Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Failed Prophecy Wednesday

I grew up hearing about the ka zillions of prophecies in the bible that were "fulfilled" In Josh McDowells Book "Evdience that demands a verdict" he mentions there are 61 old testament prophecies that mention the coming messiah.  The fact that Jesus was never "the king of israel" or was never called "immanuel" not withstanding, I thought we would have some fun and point out a few Old testament prophecies for everybody.  

Jeremiah 49:33 tells us that the city of Hazor will become a land inhabited by no one except for dragons. (King James version)  Yes folks dragons....needless to say this one has not happened..

Isaiah 17:1  Damascus will cease to be a city it will be a ruinious heap  (Of course that is nonsense as well as Damascus is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth)

Zechariah 10:11  The Nile River will dry up  (Hasn't happened in the 4000 of so years since the writing)

Eziekial 29  The land of Egypt will be laid waste by Nebuchadnezzar, all it's people will be killed and all the rivers will dry up.  It won't be inhabited for 40 years.    Whoops, This did not happen!

I write these things occasionally because I want to be provocative and stir up debate amongst the people who read them.  Maybe I am wrong, if I am I will be the first to fly to the middle east to see these dragons (:


Brett said...

Garrett, I am curious what you found by ways of answers to these questions in your studies. What did you find the meaning of the Hebrew TAN to be? What were the answers to the proposed 'unfilled prophecies' that you found? What did you think of the responses? Why were they unsatisfying? Let's start there. Thanks. Brett

Garrett said...

Bretthew, I am simply taking what the bible says at face value, using the KJV (the reference standard translation) and pointing out the fact that it says in the bible that Hazor will be inhabited by dragons.

Am I to parse every word of the bible or only read it in the original hebrew or greek? Do I need to that?

Everytime a troublesome passage comes up in the bible theologians and apologists go through exhaustive parsing and interpreting exercises.

Wonder about the verse in Mark that says we are supposed to drink snake poision? No problem, you see that really isn't supposed to be in the bible.

What other texts undiscovered will falsify other passages in the bible? We will wait and see.

In the meantime, the parsing will continue. And I guess the layperson is wrong when he opens his bible and it tells him that a land will be inhabited by dragons? One wonders what other passages in the bible are in fact wrong? (or not supposed to be there, or mistranslated)

Brett said...

Testy, testy Tiger. Just asked a simple question. And I repeat, ' I am curious what you found by ways of answers to these questions in your studies. What did you find the meaning of the Hebrew TAN to be? What were the answers to the proposed 'unfilled prophecies' that you found? What did you think of the responses? Why were they unsatisfying?'

You claim that you struggled over this for ten years seeking to defend your faith but ultimately coming up short. I am curious what about the explanations that you looked up were unsatisfying. I will start there - I don't want to rehearse that which does not trouble you.

Thanks! Brett(hew)

PS - I like your use of the word parse.

Garrett said...

1 Corinthians 14:33 Says that God is not the author of confusion.

So why do we have all these confusing and troublesome verses that apologists and theologians endlessly interpet and parse?

Anyways To humor you, TAN means dragons or jackals or fountains or whatever, but my point is that the bible says DRAGONS it does not say (troublesome verse, please study original hebrew to interpet this verse) Because if that were the case, how would we know what verses really belong, mean what they says etc.

And to further humor you, the unfulfilled prophecy is one of dozens of examples I could pick from that lead me to be an atheist. It is troublesome, because I was taught that one of the biggest reasons the bible is true is because of all the fulfilled prophecies, I took that on faith and didn't care to get into it myself. So now I have, and I have learned of many prophecies that have not yet, or did not become fulfilled. We don't have dragons that live in the middle east, and we never will.

Your point is that the KJV interpeted this wrong? If that is the case, could you kindly tell us what else the bible has wrong? This will be very helpful (Of course it will only be your interpetation (: )

Garrett said...

Of course if it would have said in the book of Isaiah, "1993 years after the messiah is born, there will be a 'psychadelic dragon' witnessed by both my servant, and he who has rejected my name"

Then that would have been pretty cool.

dole2obama said...

Wait a sec.....
I saw the psychedelic dragon at a Tom Petty concert. Hmmnnn.....

Brett said...

If I act normal will you go away...? :)

Here is my point Garrett, you claim to have an open mind, but nothing could be further from the truth. You claim to be interested in answers, but the second someone says 'let's look at this,' you claim fowl. In other words there is no point in answering you because you will just say 'that's no fair.' The Hebrew doesn't say 'dragon' it says 'jackal.' But that doesn't matter to you. Does this mean that before 1611 (when the KJV was published) the Bible was correct here - but it isn't any longer? Does that mean if you and I were living in China and having this conversation in Chinese that the Bible would be correct here, but because some English guy in an attempt to please his king 397 yeas ago messed up on a word that the Bible is now wrong? Who is being irrational here? Who is being close minded?

I will concede that there are translational errors in every translation. But that proves nothing. You say 'that's not fair!' To whom? What does God owe you that says there can be no translational errors? You have become the standard of all that is right, good and true. You can critique anyone and that is fair - but if someone says 'wait a minute.' Then suddenly they are playing tricks and just avoiding the issue. To quote a dear friend in the God business - 'well now, isn't that convenient?'

The same could be said of the last eight or so verses of Mark. Some guy comes along four hundred years later and adds these to a manuscript and you want me to answer for that. Sorry dude, that happened 1600 years ago. I do the historical work and say that wasn't in the oldest manuscripts by 350 years and you get mad. Which is it? Do you want me to engage my mind and do the historical work or not? If some guy comes along ten years after Richard Dawkins dies and adds and epilogue that says, 'wait, I was deluded...' Do I get to say 'see.' If I show you a signed copy of one of Stephen Hawking's books that has an inscription that says, 'Brett, just so you know, everything inside this book is crap, but - hey, I was bored.... xoxo -Stephen Hawking.' You are going to turn around and say, 'the guy is a quadriplegic, this book is written after he lost the ability to sign books, this isn't authentic...' Do I get turn around and say, 'where in the preface am I told to use reason Garrett? Deal with it - Stephen Hawking admits his book is crap!'? Of course not, so all I am asking is that you use the same reason when we dialogue.

You have an automatic bias against the Scriptures so that virtually any argument can be used. You say, 'the Bible is too old to be trusted - it is an ancient book...' But then if there is another book that is older, ' is more reliable because it is older....' Which is it? Then when I actually sit down to talk about a particular passage you just say 'not fair.' If there are two possible interpretations or understandings you automatically take the one that is problematic. If there are two conflicting views of history you automatically take the one that is opposed to Scripture. If there are two agreeing views of history the Scriptures must of 'stole' it from the other.

Then you say the Scriptures have to make sense in the way YOU read them. In other words figurative language, poetic license, common use of language will automatically not be allowed. If the Bible says the sun stayed still in the sky you are going to get mad because the earth actually rotates. If a prophecy is written in poetic form and uses highly figurative poetry you are going to say it has to be literal. But you can say that people told you there were 'ka zillions' of prophecies and I have am obligated to read you according to normal language and know that the the literalistic meaning would not be the literal meaning. There is no number ka zillion - this is hyperbole. It is figurative language to demonstrate a point. I am fine with that - are you?

In other words you seem to be saying - 'don't bother answering my questions - I have decided that there are no answers.' That is what I am trying to figure out. It is not that there aren't answers, the question is are you interested? Or would I be wasting my time?

I asked you the question about checking out the proposed problems because I was curious. When I posed a question to you about the origins of the universe from and atheistic point of view you wasted no time researching and coming up with an answer (two actually and mutually exclusive of each other) - and you presented (both of) the arguments. In other words you essentially said, 'I don't know the answer but I trust that there is one'. You looked it up and immediately copied and pasted them to me in an email. They were thoroughly unsatisfying and non-rational - but that didn't matter to you. I guess the problem is I just don't have the kind of faith you have.

Again, I am happy to go passage by passage and talk about them - but are you interested in answers or is the reality that I will just spend my time answering you to hear 'nope, sorry - if you have to explain it, it can't be true.'

Oh, one more thing... has it really been fifteen years since we journeyed into the 'great wide open'?


Garrett said...

"because some English guy in an attempt to please his king 397 yeas ago messed up on a word that the Bible is now wrong? "

Yes Brett! Don't you see? You believe that the bible is the authoritative inspired, infalliable word of God. But this one example proves it is falliable. And this is one out of thousands!! I cannot for the life of my see how you rationalize stuff like this. In my mind if a superhuman intelligence exists and this text is literally "god breathed" don't you think that maybe he would intervene if someone changes jackals to dragons, or adds on 11 verses to mark, or decides to write in "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" (Yes folks, suprise! We now know and Brett will agree that that verse 'isn't really supposed to be there either'

To rebut you conceded that there are translational errors in every translation, but you said it proves nothing. Actually it proves that the bible contains errors. And again the book is supposed to be sacrosanct, infallible, and the inspired word of God. Using simple logic, (and yes I am being my own standard here, because I don't know how to be anyone elses standard, and I don't submit to standards by faith) a reasonable person would conclude that a book so riddled with errors and mistakes is not a worthy standard for our devotion.

To further rebut, comparing the bible to what dawkins writes is not a good comparison in my opinion, because I know that Dawkins is just a man writing his (extremely elegant) observations on how life evolves. But Dawkins may be flat wrong. We could discover a falsifialbity in evolution. I concede that that is possible. And I don't hold this book as infalliable fact. You however cannot even entertain that the bible is anything other than absolute unchanging authority.

And further....I don't believe the bible is true but I do believe that copies of the text exist and I understand that the older manuscripts are (in general but not always) more reliable and closer to the originals. (We have no originals folks by the way)

So now to go to my central question. How do I know what I am reading is true. Apparantly I can't just pick up a copy of the KJV and take the fact that it says there are going to be dragons in the middle east. I guess I have to be a scholar and study hebrew? So if you are telling me that some verses are mistranslated, some are only poetic are figurative etc. Then which ones are which? And why should I believe you or anyone else. You are acting as your own standard in terms of how I am supposed to understand the bible. Maybe you can create your own translation to help everyone. No wonder John wrote in Revelation that anyone who adds or takes away will be in danger of hellfire. Apparantly and obviously this was and IS happening quite a bit!

Finally, I talked to Matt at the Dodger game and he told me, "I really respect Brett a lot for defended himself and writing what he does. I wish other people would do the same thing who silently read your blog and don't write any comments on your religious stuff"

mark said...

Ok, this has been a very interesting and thought provoking discussion about the authenticity of the Bible! Alot of ground has been covered already, but I will throw in just a couple of pennies on the matter.

Referencing the above comment by Gar: "Apparantly I can't just pick up a copy of the KJV and take the fact that it says there are going to be dragons in the middle east. I guess I have to be a scholar and study hebrew? So if you are telling me that some verses are mistranslated, some are only poetic are figurative etc. Then which ones are which?"
Well, how does one learn how to interpret the written word?

If memory serves me correctly, Matt is an English teacher. To become an english teacher, Matt had to graduate from high school, go to college, study english and literature and poetry, etc, and then graduate from college. He learned from his teachers, and now he teaches others.
The point is, we learn about these things, be it religious writings or haiku, from those who have studied before us, and so on.
If you were to pick up a copy of Aesop's fables, or Mother Goose stories, and tell me: "This book is totally false. It's telling me that cows jump over moons and dishes and spoons can walk," I would look at you like a crazy man, because we all know that the author is using figurative language to make a point. The same is in certain passages and books of the Bible. And we know these things because there are reputable scholars who study Biblical literature who help us understand, just like secular poetry, that some things are figurative and not literal.

We all don't have to be scholars in the old Hebrew or Aramaic, but we need to be able to use common sense. The second major point is looking at the context of a passage. Anybody can use any brief phrase and use it out of context (just look at our "soundbite" culture in politics now) to prove or try and disprove something. The point is, you can't throw the baby out with the bath water. If there is an omnipotent, omniscient God, and he decided to put a book together for our benefit, who are we to tell Him: "well, you should have written it this way and not that way because I don't like your style of writing and it's hard for me to understand." He has a right to wright his book anyway he sees fit, and if I find parts difficult to understand then that's a me problem, and not a God problem.

Of course, this all goes back to our foundation or presupposition that there is a real God to begin with. If so, then we need to seek help and answers in understanding these difficult things, knowing that in the end there is an answer. But if you don't believe in the presence of God, then all we are doing is arguing about some books written by dead men a long time ago who seemed rather odd and said funny things sometimes, and it all really doesn't matter anyways.

Matt, sorry if I misidentified your profession!

Garrett said...

Greetings Mark, I trust your memorial day weekend is treating you well, we were going to go to mammoth but now we are staying home because it is too cold in Mammoth....crazy huh?

I like your comparison to Aesops Fables and Mother goose. Although in that book you disbelieve cows can jump over the moon, but in the bible you believe in talking snakes, donkeys, etc.

Anyways here is problem with comparing poetry and stories to the bible. Poetry is subjective, if I wrote my commentary on Robert Frost in Matt's english class, Matt would give me a good grade because I wrote an honest impression of the poem. There is no absolute answer with that poem, the woods don't have to mean death, the snow doesn't have to be foreboding, it is all up to my interpetation. But the bible is supposedly dictated sacrosanct totally non subjective truth. Do you believe that The Adam and Eve story is not true? You said in your comments that you had to use your common sense. Do you believe in the classic bible stories like Jonah, the Garden, Noah, Daniel in the Lions den, etc are historical fact? Brett does. And as crazy as that may seem I have a grudgeing respect for him because he goes "all in" I read the text and it tells me that I snake talked, I am supposed to believe that is true, but when the same text tells me that there are dragons, I am supposed to disbelieve that. But the only way I can disbelieve the latter is if I have some "outside source" like a concordance, and that gets into my point all along which is, Apparantly I can't just read the bible, I need to be knowledgeable in all sorts of other "outside" things, and that leads away from J Calvins "Sola Scriptura" and you are going outside the bible for your understanding, and then everything is suspect.

You used two classic christian rebuttals for troublesome verses or biblical things that I want to point out. One you said "out of context" which is a classic defense (which can have some merit, but I don't think in this case) and two you used the classic, "Who are we to even question what an all powerful God says" This is also rephrased as, "Well he is an infinte being and I am finite, I am glad he even lets me live, who am I to question him, I think I will live my life like a child in subjugation to a dictator and never use my reasoning or common sense, I guess I'll know when I get to heaven right?" This kind of thinking is a cop out, because if you are taking it on faith then you are conceding it can't be taken on its own merits........welcome to the blog again Mark, I have some other lighter posts up as well, enjoy!!

Brett said...

.... I hesitate to keep going on this particular post... something about a dead horse.... maybe just a few brief comments.

I am dumbfounded by the word rationalize. You are using it negatively. I have told you I am not interested in defending anything Christians have said, but what God says in his word. I will not defend any English translation tooth and nail. If this wrong to you - well I don't know what to say. It seems to me that a rational person would come to a passage like this and say - 'that sounds odd... I wonder what the Hebrew word was...' I don't get why that is irrational. The KJV is a translation and any translation is at best a good commentary. If you want to read Dostoevsky you could read an English version and that would be fine - but you are at the mercy of the translators take. The best way to get at the original is to learn the original language. That is not irrational it is just common sense. You may want God to guard every manuscript and translation - but that is you - your desires or senses of what should be don't make it so.

If you want me to go into more detail in response let me know. I am new at this blogging stuff and I have a tendency to beat dead I will stop here. Maybe I will just add a quick poem.

Moses crossed the Red,
Violens aren't new,
Derrida may have been wrong,
Some poems may be true.

Garrett said...

Continue Beating as long as you wish brett, this horse will live and never be sent to a Japanese dinner table.....

Once again, I don't care if the "Brothers Karamazov" has translational errors, after all my immortal is not in danger of hellfire if I get wrong info is it?

You seem to be saying that the only way the bible can be read error free is if you are fluent in Hebrew and Greek, this correct?

I want an answer before I get home from the Police concert tonite!

Garrett said...

And just one more thing...since you challenged me to the meaning of the Hebrew TAN...can I point out Isaiah 7:14 which says that the messiah will be born of a virgin...well actually the Hebrew is "betulah" which means 'young woman' so there is a huge error in the bible, the virgin birth was never prophecied baby!!!!

Brett said...

The big wheel keeps on turning...

'Okay dead horse... take that!'

Garrett I think you believe your case to be much more consistent and much more convincing than it is. You use repeated ad hominem attacks which is a convenient way of not proving anything.

For example, you say, 'In my mind if a superhuman intelligence exists and this text is literally "god breathed" don't you think that maybe...' Well you admit that this is in your mind. This is not a universal standard it just seems right to you. It doesn't seem right to me - so why should it be considered an argument? One paragraph later you say, '...yes I am being my own standard here, because I don't know how to be anyone elses standard, and I don't submit to standards by faith...' You tell me that you can't be my standard but ask me to believe it because 'in your mind it makes sense.' If I were to do that I would be irrational according to you...

Beyond that you critique my analogies with Dawkins, Hawking, and Dostoevsky. First, I was never arguing that they were divine only that we need to use our mind when we engage 'primary sources.' That analogy stands - I chose the first sources because they are ones you have quoted to defend your worldview - a worldview that you are basing your eternity on. So yes! They are very applicable, fair, etc. You then go on in a later quote to say 'do you need to be fluent in Greek and Hebrew...?' First you demonstrated this to be wrong in that you came up with the true meaning of TAN and then went a step further and referenced 'betulah' - so I guess you have answered your own question. No you don't need to be fluent as you have so graciously demonstrated for us - you only need to be willing to do the homework. Furthermore, you say do I need an 'outside source' - like a concordance. Garrett, the KJV is an outside source. Translations are tools to help us. The second you picked up the KJV you picked up an 'outside tool.' According to your argument God would have to put a block on all people who tried to translate the Bible but were about to do it wrong. So when Jehovah's Witnesses tried to retranslate sections to support their novel views - the pens would stop in their hands. This is radically inconsistent with the view the Bible presents of itself. So you may 'want' it, but that doesn't obligate God. The next step is does this mean God has to keep well meaning Christians from errors in translation or in preaching for that matter. The Bible has never argued it is - rather it calls the Bereans noble minded for examining even apostolic preaching. In other words you are judging the Scriptures by a standard that is in your own mind which, again, you have admitted can't be the standard of others - so why should I accept it. You have failed to convince me of your position.

I appreciate that you accept that Mark's responses are tried and true. One should approach the Scriptures with intelligence and in context. The Bible says that readers are to show themselves workmen who do not need to be ashamed. You might like this but that doesn't mean it is wrong.

On your statement of poetry being subjective I think you have (way) over simplified the matter. To think that Frost's poems meant nothing to him is bizarre. This does not take away subjective appreciation, rather it just says that your argument that poems have no inherent meaning or authorial intent is dead wrong. Let's take a modern example. Bono is one of the modern day poets. His song on 'How to Dismantle' 'Sometimes you can't make it on your own' is a poem put to music. It is about his relationship with Bob Hewson (aka Dad). Bob was a hard man and yet he had a poets soul. He drove Bono to strive for perfection and to love music, thus the line, 'you're the reason I sing, you're the reason the opera is in me.' This is poetry and it has meaning. Now you might subjectively respond to it in a certain way but that does not remove the meaning it had to the author. Personally my subjective appreciation for the song went up a thousand fold when I came to better understand the significance it had to the author because I could identify in a much better way. Mark's point is simple your read poetry as poetry - figurative language as figurative language and context helps you to understand it. This does not render it without meaning it guides you to discover true meaning. Maybe this sounds too hard to you, but that does not make it untrue.

From there you critique Mark for saying that God understands more than I do. That strikes me as odd from an individual who has just written to me in an email, 'This stuff is highly complicated and many of our best scientists and mathameticians are working on it...I am confident that we will have this theory fleshed out soon... and it will be mathematically sensible.... I am not smart enough to fully understand quantam mechanics, and I don't think many of us are, but it is a fun and satisfying brain exercise' So you are satisfied because the answer is probably out there even though you will never understand it. Sounds like faith to me. Mark can't say this about God, but you can say it about man - not that man does understand, but you have faith they will one day and even if you don't you will trust them that it makes sense. However, let's posit that Mark did understand everything. You would then say - 'gee you understand everything God does - you're just as smart as he is - he doesn't sound like an omnipotent God to me....' So you will just bat the Christian around between to artificial standards as long as he doesn't say 'wait you are inconsistent.'

Finally, to restate what I alluded to earlier. You say that it doesn't matter what Dawkins, Hawking, or Dostoevsky have said because they are men and you are not placing your trust for eternity in them. But I beg to differ. You have placed your trust for eternity in the minds of men. You claim to be a rationalist which means that you only believe that which can rationally proven - but you cannot rationally prove the foundation of rationalism (the need for reason to prove something) it is assumed and therefore irrational - i.e., rationalism is at its root irrationalism. You claim to be a materialist saying that only that which is physical exists, yet you continue to demand that people use logic. Please mail me two pounds of logic (I will pay the shipping) to use since you claim that I am short on it. However, if logic is immaterial, universal and omnipresent then its existence is an argument against the very worldview you seek to employ it to defend. Why would it be rational for me to believe a person who cannot demonstrate his worldview when he says it demands demonstration but admits demonstration does not exist? Why should I believe your rationalism when it cannot defend itself? Why should I follow your logic when according to your materialism logic can't exist? Your worldview can't begin to explain itself. You must first borrow mine. You must first acknowledge that authority as well as reason is a test of truth. You must first admit that unprovable foundations begin our quest for knowledge. You must first admit the existence of things that go beyond the material universe. Again, I think you believe your case to be much more convincing and consistent than it is.

You claim that we are the sum total of our physical parts that Christianity is a mind virus. If this is the case, stop trying to reason - that is immaterial. Give us a anti-viral pill and everything will be alleviated. After all, according to you, this is really a material issue. You are into pharmaceuticals - work on the cure to religion - it, according to you, is not immaterial, but material, chemical and biological. Speaking of which - how did you shed the mind virus? What medication did you take? Or was the cure immaterial and intangible? If so it sounds spiritual to me.

At the end of the day I must conclude that you are not convinced of your position because of its intellectual integrity and persuasiveness but because it sets your conscience at ease. You repeatedly make universal claims about what is good and evil. Your mom asks why Dobson is evil. While I don't agree with most of what Dobson says, I have to smile at your response. You say 'James Dobson is a Religious political dictator who claims to be the authority on how we should live our lives. He is a modern day Pharisee, just the sort of person that Jesus spoke out against in the gospels. What is interesting is that he has no formal theological training...' Let's see you have no formal theological education. You claim to be the authority on how we should live.... are you a hateful huckster? The true irony is that you claim to be a relativist. So if more people agree with Dobson than you - you are evil. But you and I both know that this is not how we do ethics. You defend your statement to your mom as if a standard outside of relativity and yourself exists. Of course it does. Your blog is full of value and ethical judgments. You one the one hand say what is good, true and acceptable - then on the other say these standards don't exist and those who believe they do have a mind virus.

Every time you bring a verse to me that troubles you as soon as I start to show you why it shouldn't you say this is just one of thousands. Well logic says if the many you have brought to me so far have explanations the others may as well. Is logic welcome?

PS - about the virgin of Bethlehem. Yes 'betulah' means young lady or maiden. Though it was often employed as a term for virginity. Thus this is not its only meaning, but is well within its semantic range. But I do appreciate you proving that you do not need to be fluent in Hebrew to be able to engage your mind and do your homework. Feel free to prove more of my points whenever you wish. (:


Hey guys, keep beating the horse. This is a fascinating read.

The Capt.