Response to Prophecy Fulfillment
Posted by Farrell Till, on the Christian-Muslim Debate disscussion list, in responce to Rob Lundberg and Jochen Katz's claim of prophecy fulfillment in the Bible.
Response to Rob Lundberg's Prophecies: Part One
LUNDBERG >The Bible claims inspiration from God (2 Tim. 3:16). Therefore, since God >is the Creator of all things (Isaiah 44:24), then He is also the Creator >of time
Does "Rob" think that he proves that the Bible was inspired of God and that God is the creator of all things by just quoting a couple of scriptures? Does he want to debate or does he want to beg questions?
LUNDBERG >Thus it is under His control. Only God, then, would always be right about >what is in the future, our future.
Beautiful! Rob asserts without evidence that "God is the creator of all things" and that he was "also the creator of time," and then uses those assumptions to beg another question.
LUNDBERG >Another anchor point is that fulfilled prophecy is strong evidence that God >is the author of the Bible because when you look at the mathematical odds of >prophecy being fulfilled, you quickly see a design, a purpose, and a guiding >hand behind the Bible.
So now all Rob has to do is establish that prophecy fulfillment happened. I personally defy him to prove a single example of biblical prophecy fulfillment. Neither he nor anyone else can do it. As we will see, his examples that follow are certainly no proof of prophecy fulfillment.
LUNDBERG >If just one prophecy failed then we would know that God is not the true God, >because the creator of all things, which includes time, would not be wrong >about predicting the future. Deut 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 notspoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously" (NIV).
Very well, since Ezekiel's prophecy against Egypt failed (as I showed in an earlier posting), Rob's logic requires us to conclude that "God is not the true God."
LUNDBERG >Isaiah 46:9-10 says, "Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am >God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make >known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.
Does Rob want to debate prophecy fulfillment, or does he just want to quote scripture and expect us to roll over and play dead? I would be very interested in seeing from him an argument that would establish (1) the Bible is inspired of God, and (2) the Bible is in any sense authoritative. Like practically every biblicist I have known, Rob apparently expects us to grant him those two assumptions, but I for one don't intend to do that. If he is going to debate, then he needs to establish the truth of the premises from which he derives conclusions. Unless he can do that, his arguments are unsound.
At this point, Rob began to list (without supporting evidence) several alleged prophecy "fulfillments." I will address them individually in separate postings. Meanwhile, perhaps Rob would like to address the problems I have identified so far in his attempts to prove prophecy fulfillment.
Response to Rob Lundberg's Prophecies: Part Two
LUNDBERG >Now let's look at some prophecy from true prophets of God as they pertain >to a Messiah, and fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth. Due to the amount of >text space allowed on this list I am limited to leaving the reference of >the fulfilling passages trusting that you will look for yourself as to >the fulfillment.
In other words, Rob wants just to allege prophecy fulfillment without assuming his rightful burden of proof to establish that they were prophecy fulfillments. Before I look at his alleged prophecies and their fulfillments, let's first consider five widely recognize criteria of valid prophecy. For a prophecy fulfillment to be valid, it must satisfy these criteria: (1) The alleged prophecy must clearly mean what the one alleging prophecy fulfillment claims that it means; it cannot be so vague and obscure that the "prophet's" meaning cannot be established beyond reasonable doubt. (2) The alleged prophecy must have been made BEFORE and not AFTER the fact. (3) The alleged prophecy must have been made far enough in advance of the alleged fulfillment to eliminate the possibility of educated guesswork. (4) The fulfillment must have been such that no one could have intentionally contrived to make the fulfillment happen. (5) The one alleging fulfillment must establish beyond reasonable doubt that the fulfillment did in fact occur.
As I discuss Rob's prophecy-fulfillment claims, I will discuss these criteria more in detail as they apply. We will see that neither Rob nor anyone else can establish a case of biblical prophecy fulfillment that even comes close to satisfying these criteria.
LUNDBERG >Born of the Seed of the Woman: Genesis 3:15, "And I will put enmity between >you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your >head, and you will strike his heel." Fulfilled in Matthew 1:20.
Rob merely asserts that this was a Messianic prophecy, but he presented no textual analysis at all to support his case. Does he simply expect us to accept without question whatever outrageous claims he wants to make about prophecy fulfillment? He is apparently claiming that the "seed of woman" in Genesis 3:15 was Jesus, but why should we accept this as the meaning of the statement? Here is what Josephus thought about Genesis 3:15.
"He [Yahweh] also deprived the serpent of speech, out of indignation at his malicious disposition towards Adam. Besides this, he inserted poison under his tongue, and made him an enemy to man; and suggested to them that they should direct their strokes against his head, that being the place wherein lay his mischievous designs towards men, and it being easiest to take vengeance on him that way: and when he had deprived him of the use of his feet, and made him go rolling all along, and dragging himself upon the ground" (*Antiquities of the Jews,* 1:1.4, 50).
Obviously, Josephus saw this story only as an explanation for the natural enemity that seems to exist between snakes and humans. Indeed when the story is examined in context, anyone should be able to see that it was merely a myth intended to explain some things that were probably perplexing to early humans: (1) Why do men have to struggle to make a living? (2) Why do women experience pain in childbirth? (3) Why do snakes have no legs and why does enmity exist between humans and snakes. If Rob will look at the following quotation of Yahweh's entire curse, he should see the intended answers to all of these questions.
LUNDBERG > 14 Yahweh God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are >you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall >go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity >between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will >strike your head, and you will strike his heel." 16 To the woman he said, >"I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring >forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule >over you." 17 And to the man he said, "Because you have listened to the voice >of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, 'You >shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall >eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring >forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of >your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it >you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Thus, we can see that Rob's first prophecy-fulfillment claim has failed, because he cannot establish that the Genesis writer even meant for this verse to refer to a coming Messiah. We'll see if he had any better luck with his other claims.
For the sake of argument, let's assume that Genesis 3:15 was a Messianic prophecy. How would that prove that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah the Genesis writer was referring to? Rob merely asserted that the prophecy was fulfilled in Matthew 1:20, which makes a reference to Mary's impregnation, but what is his proof that Jesus was the intended Messiah? Rob's problem is that he has gullibly accepted a premise (Jesus was the Messiah), and so he expects everyone else to be just as gullible. But it doesn't work that way. If he is going to claim prophecy fulfillment, he will have to prove his case.
Response to Rob Lundberg's Prophecies: Part Three
LUNDBERG >There are many religious books in the world that have many good things to >say. But only the Bible has fulfilled prophecies-with more fulfillments >still to come. The Bible has _never been wrong_ in the past, and it won't >be wrong in the future. It does not even abrogate itself.
The Bible has never been wrong in the past? What planet has this guy been living on? I'll cite just one example of many prophecy failures in the Bible. Ezekiel prophesied that Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Egypt and that it would lay waste for 40 years, but this never happened.
Ezekiel 29:1 In the tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth day of the month, the word of Yahweh came to me: 2 Mortal, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him and against all Egypt; 3 speak, and say, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon sprawling in the midst of its channels, saying, "My Nile is my own; I made it for myself." 4 I will put hooks in your jaws, and make the fish of your channels stick to your scales. I will draw you up from your channels, with all the fish of your channels sticking to your scales. 5 I will fling you into the wilderness, you and all the fish of your channels; you shall fall in the open field, and not be gathered and buried. To the animals of the earth and to the birds of the air I have given you as food. 6 Then all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am Yahweh because you were a staff of reed to the house of Israel; 7 when they grasped you with the hand, you broke, and tore all their shoulders; and when they leaned on you, you broke, and made all their legs unsteady. 8 Therefore, thus says the Lord Yahweh: I will bring a sword upon you, and will cut off from you human being and animal; 9 and the land of Egypt shall be a desolation and a waste. Then they shall know that I am Yahweh. Because you said, "The Nile is mine, and I made it," 10 therefore, I am against you, and against your channels, and I will make the land of Egypt an utter waste and desolation, from Migdol to Syene, as far as the border of Ethiopia. 11 No human foot shall pass through it, and no animal foot shall pass through it; it shall be uninhabited forty years.
Notice that the prophecy is very specific in stating that Egypt would be "an utter waste and desolation, from Migdol to Syene, as far as the border of Ethiopia." Ethiopia was on the southern border of Egypt, and Migdol was in the northern delta of the Nile. Hence, the prediction was that the country would be laid waste from its northenr border to its southern border. The next verse says that no human foot or animal foot would pass through it for 40 years. Perhaps "Rob" would be so kind as to cite the evidence that any such thing as this ever happened to Egypt. Some inerrantists try to claim that this is a prophecy that will be fulfilled at a future date, but the prophecy was specifically addressed to Pharaoh king of Egypt, and the rule of the pharaohs ended long ago. Furthermore, as the verses below show, the prophecy made Nebuchadnezzar Yahweh's instrument of vengeance against Egypt, and Nebuchadnezzar has been dead for 25 centuries.
Ezekiel 29: 12 I will make the land of Egypt a desolation among desolated countries; and her cities shall be a desolation forty years among cities that are laid waste. I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them among the countries. 13 Further, thus says the Lord Yahweh: At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the peoples among whom they were scattered; 14 and I will restore the fortunes of Egypt, and bring them back to the land of Pathros, the land of their origin; and there they shall be a lowly kingdom. 15 It shall be the most lowly of the kingdoms, and never again exalt itself above the nations; and I will make them so small that they will never again rule over the nations. 16 The Egyptians shall never again be the reliance of the house of Israel; they will recall their iniquity, when they turned to them for aid. Then they shall know that I am the Lord Yahweh. 17 In the twenty-seventh year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the word of Yahweh came to me: 18 Mortal, King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon made his army labor hard against Tyre; every head was made bald and every shoulder was rubbed bare; yet neither he nor his army got anything from Tyre to pay for the labor that he had expended against it. 19 Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: I will give the land of Egypt to King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon; and he shall carry off its wealth and despoil it and plunder it; and it shall be the wages for his army. 20 I have given him the land of Egypt as his payment for which he labored, because they worked for me, says the Lord Yahweh. 21 On that day I will cause a horn to sprout up for the house of Israel, and I will open your lips among them. Then they shall know that I am Yahweh.
The tirade against Egypt continued on into the next chapter. An analysis of the chapter would show other specific details in the prophecy that were never fulfilled, but these are enough to establish that this is a clear example of a prophecy failure.
As time allows, I will address "Rob's" other prophecy claims in later postings. Meanwhile, perhaps he would like to explain to us when Ezekiel's prophecy against Egypt was fulfilled.
Who Is Farrell Till?
LUNDBERG >Greetings Mr. Till: >I understand that you were once a Christian minister? You have a problem >with the Bible I take it.
Yes, I was once a preacher and a foreign missionary. To say that I have a problem with the Bible is an understatement. I have many, many problems with the Bible. It has been my experience that biblicists have problems trying to resolve the problems I have found in the Bible.
LUNDBERG >You sounded pretty aggressive in your response to my postings. Hmm. You >know, I am not intimidated by you. Neither am I going to "cow down" to your >ad hominem approaches. So if you want a response, we are going to do this >civil like or you will receive nothing at all.
You seem to have confused a vigorous approach to argumentation with aggression and "ad hominem approaches." I have looked through my postings again, and I can't see that I attacked you personally. I'm glad to hear that you will not be intimidated by me, and I hope that your last sentence above is not a prelude to your withdrawal from the discussion on the grounds that I have not been civil to you. Be however uncivil with me you wish, I will continue to respond to your prophecy claims, because my interest is in refuting error and not receiving royal treatment from my debating opponents. I hope your commitment to your position will lead you to hang in for the duration.LUNDBERG >I do expect to answer your charges on the problems you see with the >Bible, but it will be on my time and not within a window that you have >pre-established. I have read your postings, and find your charges quite >fascinating. You will get answers. >I don't expect you to agree with me, but at least there will be an answer >posted so that those who may be looking in on this list, who may have the >same question you posted will get an answer they can think about, despite >potential evidence to the contrary with you.
Good, I will look forward to your answer.
LUNDBERG >If you give me reason to think that you are causing trouble, I think that >will be evident. Such is the case with most people who "have thrown the >baby out with the bath water" with regard to Christianity.
I will be honest with you, although I'm sure you will see this as just an uncivil statement and an ad hominem approach. I think you have already seen enough to recognize that I am "causing [you] trouble," because if refutations of my counterarguments were as simple as you seem to be claiming, you would have responded immediately to them. As it is, I'm sure you are now looking through apologetic books for answers.
As for "throw[ing] the baby out with the bath water with regard to Christianity," you yourself said, "If just one prophecy failed then we would know that God is not the true God." I have shown that at least one prophecy failed, i.e., Ezekiel's prophecy that Nebuchadnezzar would make Egypt a waste and desolation for 40 years, so I have proven that "God is not the true God." Wouldn't that be sufficient cause to "throw the baby out with the bath water with regard to Christianity"?
LUNDBERG >Let's establish some things up front so I know who it is that I am >responding to? Since you left the Christian faith, what have you become? >Atheist? Hard agnostic? Disgruntled collectivist? Soft agnostic? Pantheist? >What kind of antitheist are you?
I am an atheist now, but I wasn't when I quit the ministry. At that time, I was a theist who had seen too many glaring problems in the Bible to believe that God had had anything to do with its authorship. Now please return the favor. What are you? Baptist? Pentecostal? Adventist? Presbyterian?
As for your inquiry about whether I am a "disgruntled collectivist," I hope you will not forget your commitment to civility and avoidance of ad hominem approaches.
Response to Jochen Katz
KATZ >Farrell Till: "I am an atheist now, but I wasn't when I quit the ministry." >I am not interested to have an atheism debate on this list. But would you >please show us your proof that there is no God?
Would you please show us your proof that there IS a god? He who asserts must prove. It isn't the responsibility of someone who hears a fantastic assertion to prove that it isn't true; it is the responsibility of the asserter to prove that his fantastic assertion IS true. For example, if a Muslim challenged you to prove that Muhammed did NOT rend the moon asunder, would you sense any special obligation to prove that this miracle did NOT happen? Wouldn't you rather inform the Muslim challenger that he is the one making the assertion, and so he has the responsibility to prove that the assertion is true?
KATZ >Agnosticism means "I don't know". Atheism means "I am convinced there is >no God"
You need to learn what "atheism" means. There are postive atheists who assert that gods do NOT exist, but most atheists simply have no belief in gods, because they see no good reasons to believe in them, much in the same way that they see no good reasons to believe in fairies or elves. I have no belief in the currently popular claim that alien beings are visiting earth. This does not mean that I assert positively that alien beings do NOT exist. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if such beings do exist in other planetary systems, but I haven't seen enough evidence to believe that they do. Hence, I presently have no belief in alien beings.
KATZ >You are putting very strong standards of measuring the Bible or the >existence of God. I would like to see how strong your proof is for the >non-existence of any kind of God,
See the above.
KATZ >as well as your explanation for the very existence of this world without >there being a creator. I can assume your case is airtight?
The purpose of errancy list is to discuss biblical inerrancy. The existence of God would relate to that, but the secular web has a list that was set up especially to discuss the existence issue. If you wish to debate that subject, why not subscribe to godexist. Send the command "subscribe godexist" to email@example.com. I think you will find many eager to debate this subject with you, but I can't even keep up with the postings generated by errancy list. Also, if you are interested in an explanation for the existence of the universe without the postulation of a divine creator, why don't you read the literature on the subject? Enough has been written to keep you busy for a lifetime. In reading the literature, you will get the opinions of world famous physicists and astronomers. My background is in English and religious studies.
KATZ >I am happy if you can give me a web page address for this, as our list >isn't really the place for such a debate.
See the above. If no one on that list wants to debate you on this subject, get back to me. I will try to find the time to subscribe, and I think others on this list would too.
KATZ >Also, what is your basis of making logical and moral judgements? >Remember, if we are all products of chance and even our very >thoughts are products of chemical reactions in our brain and >nothing else, what confidence do you have in what you think are >your logical thoughts?
Oh, so you are a presuppositionalist? I'll ask Michael Fisher to send his postings on this subject to you. I think you will find that they present more than you can handle on this subject.
KATZ >Much of your material is about the claim that the Bible is >illogical and immoral. What is your basis on which you make such >statement? I am sure you have heard these questions before and >formulated in more sophisticated ways, but I hold that Dostojewski >is right when he says: If there is no God then everything is >allowed, i.e. that there is no right and wrong. Morality is an >illusion. And if our brain is a chance product of chemical >reactions then there is no rationality.
I tell you what; why don't we hold off on the morality issue until we have finished debating the Messianic prophecies? I'm seeing a familiar tactic here, i.e., an attempt to lead the discussion away from an issue that can't be defended to a discussion of largely philosophical issues that leave lots of room for endless wrangling. If you think this is a dodge, then I assure you that it isn't. I was supposed to debate the morality issue in Alabama last month, but my opponent requested a postponement. Long-timers on the errancy list know that I have often engaged others in discussions on the morality issue, but I am going to insist that for now we confine ourselves to the prophecy question. I think that you and Rob have set yourselves up to be knocked down hard, and I want to take care of that first.
LUNDBERG >Born of a Virgin: Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord himself will >give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth >to a son, and will call him Immanuel." Fulfilled in Matthew 1:18, 25.
This prophecy-fulfillment claim has been refuted so thoroughly, so often, that only someone who has never even examined the literature on the subject would dare post it as just a three-line claim of prophecy fulfillment. The first problem with this "prophecy" is the obvious fact that the context in which it was spoken clearly shows that Isaiah intended it as a prophecy about a contemporary situation.
LUNDBERG >Isaiah 7:1 In the days of Ahaz son of Jotham son of Uzziah, king of >Judah, King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel >went up to attack Jerusalem, but could not mount an attack against >it. 2 When the house of David heard that Aram had allied itself with >Ephraim, the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the >trees of the forest shake before the wind. 3 Then Yahweh said to >Isaiah, Go out to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub, at the >end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller's >Field, 4 and say to him, Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not >let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of >firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son >of Remaliah. 5 Because Aram--with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah-- >has plotted evil against you, saying, 6 Let us go up against Judah >and cut off Jerusalem and conquer it for ourselves and make the son >of Tabeel king in it; 7 therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: It shall >not stand, and it shall not come to pass. 8 For the head of Aram is >Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. (Within sixty-five years >Ephraim will be shattered, no longer a people.) 9 The head of Ephraim >is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you do >not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all. 10 Again Yahweh >spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask a sign of Yahweh your God; let it be >deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, >and I will not put Yahweh to the test. 13 Then Isaiah said: " Hear >then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, >that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give >you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, >and shall name him Immanuel.
The contemporary situation in circa 735 B. C. was that Judah was being threatened by an alliance of Assyria and the northern kingdom (Samaria). To alleviate the concerns of king Ahaz, Yahweh sent Isaiah to assure him that the alliance would fail. So that Ahaz would know that Yahweh would protect Judah from the Assyrian-Samaritan threat, he asked Ahaz to request a sign. When Ahaz said that he wouldn't test Yahweh by asking for a sign, Yahweh said that he would give one anyway. That sign was that a "young woman" would give birth to a son and call himself Immanuel. In a separate posting, I will address the issue of whether Isaiah was referring to a "virgin" or just a "young woman." For now, I want to focus on the obvious fact that this "prophecy" was made with reference to a situation that was contemporary with king Ahaz. It could not have been a "sign" to Ahaz if it applied to a child that wouldn't be born for 700+ more years.
In subsequent postings I will address the virgin/young woman issue and point out several other problems with the claim that this was a prediction of the birth of Jesus.
LUNDBERG >Born of a Virgin: Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord himself will give >you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a >son, and will call him Immanuel." Fulfilled in Matthew 1:18, 25.
I have shown that this "prophecy" was obviously meant to apply to a contemporary situation, and I have shown that it is incumbent on Rob and anyone else who sees it as a Messianic prophecy to prove that it (1) meant what they claim it meant, i.e., a woman without sexual experience would one day give birth to a son, and (2) Jesus of Nazareth was the one who fulfilled it. I will discuss number 2 later. With reference to number 1, I have already addressed the issue of the meaning of the word "almah," which the Septuagint and traditional versions like the KJV and ASV rendered "virgin," but additional comments on this point are in order. There is a strong likelihood that the Septuagint set the trend in this matter, so really the heart of the issue is whether the Septuagint translators correctly rendered the word "almah" in using the Greek word "parthenos," which strongly implies sexual purity. Most modern translations render "almah" as "young woman" or some equivalent, but some still retain the Septuagint tradition. A footnote at Isaiah 7:14 in The New America Bible (a Catholic version) indicates why.
NAB: Therefore the LORD himself will give you a sign: * the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
The * calls attention to a footnote at the bottom of the page: "The church has always followed St. Matthew in seeing the transcendent fulfillment of this verse in Christ and his Virgin Mother. The prophet need not have known the full force latent in his own words; and some Catholic writers have sought a preliminary and partial fulfillment in the conception and birth of the future King Hezekiah, whose mother, at the time Isaiah spoke, would have been a young unmarried woman (Hebrew, almah)."
In other words, the footnote is saying that in deference to Matthew's claim that the birth of Jesus fulfilled this "prophecy," the NAB chose to ignorethe opinion of biblical scholarship on the meaning of the word "almah" and accept the unsubstantiated word of a single person that Isaiah was referring to the birth of Jesus, whose mother, Matthew alleged, was a virgin at the time of his birth. So because Matthew used the Septuagint as his source, the NAB translators choice to stick with an inaccurate translation of the Hebrew text, as if Matthew was somehow in a position to know that the mother of Jesus was a virgin at the time she gave birth to Jesus. Without begging the question of whether Matthew was divinely "inspired," Rob and Katz shoul explain to us how he could possibly have known this.
On the question of what "almah" meant, I will ask Yoel Wasserman (if he is seeing these postings) to send to the list his comments on the meaning of the word. I have searched my files for these postings but can't find them. Evidently, he sent them before my e-mail crashed and lost all of my files. Meanwhile, I will simply say that Rob and Katz have to be familiar with the controversy over this word. (If not, that would pretty well confirm that they haven't really examined this issue.) The fact that there is so much controversy brings us face to face again with the frst criterion of valid prophecy fulfillment (which I posted earlier). The one who is claiming prophecy fulfillment must establish beyond reasonable doubt that the statement on which the claim is based meant what the fulfillment claimants say that it meant. Therefore, it is incumbent on Rob and Katz to prove that Isaiah meant in 7:14 that a woman who had never before had sexual relations with a man would give birth to a son.
I will eagerly await their evidence that shows that this is unquestionably what Isaiah meant.
LUNDBERG >Born of a Virgin: Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord himself will give >you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a >son, and will call him Immanuel." Fulfilled in Matthew 1:18, 25.
I have shown in previous postings on Isaiah 7:14 that it is incumbent on Rob and anyone else who sees it as a Messianic prophecy to prove that it (1) meant what they claim it meant, i.e., a woman without sexual experience would one day give birth to a son, and (2) Jesus of Nazareth was the one who fulfilled it. So far, I have concentrated on the controversy over the meaning of the statement, and until Rob and his apologetic cohorts can establish beyond reasonable doubt that Isaiah really meant to say that a woman who had never had sexual relations would give birth to a son, he has not satisfied the first criterion of valid prophecy fulfillment, which requires the claimant of a prophecy fulfillment to show that the alleged prophecy meant what is being claimed.
Let's now look at the fifth criterion, which requires a claimant of prophecy fulfillment to prove that the fulfillment did indeed occur. In the case of a virgin-birth prophecy, that places an impossible burden on Rob. How could he or anyone ever expect to establish that the mother of Jesus was a virgin when she gave birth to him. The only person who could possibly have known whether she was a virgin or not would have been Mary herself, and she left no personal testimony on the subject. So if Xian apologists are going to claim that she was a virgin at the time, they must explain how it was possible to know that.
In an earlier analysis of the context leading up to Isaiah 7:14, I showed that this statement was made in reference to a contemporary situation. If the contextual analysis is continued beyond verse 14, it will show that Isaiah couldn't possibly have been speaking about the Jesus of the gospels. Let's look at the "prophecy" again and then analyze the verses following it:
LUNDBERG >10 Again Yahweh spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask a sign of Yahweh your >God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12 But Ahaz said, I >will not ask, and I will not put Yahweh to the test. 13 Then Isaiah >said: "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary >mortals, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore Yahweh himself will >give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a >son, and shall name him Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey by >the time 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.
Verse 16 provides additional proof that Isaiah was speaking about a child who would be born at that time, because he clearly stated that the land "before whose two kings (Rezin and Pekah) you are in dread" would be deserted before the child to be born would "know how to refuse the evil and choose the good." There would have been nothing at all amazing about a prophecy like this if it was referring to the birth of a child 700+ yearslater, because kingdoms rise and fall, and it would have been unlikely that Syria and Samaria could have maintained their position of power for over 7 centuries.
The most damaging statement in these verses, however, is the reference to the child's learning how to "refuse the evil and choose the good." The gospels teach that Jesus was the very son of God, that he was even God himself (John 1:1), and the NT teaches that he led a sinless life. All this being true, there would have been no time in the life of Jesus when he would not have known to refuse the evil and choose the good. Obviously, then, Isaiah was speaking about the birth of just an ordinary child and not some omnisicient, omnipotent, omnimoral deity.
LUNDBERG >17 Yahweh will bring on you and on your people and on your ancestral >house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed >from Judah--the king of Assyria." 18 On that day Yahweh will whistle >for the fly that is at the sources of the streams of Egypt, and for >the bee that is in the land of Assyria. 19 And they will all come and >settle in the steep ravines, and in the clefts of the rocks, and on >all the thornbushes, and on all the pastures. 20 On that day the Lord >will shave with a razor hired beyond the River--with the king of >Assyria--the head and the hair of the feet, and it will take off the >beard as well. 21 On that day one will keep alive a young cow and two >sheep, 22 and will eat curds because of the abundance of milk that >they give; for everyone that is left in the land shall eat curds and >honey. 23 On that day every place where there used to be a thousand >vines, worth a thousand shekels of silver, will become briers and >thorns. 24 With bow and arrows one will go there, for all the land >will be briers and thorns; 25 and as for all the hills that used to >be hoed with a hoe, you will not go there for fear of briers and >thorns; but they will become a place where cattle are let loose and >where sheep tread.
Again, the references to Assyria throughout this context is more evidence that Isaiah was speaking about contemporary events. However, there is a curious thing about this part of Isaiah's "prophecy." The threat against Judah was coming from Syria and Samaria (v:1), and Yahweh sent Isaiah to king Ahaz to give him a sign that this alliance against Judah would fail. The sign he gave was (1) that a woman would give birth to a son who would be called Immanuel and (2) that before this child was old enough to know to refuse evil and choose good, the threat of the two kings (Syria and Samaria) would be gone. Then Isaiah went on to predict that Yahweh would bring upon Judah and its people "such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah--the king of Assyria" (v:17). He predicted that the Assyrians would come and make the land desolate. So what we have in Isaiah 7 is an assurance that the Syrian and Samaritan alliance would fail, which was followed by a warning that the land would be made desolate by an Assyrian invasion. This "prophecy" that Christians get so excited about was somewhat as if a modern-day prophet would proclaim that the United States should not fear any threat from Russia, because it would be China that would invade the country and make it desolate. What kind of assurance is that?
In a separate posting, I will show something even more curious about this much beloved "prophecy" of Isaiah. He gave the so-called virgin-birth prophecy as a sign that the Syrian-Samaritan threat would not succeed against Judah, but according to an account of the Syrian-Samaritan invasion recorded elsewhere in the Bible, it did succeed.
Response to Rob's Evasions.
LUNDBERG >So you need to delve into Josephus to refute the passage Genesis 3:15.
I didn't "delve" into Josephus to "refute" the passage in Genesis 3:15, because there is nothing to refute. You and other Xians allege that this was a Messianic prophecy, so it is your responsibility to show beyond reasonable doubt that the intention of the Genesis writer in making this statement was to prophesy the coming of a Messiah. Since Josephus obviously interpreted the story as an explanation for why there is a natural enmity between snakes and humans, this supports my contention that the meaning of Genesis 3:15 is not quite as obvious as you claim. Keep in mind that in order to have a prophecy fulfillment, you must first have a prophecy statement whose meaning cannot be contested. If the meaning of Genesis 3:15 is what you claim it is, why was that not obvious to Josephus? That's the point you have to deal with. And why is the meaning of the statement not universally accepted to be what you claim it is? How can you have a prophecy fulfillment if the prophecy statement is so vaguely worded that there is no consensus on what it meant? Try to deal with the issue.
LUNDBERG >Let's see, Josephus was a historian who wrote on the history of Israel >during the Maccabean Revolt and Roman occupation. I don't have my volume >of Josephus handy right this minute but I believe that he even said >something about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Hmmm.
I suppose that you are referring to the statement in *Antiquities of the Jews,* Book 18, Chapter 3, Section 3. Let's look at it:
"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works--a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day."
I suspect that you are completely unaware that the authenticity of this passage has been questioned by a wide range of scholars. There are many reasons to suspect that it was a Christian interpolation that Josephus did not write. I will list just some of the reasons why this passage is so considered, and if you want to discuss them, I'm sure you will find many on this list who are eager to participate.
1. Is it reasonable to think that Josephus would not have converted to Christianity if he really believed what this passage says, i.e., Jesus was the Christ, he showed himself alive after his crucifixion, and he fulfilled ten thousand wonderful things that the prophets had foretold about him?
2. This paragraph was missing in early versions of Josephus. Church fathers often quoted Josephus in support of their arguments for Christianity, but none of them ever referred to this statement. In *Origen Contra Celsum,* Origen defended Christianity against the attacks of Celsus, and in doing so, he quoted Josephus at times but never quoted this passage, the very one that would have best supported his case if it were genuine and had been in the version of *Antiquities* that Origen had at the time.
3. This paragraph was first quoted in the 4th century by Eusebius. How reasonable is it to believe that four centuries of apologetic efforts by church fathers went by before this passage was discovered?
4. The phrase "to this day" at the end of the statement indicates that the perspective of the writer was someone writing long after the events referred to in the statement (the crucifixion, the resurrection, etc.). Josephus was too close to these events to make it believable that he would have used the expression.
5. If Josephus really believed that Jesus had fulfilled predictions of Jewish prophets, he would surely have devoted much more space to him than this one short passage.
LUNDBERG >If anything you can only take Josephus' words on this passage as commentary. >I have yet to find a commentary written by anyone that is PERRRRFECT.
That is the only way that I intended it. So, Rob, please listen carefully and try to understand what the issue is so that you won't waste more time on windmills and straw men. The person who claims that a statement was a prophecy and that this prophecy was fulfilled by a specific event must establish beyond reasonable doubt that the one who made the alleged prophecy meant exactly what the prophecy proponent claims that the statement meant. Now that is your task in the matter of Genesis 3:15. The fact that Josephus obviously thought that the statement meant something else other than the prophecy of a Messiah is clear evidence that the Genesis writer's intended meaning was not as evident as you seem to think.
LUNDBERG >This may be true. It may be false. It may be somewhere in between. The >problem with using this in your argumentation is that you have essentially >said nothing here refuting the messianic prophecy.
I haven't? If Josephus's understanding of Genesis 3:15, by your own admission, may be true, then I most certainly have said something that refutes your Messianic claim. How could Genesis 3:15 be a prophecy of what you are claiming if it may be true that it was actually an attempt to explain why there is a natural enmity between snakes and humans? You can't seem to understand that before anyone can claim that a prophecy was fulfilled by a specific event, he must first establish beyond reasonable doubt that the prophecy did mean what he claims that it meant, and you haven't even come close to doing that in the matter of Genesis 3:15. You haven't even attempted to analyze the statement to show reasons why it should be interpreted to mean what you are claiming.
LUNDBERG >You just used Josephus' words to shed some light on what may have >happened to the serpent during and after it was cursed. I think you >support my response quite well in your entry on what follows. This >is nothing but speculation and does not prove your argument.
I want you to keep this statement in mind, because if you decide to participate in the debates on the errancy list (and I doubt that you will), it will come back to haunt you. The only weapon that biblical inerrantists have when they are presented with a biblical discrepancy is a resort to how-it-could-have-been scenarios. So I want you to keep this statement in mind, and you won't need to wonder if I will keep it in my files, because I will.
For now, just let me run the problem by you again. In the matter of Genesis 3:15, you are asserting that the writer intended for this statement to refer to a specific event that would happen in the distant future. That specific event would be the birth of a man called Jesus of Nazareth. Can't you see that in order for your position to prevail, you must establish beyond reasonable doubt that this--and only this--was what the writer meant? In order to do that, you would have to undertake, at the very least, a textual analysis of the passage to show valid reasons why the statement should be so understood. But you haven't done that. You have, in fact, done nothing except assert that this is what it meant. Assertions, however, won't work, because assertions are merely assertions until they are proven.
LUNDBERG >Nice try nevertheless.
Too bad that I can't say the same about you. You have made no try at all, so there has been nothing at all "nice" about your effort. So when do you propose to present your evidence that will show beyond reasonable doubt that the Genesis writer meant for 3:15 to be understood as a prophecy that a Messiah would one day be born of a descendant of the woman Eve?
LUNDBERG >By the way I appreciate Josephus' work, but he is not the only one with >a "commentary" on Genesis 3:15.
I'm well aware of that, but I wonder if you are aware of the fact that there is no consensus--not even anything close to it--that this statement meant what you say that it meant. However, since you are the one asserting that it was a prophecy of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, it is your responsibility to prove that it meant this and couldn't have meant anything else. Until you do that, you don't have a prophecy fulfillment to brag about.
LUNDBERG >There are some out there that are nothing but liberal drivel.
Oh, I see. This is the game you are going to play. Whenever anyone disagrees with your position on whatever, you will simply dismiss it as "liberal drivel." Well, that's about par for the course. I don't suppose that you would be willing to admit that there is a lot of fundamentalist drivel being circulated too. I would put Josh McDowell close to the top of the list of this kind of drivel.
LUNDBERG >There are some that are quite good. Why don't look into this a little >bit more and see if you can come up with a more applicable response.
If anyone needs to do some looking, it's you. After all, you are the one who has asserted that Genesis 3:15 was a prophecy of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, so let's see you produce some evidence in support of your assertion.
LUNDBERG >No, thus we can see that Till failed in providing a credible response >to proving why Genesis 3:15 is not a messianic prophecy.
I guess I failed because you said I did. I'm willing to leave it to those who read our exchanges to decide who has failed.
LUNDBERG >All we got from them is a commentary on the probability of what happened >in the garden of Eden to the serpent. There is no reason to convince me >that they Till/Adnan have accomplished what they set out to do here.
Well, would you please point to some reasons why we should think that you have accomplished what you set out to do? I believe that you set out to prove that (1) Genesis 3:15 was a Messianic prophecy that (2) was fulfilled with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Just what have you done that has accomplished either one of those goals? Is your tactic simply going to be that if you say it is a prophecy, it is therefore a prophecy? If so, please let me know. I have more to do than waste time on someone who doesn't know the first thing about logical argumentation.
LUNDBERG >If these boys were to look at the whole corpus of the Bible, and deal >with it honestly instead of trying to prove my gullibility, me thinks >that they may have one of the biggest horsepills an antitheist would >have to swallow.
Hmmm, does anyone see anything in this that would prove that Jesus was the Messiah (even if we concede that Genesis 3:15 was a Messianic prophecy)?
LUNDBERG >Look back at my probability entry from John Noth's book, Science Speaks.
Stoner bases his probability argument on the claim that biblical prophecies were in fact fulfilled. Before his argument would have any validity, he would have to establish that fulfillment of biblical prophecies did occur. That is what we are debating now, and you have failed miserably to establish your first fulfillment claim. If the others are as weak as this one--and in due time I will show that they are--Stoner's argument isn't worth a pint of cold spit. To get things started, why don't you stop your question-begging and give some kind of reasonable evidence to support your claim that Genesis 3:15 was a Messianic prophecy that was fulfilled by the birth of Jesus of Nazareth?
LUNDBERG >Look back and open your Bibles (:o what?!!!!? oh, an antitheist is afraid >of that book)
I'm afraid of the Bible? Do you know any more jokes?
LUNDBERG >and study everything that I shared earlier on the prophecies and their >fulfillments.
The problem is that the only thing you shared was a long list of assertions, which I am shooting down one by one. That is hardly sterling evidence that biblical prophecies have been fulfilled.
LUNDBERG >If you are going to refute me you better do a better job than what you >did on this one.
Oh, is that so? Would you mind listing the arguments you have presented in support of your claim that (1) Genesis 3:15 was a Messianic prophecy that (2) was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth? Until you do that, there is nothing for me to refute, so all I need do is point out to those reading these exchanges that you have presented nothing except an unsupported assertion.
LUNDBERG >You are very observant that I am an inerrantist, but is this your >excuse for thinking that I live on another planet?
Rob, do try to stop beating on straw men and address the issue involved. My reference to your living on another planet was merely a statement about how uninformed you apparently are on the subject of biblical inerrancy. Anyone who can say that the Bible has never been wrong on anything is a person who either (1) has not studied the issue of biblical inerrancy, or (2) obstinately refuses to recognize biblical errancy when it is pointed out to him. The more this discussion continues, the more it appears that your position derives from a combination of both. Anyway, my statement was a manner of speaking, so why don't you address the counterarguments I and others have posted and stop pretending by proclamation that you have won a debate that that you haven't really even entered into yet? No real debating occurs until the affirmant of a proposition addresses the counterarguments of his opponent.
LUNDBERG >You have yet to show me conclusive evidence that you have cleanly >refuted anything I have presented thus far.
I have cited the passage from Josephus to show that Genesis 3:15 can be and has been understood differently from what you claim, and Nancy Todd has posted an excellent response in which she pointed out that the NAB translators admit that the view of Josephus was the accepted meaning of this passage until later theological developments resulted in a reinterpretation of the statement. This is more than enough to present a serious challenge to your claim that Genesis 3:15 was a Messianic prophecy.
You may not consider this "conclusive evidence," but it doesn't have to be. All that my evidence need do is cast serious doubt on your claim, because the one who makes a prophecy-fulfillment claim is the one who bears the burden of having to provide conclusive evidence. The evidence I have cited is sufficient to show that it is reasonable to doubt that Genesis 3:15 was intended to mean what you claim. Thus, you have failed to satisfy the first criterion of valid prophecy fulfillment. How can there be a clear case of prophecy fulfillment when the meaning of the prophetic statement itself is in doubt?
LUNDBERG >I give you the passages and their fulfillments in the NT. HAVE YOU >NOT READ????? Of course not.
Oh, Rob, dear, I have read them many, many times. I read them long before you were even born. I have also studied logic enough to know that the fact that the NT makes various prophecy-fulfillment claims proves exactly nothing but that the NT makes various prophecy-fulfillment claims. You seem to have difficulty understanding that the mere fact that a biblical writer claimed prophecy fulfillment does not constitute proof that the claim is true.
To show that a prophecy-fulfillment claim does not in and of itself constitute evidence that the claim is true, I will cite again my example of the Islamic claim that the prophet Muhammed fulfilled Yahweh's prophecy that he would raise up a prophet "like unto Moses." Here is the example exactly as I posted it earlier:
Is Rob unaware of the Islamic claim that the prophet Muhammad fulfilled certain OT prophecies? In Deuteronomy 18:18-19, for example, Yahweh allegedly said to Moses, "I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto you; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass that whoever will not hearken unto my words that he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." Luke had Peter claiming that this prophet was Jesus (Acts 3:22-23); however, Muslims claim that this prophet was Muhammed. Chapter 28 in the Qur'an alleges that a prophet like Moses would come. The language is rather obscure but no more obscure than most biblical prophecies. In my version of the Qur'an, a footnote at verse 46 says this: "Moses' prophecy about the advent of the Prophet--of a prophet like him from among the Ishmaelites, the brethren of the Israelites--was so clear that one would think that the Prophet was there at the side of the mountain and Moses saw him with his own eyes.... The clear prophecy of Moses of the appearance of a prophet *like unto him* was fulfilled after about two thousand years, and yet none of the prophets who followed Moses, one after another had ever claimed to be a prophet like Moses, not even Jesus Christ, the last of the line of the Israelite prophets." Chapter 73:15 says that Allah had sent a witness just as he had sent a witness to Pharaoh, and a footnote to this verse says, "The Holy Prophet's likeness to Moses is stated in the clearest terms in this, one of the earliest revelations, and thus the Holy Prophet's claim to be the promised prophet of Deut. 18:18, who is expressly stated ton be the 'like' of Moses, is as old as his revelation."
So we have the NT claiming that Jesus was the prophet "like unto Moses," and we have the Qur'an and the Muslims claiming that this prophet was Muhammed. If Rob were confronted by a Muslim who claimed that Deuteronomy 18:18 was a prophecy of the coming of a prophet like unto Moses from among the Ishmaelites (Arabs) and that Muhammed was the fulfillment of that prophecy, what would be his reaction? Would he say, "Well, I guess you're right about this," or would he insist upon establishing some criteria to evaluate this Islamic claim? If he insisted upon establishing criteria for evaluation of the claim, would one of those criteria be an insistence that the ones making the claim prove beyond reasonable doubt that Yahweh intended the statement to mean that this prophet would come from the Ishmaelites? If so, why does he accuse me of "refus[ing] to take the texts that [he has] quoted honestly" when he asserts, without even attempting to explicate the texts, that certain passages in the OT were prophesying the coming of Jesus of Nazareth? I fear that Rob has a lot to learn about debating.
Does Rob think that it is his duty to prove "conclusively" that Muhammed was NOT this prophet "like unto Moses"? I'm sure he doesn't, because he is intelligent enough to realize that Muslims who make the claim that Muhammed fulfilled this prophecy are the ones obligated to prove CONCLUSIVELY that Muhammed was in fact that prophet. In the same way, he is claiming that Genesis 3:15 was a prophecy of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, so he is the one who has the obligation to prove conclusively that this was the case. He hasn't done that. He hasn't even attempted to do it.
LUNDBERG >You stick to your pre-atheistic liberal Christianity presuppositions >that are rooted in the Documentary Hypothesis (which is based upon a >hypothetical document called Q or Quelle).
Rob, you do need to do a bit more biblical research before you undertake to debate informed opposition. The Documentary Hypothesis is a theory about the authorship of the Deuteronomic books of the OT. The Q document has been postulated as the source of information in Matthew and Luke that was not in the gospel of Mark, their primary source.
As for my "pre-atheistic liberal Christianity presuppositions," are we to assume that Rob is just another would-be apologist who thinks that he has answered an argument when he labels it "liberal"? If he would take a course in basic logic, he might learn that the truth or falsity of a proposition is independent of its source, so if one challenges the claim that Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 7:14 were prophecies of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the truth or falsity of that challenge must be evaluated on its own merits. Whether the one issuing the challenge is a "liberal" or an atheist or a communist or a Muslim, etc., etc., etc. has nothing to do with it.
LUNDBERG >I take issue with some of my undergrad profs and you will be no >different.
Well, go ahead and take issue, but I do hope that when you take issue with your undergraduate professors, you do a better job of defending your position than you are doing here. If not, you could be placing your grades in serious jeopardy. By the way, why am I not surprised to learn that you are an undergraduate student?
LUNDBERG >However, this may be the underpinnings of your leaving Christendom. >German rationalistic roots will do that to you.
Actually, I had never heard of the Documentary Hypothesis when I made my decision that the Bible was not what I been taught to believe. Furthermore, I never read a line in higher criticism until long after my decision was made. It was the Bible itself, Rob, that led to my rejection of Christianity. A rational person can tolerate just so much absurdity and nonsense and inconsistency in an allegedly inspired book until his intelligence tells him that he has been snookered.
>TILL >>Anyway, what kind of debate is Rob looking for, one where his >>opposition rolls over and plays dead? He is claiming that >>biblical prophets made certain Messianic predictions that were >>later fulfilled, but for his claim to have any force of >>argument, he must satisfy criteria of valid prophecy that are >> widely recognized. Whether a prophecy was fulfilled or not >>obviously depends upon establishing that what the prophet meant >>when he made the alleged prophecy. LUNDBERG >Expect you to play dead? If this is really you Mr. Till, I hardly >expect you to play dead. You are very perceptive of my claim that the >prophetic writers in the OT made certain Messianic predictions that >were later fulfilled. We are talking about prophecy now aren't we.
Yes, we are, so when are you going to stop your evasion and get down to the task of assuming the burden of proof that is incumbent on you as the one who is claiming prophecy fulfillment?
LUNDBERG >Me thinks that you are lost for words or is that you refuse to admit >that you are _______. (Answer: WRONG). Why haven't you given me your >reasons to prove that I am wrong?
You haven't see them yet? If you would inquire, you would probably find that your college offers courses in remedial reading. You could probably benefit from them, after which you might want to try a course in basic logic.
LUNDBERG >All you are doing is making blanket statement.
No, you are the one who has made blanket statements. You have asserted that Genesis 3:15 was a prophecy of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, but you have evaded all requests for evidence that would show it is reasonable to understand that this is what the statement meant. The same is true of Isaiah 7:14. Your blanket statements about these passages have been challenged with detailed counterarguments that you have not responded to.
LUNDBERG >You are telling me that I am from another planet for believing what >I believe about the Bible.
To say that you have been living on another planet was merely a way of expressing my suspicion that you are VERY uninformed about the biblical issue (prophecy fulfillment) that your original posting introduced. You have now posted enough additional information to confirm that this suspicion was well founded.
LUNDBERG >Why don't you PROVE IT TO ME. You know why? BECAUSE YOU CANNOT.
What exactly am I supposed to prove? I have asserted nothing except that the language in Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 7:14 does not justify your claim that these were prophecies of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Instead of arbitrarily declaring over and over and over that I have proven nothing, why don't you take my counterarguments and refute them?
I will close this part of my response with a question for you. Why don't you prove to Muslims that they are wrong in their claim that Muhammed was the prophet like unto Moses whom Yahweh promised in Deuteronomy 18:18? I would be very interested in seeing someone as expert on prophecy fulfillment as you seem to think you are demonstrate to all the stupid skeptics on this list how to refute a false prophecy-fulfillment claim.
Response to Katz: Jochen Katz unsuccessful attempts to help Rob.
>TILL >>I didn't "delve" into Josephus to "refute" the passage in Genesis 3:15, >>because there is nothing to refute. You and other Xians allege that this >>was a Messianic prophecy, so it is your responsibility to show beyond >>reasonable doubt that the intention of the Genesis writer in making this >>statement was to prophesy the coming of a Messiah. LUNDBERG >Nearly all texts, particularly "poetic" texts (as opposed to technical >scientific reports) have ambiguities. They can be interpreted in different >ways. Since Mr. Till supposedly taught literature he should be aware of >this. I am sure he will be unable to prove for most of Shakespeare's >passages in his dramas the "exact" intended meaning.
Exactly! And that is why it is so absurd for biblicists to take vaguely worded statements in the Bible and declare that they were prophecies of specific events that happened later. If they cannot establish beyond reasonable doubt that the statements meant what they claim, by what rule of logic have they proven prophecy fulfillment?
LUNDBERG >Apart from the fact that some texts are deliberately broad in meaning. >For example, I believe that it is no accident that in John 3 the verse >can be translated "born anew" or "born from above". Both are grammatically >possible, both make theologically sense, and maybe the author wasn't >accidentally ambiguous but intentionally used a formulation which gives >both meanings both being true and together giving more of the message than >one meaning alone could have done.
Think what you want to about John 3:3. It has nothing to do with whether Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 7:14 were prophecies of the birth of Jesus. If you are taking a double-meaning position on these statements, then it is, of course, your duty to prove that the double meanings were intended.
LUNDBERG >No, we don't have to prove beyond doubt that this is a messianic prophecy, >all I have to do [according to my own standards] to explain that the >interpretation as a messianic prophecy is consistent with both grammar >and the rest of Biblical theology. And I hope you will agree that it >is perfectly posssible to read this as a messianic prophecy.
That is a ridiculous position. Let's take the "prophecies" of Nostradamus as an example. All sorts of interpretations have been presented for some of the quatrains of Nostradamus. I recall a student essay in which the writer took the position that Nostradamus had prophesied the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The English translation of the quatrain that allegedly made this prediction was quoted, but in my opinion the student's interpretation was strained and purely arbitrary, although there was certainly nothing inconsistent with the grammar of the statement and the history of Kennedy's life. Since I read French, I obtained an original version of Nostradamus through interlibrary loan and read the quatrain in the original. The meaning was still vague. However, according to Katz's reasoning, I will have to agree that Nostradamus did prophesy the assassination of Kennedy? Why? Because (1) a person has asserted that this was what Nostradamus meant, and (2) the interpretation of the alleged prophecy was consistent with grammar and Kennedy's personal history.
TILL >>Since Josephus obviously interpreted the story as an explanation for >>why there is a natural enmity between snakes and humans, this supports >>my contention that the meaning of Genesis 3:15 is not quite as obvious >>as you claim. LUNDBERG >There are to every text different interpretations.
By golly, I think Katz is finally making some progress. Now since he agrees that "(t)here are to every text different interpretations," perhaps he will explain to us why his and Rob's interpretation of Genesis 3:15 must be seen as the only possible meaning that the Genesis writer intended. If he can't do that, then he has no basis for declaring that this was a prophecy of the birth of Jesus. The best that he can do is say that he THINKS this was what the writer meant, and who cares what he thinks?
LUNDBERG >Josephus is no more on a "last authority" than you are.
Nobody has said that he is. The whole point in introducing what Josephus said about Genesis 3:15 was to show that as far back as almost 2,000 years ago, Genesis 3:15 was understood entirely differently from what Rob is claiming. If there are other likely interpretations of the statement, then to make his case for prophecy fulfillment, Rob would have to show that these other interpretations are erroneous. He hasn't done that, because, of course, he can't do it.
LUNDBERG >In 100 years time, maybe your web pages are still around. And I hope the >people then won't be more impressed by them as I am now.
Perhaps you would like to take some of the issues on those pages and respond to them.
LUNDBERG >Appeal to your interpretation by others is about as authoritative as >your appeal to Josephus. He is one valuable witness to one historical >way of interpreting this, but that doesn't mean he is right and all >others are wrong.
Surely, Katz can't be as dense as he seems. I am not setting myself up as a final authority in this matter, and I have not set Josephus up as a final authority. I have done no more than Nancy Todd did when she quoted the footnote from the NAB that presented the exact view that Josephus expressed. The intention was not to make a final appeal to authority but merely to show that there are reputable sources that see Genesis 3:15 entirely differently from the Messianic-prophecy view. Surely, Katz can see the difference.
LUNDBERG >It *is* obvious that there is a prophecy about someone in this verse.
I suppose that is one way of looking at it, but I would consider "prophecy" to be an inappropriate term, unless Katz wants to call most myths prophecies. Myths were usually presented as explanations of mysteries. In the case of this one, the general fear of snakes existed first, and the myth was formulated to explain that fear. I can't see that this would be a "prophecy."
For the sake of argument, let's just assume that Eve was the first human female and that the serpent was the first snake. Then let's assume that the snake talked to Eve and Eve talked to the snake. In other words, let's just suspend all rationality for a while and assume the historical accuracy of this story. If that is the case, then Genesis 3:15 would have been a prophecy only of the enmity that would later exist between humans and snakes.
LUNDBERG >God speaking to the serpent in Gen. 3:15
"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
LUNDBERG >The first two lines can be read as "general" offspring can denote a >singular or plural entity. But the last two lines are singular without >doubt. It is not "They will crush your heads and you will strike their >heels" - then you / Josephus would be right. But it is singular and the >messianic interpretation of one particular person this is pointing to >is certainly the more natural reading.
Since this will be posted on the errancy list, perhaps Yoel Wasserman will see it. If so, he can correct me if I am wrong, but is it not true that the antecedent of the pronoun "he" in the last sentence would be "seed" [the woman's seed], and is it not true that the word "seed" in Hebrew was masculine singular? If so, would that not account for why the singular was used? Anyway, if the statement meant that a particular "seed" or descendant of the woman [Jesus] would bruise the head of the serpent, then why did the verse first say that there would be enmity between "your seed" [the serpent's] and "her seed" [the woman's]? If the serpent was Satan, does this mean that Satan had descendants and that the enmity between the two parties would be between Jesus and whoever or whatever Satan's seed is or would be?
My point is that if Katz wants to get into individual points of grammar in this statement, he will encounter troublesome problems for his interpretation too.
>TILL >>Keep in mind that in order to have a prophecy fulfillment, you must >>first have a prophecy statement whose meaning cannot be contested. LUNDBERG >What a blah. Everything can be contested, even the most obvious facts. >Have you ever watched a court trial?
Yes, the meaning of every statement can be contested, and this only underscores the absurdity of taking vaguely worded statements (as almost all alleged prophecies were) and arbitrarily assigning to them specific meanings to fit preconceived theological notions. And that is exactly what has been done to Genesis 3:15.
>TILL >>If the meaning of Genesis 3:15 is what you claim it is, why was that >>not obvious to Josephus? LUNDBERG >Because he didn't see it therefore you are excused as well to close >your eyes when it is pointed out to you?
And must I accept this interpretation that is being pointed out to me when the proponents of this interpretation won't even make a reasonable effort to analyze the text to show that this has to be what it meant?
But let's put the issue of what the statement meant aside. For the sake of argument, I am going to concede that the statement had to mean that Yahweh would send into the world a Messiah from the "seed" of the woman to "bruise" the head of the serpent (whom for the sake of argument I will also concede was Satan). Now with all of those concessions, will you please show us why you know that Jesus was the fulfillment of that prophecy? After all, Jesus (if he ever existed) would have been only one of millions who were the "seed" of Eve. If you say that you know that Jesus was that seed, because the NT claims that he was the Christ (Messiah), you will just be begging a question that needs to be proven.
>TILL >>That's the point you have to deal with. LUNDBERG >Exactly.
So when do you plan to deal with it?
>TILL >That is the only way that I intended it. So, Rob, please listen carefully >and try to understand what the issue is so that you won't waste more time >on windmills and straw men. The person who claims that a statement was a >prophecy and that this prophecy was fulfilled by a specific event must >establish beyond reasonable doubt that the one who made the alleged >prophecy meant exactly what the prophecy proponent claims that the statement >meant. Now that is your task in the matter of Genesis 3:15. The fact that >Josephus obviously thought that the statement meant something else other >than the prophecy of a Messiah is clear evidence that the Genesis writer's >intended meaning was not as evident as you seem to think. LUNDBERG >The barrier for "reasonable doubt" seems to be rather subjective. :o)
But your interpretation of Genesis 3:15 and your claim that Jesus was the "seed of woman" prophesied is not subjective?
LUNDBERG >And as I said, with a strong determination, one can doubt anything and >find many reasons for doubting. Scepticism can be a cult. Being sceptic >for scepticism sake.
And with strong determinism, one can believe anything and find many reasons for believing it. Believing can be a cult. Being a believer for belief's sake.
LUNDBERG >Josephus' interpretation might [be] *a* possible interpretation.
Then that has to mean that it is in no way definite beyond reasonable doubt that your interpretation of Genesis 3:15 is what the writer meant. When are you going to recognize the obvious?
LUNDBERG >It is certainly NOT the only possible interpretation
I didn't say it was, but prophecy-fulfillment claims demand certitude not just possibilities. What's so hard to understand about that? Rob wants us to swoon over a ridiculous probability argument that Stoner based on prophecy fulfillment, but his entire argument crumbles unless he can prove--not just claim but prove--that there were at least seven clear-cut Messianic prophecies that were fulfilled in the person and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth. Maybes and possibilities just won't do. He will have to establish certitude.
LUNDBERG >and as I showed above, the messianic one has some good reasons going for >it even on the basic level of grammar.
And the other interpretation has, in my opinion, some even better reasons going for it, even on the basic level of grammar.
LUNDBERG >And, Josephus might just be wrong.
And you just might be wrong too.
LUNDBERG >He is not infallible.
But you are, I guess?
LUNDBERG >In any case, the messianic interpretation is consistent and plausible. >That is all there is to say.
And the other interpretation is consistent and plausible, and as long as it is, you have not established that this was a prophecy. And even if it was a prophecy, you certainly haven't established that Jesus was the one who fulfilled it.
LUNDBERG >And you are free to reject it.
>TILL >>For now, just let me run the problem by you again. In the matter of Genesis >>3:15, you are asserting that the writer intended for this statement to refer >>to a specific event that would happen in the distant future. That specific >>event would be the birth of a man called Jesus of Nazareth. Can't you see >>that in order for your position to prevail, you must establish beyond >>reasonable doubt that this--and only this--was what the writer meant? In >>order to do that, you would have to undertake, at the very least, a textual >>analysis of the passage to show valid reasons why the statement should be >>so understood. But you haven't done that. You have, in fact, done nothing >>except assert that this is what it meant. Assertions, however, won't work, >>because assertions are merely assertions until they are proven. LUNDBERG >Well, you haven't undertaken a textual analysis either. And I did a very >basic one above
What you are saying is that I must show that your interpretation is NOT what the Genesis writer meant, and this is parallel to apologists who insist that skeptics must prove that Jesus did NOT rise from the dead or that God does NOT exist. However, this is a simple matter of who must bear the burden of proof. You are the one who asserts that the statement meant X, so it is your responsibility to prove that it means X and couldn't mean anything else. By showing that there is another widely held interpretation of the statement, I have shown that you have not made your case, because if the meaning of the statement were obvious enough to be cited as a case of prophecy and its subsequent fulfillment, there wouldn't be other understandings of what it meant. However, you may consider my analysis above to be parallel with your attempt to analyze the text.
LUNDBERG >And no, this passage certainly does not mention "Jesus of Nazareth" but it >mentions somebody who would do away with "the snake" [an image for Satan - >or the source of sin]. And it peculiarly says something what is not found >anywhere else "the seed of the woman" which blends in perfectly with the >virgin birth prophecy.
It doesn't say that somebody would "do away with 'the snake.'" It says that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the snake. Anyway, this argument does not address the obvious fact that Yahweh said that he would put enmity between the seed [offspring] of the serpent and the seed [offspring] of the woman. Would you tell us in what sense Satan has offspring and in what sense enmity exists between the descendants of the woman and the descendants of Satan? I personally don't feel any animosity at all toward the descendants of Satan. Heck, I can't even remember ever meeting one of his descendants. I have, however, encountered many snakes, and everytime I do, I freeze to the bone.
LUNDBERG >No one of these prophecies on their own make an airtight case for the >Messianic identity, since nearly all characteristics are shared with a >group of people, the strength is cumulative. The more characteristics >you give, the fewer people it fits. And the issue is that only Jesus fits >the lot of them and in him all the loose ends are tied together. If you >don't like this method of prophecy, well that is your decision. But it >is not for us to demand how God has to work. There certainly is enough >evidence to make it reasonable to believe.
There's too much question begging in this statement to waste my time on. Has it never occurred to you gullible, amateur apologists that what you see as a picture of all the loose ends coming together in Jesus is nothing more than your uncritical acceptance of the NT documents, which were obviously written to give the appearance that Jesus had fulfilled various OT prophecies. I think I have enough talent to write a completely fictional biography of a person to make it appear that he fulfilled many OT prophecies. In fact, I know I could. Anyone who would then accept that biography as historical fact would think that various loose ends in OT prophecies come together perfectly in the central character in my story. What is wrong with you people anyway? Have you lost all respect for common sense. I defy you or anyone to prove that the following NT claims are historical facts:
1. Jesus was born of a virgin.
2. Jesus was a descendant of David.
3. Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
4. Jesus took his family to Egypt to save Jesus from Herod's massacre.
5. Jesus lived in Nazareth.
6. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.
7. A voice spoke from heaven after Jesus was baptized.
8. Jesus attended a wedding in Cana of Galilee.
9. Jesus changed water into wine at this wedding.
I could list hundreds of others, but these are sufficient to make my point. You can't prove that a single event attributed to Jesus in the NT ever actually happened, yet you crow about wonderful prophecy fulfillment. You don't even give the time of day to Muslims, Mormons, and Hindus who assume the total truth about what is recorded in their holy books, yet you gullibly accept everything in the Bible.
LUNDBERG >For "each one of them" you might find many reasons against, but in its >cumulative force the rejection is rather silly.
Why don't you present your cumulative-force claim as an argument? I'll be glad to rebut it.
If I wrote the biography mentioned above and gullible people accepted it over many centuries as historical fact, then eventually those who believe it would say that rejection of the cumulative force of the prophecies that my hero fulfilled is "rather silly."
LUNDBERG >You need more faith in all those hundreds of different interpretations >than you need faith to accept the case of the Messiah in the scriptures.
You can't see that your faith is based on hundreds of arbitrary interpretations that Christians have assigned to the Jewish scriptures, which interpretations millions of Jews don't even accept? The fact is that the case that the scriptures make for the Messiah (Jesus) is as weak as water. If you want to debate the historicity of Jesus, please join the errancy list. I have to take a trip to Kentucky next week, but when I return, I'll be glad to engage you in such a discussion.
LUNDBERG >If we in our always finite and limited understanding can make a case or >argument reaching 90% of a perfect score then obviously Mr. Till is >still free to chose the 10% of doubt that remain. Whether that is the >reasonable choice is another question.
When have you made a case that has reached 90% of a perfect score? Don't look now, but your score is actually 0. I defy you or any Christian to prove even one verifiable case of biblical prophecy fulfillment.
Splitting the moon?: Jochen Katz' double standard?
KATZ >Hm, Adnan you might ask Mr. Till for me what version of the Qur'an he has? >My version doesn't have these detailed notes and I might get myself another >version for comparison.
My version of the Qur'an is Maulana Muhammad Ali's English translation. Here is the footnote that he affixed to 54:1.
The "rending asunder of the moon" in the time of the Holy Prophet is an incident related by a number of his companions; and the reports of this incident are classed as mashur (well-known) (Rz), and are accepted as correct by Bukhari and Muslim. Ibn Athir says: "The incident is narrated in *mutawatir* (successively repeated) hadith with *saih isnad* (sound transmission)." While the main fact is thus undisputed, there are some differences as to details. IMsd says that he saw the peak of Mount Hira interposing between the two parts. I'Ab says that one of the two parts remained, while the other disappeared (Kf). Answering the objection to the possibility of such an unusual incident, RZ concludes from the different versions of the report that it was a kind of lunar eclipse, and the appearance of something in the form of half the moon in the firmament. The best authorities, however, agree that there is no reason to doubt the trustworthiness of the report, and that the same incident is referred to here. In the whole history of miracles, this is the only miracle of which a contemporaneous record exists. It thus stands unique even among the miracles of the Holy Prophet."
The footnote continues at length to discuss the opinion of some Muslim sources that this verse refers to a future time and to the opinion of others that the "moon was rent asunder in the Holy Prophet's time" and would be done again "at the approach of the Judgment day." (In other words, Muslims appear to have their "double-meaning" advocates too.) Katz should take special notice of the statement at the end of the part of the footnote that I have quoted: "In the whole history of miracles, this is the only miracle of which a contemporaneous record exists."
KATZ >Every miracle as to come with "appropriate" testimony. The Persians, >the Chinese etc. were eagerly watching the sky. This would have been >recorded. Why do we not find any independent records?
I love it when a would-be apologist puts his foot in his mouth. If the Persians and the Chinese (etc.) were "eagerly watching the sky," there should also be "independent records" of the star that guided the wise men from the east to Bethlehem. If the Persians and the Chinese were "eagerly watching the sky," there should also be "independent records" of the three-hour period of darkness when the sun's light failed (Luke 23:44-45; Matt. 27:45-46; Mark 15:33-34). This problem has been discussed at length on the errancy list, and the only response that any biblicists have offered has been the Josh McDowellian resorts to the secondhand references of Africanus and Phlegon to some alleged references to an "eclipse" by writers whose works no longer exist. These sources don't event quote the alleged references to this "eclipse"; they simply assert that they were made. Thus, there is no way to evaluate these "lost" references. Furthermore, Africanus and Phlegon used the word "eclipse" in citing those references, but anyone should know that an eclipse is of very short duration, certainly not three hours long.
Since the gospels assert that this darkness was "over all the land" and that the sun's light failed, this darkness would not have been localized to Jerusalem but would have been experienced all over the hemisphere. Katz's Persian and Chinese sky-watchers, as well as those who don't ordinarily watch the sky, should have noticed it and left independent records. But they didn't. Pliny and Seneca, both contemporaries to the time Jesus alleged lived, wrote histories of famous phenomena, such as earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, comets, and eclipses, but neither one of them mentioned the most phenomenal event of them all, the three-hour period of darkness when Jesus was on the cross.
My point is that when Katz is faced with a nonbiblical miracle claim, he has no problem at all in applying common sense to the evaluation of that claim, but he apparently can't apply the same common sense to the evaluation of biblical miracle claims. If Matthew said that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus, then, by golly, this has to be absolute truth. If Matthew said that there was a three-hour period of darkness the day Jesus was crucified, then, by golly, this has to be absolute truth. But if Muslims claim that the moon was once rent asunder, Katz immediately wonders why the Persians, Chinese, and other sky-watchers of the time didn't provide "independent confirmation." Biblical inerrantists--you have to love 'em!
As for that "independent confirmation" that Katz wants, if I understand Ali's footnote above, he claims that eyewitness records exist. I'm not familiar with Islamic literature enough to evaluate this claim. Perhaps some on the MCD list can comment on this.KATZ >Furthermore, my footnotes [Yusuf Ali] gives also the alternative >of reading this as a future and not a past event. He gives several >possiblities and doesn't commit himself and there are a substantial >number of Muslims who read this to be a future event. And that is >consistent with the text becase "the hour" is (nearly) always used >for the end of the world/coming of Jesus.
Yes, the part of Ali's footnote that I summarized makes this observation, but the part that I quoted listed the names of alleged eyewitnesses and claimed that "(i)n the whole history of miracles, this is the only miracle of which a contemporaneous record exists." Whether this claim is true or not, I'm not qualified to say, but I'll bet that Katz wishes there were "contemporaneous records" to confirm the historicity of NT events he is struggling to defend.
Katz' Swan Song
>TILL >>Anyone who would then accept that biography as historical fact would think >>that various loose ends in OT prophecies come together perfectly in the >>central character in my story. What is wrong with you people anyway? Have >>you lost all respect for common sense. I defy you or anyone to prove that >>the following NT claims are historical facts: KATZ >I agree, after you discard the evidence that is there in the New Testament >then there is not much evidence left [even though, there is still a >substantial case for the existence and a few particulars of Jesus' life >from non-Christian sources, see Gary Habermas, The Historical Jesus]. But >for most of the details of Jesus life as those listed above are indeed >dependent on the New Testament writings, particularly the Gospels.
I've "seen" Gary Habermas's works. He was supposed to be my debating opponent at Seattle-Pacific University in May 1995, but he was unable to participate because of his wife's serious illness. In anticipation of debating him, I read several of his books. I wasn't impressed. His "historical Jesus" turned out to be the Jesus of the gospels (surprise, surprise), and his evidence for his historicity was second- and thirdhand sources who never saw the man, never heard him preach, never saw him perform a miracle. It was over two years ago that I read his book, but as I recall it, he used the usual "contemporary" extrabiblical witnesses: the letter of Mara Bar-Serapion, the letter from Pliny the Younger, the statement in the *Annals* of Tacitus, the reference of Julius Africanus to (X)allus's mentioning of an eclipse, etc. None of it was firsthand contemporary evidence.
KATZ >There are several steps of the discussion. The first one is the issue of >the trustworthiness of the NT documents. If that is not established, then >all other discussions are worthless. Since you don't agree on this, we >might as well forget the rest. A good outline of "the case for Christianity" >can be found at http://answering-islam.org/Case/ and it goes exactly this >route of first establishing the trustworthiness of the NT as historical >documents [not as "inspired"] and then goes from there.
If we're going to suggest references to read, I would suggest that Katz read Michael Martin's *The Case Against Christianity* and the works of G. A. Wells on the historicity of Jesus.
KATZ >All the above depend obviously on establishing the trustworthiness of >these documents since the Gospels are (nearly) the "only" places where >the above nine points are mentioned.
All of my references, of course, depend obviously on establishing the untrustworthiness of the NT gospels.
KATZ >But Mr. Till, you made a good suggestion, let us become practical. You >claimed: >TILL >>I think I have enough talent to write a completely fictional biography >>of a person to make it appear that he fulfilled many OT prophecies. In >>fact, I know I could. KATZ >So, why don't you do so? I defy you to make good on this claim. And I am >sure, you are able to write this fictional biography.
Doing it would be a snap. Finding the time would be another thing. Yearsago, I tried to divert my attention from religious studies by writing fiction. I had several pieces published in college literary magazines, and some of them attracted the attention of literary agents in New York. Charlotte Sheedy (who is the mother of the actress Ally Sheedy) expressed an interest in my work and agreed to represent a novel I had completed. She was unable to place it, but she sent me some complimentary letters from some of the editors she showed it to. She agreed to look at anything else I would send her, but I got involved in my present work and never found the time to finish another one. Ms. Sheedy, by the way, is what is called a "legitimate agent" who charges nothing but a commission for her services rather than demanding money up front as some shysters do. I never gave her a cent, so apparently her efforts were expended on me because she thought I had the talent.
On my recent trip to Minneapolis to visit my daughter, I started writing a novel in my head, and when I returned home, I sat down and wrote the firstn chapter. That's as far as I got. It's been sitting on my desk untouched ever since, and I know I will never find the time to finish it.
I have said all of this not to brag about my writing ability but to show that it would be rather simple for me to create a fictional character, set him in ancient Israel, and jump him through hoops that would make it appear that he was fulfilling OT prophecies. That wouldn't be hard at all to do, and I believe it is exactly what the gospel writers, especially Matthew, did. I have, in fact, toyed with the idea of writing a fictional biography of the "daughter of God." My character would be a woman whose life appeared to fulfill OT prophecies and was declared by signs and wonders to be Yahweh's Messiah. Why not? After all, Deborah, one of Israel's more famous judges, was a woman (Judges 4).
KATZ >I don't doubt that. The crunch comes when you will have to sell it as >true and to find people who put their life on the line for believing >what you wrote.
You do reconize, don't you, that today is not 2,000 years ago? It would be too easy to expose my biography as a hoax today, but when the gospels were written, there were no printing presses, no national archives where copyrighted books were recorded, no easily accessible archives, etc. So I will simply ask Katz if he is so committed to his savior-god that he will insist that I could not have created a fictional character 2,000 years ago and succeeded in pawning him off as a real person.
KATZ >Many "hero" biographies have been written over the ages. That is nothing >new. But I would say, try it and maybe your _failure_ to to find devotees >in your new religion may make you wake up and realize that there is >something more than a powerful myth in the NT.
See my comments above. As for something that is "more than a powerful myth in the NT," was there something more powerful than myth in the Qur'an? The Upanishads? The Avesta? The Book of Mormon? The Book of Mormon is only about 160 years old, recent enough to show that what I am proposing is not as unlikely as Katz apparently thinks. Far more than a few thousand think this book is historically accurate.KATZ >That is the reality of God and the Holy Spirit of which you seem not to >know anything. It is this life transforming reality that testifies to >the truth of these writings on top of the historical reliability of them. >And that is the part that you cannot simulate with your personal fictional >biography.
Does the reality of God and the Holy Spirit account for the life-transforming reality that testifies to the truth of the Book of Mormon? The Qur'an? Naivity seems to be a major problem for Katz.
KATZ >So, I defy you to try it. And in 20 years time, we will see if you have >even 100 followers.
See my comments about the different set of circumstances I am living in.Also, Katz is more naive than I thought if he thinks that Christianity began and mushroomed into a full-blown religion with thousands of adherents within just 20 years. As for seeing if I can find even 100 followers, to hear some of the Christian subscribers to errancy tell it, I already have thousands who are blindly following me.
KATZ >The Apostles of Jesus had many thousands, probably even a hundred thousand >Christians by the time of AD 55, something like 10 thousand in the first >few weeks only in Jerusalem and around there. THIS is the challenge to you.
I'd like to see Katz prove that there were "something like 10 thousand" Christians "in the first few weeks only in Jerusalem." What evidence is he going to present? Unverifiable claims in the book of Acts? I suggest that he check biblical reference works for the estimated population of Jersualem at the time Jesus was allegedly crucified. He may want to lower his estimate of how many were converted there within the "first few weeks." Well, no, he won't. The book of Acts indicates that there were about 5,000 men who had been converted by the time of Acts 4, so he will stick with that come hell or high water. If the book of Acts had said that 10 billion were converted within a few weeks in Jerusalem, Katz would buy it.
So I will ask him instead if he would care to try to defend the claims in Acts. Oh, I forgot. He's quitting. Never mind.
Conclusion>TILL >>I've "seen" Gary Habermas's works. He was supposed to be my debating >>opponent at Seattle-Pacific University in May 1995, but he was unable >>to participate because of his wife's serious illness. In anticipation >>of debating him, I read several of his books. I wasn't impressed. His >>"historical Jesus" turned out to be the Jesus of the gospels (surprise, >>surprise), and his evidence for his historicity was second- and >>thirdhand sources who never saw the man, never heard him preach, never >>saw him perform a miracle. It was over two years ago that I read his >>book, but as I recall it, he used the usual "contemporary" extrabiblical >>witnesses: the letter of Mara Bar-Serapion, the letter from Pliny the >>Younger, the statement in the *Annals* of Tacitus, the reference of >>Julius Africanus to (X)allus's mentioning of an eclipse, etc. None of >>it was firsthand contemporary evidence. KATZ >Isn't it incredible? Mr. Till doesn't believe in miracles, but he performs >miracles!! >Over two years ago, i.e. early 95 or so, if my math is correct, he read >Habermas' book which was published in June 96. What more can I say? And >he tells me the thing about foot in mouth etc...
Okay, notice that I said above that I read some of his books in anticipation of debating him. I also read some of his articles. These were all obtained on interlibrary loan. I couldn't tell you the titles of any of them now if my life depended on it. I had merely assumed that you what you referred to was included in what I read. After I learned that Habermas would not be able to debate because of his wife's illness, I was told that my opponent would be Michael Horner, who is known to be a great admirer of William Lane Craig, so I then sent for some of Craig's books. I may have confused something that Habermas wrote with what Craig wrote or vice versa. If Katz wants to consider this putting my foot in my mouth, he's welcome to do so. Suffice it to say that I wasn't impressed with either Habermas or Craig. Ed Babinski can also tell you that I have read an unpublished debate between him and Habermas, and in that debate, the crucifixion, the three hours of darkness, the resurrection of the many saints, and other issues related to the historicity of Jesus were debated, so let Katz think what he wants to think about whether I am familiar with Habermas's position. The fact is that when you have read one fundamentalist apologist, you have read them all, because they just keep recycling the same old discredited nonsense.
For those on the list who may not know, Habermas is a teacher at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.KATZ >No, obviously no atheist will ever be impressed by Christians. To admit >this would be rather detrimental. But I am sure you have heard the name >Anthony Flew, being one of the big names of atheist philosophers, and >you are doubtlessly aware of the debate between Flew and Habermas on the >Resurrection in 1985. The interesting thing about this debate was that >they had two panels of judges. The first a panel of five professors of >philosphy to judge on the content of the debate and five professional >debate judges to judge on the argumentation technique of the debators. >The judgement of the philophers was 4:0 for Habermas and one draw, >while the judgement of the debate judges was 3:2 for Habermas. >The debate text is printed in the book >Gary Habermas and Anthony Flew >Did Jesus rise from the dead? >The Resurrection Debate >Obviously, those professors of philosphy were more impressed than Mr. >Till, for example one philosphy judge said: I was surprised [shocked >might be a more accurate word] to see how weak Flew's own approach >was. I expected -- if not a new and powerful argument -- at least a >distinctly new twist to some old arguments. ... [page xiv] >Feel free to state that you were not impressed, but be aware that will >not automatically mean I am impressed. Particularly about you reading >books 1.5 years before publication. >But probably, Mr. Till will then claim that he is better than Flew anyway.
Yes, I read the debate that Habermas and Flew had, and, no, I wasn't impressed with Habermas. Flew's debating skills came up on another list I am on in reference to his debate with Thomas B. Warren, Mr. Big in the Church of Christ at the time. I know that Warren is a fluent speaker, and I understand that Flew isn't. I related on that list how that three brothers whom I know, one extremely well, attended Flew's debate with Warren, took extensive notes, read the debate after it was published, and continued to study the issues that were debated. Although Warren's "stage presence" and speaking ability had impressed them much more than Flew's, in later studying their notes and the written debate, they could see the absurdity in Warren's arguments and the logic in Flew's. They later traveled about 500 miles to talk to a well-known Bible professor at the college I graduated from to discuss some of the concerns that had developed from their studies of the Warren-Flew Debate. They left convinced that this Bible professor had no answers for those concerns. All three of those brothers are now atheists.
I have related this to suggest that Flew's public speaking deficiencies may well have had an influence on the opinions of those who judged the debate. I also have to wonder about the predispositions of the judges. Were they Christians or theists? If so, that would certainly have had an influence on their votes? I have had a couple of debates where the audience "judged" the debate by filling out cards, and, of course, I "lost" both of those debates. The audience, needless to say, was predominantly Christian. Does anyone seriously think that a believer in Christianity is going to say that an atheist defeated a Christian in a debate?
From having read two debates that Flew had with preachers and Bible professors, I can see exactly why he makes an unfavorable impression on debating audiences. He seems not to be knowledgeable enough in the Bible to deal with opponents who do know the Bible and also know that if they throw out enough scripture quotations and references to the Bible to audiences already firmly predisposed to believe the Bible anyway, they will go away thinking that "God's side" won. I would like to see how Habermas would fare in a debate with someone who knows the Bible well.
>TILL >>You do reconize, don't you, that today is not 2,000 years ago? It would >>be too easy to expose my biography as a hoax today, but ... KATZ >No excuses. Heaven's gate and other groups are able to get gullible >followers as well. Just do it. And it is just concescension to claim >that people back then didn't know to tell myth from reality, but today >we do. Do you have any clue how many fall for new age and psychics etc? >I sincerely doubt we have any less gullibility today than back then.
What I personally believe is that the general public is so gullibly inclined to believe in psychics, UFOs, astrology, and such like that just about anyone could begin proclaiming the ridiculous and would be able to gather some followers. These, however, are entirely different situations, because there is really no way to disprove someone's claim that he was abducted by a UFO, just to use one example. Also psychics can make vague predictions by the hundreds and be certain that some specific events would come close enough that they could claim fulfillment. But all of this is entirely different from creating a fictional character in modern society and trying to pass him off as an actual person. If, for example, I said in my fictional biography that the character I had created was born in Jerusalem, it would be quite easy for anyone to expose that as a falsehood, because public records would be too readily available to show that this wasn't so. However, no one could go to the bureau of records in Palestine in the first century to see if the birth of one Jesus of Nazareth had occurred in Bethlehem at such and such a time. If I attributed public miracles to my character, the claim could be exposed as a probable falsehood by just going to the archives of the local newspapers and other media to show that no records of such events are there. This was not possible to do 2,000 years ago.
I'm sure you can see my point, but, of course, you would never admit it. Anyway, before you sing the final verse of your swan song, at least take the time to tell us if you honestly believe that making a purely fictional or legendary person appear to have been a real person would have been as difficult 2,000 years ago as it would be today. Before, you vanish forever I would just like to know just how honest you are.
KATZ >Well, you backed out. At least you could have imitated Ron Hubbard in >creating a mind control organization under the guise of religion and >make a fortune that way.
Well, let me present a scenario to you. I think I can say without being unduly immodest that I am well known in the general area where I live as an ex-preacher who is now an atheist. What do you suppose would happen if tomorrow I publicly claimed that I had had a "personal experience with God" that had shown me that I have been wrong and that God really does exist, Jesus was his son who was resurrected from the dead, and the whole ball of wax? I personally believe that I would be in demand as a speaker at various churches, and I also think that I would attract crowds to hear me. People all around Illinois would be shouting, "Praise the Lord, my prayers have been answered." If I set up my own "ministry," I believe I could easily attract a following. Sometimes I'm tempted to do it for a period of time so that I could then announce just how gullible the people were who fallen for it.
KATZ >Never mind. Habermas is not debating anymore. He thinks it is much more >fruitful to write, so you might have lost out on that permanently now.
Oh, shoot! Well, at least I won't be rushing out to buy his books. From what I recall from my other experience of reading his books and articles, I might agree to read what he writes if I were put on a salary to do it. Otherwise, he isn't worth the time. He's just another Josh McDowell and Norman Geisler.
KATZ >But who knows? Next time better read the right book.
Well, don't count on it. Anyway, do come back whenever you think you can prove the fulfillment of any biblical prophecy.
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