originally taken from the Bible. Other than such Biblical ideas, there is no significant specific predictive prophecy in the Koran, and thus, it does not at all compare with the Bible in supposedly being true Scripture.
In light of such evidence, we should take the statement of the apostle Peter seriously, when he says, "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet 1:20-21). The Bible comes from God, as Timothy declares, "All Scripture is God-breathed" (2 Tim 3:16). No wonder Jesus emphasizes the infallible authority of the Bible, when he says, "the Scriptures cannot be broken" (John 10:35). There's no other book like the Bible. It is incomparable ...surely, the only true Scriptures.
Relevant Articles: How to Calculate Probabilities - by Dr. Hale; The Genealogy of the Messiah