What about failed biblical prophecies?

I came across this question while looking for answers to a comment about how most biblical prophecies have failed and found the below text in a subreddit which i feel asks some good questions, more than i can think of that’s for sure. I expect this thread to be a long one but i would appreciate it if we could address these in order for ease of navigation, thanks.

"One argument I’ve heard come up here every once in a while for why anyone would ever think that any of this stuff is true, is prophecies. I’ve never understood that. First of all, let’s ignore the fact that so many of the biblical prophecies are so vague that even people who have studied the bible for years can’t agree what they are referring to. Let’s forget about the fact that the vast majority of them are self fulfilling prophecies (i.e, a person made them come true not a god, and not through miraculous means either). I don’t even care that it’s impossible to demonstrate that some of these weren’t written after the events they allegedly predict (or added in later, because apparently altering a body of written work is impossible)

Let’s leave all of those points aside and focus on one of the most damning pieces of evidence against prophecy. That is, failed prophecies. I’m not talking about prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled. That’s not evidence against, but I will say that a prophecy that hasn’t been fulfilled yet, definitely isn’t evidence in favor.

I’m talking about prophecies that were just flat out wrong.

  • In Ezekiel chapter 26, the prophecy is made that Tyre will be destroyed and will never be rebuilt. Yet the city of Tyre still exists to this day.

Now, I am actually familiar with the apologetic response to this, however I do find it unconvincing. The traditional apologetic response claims that this was not referring to Tyre as we know it today, but to the mainland city of Tyre.

One article I read claimed that Tyre as it currently exists today is not a ‘rebuilt’ Tyre because it has no connection to the original ancient Tyre. So the city called Tyre has nothing to do with a city called Tyre? Do you see the problem here? If it was truly unrelated to the ancient city, why does it have the same name?

The article also claims that Ezekiel predicted ‘many nations’ would come against Tyre and that is another example of fulfilled prophecy. Here’s the thing. That’s not that impressive of a prophecy. You could make that prophecy about literally any country and it would be accurate given a long enough period of time. But this isn’t about vague and poorly worded prophecies, it’s about failed prophecies. And no amount of ‘interpretation’, can explain the fact that a place called Tyre exists today when your god clearly said that it would never exist again.

  • —Ezekiel 29:8-12: Egypt would be a barren wasteland, This passage is one of the most erroneous in the Bible. Since Ezekiel was penned, Egypt has never been a desolate waste, there has never been a time when people have not walked through it, there has never been a period of forty years when Egypt was uninhabited after the civilization started there, and it has never been surrounded by other desolate countries
  • —Ezekiel (he seemed to have a thing for failed prophecies) 30:12: The Nile will dry up, There is no evidence that this has happened in recorded history.
  • In Isaiah 7:1-7 God tells the king of Judah that he shall not be harmed by his enemies. Yet it did come to pass. His enemies did harm him. as 2 Chronicles 28:1-8 tells us.
  • In Isaiah 19:1-8 Isaiah tells us the Nile will dry up, ocean drains in the time of pagan Egypt. This is an interesting prophecy because Isaiah outlines a very clear timeframe, the alleged prophet is unmistakably referring to Pagan Egypt, which ceased to exist in the 4th Century. (Isaiah 19:1-3) Since then, Egyptians have stopped using charms, wizards, and there are no statue-worshiping idolaters anymore, (Isaiah 19:3) so the reader can conclude this isn’t an end times prophecy, unless one assumes they will resume doing these things. The alleged prophet blatantly identifies the dried up river (Isaiah 19:5) with the Nile (Isaiah 19:8). And he goes even further to say one of the seas Egypt borders will drain, and this appears to coincide with the Nile River drying up. There is absolutely no hint of this prophecy being interpreted symbolically or metaphorically. Isaiah actually goes out of his way to stress the literal, physical, carnal fulfillment of this prophecy.
  • In Isaiah 19:18 Isaiah says Egyptians will learn the tongue of Canaanites Not only has the Canaanite language never been spoken by Egyptians, but it is now an extinct language. There is the very unlikely possibility Isaiah was referring to Hebrew, which is technically a Canaanite language. However, Hebrew was also never adopted by the Egyptians. And according to the context of this passage, Isaiah is specifically referring to Pagan Egypt, which ceased to exist in the 4th century. (See Above) So even if Egyptians started speaking Hebrew at this very moment, it would still be an inaccurate prediction, unless again they begin doing these things (highly unlikely). Also, it’s worth noting that Isaiah believes the Egyptians will convert to Mosaic Judaism (a dead religion) and start offering sacrifices to the LORD shortly after this incident, (Isaiah 19:21) a practice no longer done by Jews since the Temple was destroyed and priesthood lost.
  • In Joshua 3:10 the eponymous Jew is quoted as saying the following: Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites.

This is a repetition of a promise had from God’s own lips in earlier books. However, mere moments later we learn that: As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day.

The Books of Samuel relate that Jerusalem eventually falls to David, however there is no mention of the Jebusites being driven out. The Book of Kings implies that the surviving Jebusites were made serfs

1 Kings 9:20: And all the people that were left of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, which were not of the children of Israel, 1 Kings 9:21: Their children that were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel also were not able utterly to destroy, upon those did Solomon levy a tribute of bondservice unto this day.

The above verses from 1 Kings also contradict Deuteronomy 20:17 (ie. the Jebusites were meant to be slaughtered entirely):

But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.

  • In Exodus 23:27 God tells Moses that he will defeat every enemy he encounters. However, history indicates many defeats suffered by the Israelites. Believers usually pull a no true Scotsman and claim that the defeats happened only at times when the Israelites weren’t pious enough.
  • Ezekiel 28:24-26 predicts that Israel will live in peace with its neighbors. A consistent aspect of history is that Israel has never gotten along with its neighbors. (Or, if you prefer, that its neighbors have never gotten along with it.) There’s still hope that Israel and the neighborhood will be peaceful one day, but it requires everyone in the region to stop “inflicting punishment” on each other.

Now, there is always the fan favorite ‘it’s a metaphor’ line that apologists like to use, but you don’t just get to whip that out as if that answers all the questions right away. If it’s a metaphor, what’s it a metaphor for? Symbolism is pointless if you can’t discern what it’s supposed to be symbolizing.

And I said I wasn’t going to talk about this, but I just can’t help myself, you do know that the vast majority of prophecies about Jesus were either self-fulfilling prophecies, or argued by some to [never actually have been prophecies in the first place] (Biblical prophecies - RationalWiki) right?

That is curious, how do you address the Jewish claim that the new testament authors intentionally misinterpreted the scriptures in order to believe they were making prophecies about Jesus? I guess that is a different question for a different time, but still a curiosity nonetheless.

The vast majority of biblical prophecies, either weren’t even prophecies to begin with, too vague to accurately tell what they were referring to, self fulfilling prophecies, or just flat out failed. I’m genuinely curious now how you think that prophecy is a convincing piece of evidence for the truth of Christianity"

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  • First issue: I wonder: which sentences in the OP did Trippy_Elixir himself compose and which did someone else compose and Trippy_Elixir merely quoted.
  • Second issue: Is this going to be another "“Struggling with this info” kind of thread, started by someone who is never seen again after the OP?
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Reddit is not a good hangout to find knowledge and honesty.

There are no prophecies. Period. Just apocalyptic. And just back dated propaganda made up to look like prophecy. All normal for the time. None of which impacts on the core claim that Jesus was God incarnate in the slightest. That has to be judged on its own merits.

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These are good questions. Thank you for your trust in asking them. I do not have all the answers.
I think the vagueness and many other points are good ones.
I think Pete Enns and many other Christian writers acknowledge problems and are believers yet. I am taking my kids to school soon, but will try to think on your good questions

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It is fascinating to me how little interest so many authors in the Bible seem to have with what turns out to be our modern conceptions of “inerrancy”. Even in the New Testament we see self-acknowledged contradictions right there in the text, such as Paul declaring (1 Corinthians 1:14) that he “bapized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.” And in the very next verse Paul goes on to correct himself as he remembers a few more, but then loses confidence that he’s remembering everyone. Nevermind those details - he presses on with his main point which apparently won’t suffer from sweating those details or whether or not he got them exactly right. It’s like Paul is blissfully unaware that his correspondence will be fretted over some 2000 years later by those who wish to put “the Bible” under their epistemological microscopes and dissect it all up according to their new modern methodologies, not realizing that the thing itself must then lie dead on their bench underneath the glaring lights of their intellects rather than being allowed to point them toward Him who would grant them life in their hearts.

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yes–I think it was @Christy who noted that FF Bruce told Scot McKnight that if Paul realized his writings would be held on the level of Torah, he would be spinning in his grave.

I appreciate your insight!

Enns’ “The Bible Tells Me So” and “Sin of Certainty” have helped me realize that believing Christians can address this sort of question and get the main point, too. I think @Vinnie has posted some really good examples, too.
Thanks

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It says that “5 cities in Egypt will”, not that a large proportion of Egypt will.

A couple of the others are employing apocalyptic hyperbole (Ezekiel 29 & 30)

Isaiah 7:1-7 says that Aram-Damascus and Israel will not thoroughly defeat Judah at Jerusalem. II Chronicles: 28:1-8 records a large raid on the part of Aram-Damascus and Israel against Judah, not an attack on Jerusalem itself.

How are “You are supposed to do this” and “You didn’t do this” contradictory?

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I qouted the entire post from the sub i came across, there should be apostrophes in front of and at the end of the quoted post. This is the only part i wrote myself: I came across this question while looking for answers to a comment about how most biblical prophecies have failed and found the below text in a subreddit which i feel asks some good questions, more than i can think of that’s for sure. I expect this thread to be a long one but i would appreciate it if we could address these in order for ease of navigation, thanks.

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Not to sure, i didn’t see where op addressed (if at all) that.

But why use such exaggeration to convey an apocalyptic like event, why mention the river will dry up when it hasn’t?

No, i plan to be active this thread.

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Those are good questions … why insult somebody’s mother (by calling her things she most definitely is not) or why praise a friend of yours by saying “he’s the greatest!” when that obviously isn’t true in any objective sense? Eventually people begin to catch on that so many ancient writings, even ones that we include among our scriptures, simply are not the kind of communications that people so doggedly attempt to treat them as.

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You always wonder with such a title whether the ask is for help to understand or for more company to join in the discontent. There are things I think more people should be bothered by. Biblical prophecies has never been one of them, though probably not for the same reason as most folks here. Given that I’m not at all engaged in Bible study I have very few opinions about what those who are should think about it.

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Paul does not compare with the Nevi’im in any way whatsoever.

Good point Merv. It becomes difficult when we accept some as historical, and struggle with where to draw the line. Perhaps that is a problem we have in our culture, as we tend to like things well defined and binary rather than shaded in gray. We somehow think a digital readout on our scale is more precise than a shakey needle, a digital clock more accurate than an analog, when in fact they may have the same error bars. I think the original pre-modern authors and readers did not struggle with such grey areas as we do.

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Yeah. They’re not prophecies.

  • Thanks for confirming my suspicion. In that case, let’s look closer at each complaint buried in the overall whining and barely coherent subreddit poster’s post.
  • The first complaint is this one:
    • “In Ezekiel chapter 26, the prophecy is made that Tyre will be destroyed and will never be rebuilt. Yet the city of Tyre still exists to this day.”
      • “One article I read claimed that Tyre as it currently exists today is not a ‘rebuilt’ Tyre because it has no connection to the original ancient Tyre. So the city called Tyre has nothing to do with a city called Tyre? Do you see the problem here? If it was truly unrelated to the ancient city, why does it have the same name?”
      • “The article also claims that Ezekiel predicted ‘many nations’ would come against Tyre and that is another example of fulfilled prophecy. Here’s the thing. That’s not that impressive of a prophecy. You could make that prophecy about literally any country and it would be accurate given a long enough period of time. But this isn’t about vague and poorly worded prophecies, it’s about failed prophecies. And no amount of ‘interpretation’, can explain the fact that a place called Tyre exists today when your god clearly said that it would never exist again.”
  • My unprepared response to this blinketty-blank cracker’s opening crap.
    • The dude reads one article and all-of-a-sudden he’s an expert not only on Tyre, but Ezekiel 26, and the failure of all prophecies recorded in the Bible. Typical anti-Christian, anti-theist mumble-jumble.
    • Let’s focus on the whole prophecy translated from Hebrew into English which can be found at Ezekiel Chapter 26
      • 1 It came to pass in the eleventh year on the first of the month, that the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
        2 “Son of man, because Tyre said about Jerusalem, ‘Aha! The doors of the peoples have been broken; it has turned to me; I shall become full from the destroyed city.’
        3 Therefore, so said the Lord God: Behold I am against you, Tyre, and I shall bring upon you many nations, as the sea brings up its waves.
        4 And they will destroy the walls of Tyre and demolish her towers, and I shall remove her earth from her and make her a smooth rock.
        5 She will become a place to spread out nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken, says the Lord God, and she will become plunder for the nations.
        6 And her daughters that are in the field shall be slain, and they will know that I am the Lord.
        7 For so said the Lord God: Behold I bring to Tyre Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon from the north, the king of kings, with horses, with chariots, and with horsemen, a company, and many people.
        8 Your daughters in the field he will slay with the sword, and he will build siegeworks against you and pour a siege mound upon you and will station against you [soldiers with] shields.
        9 And he will place his catapult against your walls, and he will demolish your towers with his instruments of destruction.
        10 From the abundance of his horses their dust will cover you; from the sound of horseman, wheel, and chariot, your walls will quake when he enters your gates as men enter a breached city.
        11 With the hoofs of his horses, he will trample all your streets; he will slay your people with the sword, and the monuments of your strength will descend to the earth.
        12 And they will plunder your possessions and despoil your merchandise, and break down your walls and demolish the houses of your delight, and they will put your stones, your wood, and your dust into the midst of the water.
        13 And I shall abolish the multitude of your songs, and the sound of your harps will no longer be heard.
        14 And I shall make you into a smooth rock; it will be a place for spreading nets; it will not be built up again, for I, the Lord, have spoken, says the Lord God.
        15 So said the Lord God to Tyre: Is it not so that from the sound of your downfall, when the slain moans, when slaughter is perpetrated in your midst, that the isles will quake?
        16 Then all the princes of the sea will descend from their thrones and remove their robes and take off their embroidered raiment; they will clothe themselves with trembling; they will sit on the ground, and they will tremble for fear of destruction and be appalled about you.
        17 They will take up a lamentation about you, and say to you: How have you been lost, established from the seas, the city that was praised, that was the strongest in the sea, she and her inhabitants, who cast terror upon all her inhabitants.
        18 Now the isles will tremble on the day of your downfall, and the isles in the sea will be frightened by your departure.
        19 For so said the Lord God: When I make you a ruined city like the cities that were not settled, when [I] bring up the deep upon you, and the abundant waters cover you,
        20 And I shall lower you with those who descend into the Pit to a people of old, and I shall settle you in a land of the nether world, like the ruins of old, with those who descend into the Pit, insofar as you will not be inhabited, but I shall bestow beauty upon the land of the living.
        21 I shall make you a nonentity, and you will be sought, but you will never again be found,” says the Lord God
    • [Terry continues his rant]: I don’t know about anybody else, but that sounds to me like Yahweh’s promise to put Tyre in a “washing machine of hurt”, and when the job’s done, there ain’t going to be any clothing in the machine. Did that happen or not? Let’s see …
    • Gee, lookee here; see what I found with a minimum of effort:
    • I’ll make three points:
      • The best “date” I’ve seen for the writing of Ezekiel 26 is 586/585 BCE.
      • Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon beseiged city of Tyre 13 years from 586 to 573 BC leveled the walls of the mainland portion of the city and laid waste to it and the surrounding countryside, but the island portion of the city barely managed to survive with its walls intact.
      • Then, around 332 BCE, 220+ years later, Alexander the Great beseiged the island portion of the city eventually enslaving 30,000 or so Tyreans, slaughtering thousands, and leveled the island city’s walls. The Tyreans were Phoenicians; good luck trying to find a Phoenician somewhere in the world today. As for the former island city of Tyre, Tyre is now a city built on the ground on which the ancient city stood and is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land formed on the stones of the ancient city thrown into the sea by Alexander the Great.
    • The subreddit author wrote: “And no amount of ‘interpretation’, can explain the fact that a place called Tyre exists today when your god clearly said that it would never exist again.” What a joke! That would be like me kidnapping or killing you, burning your house down to the ground, building a new one on the same spot, and moving in, and Nincompoop coming along and saying: " Oh gee, Kevin’s house is still there, he must be doing well." :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
  • Does that bring you closer to Jesus?
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Ohhh - but so much of it is! By definition.

It may not match what you or other moderns think prophecy should be, in which case, so much the worse for your definitions. But what prophets do is … prophecy. So I’ll probably read the prophets if I want some idea of what prophecy is like. If or when God uses your words or speaks through you, then in those moments, I suppose you’re a prophet too.

I certainly am Merv. I fully accept the only valid definition of prophecy as telling forth, rather than bogus nonsense of foretelling. The Bible contains qualitatively more of the former, lost in the quantitative more of the latter.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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