Biblical Theological Seminary
ST762 The Apologetic Value of Fulfilled Prophecy
Dr. Robert C. Newman
A. Types of Fulfilled Prophecy
1. The Claims of Scripture
a. Establishment and Purpose of Prophecy
alternative to pagan divination
to be raised up by God
you must obey him
what you asked for at Sinai
he will speak God's words
punishable by death
detected by failed prediction
b. Evidential Value of Prophecy
challenge to idols
give evidence re/ deity
act in present
can't do anything
by contrast God calls shots
announces and calls conqueror
God will not give away his glory
certainly not to idols!
thus He has and will continue to predict the future as they cannot
Israel's redeemer & creator
maker of heaven & earth
His actions re/ prophecy:
makes false prophets fail
makes His prophets succeed
Jerusalem will be reinhabited
Judah will be rebuilt
Sea will be dried up
Cyrus will be command rebuilding of Jerusalem and its temple
2. The Problem of Prediction
a. From a scientific point of view
most events depend on too many features being just right
quantum uncertainty - cannot specify both position and movement of elementary particles to arbitrary levels of precision
chaos (the butterfly effect) - infinitesimal differences in initial conditions produce very large differences eventually, destroying all long-range prediction
human decisions - sometimes individual doesn't even know what he/she will do until the event
b. From a theological point of view
(1) If just general oversight
how could prophecy be so detailed?
(2) If mere foreknowledge
how explain Rom 8:28?
or Isa 46:9-11
or Prov 16:33
c. The Biblical picture
(1) Information comes from infinite God,
who is "outside" the universe
(2) God controls history
Prov 19:21; 16:33,9,1
3. The Nature of Proof
See discussion in Mavrodes, Belief in God, where he distinguishes between valid, sound, cogent, and convincing arguments; he treats the last two categories as person-variable.
To prove something to someone, we must convince them, that is, start with something they accept and move them step-by-step to the end desired.
This will be important in designing our materials apologetically to be convincing to a particular audience.
4. Various Subject Areas of Prophecy
Jesus explains M prophecy to two on road to Emmaus.
These (OT) Scriptures testify about me.
Even Gentiles will ask why these disasters have happened.
Israel will realize when they are regathered from exile.
Prophets prophesying against the nations and kingdoms.
Egypt’s disaster as predicted will show who is God.
d. In Process
Signs will precede Jesus’ return.
5. Various Methods of Presentation (by Scripture)
a. Straight-Forward Literal
Abraham’s descendants will be enslaved 400 years.
1 Kings 13:2-5
Josiah will burn the bones of priests right here.
Israel will lack these six features for many days.
b. Literal w/ Unexpected Twist
Sisera will be defeated by a woman (but not the one expected).
The Messianic line is cursed (but still he will come).
Statue represents coming empires.
Rejoined sticks represent rejoined Israelite kingdoms.
Smashed jar pictures smashed nation.
Hos 11:1 (as cited in Matt 2:15)
Son is both Israel and God’s true Israel, the Messiah.
Allusions to Levitical typology in:
God’s lamb is a human person, the Messiah.
2 Cor 5:21
Jesus as sin offering
Tabernacle structure and how God will be approached
6. Various Time Relationships
a. Ancestor stands for descendant
Jacob’s sons stand for the tribes to arise from them.
David stands for his son, the Messiah.
b. Distant events juxtaposed
Luke 4:17-21 (citing Isa 61:1-2)
Jesus stops reading after “year of Lord’s favor” but before “the day of vengeance of our God.”
Jump from fourth Persian king to Alexander
Jesus’ coming and last judgment?
c. Short range to verify longer range
1 Kings 13:2-5
Altar splits, arm paralyzed to verify Josiah prophecy.
2 Kings 20:5-6,8-11
Shadow reverses to verify 15-year extension of life.
Dan 2, 7, 9, 11 - sequence then jump
4 kingdoms, 70 weeks, Antiochus => Antichrist
Prediction re/ AD 70 destruction => eschatological destruction?
d. Explicit chronological indicators
70 ‘weeks’ = 70 sabbatical cycles?
Matt 24:15,21,29,32-34 (use of #6a, above?)
When, then, immediately after, budding tree => summer
B. Works on Fulfilled Prophecy
1. Fritz Ridenour, ed. Who Says God Created.... Glendale, CA: G/L Publications, 1967 (pb, 186 pp). A popular presentation of Christian evidences, including a discussion of fulf prophecies regarding four ancient cities, the Jews and the Messiah.
a. Babylon (Isa 13:19-21; Jer 25:12-14)
b. Tyre (Ezk 26:3-14,19)
c. Edom (Isa 34:5-12; Amos 1:11-12; Ezk 25:14)
d. Nineveh (Nah 1:1-8; 2:3-6; 3:7; Zeph 2:13-15)
e. Messiah (Gen 3:15; Mic 5:2; Zech 9:9; Isa 50:6; 53:12; Ps 22:18; 34:20; 16:10)
f. Israel (Deut 28:64-68; Isa 43:5-6; Jer 29:14; Isa 61:4; Ezk 36:34-35)
2. Peter W. Stoner and Robert C. Newman. Science Speaks. 4th ed. Chicago: Moody, 1976 (pb, 128 pp). A popular work on evidences, with chapters on science and fulfilled prophecies.
a. Tyre (Ezk 26:3-5,7,12,14,16)
b. Samaria (Mic 1:6)
c. Gaza & Ashkelon (Zeph 2:4,6; Amos 1:8; Jer 47:5)
d. Jericho (Josh 6:26)
e. Golden Gate (Ezk 44:1-3)
f. Zion plowed (Mic 3:12)
g. Jerusalem enlarged (Jer 31:38-40)
h. Palestine (Lev 26:31-33; Ezk 36:33-35)
i. Moab & Ammon (Ezk 25:3-4,9-10; Jer 48:47; 49:6)
j. Edom (Jer 49:16-18)
k. Babylon (Isa 13:19-21; Jer 51:26,43)
l. Sidon (Ezk 28:20-23)
m. Capernaum & Bethsaida (Lk 10:13,15)
n. Highway from Egypt to Assyria (Isa 19:23-25)
o. Egypt (Ezk 29:12-15; 30:13)
p. Messiah's birthplace (Mic 5:2)
q. Messiah's forerunner (Mal 3:1)
r. Messiah's entrance (Zech 9:9)
s. Messiah's wounds (Zech 13:6)
t. Messiah's betrayal money (Zech 11:12-13)
u. Messiah's reaction to oppression (Isa 53:7)
v. Messiah's piercing (Ps 22:16)
3. Josh McDowell. Evidence That Demands a Verdict. San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade/Here's Life, 1972 (pb, 387 pp). A nice sourcebook of materials on historical evidence for Christianity, with two chapters on fulfilled prophecy:
a. Chapter 9: The Messianic Prophecies (pp 147-184)
b. Chapter 11: [Other] Prophecy (pp 277-335)
4. Fred John Meldau. Messiah in Both Testaments. Denver: Christian Victory Publishing Co., 1956 (pb, 96 pp). An extensive treatment of Messianic prophecies, including a good section on the paradoxical aspects which make faked fulfillment of the messianic prophecy complex untenable.
a. The Credentials of the Messiah
12 topics re/ descent, birth, time of coming
b. Life and Ministry of the Messiah
holiness, miracles, sacrifice
c. Paradoxes concerning Christ
d. Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Christ
5. Bernard Ramm. Protestant Christian Evidences. Chicago: Moody Press, 1953 (pb, 252 pp). Textbook on Xn evidences, with a chapter on fulfilled prophecy which uses examples from the minor prophets only.
a. Hosea (1:4-5; 1:7; 1:11; 3:4)
b. Joel (2:28-32; 3:6-8)
c. Amos (1:3-5; 6-8; 9-10; 13-15; 2:1-3; 4-5; 3:12-15; 5:27)
e. Micah (1:6; 3:12; 4:10; 5:2)
g. Zechariah (1:12-21; 2:4; 7; 10-11; 3:8; 9; 6:8; 9-15; 9:9; 11:1-14; 12:10; 13:7-9)
h. Malachi (1:2-5; 3:1; 4:5)
6. John Urquhart. The Wonders of Prophecy. Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, n.d. (pb, 241 pp). A classic work on fulfilled prophecies, originally written about 1900 and in print until recently. Tries to select prophecies that liberals cannot easily redate.
a. Tyre (Ezk 26)
b. Sidon (Ezk 28:20-23)
c. Egypt (Ezk 29-30; Isa 19)
d. Edom (Ezk 35:3-7)
e. Philistia (Ezk 25; Jer 47; Zeph 2; Zech 9)
f. Judea (Lev 26; Deut 29; Isa 6; Amos 3, 5; Mic 1, 3; Matt 11)
g. Babylon (Isa 13; Jer 25, 50, 51)
h. World History (Dan 2)
i. Messianic (many passages)
j. Jewish History (many passages)
7. Frederick A. Aston. The Challenge of the Ages. Scarsdale, NY: Research Press, 1963. (pb, 24 pp). A translation, commentary and discussion of the fulfillment of Isa 52:13-53:12 by a Russian of Jewish background who did graduate studies on OT here in the US. Responds to liberal arguments. Reprinted in edited form as chapter 11 in Newman, The Evidence of Prophecy, below.
8. J. Barton Payne. Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy. New York: Harper and Row, 1973 (hb, xxiv + 754 pp). Divides all 8,352 predictive verses in the Bible into 1,817 predictions, and tries to suggest when each was or will be fulfilled. Contains bibliography, tables, indices and the following four summaries:
a. Biblical Predictions in Order of Fulfillment (pp 631-59)
b. Prophecies concerning Foreign Nations more prominent in Scripture (pp 660-64)
c. Prophecies with personal reference to Christ (pp 665-70); 2nd coming prophecies starred (*)
d. Biblical Types (pp 671-72)
9. Robert C. Newman, ed. The Evidence of Prophecy: Fulfilled Prediction as a Testimony to the Truth of Christianity. Hatfield, PA: IBRI, 1988 (pb, 147 pp). 12 chapters by various authors (several are BTS grads) on various examples of fulfilled prophecy regarding the nations, Israel and the Messiah:
a. Biblical Prophecy and Pagan Oracles
Calvin E. Stowe
b. The Destruction of Tyre
Robert W. Manweiler
c. Alexander's Conquest of Palestine
Perry G. Phillips
d. The Fall of Nineveh
Elaine A. Phillips
e. The Dispersion and Oppression of the Jews
Samuel H. Kellogg
f. Hosea's Prophetic History of the Jews
John A. Bloom
g. The Return of the Jews
h. The Person of the Messiah
Robert C. Newman
i. The Time of the Messiah
Robert C. Newman
j. The Work of the Messiah
Frederick A. Aston
10. John W. Montgomery, ed. Evidence for Faith: Deciding the God Question. Dallas: Probe/Word, 1991 (pb, 366 pp). 22 chapters on evidences for Christianity, of which 3 are on fulfilled prophecy.
a. Truth via Prophecy
John A. Bloom
b. Israel's History Written in Advance
Robert C. Newman
c. The Testimony of Messianic Prophecy
Robert C. Newman
11. Kenny Barfield. The Prophet Motive: Examining the Reliability of the Biblical Prophets. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1995 (pb, 340 pp). 26 chapters on introductory matters and numerous specific prophecies.
a. Introduction to Prophecy (chs 1-5)
b. Oracles against the World Powers (chs 6-8)
c. Oracles against Israel's Neighbors (chs 9-12)
d. Announcing the Coming Messiah (chs 13-15)
e. Oracles against Israel (chs 16-17)
f. Blasting the Competition (chs 18-20)
g. Answering Objections to Prophecy (chs 21-25)
h. Summary (ch 26)
C. Liberal Responses to Fulfilled Prophecy
1. Liberal Models of Reality
a. Quite varied:
(2) Old Liberalism
b. But agree on non-occurrence of miraculous
so no actual prediction beyond human foresight
2. Liberal Attitudes toward the Bible
varies with model of reality as to whether they think God "inspired" the writers or not
Bible not a miraculous book, it is product of humans groping for God, or (finding Him) unable to express the reality they have experienced
many authors, many theologies, so no real unity
proclamation, not prediction
forthtelling, not foretelling (Oxtoby, 106)
3. Devices Used to Avoid Fulfilled Prophecy
a. Prophecy written after event "predicted"
vaticinium ex eventu
Daniel, 2nd Isaiah (Pfeiffer, 765)
Other Examples (Oxtoby, 78)
b. Prophecy written before event, but
(1) Fulfillment invented
Psalm 22 in Gospels (Schonfield, 87)
(2) Fulfillment intentional
Other events in Jesus' ministry (Schonfield)
Ahijah (Oxtoby, 77)
(3) Fulfillment foreseeable
Jeremiah (Oxtoby, 77)
(4) Fulfillment coincidental
(5) Fulfillment questionable
Psalm 16 (Schonfield, 58-59)
D. Making Apologetic Use of Fulfilled Prophecy
1. Consider your Audience
a. What kind of background do they have?
b. What sort of presuppositions do they hold?
2. Choose your Prophecy
a. Is the fulfillment demonstrably after the prediction?
b. Is the prediction only typological?
c. Is the fulfillment only the application of a general principle?
d. Is the interpretation of the prophecy seriously questionable?
e. Can intentional fulfillment be ruled out?
f. Is the fulfillment sufficiently complex or unusual so as to forbid its being naturally foreseen?
3. Exegete your Prophecy
a. Use the original languages if you possibly can!
b. Check for significant textual variants.
c. Consider alternative translations and interpretations that might be suggested by an unbeliever.
4. Examine its Fulfillment
a. What historical sources are available?
b. Can they reasonably be charged as conspiring with the Biblical writers?
c. Are there any complications?
d. Have you subjected the prophecy and fulfillment to the questioning an unbeliever would give them?
5. Write up your Presentation
a. Again, consider the audience.
b. Try to "short-circuit" objections, rather than dragging them all out to distract your audience.
c. You don't need to show all your work, just do it!
d. Try to make your presentation interesting.
Note: After this course was offered the first time, a number of the best papers were collected, edited and added to some existing papers to produced the book Evidence of Prophecy noted as item B9 on pages 7-8, above. Other examples have been included in Montgomery, Evidence for Faith (item B10, page 8) and in Geivett and Habermas In Defense of Miracles. A number of examples have been worked up into PowerPoint talks that are posted on the IBRI website (www.ibri.org), as are the two papers “Public Theology and Scientific Method” (Philosophia Christi 4:45-48) and “Public Theology and Prophecy Data” (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/1 [March 2003]: 79-100).