I do not like to use the term prophecy, because of its loaded supernatural implications, especially was is really meant is an accurate prediction, which is what people making claims about biblical prophecies are usually claiming they are. I am of the opinion that no alleged biblical prophecy holds water, for the following reason. If we are to take seriously the claim that any prediction is a prophecy it must meet the following criteria:
1. It must be true and verifiably so. The vast majority of events depicted in the bible, lack in external verification of any kind. This is especially true of the events in the gospels, which as I have discussed in a previous post tend to disagree with each other about any details that are not copied word for word from each other.
2. It must be Specific, so that only one possible event can be its fulfillment. Prophecies that are so vague, any number of events could be seen as their fulfillment are useless and anyone can make them, with no clairvoyance or insight needed. All of the prophecies attributed to Nostradamus, have this problems, as do the various end times prophecies found in The Revelation of John.
3. It must not be something that could easily be predicted would happen at the time. My former coworkers prediction that our workday would “suck” falls into this category.
4. It must not be fulfilled by someone deliberately trying to fulfill it. In the Gospels there are various incidents of Jesus doing just this. Matthew Gospel makes frequent use of the phrase “this happened in order to fulfill what was said by the prophet“.
5. It must be a prediction that is an ambiguously stated as a prediction, about the specific event that is claimed to fulfill it. In Matthew’s gospel the author claims that Isaiah predicted the virgin birth of Jesus saying:
“Behold, a virgin will be with child, and will bring forth a son, and they will call his name Emmanuel”
– Matthew 1.23
But this is a misunderstanding in two parts. Matthew was using the Greek translation of the old testament (the Septuagint) which mistakenly translates the Hebrew “Almah” (young woman) into the Greek “Parthenos” (Virgin) in Isaiah 7.14. A more accurate translation would be:
“Behold, the young woman has conceived — and bears a son and calls his name Immanuel.”
In context the passage makes clear that it refers to the survival of the lineage of King Ahaz of Judah, after a Syrian siege in the eighth century BCE. It says nothing to indicate that it is talking about the birth of Jesus some 800 years later. Additionally in John 19:31-37, the author discusses Jesus being pierced by the lance of a Roman soldier and states:
“For these things came to pass, that the scripture might be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.“
The problem is no such prophecy is known to exist anywhere in the bible. It is claimed to represent Exodus 12:46 or Numbers 9:12, but these are instructions for preparing a passover lamb, and nothing in either of these passages says anything to indicate it refers to the execution of man nearly a thousand years in the future. Others claim it is inspired by Psalm 34:20, but this to says nothing to indicate it being about Jesus. The incident appears in John’s gospel and is not verified anywhere else, indicating that it is unlikely anything of the sort actually happened.
So there you have it. No alleged biblical prophecy that I know of meets the criteria I lay out here. Not one. Though I am certainly open to considering any that our reader’s suggest.