This is a WordPress repost of an excellent article regarding Biblical Prophecy that was originally posted by Amy Wang. I am reposting it here in it’s entirety for your viewing convenience. I have taken the liberty of highlighting some of Amy’s text in bold.
The atheist Bertrand Russell claimed if he someday stood before God, his answer for his lack of faith would be that he did not have enough evidence. However, according to an interview in Look magazine, Bertrand Russell conceded he would have to believe in a supernatural being if he heard a voice from heaven that predicted a series of things which all came to pass (Strobel, Case for Faith, 198). Indeed, the Bible hints that prophecy may be the most compelling evidence for God, perhaps even more than the resurrection. If someone is unwilling to consider prophetic evidence, they probably will not be convinced even by someone rising from the dead (Luke 16:29-31).
The Bible comes close to providing exactly the sort of evidence Bertrand Russell talked about– it predicted Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, which all came to pass. Although we ourselves did not hear these prophecies, many prophets did over a period of thousands of years, and the written record of the Bible might be considered a more reliable foundation for faith (2Peter 1:18-19) than any one individual’s experience, since its preservation and integrity are supported by ancient non-Christian writings, archaeology, eyewitnesses who died for the truth, an abundance of manuscript copies and citations by early church fathers, and so forth. (For evidence that supports the Bible’s credibility, see “Examine Evidence for the Bible’s Reliability.”) Below we will discuss why the prophetic evidence for Jesus Christ is so compelling and answer objections to prophetic evidence from atheists, such as backdating, manipulation, or misinterpretation.
1. Unique among religions
The famous mathematician Blaise Pascal called prophecies the strongest proof of Jesus Christ (Pensees, XI. 706). In no other religion has anyone predicted events so far in advance that were fulfilled in so much detail. Moses and the Prophets made predictions of the coming Messiah far in advance so people would recognize Jesus’ identity at the proper time (John 13:19). After the prophecies were fulfilled and God raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus then walked his disciples through the Old Testament prophecies that pointed to him (Luke 24:27,24:44-47).
No one else besides the God of the Bible can declare the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10). This is unique to Judaeo-Christianity. Soon after Adam and Eve sinned, God already proclaimed that a future offspring (Jesus) would triumph over the serpent (the devil) (Genesis 3:15, Revelation 12:9). Because God revealed the future so long ago in advance, we cannot credit the predicted events to idols created afterward (Isaiah 48:3-5). Unlike God, man-made idols cannot declare what the future holds (Isaiah 41:21-23).
2. Foretold by a succession of people over thousands of years
It is amazing that a succession of people over thousands of years foretold many aspects about Jesus’s First Coming in harmony and with accuracy (Pensees, XI. 710). What they predicted was not something that could be easily manipulated to happen. Perhaps the best explanation for this is that they were not speaking of their own will, but were inspired by the same Holy Spirit (2Peter 1:21).
3. Fulfilled against the odds
The fulfillment of the prophecies is unlikely to have been a stroke of luck. Of the approximately 456 prophecies concerning Jesus, the estimated probability of someone fulfilling just 48 of these prophecies was estimated to be approximately 1 in 10157, according to Professor Peter Stoner. He had 12 different classes of approximately 600 students try to calculate the odds (Taking a Stand for the Bible, 84-86). See the calculations.
4. Accurate even with timing
If a prophecy has no expiration date, it cannot easily be disproven, because it might still happen in the future. However the Bible provides detailed information about the timing of the Messiah, which has led people to believe the Messiah, if He exists, must have already come.
- According to the Old Testament book of Daniel, the Messiah should come after sixty-two sevens and seven sevens from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:24-27). If we start from the decree by King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2:1) dated 444 BC and add (62+7)*7*360 days (assuming a Jewish calendar year of 360 days), that takes us to A.D. 33, the year Jesus supposedly entered Jerusalem on a donkey (Limbaugh, 194), in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy in Zechariah 9:9.
- Some have also interpreted Daniel 9:25-26 to imply that the Messiah would be “cut off” before the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25-26) which many date back to A.D. 70 (McDowell, 197; Leopold Cohn; See also Pensees, XI. 734).
- According to the Old Testament book of Genesis, the Messiah should come before the removal of the sceptre from Judah (Genesis 49:10). The sceptre has been understood to refer to judicial power, especially the right to capital punishment, which was removed from the Jews (McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict). Josephus in Antiquities 20:9 mentioned the Sanhedrin had no authority to pass the death sentence on James the brother of Jesus.
For more information, see McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict.
5. Detailed and Accurate, in contrast to Vague or inaccurate predictions from mystics
Many non-Christian mystics or psychics who provide predictions have low accuracy rates or their predictions are too vague. Nostradamus is a famous example of a mystic, but many of his predictions are vague, which makes them easier to fulfill (McDowell, 194-195). In contrast, the Bible’s prophecies are detailed, accurate, persistent over thousands of years, and difficult for humans to fulfill. God’s standard for prophets was complete accuracy. Inaccurate prophecy was grounds for capital punishment (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).
6. Not Backdated before the events occurred
Below is some evidence that the prophecies of Jesus’ first coming were not backdated, but were actually given prior to the event:
- The Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagint, was completed by ~247 BC, long before Jesus was born, and contains prophecies pointing to Jesus.
- The Dead Sea Scrolls contain a manuscript of Isaiah carbon-dated to approximately 125 B.C. before Jesus’s birth, and little change was found compared to the Masoretic Hebrew text of Isaiah about 1000 years later (AD. 916), indicating a high standard of accuracy of its preservation (Limbaugh, 236). Isaiah 53 contains important predictions of the Messiah. (See digital dead sea scroll at The Digital Dead Sea Scrolls.)
- The Jewish historian Josephus says portions of Daniel were shown to Alexander the Great when he came to Jerusalem (Antiquities of the Jews 11.8.5 (c.93-94 A.D). Since this took place around 330 BC, Daniel must have been written prior to this date. Daniel contains important information about the timing of the Messiah’s coming.
7. The Jews’ Rejection of Jesus as Messiah actually strengthens the case for prophecy
Blaise Pascal asks why the unbelieving Jews did not accept Jesus as the Messiah, when their Hebrew scriptures are the same that testify of Him. Pascal explains that their rejection of the Messiah was also foretold, so their rejection only strengthens the case for biblical prophecy. Furthermore, if all the Jews believed together corporately, their witness would have been questionable. Fortunately, then, it is only some Jews, like the apostles, who believed (Pensees, XII. 745, 749, 750, 751). Because of this, we can count Josephus as a non-Christian witness to the truth of Jesus’ existence.
It is said that the Jews were looking for a conquering king to rescue them from the Romans. That may be their reason for rejecting Jesus as the Suffering Servant. However, they may not have realized that Jesus will come back a second time (Hebrews 9:28), and that time he may indeed come like a conquering king of kings.
8. Not misinterpreted to fit the facts
Some think that Jewish disagreement over the identity of the Messiah is an indication that Christians have misinterpreted Jewish prophecies to fit their theory. However, passages traditionally understood to be Messianic (e.g., Isaiah 53) were reinterpreted after Christians used them to point to Christ as the Messiah. Shlomo Yitzchaki (c.1040-1105) is perhaps the first Jew who made the claim that the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 was the nation of Israel. However, Geisler and Turek point out that Israel does not match the Bible’s description of the suffering servant.
- Israel was not without violence and injustice (Isaiah 53:9) but rather the Bible portrays Israel as sinning again and again by breaking commandments and chasing other gods.
- Israel also did not submit without resistance, like the suffering servant, nor did Israel bear the iniquities of others to justify them (Isaiah 53:7-8,11)(Geisler and Turek, 333).
- Furthermore, in the Bible, Israel is referred to using a female pronoun. However, here, the gender used for the suffering servant is masculine (Ref).
9. Not a manipulation of manuscripts or events
When Christians began to use the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, to point to Jesus as the Messiah, it is also reported that some Jews rejected the Septuagint. However, the Hebrew textual traditions contain the same prophecies of Jesus. The Bible used by unbelieving Jews contains the same prophecies. It is not as if the Christians changed the Old Testament to add in prophecies after the fact. We also have a wealth of different textual traditions and manuscript copies– if there were tampering of the contents of the prophecies, it should be traceable.
It is also not as if the Christians invented the fulfillment of prophecies long after the fact. We have early, ancient non-Christian sources that document some key events in Christianity. Unlike in other religions where the scriptures were written hundreds of years after the founder lived, much of the Bible was written down by eyewitnesses, at a time when many details could still have been verified or disproved.
Furthermore, the prophecies are difficult to fulfill by manipulation. Jesus could not have easily manipulated his ancestry, place, and time of birth. The events prophesied of, including miracles, the manner of his death, and resurrection are not things we would expect humans to be able to manipulate. In addition, if the genealogy predictions were a lie, would Jesus’ brother James have been willing to die for this religion? The apostles who were martyred for their faith were not dying for what they merely heard about from others and believed sincerely, but for the truth they themselves were eyewitnesses of (Geisler/Turek, 294).
Notable Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus
Below are just a few of the more notable prophecies about Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection.
- Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, fulfilled in Matthew 2:1).
- Jesus was born of a Virgin (Isaiah 7:14, fulfilled in Matthew 1:23).
- Jesus was born of a specific lineage: Abraham (Genesis 22:18), Isaac (Genesis 21:12), Jacob (Numbers 24:17, Genesis 35:10-12), Judah (Genesis 49:10, Micah 5:2), Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), and David (Jeremiah 23:5).
Jesus’ Life and Purpose
- Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, (Zechariah 9:9, Mark 11:7-9).
- Jesus lived a sinless life (Isaiah 53:9, 1Peter 2:22).
- Jesus preached good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1, Matthew 11:5).
- Jesus performed miracles (Isaiah 35:5-6, Matthew 11:5, Matthew 9:35,Luke 4:16-21). The Jewish Talmud ascribed Jesus’ miracles to sorcery, but this nevertheless serves as a witness to the supernatural work of Jesus (Strobel 1998, Case for Christ, ch.4, 113).
- Jesus was a light to the Gentiles also (Isaiah 49:6-7) to be given glory, everlasting dominion, and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him (Daniel 7:13-14).
Jesus’ Suffering and Death
- Jesus was rejected (Isaiah 53:3, John 1:11).
- Jesus was betrayed (Psalm 41:9, Mark 14:10) for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13, Matthew 27:9-10).
- Jesus was pierced for our transgressions (Zechariah 12:10, Isaiah 53:4-12, Psalm 22:1-18, John 20:27). The prophecies were supposedly written before crucifixion was implemented by the Romans (Strobel, Case for Faith-L, p.132).
- Jesus was buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9, Matthew 27:57-60).
- Jesus was resurrected (Psalm 16:10, Mark 16:6).
Prophecies about Israel / Gentiles
- Israel is scattered to the kingdoms of the earth as a result of their disobedience to God’s commandments. This scattering of the Jewish people is a phenomenon now known as the Jewish diaspora (Deuteronomy 28:25,64-66; Hosea 9:17; Zechariah 7:14) (Know Why You Believe, 62).
- The Gentiles are included into God’s People (Hosea 1:9, 2:23); all the families of the earth will be blessed in Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3).
- Israel is provoked to jealousy (Deuteronomy 32:21).
- God makes a new covenant with Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-33).
- The nation of Israel is created suddenly and unusually in one day (Amos 9:14-15, Isaiah 66:7-8). Some claim this was fulfilled in 1948 (Limbaugh, 183).
- Israel is re-gathered out of all countries after Jesus’s first coming (Isaiah 11:10-12). Some claim this is not completely fulfilled.
- The succession of world’s empires in Daniel 2:31-35: Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Iron, representing Babylonian, Medo-Persia, Greek, and Roman empires.
- The name of Cyrus predicted in Isaiah 44:28 before his birth.
Photo: leonskinner/ 123RF Stock Photo
- Ankerberg, John and Dillon Burroughs. Taking a Stand for the Bible: Today’s Leading Experts Answer Critical Questions About God’s Word. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2009.
- McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Evidence I & II. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999
- Limbaugh, David. Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2014.
- Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.
- Strobel, Lee. The Case for Faith Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000
- Geisler and Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004.
- Pascal, Blaise. Pensees