Since starting this blog, a number of people have pointed me toward fulfilled prophecy as evidence of a divine element to the Bible. A link to 353 Prophecies Fulfilled in Jesus Christ here, a pamphlet on 100 Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus there, and here and there and there. It is the implied assertion that such levels of foresight can be best explained by supernatural intervention.

In my senior year of high school, I memorized the book (yes, the whole thing) of Matthew. I recognized that this particular gospel was clearly written with the express purpose of convincing a Jewish audience that Jesus was the messiah they were waiting for. It is littered with sentence fragments quotations from the Old Testament that mirror or parallel some aspect of the story. Even though I devoutly believed all of it, I remember  looking up some of the passages in the footnotes and thinking “that’s quite a stretch”. It was one thing to squint skeptically at the Bible Code folks, but who was I to question the connections made by authors of the scripture?

Evaluating Prophecy

Last fall, I had the chance to hear and meet Matt Dillahunty, who recently laid out criteria by which prophecy could be objectively evaluated. To be considered a falsifiable prediction, Dillahunty suggests it must be…

  • made clearly and demonstrably prior to the events predicted
  • intended to be a prediction
  • an extraordinary, non-mundane, claim
  • answerable by a single clear occurrence
  • not open to interpretation
  • not something people are actively working to fulfill

This is a good place to start when considering the relevancy of the entries in the left-hand column of any prophecy-fulfillment table.

Timing

As I intend to stay primarily within the confines of the claims of prophecies fulfilled by Jesus, I’m willing to concede that all of the proposed predictions found in the Old Testament were made before the time of the New Testament.

However, if we were talking about the prophecies of the book of Daniel, as but one example, we would need to look at the scholarly evidence that the book was produced after-the-fact or ex eventu. Perhaps another entry for another time.

Intention

When my high school self would raise an eyebrow to the legitimacy of a prophecy, it was generally on the grounds that the original context seemed like anything but a prediction.

For example, John 19:24 claims that the casting lots for Jesus’ garments “happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, ‘They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.'” The author quotes Psalm 22:18, and that chapter is David’s lament about his own personal circumstances, with no future-looking language. Verse 17, immediately prior, says “all my bones are on display”. Is the lack of Jesus’ skeleton presentation a failed prophecy?

It gets even more dubious when one looks at the longer lists that have been compiled. One claims that routine instruction about body disposal is a crucifixion prophecy, that a Passover meal recipe indicates that Jesus would suffer no broken bones, and that a prediction of Jesus being killed outside of a city comes from sacrifice regulations that insist “hides, flesh and intestines are to be burned up” in the very same sentence. Was Jesus set on fire?

Non-Mundane Claim

Just this morning, I saw an article predicting that Apple would come out with an iPhone 7 in 2016 with improved hardware and unspecified new features. But as Apple has followed this pattern for years, should we by surprised by this analyst’s insight?

I could (and do) proclaim that the Unites States will one day elect a woman as president. This has never happened before, so it must be extraordinary, right? But as my prediction is open-ended, it does not require success for Hillary. It seems inevitable that such a thing will eventually happen in the remaining few decades of the U.S.A.’s existence. (Now there’s an ominous and more specific prophecy.)

Christians like to point to “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6) as evidence that end times are nigh. But in what year, day or hour of history has there been an absence of war and rumors of war? (Though, research suggests “we may be living in the most peaceable era in human existence“, which doesn’t help those looking over their shoulder for an imminent second coming.)

Similarly, famines and earthquakes in various places, setting foot in a temple, being hated without reason, and being thirsty don’t seem to be guesses with supernatural insight.

Single Fulfillment and Interpretation

In order to be clear and compelling, a prophecy would need to be uniquely fulfilled by one-and-only-one person or event, and without being subject to interpretation.

Most of the fulfilled Jesus prophecy lists I investigated actually included “born of a woman“. That applies to literally every human in history, so is the most egregious example. But other claims like being Jewish and having sibling rivalry don’t narrow things down much either.

Other passages require significant interpretation by the reader to evaluate, as the claims are obfuscated. For example, Isaiah 8:14 predicts “for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.” Did Jesus actually fulfill this? How? Can anyone say for sure as a compelling proof?

It’s interesting to me that the best literature about why Jesus is not a fulfillment of these Jewish prophecies comes from devout Jews. Interpretation is everything.

But Were They Actually Even Fulfilled?

While my devout younger self was concerned only about the legitimacy of the alleged predictions, the more recent version of me is much more interested in the claims of fulfillment.

Few Christians I know would attempt to make a case for prophecy fulfillment on the strength of any one prediction or another. Rather, it is the convergence of so many fulfillments that is meant to be compelling as evidence of the supernatural. There’s a reason these lists are so long and reserve a spot for “born of a woman”.

Allow me, for a moment, to reminisce about one of my favorite movies, Back to the Future (BTTF). If you’ve seen it, you’ll recall the dramatic ending when all is shown to be well with the now-rich-and-happy McFly family, but the celebration is cut short when the DeLorean pulls into the driveway and a yellow-clad Doc jumps out. He insists that Jennifer and Marty must help him intercede in lives of their future children. Written in 1983, how could the first BTTF have possibly predicted that 1989’s BTTF2 would show exactly that?? Marty had to travel to 2015 where his son was about to get in big trouble with the law. But the predictions didn’t stop there as BTTF2 showed how a second Marty was actually at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance all along, dipping and hiding in a way exactly consistent with the first film. There are simply too many connections to call it a coincidence. Either the writers of BTTF1 had help from a divine power, or perhaps they actually had a working time machine to see the future movies.

Or remember in The Empire Strikes Back when Lando told Luke that they would rendezvous on Tatooine, and then they DID in Return of the Jedi? And Boba Fett was already there, having delivered Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt just like he said he would. And there was another hope, Princess Leia, just like Obi-Wan said in the previous movie. How could the writers of Empire possibly have made such accurate predictions about movies that hadn’t been created yet?

But wait, you say… the writers of Return of the Jedi had seen The Empire Strikes Back when they wrote it, and would have wanted to answer any questions posed in the earlier work in their sequel. And the creators of BTTF2 could watch and rewatch every minute detail of BTTF1 to orchestrate the events of the follow-up movie to make it joyously seamless. They were even famously begrudging that the first movie ending forced them to visit the future, but keeping the established continuity gave them no choice.

And so it was with the writers of the gospels, creating sequels to the incredibly popular Old Testament. Some forty years after the death of Jesus, the writer of Mark sat down to write the first gospel. He wasn’t overly concerned with prophecy. He didn’t include a single word about Jesus’ prophecy-fulfilling birth, rather starting the story with the Savior’s baptism as an adult. (The author of the original Mark manuscript didn’t mention a resurrected Jesus either. Oopsie.)

When, decades later, the writer of Matthew wanted to punch-up Mark for a Jewish audience, he knew he’d need to address the established messiah canon. Matthew’s Jesus would need to be from the line of David, born in Bethlehem, called out of Egypt as a child and yet be from Nazareth.

The writer of Matthew solved the lineage by opening with a selective genealogy weaving from Abraham through David to Jesus’ step-dad, Joseph. (Full disclosure… I didn’t memorize that part.) Then in the next scene, Jesus’ parents were somehow just living their lives in Bethlehem for the prophetical birth. In order to check off the Egypt box, the writer created a massacre of infants by Herod (such a horrific event is not hinted at in any other secular or Biblical record) to send the protagonists into hiding in the land of grain-silo pyramids. After some time there, the family could be sent to Nazareth to line up with Mark’s account. And just like that, the author wired in prophecies fulfilled.

Unfortunately, the writer of Luke was also independently trying to connect some prophetical dots with his rewrite of Mark. After an all-new scene introducing baby John the Baptist, the writer fabricated a census (see my previous post) as an excuse to maneuver Joseph’s family from Nazareth to Bethlehem. But then the three simply go back to Nazareth when the census ends. I guess Luke didn’t remember that Egypt prophecy. Lucasfilm has continuity editors for this kind of thing.

As the gospel writers spoke Greek and the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, it is actually a Greek translation — called the Septuagint — that they referenced and quoted, not the original. Quirks in the translation can reveal places the gospel writers were changing events to match prophecy as they misunderstood it.

In Matthew 21, the writer had Jesus precociously and ridiculously riding in to Jerusalem straddling two donkeys in order to fulfill the prophecy, “your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey” from Zechariah 9:9. But the original Hebrew version doesn’t say “and on a colt” to reference two beasts, it uses just “on a colt” to further describe the single donkey. John 12 corrected this error.

More controversially, the doctrine of virgin birth may well have been fabricated whole cloth after mistranslating Isaiah 7:14 to read “the virgin will conceive and give birth” when the Hebrew is more naturally “the young woman will conceive and give birth”. (Compare all the English translations for yourself, for degrees of honesty in deference to tradition.)

In each call-back instance, one has to ask… is it more likely that the Old Testament divinely predicted the New, or that the New is a human-contrived sequel to the Old?

Enough for Now

For all of the reasons above, and more, I do not find the argument that Jesus was the fulfillment of dozens or hundreds of prophecies to be compelling. But even if I am fully wrong on this point, it would do little to prove the supernatural claims of the Bible.

Do you disagree? Do you find the prophetical claims to be convincing? What am I missing? Please let me know why in the comments.

12 thoughts on “Prophecy or Easter Eggs? Jesus’ Secret Origins.

  1. As I look at the progression of the stories about Jesus on a timeline we see a better explanation. A real Jesus might not have existed. The stories about a ‘real’ jesus may have simply been inferred from:

    Jewish writings 100 B.C.E –
    “The Savior movement” – describe a Platonic ideal where angels and ‘Yeshua’ accomplished things only in space (heaven) including death and resurrection – no earthly Jesus is discussed. No miracles, no disciples.

    50 C.E.
    “Paul’s letters to churches espousing the Savior Movement” – Again, this Jesus never comes to earth. Paul states his only source for Jesus is ancient scriptures.

    75 C.E.
    “Gospel of Mark” – the first conflation of the Yeshua Movement to imagine an earthly Jesus is superimposed over an outline of Homer’s ancient Illiad and Odyssey. It is no accident the earliest copies of Mark were written in Greek.

    85-110 C.E.
    Hundreds of other gospels about Jesus emerge. They are early forms of ‘fan fiction’ full of plot holes and contradictions (gospels of Matthew, Luke, John, Thomas, Judas, Revelation…etc) they are all fictional riffs on a theme about an earthly ‘Christ’ figure who may never have existed.

    It would be as if someone 1000 years from now picked up all the Spiderman comics and made some conclusions about them: “since New York City existed Spiderman must have existed too”

    It is kind of sad to think people really believe these stories are true.

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  2. While reading your (yet another amazing) blog, two trains of thought began to develop in my mind (a scary place to go). It reminded me of a book that I read many, many years ago. Have you read “A Canticle for Leibowitz?” If you are not familiar with it, let me know and I’ll tell you more about it.

    My other train is longer. Although I was raised in a fundamentalist denomination, I, personally, was never a literalist, even as a child. For example, I recall thinking about Jonah and the whale when I was very young. I knew it was impossible for a person to live in the “belly of a whale” for three days, or even for a much shorter period of time. So my little mind started doing some gymnastics. I surmised that, possibly, Jonah fell over board and was grabbed by a whale which rather quickly spat him out. He was so traumatized that it seemed like three days. Thus, I was off on a long journey of mental gymnastics. I became very good at it. (Note: This all took place in my own little mind. I never discussed it with anyone else.) Now, as I read this article, I began to think about the difference in the struggles of a doubting literalist compared to those of a doubting mental gymnacist. (I know, that isn’t a word but I didn’t know what to call people like myself. Is there such a term as a metaphorist?) The emotional trauma of leaving one’s religious beliefs is essentially the same for both. My question is, “How do you present an argument for the non-existence of any god, to a non-literalist?” For any argument you present, they can perform mental gymnastics. My own reasons for ceasing to believe were based more on my own life experiences and not on general arguments. Any ideas?

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    1. Lois,

      “How do you present an argument for the non-existence of any god, to a non-literalist?”

      My own loss of faith happened in a shock
      when I realized I could not morally ask god to help me as long as that god was ignoring other people far more worthy of God’s attention; dying children, for example.

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  3. Yes, I disagree with you. Yes, I agree with the prophecies of the Bible and that these prophecies are true and Jesus is the Son of God.

    What I learned about God – The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, I learned in church on Sundays. As a child or a young adult, I only heard the Word of God on Sundays. Never read it during the week. Believed I was never good enough to enter heaven because I seemed to always sin. Heard a lot about hell and damnation.

    But as a young adult attending church occasionally, I found drawn to a peace I did not understand, a belonging that seemed right during this attendance BUT only lasted as long as Monday morning.

    Then one day at 35 years of age, I encountered a person who taught me about the person of the Bible. God! I started reading the bible and learned that this book was not a history book but an encounter with a person or persons – The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God saved my life. God through his word has taught me to value myself, my life and all the people I meet daily including you Paul. The more I read the more I wanted to read. My thirst is still there to know the heart of Christ and what his will is for my life.

    He is more real to me than you, if I might say. Because of his value of me…I value you.

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    1. Thank you for your friendship and response, Yolande. I value it. Whatever it was that you needed saving from, if you are being literal, I’m very glad you found your way through.

      In these personal encounters you have through the Bible, how are the specific prophecies I mentioned affirmed to you? Could that affirmation somehow be communicated as evidence to someone who isn’t yet convinced? Or must one believe the book before they can believe the prophesy that is supposed to prove the book?

      I’m curious, what would you say to a Muslim who describes your very same completely-real-to-them personal experience of Allah through the Qur’an? Or a Jew through the Talmud? Or a Mormon through Book of Mormon? What would distinguish your experience from theirs?

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      1. Hi Paul,

        My encounter that day was with and is still with a person, living, resurrected my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know him. This was before, I could even tell you about the Bible, any part of the bible as you have so pointed out in this writing and others. He asked me to have faith in Him to help me through this life to eternity. It was like He spoke to me personally as though I could hear him with my natural ear and at the same time it felt like he spoke to every individual cell of my humanness and each cell heard him.

        It was unmistakably an encounter with Jesus Christ. The Bible was a confirmation of all He said that day and every day since this encounter. The Holy Spirit anchored my soul, body, mind and emotions to the Father through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This was the most freeing moment of my life and has been the best decision to follow Him and fellowship with God every day since then.

        Christ, showed me who he was and is today, the same yesterday, today and forever. Every time I read the Bible, the Word of God has shown me that it is “…living and active, Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

        I am not elegant in my writings as you are and will ever be, kind of like the religious leaders saying Peter was not an educated man of their day, but I can tell you that I was not expecting the Lord to reach down from heaven and touch me so personally and lovingly as that day.

        This is my proof that God exists today and is a living God. So every time I read the Bible, He so kindly shows me who he is and I only know in part. I have FAITH that He is the God of Love and without it I was nothing. I did not live well without Him and today do not ever want to be separated from Him.

        I believe in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit of the Holy Bible. God is the reason I am here today and that is your physical proof. Without His intervention on that day 17 years ago, I would not have ever met you because I was headed somewhere else that day. I definitely would not have been involved in church or bible quizzing.

        So, to your other questions about the Muslim, Jew and the Mormon, if they had the same experience to the letter as I did and believed in God, we would have much to talk about. It would be an inspired conversation to say the least because we would be connected by the Holy Spirit and would rejoice together.

        Paul, like your name sake in the bible, I look forward to your Damascus moment, because that too is coming. God is faithful even when we are not. He knows you have tossed all you have learned out but He has not done the same to you. He still loves you and there is nothing you or I can do to separate us from Him. It is by the cross and Jesus’ work on the cross. So as much as you think that you have found proof that the bible is a lie and God does not exist and Jesus never did anything for you or me, I also know that this to be a lie because without Him we would never have met. Life is grand that way. I admire the heritage that you have and look forward to the future to see the truth of what we do not see unfold. God’s not dead, he’s surely alive, living on the inside (of me, through His Spirit), roaring like a lion. (stole from some lyrics,  Newsboys).

        I am praying for you and your family always.

        Be blessed my friend,
        Yolande

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  4. Out of curiosity, how many prophesies would be enough? That is, if every prophesy you mention here were falsely interpreted–maybe the clothes were sold off but it wasn’t actually a prophesy–or misunderstood–perhaps the NT writers reconciled what they new inappropriately. That doesn’t mean (1) the bigger narrative of a Savior was false, (2) all prophesies were made up/misunderstood, and (3) most importantly, it doesn’t mean Jesus was not who he claimed to be. Jesus clearly claimed to be God. As C.S.Lewis famously wrote, saying the stuff Jesus said would make him a liar, lunatic, or Lord. Even if every prophesy was deemed false, Jesus’ identity does not stand on his fulfilled prophesy.

    On another note, why is Matt D. the determinant on what a prophesy ought to look like? Is it so we don’t read too much into Nostradamus? There were 100’s of prophets in the OT, but only the prophets whose words came true were given authority. Many OT passages talk about false prophets and prophets of false gods. Most of the prophets that were “legit” were fairly vague–it speaks to the idea of ‘having eyes but not seeing’ and ‘having ears but not hearing’. I would argue a blunt, straight-forward, prophesy is counter-productive to both free-will (many ways for a prophesy to come to fruition) and self-investment (who will take the time to see and hear the heart of the message).

    I think its great you took the time to research this and I stand with you, ready to challenge alleged prophesies, but I don’t think the result produced the intended effect.

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    1. OUT OF CURIOSITY, HOW MANY PROPHESIES WOULD BE ENOUGH?

      Is it too condescending for me to say “one”? Just one that would fit the very reasonable criteria I outline.

      MAYBE THE CLOTHES WERE SOLD OFF BUT IT WASN’T ACTUALLY A PROPHESY–OR MISUNDERSTOOD

      Or perhaps his clothes were not sold off at all.

      AS C.S.LEWIS FAMOUSLY WROTE, SAYING THE STUFF JESUS SAID WOULD MAKE HIM A LIAR, LUNATIC, OR LORD.

      There are more options than these, but my positon is “legend”. I have yet to see evidence that a historical Jesus said any of the things attributed to him.

      EVEN IF EVERY PROPHESY WAS DEEMED FALSE, JESUS’ IDENTITY DOES NOT STAND ON HIS FULFILLED PROPHESY.

      I had several people that week pointing to prophecy as their best evidence of Jesus. Sounds like you agree that this is supplemental, at best.

      ON ANOTHER NOTE, WHY IS MATT D. THE DETERMINANT ON WHAT A PROPHESY OUGHT TO LOOK LIKE?

      Just a timely definition that I agree with. Matt is not an expert, just a like mind.

      MOST OF THE PROPHETS THAT WERE “LEGIT” WERE FAIRLY VAGUE–IT SPEAKS TO THE IDEA OF ‘HAVING EYES BUT NOT SEEING’ AND ‘HAVING EARS BUT NOT HEARING’.

      I guess I need to write that article on the back-dating of OT prophecies.

      I WOULD ARGUE A BLUNT, STRAIGHT-FORWARD, PROPHESY IS COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE TO BOTH FREE-WILL (MANY WAYS FOR A PROPHESY TO COME TO FRUITION) AND SELF-INVESTMENT (WHO WILL TAKE THE TIME TO SEE AND HEAR THE HEART OF THE MESSAGE).

      How would it affect free will? You would say that Satan has full knowledge of God, yet rejects him. Adam and Eve, Moses, and many others had direct communication and yet retained (and sinned with) their free will. Why would plain, fulfilled prophecy be too much? Or do you mean that people would set out to make the prophesy come true (like Christian support of modern Israel)?

      Self investment? I’ve spent more time trying to affirm my faith than hundreds I know who don’t really even understand what they believe or why. Theirs is the reward, for not thinking too much.

      I THINK ITS GREAT YOU TOOK THE TIME TO RESEARCH THIS AND I STAND WITH YOU, READY TO CHALLENGE ALLEGED PROPHESIES, BUT I DON’T THINK THE RESULT PRODUCED THE INTENDED EFFECT.

      Do you still think prophesy is solid evidence of Jesus’ divine claims? If so, then I didn’t reach you. 🙂 Thank you for taking time to respond.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Just one that would fit the very reasonable criteria I outline”

        That seems selfish. I don’t write that in an insulting way, only challenging the idea from a different perspective. I touch on this in my post (where we met) when I conclude, if God were to subjugate himself to (y)our standards, he is no longer a God worth worshiping. Imagine a spoiled child whose mommy/daddy give the child everything they want; you end up with Paris Hilton like recklessness. Of the 600 some odd alleged prophesies, some are very clearly prophetic. And, even from a skeptic perspective, I think you must agree, if the NT is true, Jesus fits very well in prophetic assurances (that is, after-all, why skeptics have an easier time not-believing in Jesus or–like you have said–assume the writings were written as a way to paint Jesus as the fulfilled prophesy.
        From this view, I find it ironic you challenge prophesy at all. Why not just state your case that the manuscripts were doctored, or tailored, to fit prophesy? I think the reason is because you are knowledgeable, researched, and wise enough to know that wouldn’t solve all the problems of skepticism: Why did so many convert so quickly after the resurrection, why would the apostles die for what they considered first hand accounts (they saw it themselves vs were convinced by a charismatic speaker/leader), or why would non-Christians feel compelled to include Jesus and John the Baptist in their writings, etc. I’d say you have your one (plus many, many more) fulfilled prophesy in Jesus, albeit not on your terms.

        “I have yet to see evidence historic Jesus said the things he said”

        What would constitute evidence? If you throw out the resurrection as folklore, certainly you can believe he was crucified. If he was crucified, the question looms, why was he killed? That testimony was recorded and the punishment of death only fits if he was committing blaspheme. If he was simply saying, “I am God” he would need some sort of credibility or no one would follow him. That would seem to justify he (Jesus) believed it. Further, we have manuscripts of Mary at the trials and no record of her interjecting. If Mary would have said, “he’s mine from out of wedlock intercourse, don’t hurt him he didn’t know” she wouldn’t have watched her son die. Certainly she would have spoke up/spoke out to save him.

        “Freewill”

        You have a great point; even the demons believe in God and shudder. God revealing himself does not necessarily produce a road to Damascus conversion. I guess that falls back to the ‘God subjugating himself to our standards’. It’s certainly a point to note (on my part), though I don’t think it’s a reason to dismiss the faith.

        “Do I still think prophesy is solid evidence?”
        No, but I don’t think it needs to be. I’m working on a piece titled, “In Defense of Biblical Errantcy”. Here is my outline, will you give me feedback?
        I. The Bible doesn’t say it is inerrant
        a. The word is inspired
        b. risk of circular reasoning
        II. God AND Human involvement
        a. Fallibility in witnesses provides credible testimony (vs collaborated)
        b. Differing perspectives is not differing accounts
        c. False details do not equal false events
        III. Bible Assembly
        a. Original writers were not the original assemblers/editors
        b. Explains why we have copies and errors while maintaining overarching truth and fluidity across generations (testaments)–it is still God driven without being God written

        I believe the Bible is inerrant, but I don’t think it must be. At the heart of the Bible is the story of humanity. The rise and fall of people trying to make their own way…and failing. Consistently. Until the Creator came to show the way; a living instruction book (the Word/Jesus), and made known what was otherwise a mystery (Rom 16:25, 1 Tim 3:16, Eph 1:9, etc.). These verses can be the writings of man injecting his own understanding within the story of God and still be true. It’s kind of a lot for a reply (to a reply), but I don’t want you to think I don’t care. It means a lot you were willing to reach out, especially since I can feel the hurt of so much time and effort invested into something you found lacking (at least I would be hurt by it). Sometimes it just takes a different perspective. And for that, thank you for letting me present a different angle on the same God you used to know.

        Thank you my friend.

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  5. Roger —

    THAT SEEMS SELFISH. I DON’T WRITE THAT IN AN INSULTING WAY, ONLY CHALLENGING THE IDEA FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE. I TOUCH ON THIS IN MY POST (WHERE WE MET) WHEN I CONCLUDE, IF GOD WERE TO SUBJUGATE HIMSELF TO (Y)OUR STANDARDS, HE IS NO LONGER A GOD WORTH WORSHIPING.

    It may be selfish, but it is my honest answer.

    If I too may challenge from a different perspective… why would a god make people who earnestly seek but whose created minds require a greater burden of proof than he is willing to provide? Are those like me simply predestined to damnation?

    OF THE 600 SOME ODD ALLEGED PROPHESIES, SOME ARE VERY CLEARLY PROPHETIC. AND, EVEN FROM A SKEPTIC PERSPECTIVE, I THINK YOU MUST AGREE, IF THE NT IS TRUE, JESUS FITS VERY WELL IN PROPHETIC ASSURANCES

    Honestly, these hap-hazard fulfillment claims in the gospels (let alone those claimed by future adherents) bothered me even when I devoutly believed and defended every word.

    If these prophecies are so self-evident, why do you suppose orthodox Jews, who don’t debate historical Jesus, would disagree with you so strongly on this point?

    (THAT IS, AFTER-ALL, WHY SKEPTICS HAVE AN EASIER TIME NOT-BELIEVING IN JESUS OR–LIKE YOU HAVE SAID–ASSUME THE WRITINGS WERE WRITTEN AS A WAY TO PAINT JESUS AS THE FULFILLED PROPHESY.)

    Well, evidence (there is hard proof for fakes in history, no hard proof for fulfillments) and Occam’s razor.

    FROM THIS VIEW, I FIND IT IRONIC YOU CHALLENGE PROPHESY AT ALL. WHY NOT JUST STATE YOUR CASE THAT THE MANUSCRIPTS WERE DOCTORED, OR TAILORED, TO FIT PROPHESY?

    Because I know that when I was a believer, I would have dismissed any such assertion as the uninformed opinion of someone who just wants to sin.

    Most of my readers are somewhere on the path that I travelled. I need to walk them gently through the same deconstruction that opened my eyes. I try to present evidence for my conclusions… I find assertions to be useless.

    Some (have and) will walk a few steps with me, some will not. Those who continue to believe will do so more informed. I have respect for those who, like you, have considered belief.

    WHY DID SO MANY CONVERT SO QUICKLY AFTER THE RESURRECTION,

    Do we know what conversion rates were from 30AD to 150AD or 300AD? Is conversion rate related to truth? (Are you bothered that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and is expected to outstrip Christianity by the end of the century?) We know that religion was rather fluid at the time, having more to do with political regimes as actual personal choices. I contend that, were it not for Constantine, Christianity would be a mere footnote in history.

    WHY WOULD THE APOSTLES DIE FOR WHAT THEY CONSIDERED FIRST HAND ACCOUNTS (THEY SAW IT THEMSELVES VS WERE CONVINCED BY A CHARISMATIC SPEAKER/LEADER),

    Do we know that any of them actually died as martyrs for their faith? How?

    If we accept Catholic tradition that Peter died in 65 AD, and that the first gospel (Mark) was written no sooner than 70 AD (working on this blog post now), then he definitely didn’t get a chance to lend his notes.

    OR WHY WOULD NON-CHRISTIANS FEEL COMPELLED TO INCLUDE JESUS AND JOHN THE BAPTIST IN THEIR WRITINGS, ETC.

    Are there any such contemporaries who did so? (I look forward to you claiming Josephus and Tacitus. Any others?)

    WHAT WOULD CONSTITUTE EVIDENCE?

    A contemporary source? Maybe one recording in the same language that the subjects would have spoken? Corroborating sources (books based on Mark don’t count as an extra source)? A confirmable detail? (You know how there were zombies in the streets of Jerusalem after Jesus died? That seems record-worthy in a single other source.)

    IF YOU THROW OUT THE RESURRECTION AS FOLKLORE, CERTAINLY YOU CAN BELIEVE HE WAS CRUCIFIED. IF HE WAS CRUCIFIED, THE QUESTION LOOMS, WHY WAS HE KILLED?

    A quick Google search seems to indicate that the Romans crucified hundreds of people every day… once almost 2000 in a single day. Doesn’t seem particularly discriminatory.

    THAT TESTIMONY WAS RECORDED

    Was it? (Serious question — even within the gospels, who do you suppose was at the trial to pass along the account to the eventual writers?)

    FURTHER, WE HAVE MANUSCRIPTS OF MARY AT THE TRIALS AND NO RECORD OF HER INTERJECTING. IF MARY WOULD HAVE SAID, “HE’S MINE FROM OUT OF WEDLOCK INTERCOURSE, DON’T HURT HIM HE DIDN’T KNOW”

    Mary was at the trials? Is that from a non-canonical gospel? I haven’t read them all. Can we include the Gospel of Judas?

    SHE WOULDN’T HAVE WATCHED HER SON DIE. CERTAINLY SHE WOULD HAVE SPOKE UP/SPOKE OUT TO SAVE HIM.

    Did you mean to say that Mary was at the crucifixion? The executors weren’t part of the trial process. How many “he’s innocent” pleas do you suppose they heard from mothers each day? (Many such pleas probably accurate.)

    “DO I STILL THINK PROPHESY IS SOLID EVIDENCE?”
    NO, BUT I DON’T THINK IT NEEDS TO BE.

    Cool… I’ll use your endorsement with some in my life who insist that it is.

    I’M WORKING ON A PIECE TITLED, “IN DEFENSE OF BIBLICAL ERRANTCY”. HERE IS MY OUTLINE, WILL YOU GIVE ME FEEDBACK?

    Of course. I look forward to the piece.

    A. THE WORD IS INSPIRED

    Will this be demonstrated, or merely asserted? How will this assertion be different from the same argument made in defence of other holy books? Specifically, if I could search-and-replace your article putting Qur’an in place of Bible, then I’m not sure you’ll have shown much.

    A. FALLIBILITY IN WITNESSES PROVIDES CREDIBLE TESTIMONY (VS COLLABORATED)

    Will you be attempting to establish that the writers were witnesses? Will you be claiming that the four gospels are four separate accounts, despite the evidence that they relied on the same sources?

    B. DIFFERING PERSPECTIVES IS NOT DIFFERING ACCOUNTS

    Will you be attempting to differentiate “perspective” from “bias” or “agenda”? Why do the accounts, as considered in chronological order of time of writing, become MORE supernatural and spectacular as time passes from the alleged events?

    C. FALSE DETAILS DO NOT EQUAL FALSE EVENTS

    Not necessarily, but if the falsifiable parts of a claim turn out to be false, on what basis would we accept the remaining portions? A jury would not be swayed.

    Will you equally be arguing that true details do not equal true events? (e.g. Forrest Gump, Captain America, Spider-Man)

    III. BIBLE ASSEMBLY
    A. ORIGINAL WRITERS WERE NOT THE ORIGINAL ASSEMBLERS/EDITORS

    Yay! I spend so much time trying to get believers to acknowledge this. Your article will be bookmarked by me and referenced often.

    B. EXPLAINS WHY WE HAVE COPIES AND ERRORS WHILE MAINTAINING OVERARCHING TRUTH AND FLUIDITY ACROSS GENERATIONS (TESTAMENTS)–IT IS STILL GOD DRIVEN WITHOUT BEING GOD WRITTEN

    Do we have fluidity? How do you explain old testament revisions from polytheistic to monotheistic over the centuries?

    On what basis could we conclude that this problematic text is God driven? What marks do we see that aren’t present in other holy books that you would reject?

    THESE VERSES CAN BE THE WRITINGS OF MAN INJECTING HIS OWN UNDERSTANDING WITHIN THE STORY OF GOD AND STILL BE TRUE.

    They could be… but are they not much more reasonably explained as the uninspired guesses of bronze-age men that gave them adequate comfort in a world they didn’t understand? How would you suggest we determine the difference?

    If the Bible is a combination of baby and bathwater, on what basis does anyone decide which is which and claim it to be truth? I’m awaiting confirmation of a baby.

    Anyhow… you now have a preview of what my responses will be to the piece.

    THANK YOU MY FRIEND.

    No… thank you. I find our discussions to be engaging, sincere and worthy.

    Liked by 1 person

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