Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.
~ Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791 ~

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Return Of Israel

Perhaps the biggest piece of evidence Christians (and especially Christadelphians) point to is the re-establishment of the nation of Israel and the return of the Jews to the land.

It is claimed that the events in the middle of the 20th century are direct fulfilments of prophecies made in both the Old and New Testaments in the Bible. These are bold claims, and worthy of some scrutiny.

What does the Bible actually say?

The below is an overview of the Bible quotes commonly used by Christadelphians to show that the Bible predicted the return of the Jews in 1948. If there are any that I missed, please let me know and I will update the article.

At that time a root from Jesse will stand like a signal flag for the nations. Nations will look to him for guidance, and his residence will be majestic. At that time the sovereign master will again lift his hand to reclaim the remnant of his people from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the seacoasts. He will lift a signal flag for the nations; he will gather Israel’s dispersed people and assemble Judah’s scattered people from the four corners of the earth.
Isaiah 11:10-12 NET

Notice the start of the verse, "at that time". At what time? Well, the previous 9 verses offer some context, talking about a root from Jesse who will instigate a time of peace. When read in its wider context, it seems to suggest a rather different sequence of events than what Christadelphians normally portray. Who is the root of Jesse? If that part is still future, how can the later verses be current? I don't think this chapter says what Christadelphians think it says.

There seems to be a general theme among Old Testament prophets that a descendant of David will once again occupy the throne in Jerusalem, and would bring peace to the nation and indeed to the world. If you're Christian, that probably sounds like Jesus, but these prophecies say nothing of a first advent and the prophets who wrote these prophecies knew nothing about a future Jesus. The idea of a crucified Messiah who would go off to heaven and then return to set up God's kingdom is a Christian idea, and it does not come from Judaism. There was no such concept in the Old Testament.

But there's another point I want to make at the outset, because I think it's important with regard to Bible Prophecy generally. If we read on in Isaiah 11 we see verses like this:

Ephraim will no longer be jealous of Judah, and Judah will no longer be hostile toward Ephraim. They will swoop down on the Philistine hills to the west; together they will loot the people of the east. They will take over Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites will be their subjects. The Lord will divide the gulf of the Egyptian Sea; he will wave his hand over the Euphrates River and send a strong wind, he will turn it into seven dried-up streams, and enable them to walk across in their sandals. There will be a highway leading out of Assyria for the remnant of his people, just as there was for Israel, when they went up from the land of Egypt.
Isaiah 11:13-16 NET

I think this provides a lot more context to the preceding verses. Rather than some future prediction for our times, this looks rather more like a prediction that the northern 10 tribes (Ephraim) would return from Assyria, in a miraculous deliverance similar to that described in the exodus (which, amusingly, never actually happened). But that would make this prophecy false...oops.

When a Bible author uses the names of various nations, I tend to think they actually did mean to refer to those specific nations (crazy, right?), and not some future nation that occupied (some of) the same territory. It always seems to make good sense that way. Imagine you're a prophet in ancient Israel and you're writing to your people. Why would they care about predictions of events 2500 years in the future? For that to make any sense we would need to assume that the predictions were divinely inspired and written for a wider audience, but what is the justification for that assumption? If we are just going to assume the Bible was inspired, why bother with prophecy?

Meanwhile, there is a tendency for believers to be extremely liberal with their interpretation of place names, and it seems that geographical location need only be approximate in order to satisfy any desired fulfilment one wishes to see. As far as I am aware, there is not a single prophecy in the Bible where the author specifically mentions that the place names given were intended to be replaced by later nations that occupied the same territory. This is a technique invented by believers in order to escape the conclusion that because some nations no longer exist, any prophecy that refers to those nations has therefore failed. What is the justification given for such manoeuvres? As far as I can tell, there isn't any. It doesn't matter if we're talking about a different nation, perhaps from a completely different ethnic background, or even if a nation's borders no longer line up with the previous ones. As long as it fits, somehow, we're good - or so it seems to me. Perhaps I'm mistaken - and if so I'd be grateful if someone could point out how this works and why it's a reasonable thing to do.

That is probably enough to cover the rest of the prophecies all in one go, but I'll keep going just to spell it out in more detail.

For the Israelites must live many days without a king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred fertility pillar, without ephod or idols. Afterward, the Israelites will turn and seek the Lord their God and their Davidic king. Then they will submit to the Lord in fear and receive his blessings in the future.
Hosea 3:4-5 NET

How many days? It doesn't say. Again, there's a bias in many readers today to assume that "many days" means "a couple thousand years", but there's no justification. It could just as easily mean 20 years. The scope for what would constitute a valid fulfilment is huge. But in any case, this one cannot be used to predict the return of the Jews in the 20th century, because there is no Davidic king. So this one doesn't apply here.

So I, the Lord, tell you not to be afraid, you descendants of Jacob, my servants. Do not be terrified, people of Israel. For I will rescue you and your descendants from a faraway land where you are captives. The descendants of Jacob will return to their land and enjoy peace. They will be secure and no one will terrify them. For I, the Lord, affirm that I will be with you and will rescue you. I will completely destroy all the nations where I scattered you. But I will not completely destroy you. I will indeed discipline you, but only in due measure. I will not allow you to go entirely unpunished.”
Jeremiah 30:10-11 NET

The context of these verses is that Israel (the northern 10 tribes) is already in captivity, as you can clearly see in the words, "I will rescue you and your descendants from a faraway land where you are captives". Unfortunately, those "descendants of Jacob" never did return to the land. I don't really see any wiggle room here. Read in its wider context, the chapter refers to Israel who is in captivity, Zion who is left desolate (due to conflicts with Egypt and Babylon), and then it goes on to talk about a restoration of Israel and Judah. We will see this same theme in Ezekiel later on. But Israel (the northern 10 tribes) later disappeared, most likely assimilating into surrounding nations. Any hope for Israel and Judah to be reunited would seem to be long gone, as far as I can tell.

Jeremiah 31 continues in much the same vein. This time it includes Judah in the prophecies of return, since some people from Judah were likely already taken captive to Babylon. See the chronology here. Rather than a specific prophecy about a future scattering and then a return 1900 years later, this appears to be a prophecy about Israel and (some of) Judah having been taken into captivity already and later being brought back together again. Again, Israel never returned, so I'm not sure how much one can say about this. It's also worth pointing out that if Judah had not returned either, I doubt very much we'd even be reading these prophecies today. They wouldn't have been preserved.

Jeremiah 32:36-38 makes it pretty clear the author is talking about the current exile to Babylon. This is written in the 10th year of Zedekiah, which puts it right before the third and final deportation to Babylon. Any attempt to make this about a future return in our times simply ignores the context of the chapter.

I have seen Jeremiah 33:7 quoted as well, which says "I will restore Judah and Israel and will rebuild them as they were in days of old." But again earlier verses give the context, and in this case they talk about, "the houses in this city and the royal buildings which have been torn down for defenses against the siege ramps and military incursions of the Babylonians". Current events for Jeremiah, not a future prediction for our times.

I will scatter them among nations that neither they nor their ancestors have known anything about.
Jeremiah 9:16 NET

This sounds interesting until you realise that verse 14 says this was punishment because they "have paid allegiance to the gods called Baal". So once again this is talking about the first exile, during Jeremiah's lifetime.

Some believers point to Jeremiah 3:16 as evidence of a prophecy saying that Israel's population would increase in the land. Here is the full quote, in its context:

I will take one of you from each town and two of you from each family group, and I will bring you back to Zion. I will give you leaders who will be faithful to me. They will lead you with knowledge and insight. In those days, your population will greatly increase in the land. At that time,” says the Lord, “people will no longer talk about having the ark that contains the Lord’s covenant with us. They will not call it to mind, remember it, or miss it. No, that will not be done any more! At that time the city of Jerusalem will be called the Lord’s throne. All nations will gather there in Jerusalem to honor the Lord’s name.
Jeremiah 3:14-17 NET

Where are the leaders that are faithful to God? Who is calling Jerusalem "the Lord's throne"? Still future perhaps?


I will bring you out from the nations, and will gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a powerful hand and an outstretched arm and with an outpouring of rage!
Ezekiel 20:34 NET

This one looks pretty good, until we keep reading...

I will bring you into the wilderness of the nations, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. Just as I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you, declares the sovereign Lord. I will make you pass under the shepherd’s staff, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. I will eliminate from among you the rebels and those who revolt against me. I will bring them out from the land where they have been residing, but they will not come to the land of Israel.
Ezekiel 20:35-38 NET

According to this prophecy, the Jews would not return directly to Israel, but would meet in the wilderness for divine judgement along the way. It's really difficult to match this up with what happened in 1948, or any time before or since. When and where was this gathering in the wilderness and the filtering of who would enter the land? It's easy to understand why the prediction was made. Judah had already been exiled to Babylon at this point. Ezekiel appears to have drawn inspiration from the Exodus story, hoping to encourage his fellow people that God would deliver them again in similar fashion.

Ezekiel 36 does indeed talk about Israel returning from captivity, but again this is in the context of a return from the captivity that Ezekiel is himself a part of. And just to rule out any modern day fulfilment, verse 8 tells us, "But you, mountains of Israel, will grow your branches, and bear your fruit for my people Israel; for they will arrive soon.". Of course, "soon" is open to some interpretation, but I think 2500 years may be stretching the credulity a little too far.

So perhaps Ezekiel 36 was fulfilled when captives returned from Babylon? Not so fast...

I will lead people, my people Israel, across you; they will possess you and you will become their inheritance. No longer will you bereave them of their children.
Ezekiel 36:12 NET

So now we come to Ezekiel 37, which is often used as the go-to prophecy about Israel's return to the land but in my opinion it is simply misunderstood and quoted incorrectly.

Look, I am about to take the Israelites from among the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from round about and bring them to their land.
Ezekiel 37:21 NET

For some reason, the following verses are not often quoted, but they do follow right on...

I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will rule over them all. They will never again be two nations and never again be divided into two kingdoms. They will not defile themselves with their idols, their detestable things, and all their rebellious deeds. I will save them from all their unfaithfulness by which they sinned. I will purify them; they will become my people and I will become their God.
Ezekiel 37:22-23 NET

At best some might argue that this is still partially fulfilled and awaiting Jesus's return for its completion. But that still misses the point of the prophecy. Note that it says "I will make them one nation in the land" and "They will never again be two nations". Who is the "them" being referred to?

For that we need to read the context of the above verses. Ezekiel didn't start this section in verse 21. And when we read the whole section, the meaning changes.

The word of the Lord came to me: “As for you, son of man, take one branch, and write on it, ‘For Judah, and for the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another branch and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the branch of Ephraim and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ Join them as one stick; they will be as one in your hand. When your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what these things mean?’ tell them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I am about to take the branch of Joseph which is in the hand of Ephraim and the tribes of Israel associated with him, and I will place them on the stick of Judah, and make them into one stick—they will be one in my hand.’ The sticks you write on will be in your hand in front of them.
Ezekiel 37:15-20 NET

This is pretty clear to me. The point of verse 21 is that the two nations, Israel (here called Ephraim) and Judah, would once again be reunited in the land. Yes, it does talk about a return, but the whole point of the prophecy was that just as the two sticks became one, so Ephraim and Judah would also become one. And they would return to the way it used to be, with God as their king. This message is repeated over and over by several different prophets. There is no hint here of any prediction of events in modern times.

The simplest explanation is that what Christadelphians are saying about this prophecy, is not what Ezekiel meant when he wrote it. It's also not what Jeremiah meant, nor what Isaiah meant. Is it really good exegesis to lift these verses out of their original context, and pretend that they are predictions for events in our times? I suggest it is not.


I left Deutoronomy until the end because it requires a slightly different explanation than the others. The problem with the "prophecies" in Deutoronomy 28 and 30, is not in what was written, but when Christadelphians think it was written.

Put simply, most scholars believe the book was written and edited over a long period, around the time of King Josiah, with chapter 28 written during the Babylonian captivity, and chapters 1-4 and 29-30 being added after the return from exile. Thus neither chapter actually contains a prediction in the true sense.

New Testament

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Those who are inside the city must depart. Those who are out in the country must not enter it, because these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away as captives among all nations. Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
Luke 21:24 NET

There is general agreement among scholars that the gospel of Luke was written around 80-85CE, which is obviously after the events of 70CE, in which Jerusalem was besieged and conquered by the Roman army, led by Emperor Titus.

In any case, the prediction that the Jews would be "led away as captives among all nations" did not come to pass. There was no such captivity. Further, although many Jews fled to other nations, many also remained in Palestine.

As for the main quote used to point to a modern day fulfilment, it is basically saying that, "Jerusalem will be dominated by Gentiles, until it isn't". There is no hint that this is talking about events in the 20th century. In fact it could just as easily apply to other events too. The criteria is simply too broad to be meaningful.

Dual fulfilment?

Given the fact that many of the Old Testament prophecies so obviously refer to events in the author's own time period, some believers resort to saying that prophecies have a "dual fulfilment", meaning that there is a second fulfilment that is still in the future. However, as far as I am aware, there is no prophecy in the Bible where the author specifically says it will be fulfilled twice. I also doubt there is any prophecy in the Bible that specifically predicts an event thousands of years in the author's future. I just don't think this kind of prophecy interpretation is valid. It is almost certainly not what the prophecies were written for. The dual fulfilment idea appears to be an invention by believers.

Believers also attempt to substitute later nations for earlier ones, to avoid the conclusion that a prophecy might have failed. There is no justification for this practice either, and in fact it gets quite messy if the modern nation's borders do not line up. These appear to be ad-hoc methods designed to increase the number of ways that a prophecy might match up with world events.

But it fits!

What fits? Were any of the Old Testament predictions actually fulfilled in the 20th century?

Were the northern 10 and southern 2 tribes re-united at any point in history?

Where are the northern 10 tribes? If Israel and Judah were supposed to be re-united, why did only Judah survive?

In this article I have looked at most of the prophecies usually quoted in support of a modern fulfilment, but in every case I found that the prophet was almost certainly referring to his own time.

Where is the prophecy of a return of the Jews 1900-2500 years in the future?

Why would we even expect one? If you have to start with a prior assumption that the Bible was divinely inspired, why bother with prophecy?


  1. Hello,
    Interesting questions!
    Was just reading Isaac Newton’s views yesterday:
    (Footnotes 123 and 139 are relevant).

    “In an early eighteenth-century treatise on Revelation, Newton suggests a starting point for the 1290 and 1335 years, writing that they seem to begin either with 609 AD “or perhaps a little later.” In this scenario, the call to return and rebuild Jerusalem would go out in 1895 or 1896 AD, and the 1335 years conclude in 1944.” [Page 107]

    Snobelen S. “The Mystery of this Restitution of All Things”: Isaac Newton on the Return of the Jews. Millenarianism and Messianism in Early Modern European Culture 2001; : 95–118.

    Footnotes here

    PDF here

    Footnote 139
    Joseph Priestley (co-discovered Oxygen):
    … The later premillenarian Joseph Priestley also saw the Jewish Restoration playing this important prophetic and apologetic role. In citing the example of the dispersion of the Jews, predicted throughout the Old Testament starting with Moses, Priestley notes that “if this remarkable people should be restored to their own country, and become a flourishing nation in it, which is likewise foretold, few persons, I think, will doubt of the reality of a prophetic spirit” (Priestley, Letters to a philosophical unbeliever,2nd ed. [Birmingham, 1787], 192).

    Author info:
    Stephen Snobelen, Associate Professor of Humanities
    History of Science and Technology
    University of King's College, Halifax, Canada

    1. If enough people make enough predictions, some of them are going to land close to a significant date. In any case, this doesn't appear to be one of them. Was there any call to "rebuild Jerusalem" in 1895 or 1896? I wasn't aware of any need for a rebuilding.

      But again, this looks like a misinterpretation of Daniel 12.

      Here's the quote from Daniel 12:11...

      From the time that the daily sacrifice is removed and the abomination that causes desolation is set in place, there are 1,290 days.

      The daily sacrifice was removed in 167BCE, by Antiochus Epiphanes. 1290 days is about 3.5 years by my calculation (perhaps also related to the 3.5 "times" mentioned in preceding verses?). It's amusing that so many people want to assume the author really meant 1290 years, but there's simply no good reason for this. In any case, it doesn't help here, as one might expect.

      Besides, the next verse says...

      Blessed is the one who waits and attains to the 1,335 days.

      This makes no sense if it means 1335 years. Why would the author imagine someone could "wait" that long?

    2. Hi Steve,

      Regarding your first point, Reference 129 above:

      “As historian of scepticism Richard Popkin astutely observed, modern prophetic exegetes “might be struck by how close these Newtonian calculations have been to crucial modern events in Jewish history.” Popkin then goes on to list the publication of Theodor Herzl’s Der Judenstaat in 1898 (the date is actually 1896), the Holocaust and the founding of the modern State of Israel in 1948 (Popkin, “Newton and Fundamentalism, II,” Essays on Newton’s Theology, 176.)”

    3. Richard, the problem is that you can often find something significant if you are looking for it (particularly given you're allowed to be within a few years rather than hitting the date exactly). For example, why pick the publication of Der Judenstaat rather than (say) the much loved Balfour Declaration? Because one fits the dates and the other doesn't?

    4. What does any of this have to do with a prediction made by Isaac Newton about a call going out to 'rebuild Jerusalem'?

      More importantly, what actually is the point you are trying to make with all this, and how does it relate to this article?

  2. Steve, that's an interesting collection of verses. I haven't actually heard most of them being used (Ezekiel 37 was the main one I heard). Even there we would have talked about the first half of Ezekiel 37, the valley of dry bones, as the one that was talking about the current day. The second half of the chapter was clearly talking about "the kingdom", since it talked about the Davidic rule.

    Quite a few of the verses I would also have assumed were talking about, particularly the ones talking about a king. Naturally, that retreats into unfalsifiable territory. I find Jeremiah 31 - 33 particularly interesting, because not only does it talk about a Davidic kingship, but also a Levitical priesthood. Jeremiah 33 promises that both of these will last forever. I'm sure that gets applied to Jesus as Messiah and the priesthood of believers, but it looks a bit too specific for that.

    1. My overall assessment is that most of the work in massaging these Bible verses into something that resembles modern events (and vice versa) actually goes on in the mind of the modern believer. They essentially just find what they came looking for.

  3. Jakarta Jack:
    True, confirmation bias, and all that …

    On the other hand, Arthur Balfour was a Scottish Earl, while Theodor Herzl was a Viennese Jew who witnessed the anti-Semitism unleashed by the French ’Dreyfus affair.’ He saw no future for the Jews in Europe - in 1943 his own daughter was murdered at Theresienstadt.

    Der Judenstaat owed nothing to Christian Zionism (as far as I’m aware), so I guess Herzl had to precede Balfour.

    The point of the Newton paper is:
    1. Newton formulated the universal law of gravitation and calculus - he understood systematic analysis
    2. He saw the delayed future return of the Jewish people as central to everything - not a random post-hoc rationalisation
    3. His predictive time-frames are in the order of magnitude you require
    4. The call to ’rebuild Jerusalem’ could be read as a metaphor for Herzl’s blueprint for a nation state published in 1896. Newton himself continually adjusted his chronology, so it was just meant as an example of point 3, but its interesting nonetheless.

    1. //1. Newton formulated the universal law of gravitation and calculus - he understood systematic analysis//

      How is this relevant? Newton was also into alchemy, among other things.

      //2. He saw the delayed future return of the Jewish people as central to everything - not a random post-hoc rationalisation//

      I'm not sure how Newton's personal views are relevant here.

      //3. His predictive time-frames are in the order of magnitude you require//

      Can you point to where I required anything like this?

      //4. The call to ’rebuild Jerusalem’ could be read as a metaphor for Herzl’s blueprint for a nation state published in 1896.//

      It could be read as a metaphor for just about anything you want. But the clincher is whether that is the most likely interpretation of what Newton actually meant, or rather is it you who is making that connection?

      Your methods could be used to find all manner of bizarre-sounding connections between what people said throughout history and later events.

      There are significant events in 1897, 1898, 1899, and probably every year after that too. The greater challenge is to find a year where you could not make any connection between what Newton wrote and events that happened that year. I doubt you will find one.

      //Newton himself continually adjusted his chronology, so it was just meant as an example of point 3, but its interesting nonetheless.//

      Indeed he did. Wikipedia says that Newton thought "The 1290 days did not commence b[e]fore the year 842."

      Like I said earlier, if you make enough predictions, some of them might land on something interesting. But even in this case, as far as I can tell, the "interesting" part comes from you, not Newton.

      In any case, the reason I asked how this was relevant is because this article is purely about the prophecies written in the Bible, and instead you gave me an example of someone living in the 17th century making some prediction based on his (in my view erroneous) interpretation of the Bible. Are you claiming that Newton was a prophet? If not, I fail to see the relevance here.

      We could talk about all of the predictions people have made based on the Bible and how many of them fall on significant dates (despite contradicting each other), but I'm not sure what the point would be. If someone misinterprets the Bible but makes a successful prediction, what would that even mean?

  4. Steve, thanks for that: (Are these // big quotation marks?)

    1. Systematic analysis is a transferrable skill and is relevant as Newton applied the same intellectual rigour to everything he did - physics or theology.

    (He was into alchemy because modern chemistry hadn’t been invented - alchemy’s practical aspects led to the latter’s development).

    2. Newton’s personal views are particularly important as he was modelling 20th century geopolitical events from an 18th century perspective using ancient Hebrew texts. Predictive power is the basis of any good theory.

    3. In your post you write // 1900-2500 years in the future //
    Wikipedia points out that the days-for-years concept is present in Ezekiel 4:4-6, so Newton’s use of Daniel’s 2300 days is consistent with that (see page 107-108 of the paper).

    4. It’s not me // making that connection // - it’s made in reference 123 (viewable at the Springer Link and PDF) of the paper above:

    // As historian of scepticism Richard Popkin astutely observed, modern prophetic exegetes “might be struck by how close these Newtonian calculations have been to crucial modern events in Jewish history.” //

    I was just pointing it out as // worthy of some scrutiny //

    5. No, I’m not claiming Newton was a prophet.

    I agree with your final paragraph, but I’m not quite clear what you intend in the preceding one.

    Psalm 90:2 covers all eternity and 90:4 is comfortable with millennia, so given the above could I ask why you think the outcome of prophecy should be constrained to the immediate Biblical period?

    1. 2. Newton made multiple predictions, even about the quotes you're referring to, and one of them happened to land near a date when something "interesting" happened (as determined by you - you were the one that picked out the event you thought was relevant to what he said - why that particular event?). What should we do with this information?

      3. What I actually wrote was "Where is the prophecy of a return of the Jews 1900-2500 years in the future?", where I was obviously referring to prophecies written in the Bible. I do not intend to write articles covering every prophecy made by individuals since then, which is what you're talking about here.

      Maybe I should go and dig up every prediction ever made from the very same verses Newton was using, and then look for interesting events in the predicted years, and then claim "it's a miracle" when I inevitably find something...but I won't. Because I think this whole concept is just a bad case of Apophenia.

      A closer look at the Biblical texts themselves shows they were most likely never intended for this purpose.

      //Wikipedia points out that the days-for-years concept is present in Ezekiel 4:4-6, so Newton’s use of Daniel’s 2300 days is consistent with that//

      Really? They were written by different authors at different times, and even for different purposes. This seems like a stretch to me.

      //Psalm 90:2 covers all eternity and 90:4 is comfortable with millennia, so given the above could I ask why you think the outcome of prophecy should be constrained to the immediate Biblical period?//

      I'm saying that we need to interpret prophecies according to what the author most likely intended, and there's simply no reason to think that a prophet in ancient Israel was interested in events in our times, especially when the immediate context suggests they were talking about their own times.

      For what it's worth I don't think your quotes in Psalms are anything close to saying what you want them to say.

      Your biggest enemy when dealing with prophecy is not people like me - it's actually your own credulity. It's easy to fool yourself, but much more difficult to determine what is most likely true.

      Further, if you use modern events as a benchmark for determining which interpretation of a prophecy is the right one, you cannot then turn around and declare that the prophecy predicted those modern events. That's circular.

      I've already pointed out why I think any reference to 1290 days starting after 167BCE is almost certainly the wrong interpretation.

      You can argue "but it fits!" until you're blue in the face, but I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with such information.

    2. // Your biggest enemy //
      Steve, you’re not my enemy.
      Neither were Newton, Priestley or Maxwell credulous.

      // That’s circular //
      Theory X predicts result Y. Result Y happens.
      Result Y supports theory X. Would that be circular too?

      Blaise Pascal - co-founder of probability theory - based his Christian faith on his observations of the Jews in the 17th century. As such, there’s no reason to believe he would have changed his mind in the 21st.

      // what I’m supposed to do with such information //
      Regarding your final point, Joseph Heller (Catch-22) saw history as ‘a trash bag of random coincidences blown open in a wind.’

      Post-Biblical Jewish history suggests otherwise.

      Like Winston Churchill, historian Paul Johnson sees in its pages evidence that history has a purpose and humanity a destiny.

      That’s no small thing.

      All the best,

    3. It's more like theory A predicts outcome B (which never happened).

      Many years later, people reinterpret it as also predicting outcomes C through to Y (actually there are far more than that!).

      Then along come modern people who find some event Z that they think looks a bit like O, so they ignore all other predictions and start wetting their pants with excitement.

      You even mentioned confirmation bias earlier...which I found ironic.

      As far as I can tell, everything you're doing basically just falls under apophenia.

      Your other argument appears to be that "these intelligent people who were (more or less) correct about A, also said B and C, so those things must be true as well".

      There is no justification for this. It's just a big non-sequitur.

      Then you're putting up examples of other people who agree with you. So what?

      Adding more examples of apophenia does not suddenly make it legitimate.

  5. Steve:

    // A, B, C to Y, Z, O //
    I understand (and have experience of) your characterisation of unthinking religiosity, which disastrously misrepresents the ‘truth’ it upholds.

    You are also right to say that cognitive bias is important - but it works both ways.

    The Invisible Gorilla experiment at Harvard University showed that 50% of people engaged in a demanding test of selective attention failed to notice someone in a monkey suit wander through the middle of it, pause and beat their chest.

    // “these intelligent people …” //
    The above examples are not meant as arguments from, or appeals to, authority.

    Rather, an important question is:

    Does a subgroup analysis of a particular view point yield any individuals who:
    a) are extremely competent in that or any other field?
    b) have an independent, coherent understanding of the relevant opinion?
    c) have formed that opinion prior to any subsequent events?

    If you’ll bear with me, James Clerk Maxwell is one such person. His equations for electromagnetism laid the foundations of 20th century physics and the subsequent information revolution.

    Einstein kept his picture on his wall, along with Newton and Faraday. Einstein said “The special theory of relativity owes its origins to Maxwell Equations of the electromagnetic field.”

    Richard Feynman noted: “From a long view of the history of mankind - seen from, say, ten thousand years from now - there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged as Maxwell's discovery of the laws of electrodynamics.”

    Ian Hutchinson - professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT - notes that Maxwell’s “knowledge of the Bible was remarkable, so his confidence in the Scriptures was not based on ignorance.” Furthermore, Maxwell wrote that:

    “The Old Testament and the Mosaic Law and Judaism are commonly supposed to be “Tabooed” by the orthodox.

    Sceptics pretend to have read them, and have found certain witty objections ... which too many of the orthodox unread admit, and shut up the subject as haunted.

    But a Candle is coming to drive out all Ghosts and Bugbears. Let us follow the light.” (circa 1851, Cambridge University)

    Obviously, significant numbers of equally competent individuals - yourself included - take the opposite view.

    However, I presume you would not diagnose Richard Dawkins with apophenia:

    “At dinner with the British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks … I learned the stunning fact that Jews, who constitute less than 1 per cent of the world’s population, have won more than 20 per cent of all Nobel Prizes.”

    [Richard Dawkins “Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science” (Bantam Press 2015) Page 249, on Google books uk]

    The context for 0.2% of the world’s population winning 20% of all Nobel Prizes is the loss of 40% of their number in the Holocaust - an estimated 10% of World War II deaths.

    Compared to 6 million murders, confirmation bias as evidence against the existence of God is not even minor detail.

    However, Nietzsche had seen that the ‘death of God’ entailed the rejection of Judaeo-Christian ‘slave morality.’ The Third Reich adopted his philosophy. The Holocaust was the outcome.

    In contrast, Winston Churchill saw Jewish ethics as the basis of Western civilisation, fought for those principles and won.

    The totalitarian body count rose throughout the 20th century - Hitler: 11 million; Stalin 38 million; Mao: 60 million; but in the middle of it all the Jewish state was reborn.

    Nobel Laureate Imre Kertesz - who survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald - was awarded the 2002 Literature prize for writing that “upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history”.

    That is the meta-narrative of the Jewish people, of which the Hebrew Scriptures are part.

    1. You are heading even further off topic.

      You are also looking for coincidences and attributing meaning to them. There's a word for that. :P

      Your line of reasoning is very subjective, and I just don't see what you see. There's very little to discuss here.

      But in any case, none of this is relevant to this article.

      Good luck with it.

    2. Agreed with Steve this is off-topic. Intelligence in one field is probably correlated with intelligence in a different field, but it is certainly not guaranteed.

      However, saying Maxwell's "confidence in scriptures was not based on ignorance" may have been true then, but it is no longer true. By definition, his confidence is based on ignorance of everything that has been learnt about the scriptures in the last 150 years. We can't just accept his confidence: we need to know what it was based on and determine whether it still applies today.

      Yes, we have a world where the Jews have returned to their land and where new texts (OT and NT) have been discovered, but we also have a world where evolution is widely accepted as providing an evidence-based alternative to divine creation, where the question of religion has more answers than just Biblical Christianity, deism, or atheism, and where archaeological finds cast doubt on the Biblical history at least as much as they support it.

      None of us can know what Maxwell or Newton would have believed if they had access to the information we have now. Maybe it would be the same, or maybe it would be totally different. But as the years go by their opinion becomes less relevant, because intelligence and strength of belief cannot overcome lack of information. And I believe on balance the information learned since then points away from belief in the Bible.

      Going further off topic, this also explains why two common attacks on atheists by fundamentalist Christians go astray.

      The first is to focus exclusively on Darwin: his beliefs, the reasons why he left religion, and evidence that his understanding was incomplete and modern day Darwinists are having to patch it up. Yes, his understanding was not perfect, but his evidence-based theory was a big step forward, and many scientists over the last nearly 150 years have built on it. Darwin could not make conclusions from information or evidence that was not available to him - but there's no need to point it out, because we have that evidence and can make those conclusions.

      The second is to rely on Romans 1 as if it were gospel truth rather than a letter-writer's personal opinion which has been superseded by later evidence. Paul asserts that God is shown in creation, and that those who walk away from God still know him, and consciously choose to reject him. Generations of believers have assumed this is a timeless truth rather than being a product of Paul's time and his own biases. It may really have appeared to Paul that belief in God was the only way to understand creation. It may have been that that was what (almost) everyone thought in 1st century Rome and so it seemed reasonable. But now we have evidence that points to a different origin for creation, and that makes it much harder to assert that God is clearly shown in creation, or that unbelievers are "without excuse".


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