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Criteria for judging prophecy

  1. Aug 22, 2003 #1
    This thread was continued/spawned from the 'Battle of the Prophecies' thread.

    No, you're missing my point completely. What I'm saying is that if you cannot tell what it means ahead of time, then you can make any prediction, as long as it's interpreted metaphorically, then say it's true when something comes along that it can apply to. eg. Nostradamus.

    That's why you have to restrict yourself to clear interpretations, long before you start trying to interpret the passages - changing them along the way, just to make the passages fit observations isn't predictions being proved true, but forcing wish fulfillment.

    If a person want's to fool themselves into believing a prophecy is true, then any method's fine, but if there is a shread of intellectual honesty present, some controls have to be in place to prevent self-deception. Humans are notorious for self-deception. That's why so many obstacles are put in place, in a scientific investigation - double blinds, controls, etcetera. They have made those mistakes before, so attempt to eliminate them. Unlike scientific information, that will eventually be retested and confirmed or disproven, biblical truth is much more open to debate and interpretation, so the need for preventing self-delusion is paramount.

    Assuming truth is the goal.

    I am glad the interpretations you're using is widely held (I'm assuming by quite a few well known biblical scholars). If you start from the beginning, assuming all is literal, then you are on easier ground to interpret the prophecies. When some is metaphorical (usually an interpretation that I consider having worth), the meanings of the phrases being applied to the prophecy get a lot stickier.

    If you want to take something as literal, fine, but IMO you're straining at gnats here. The likelihood that something was lost or added in all the translations that have occurred is too significant to be language lawyering the phrasiology for minute meanings.
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  3. Aug 29, 2003 #2


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    Sorry Rad, I didn't see this Topic untill someone pointed it out to me in a PM.

    Yes, I understood your point. But I do not agree with it. As I mentioned in the other thread, the example of Nostradamus is an excellent one. It shows how a prediction (even when filled with symbolism and metaphor) containing any amount of detail cannot easily be forced to fit historical events. That is why the writings of Nostradamus had to be rewritten to fit events when they occurred. I hope we can agree that this is not being done with the Bible.

    This is the exact point at which we disagree, it would appear. In the other thread, I gave the counter-example of Israel becoming a nation. I did not want to go into detail there, because I felt it would have been off topic. So I will describe here exactly why I chose that event.

    For some time, many Bible scholars (in fact, the majority, I believe) held the opinion that the prediction of Israel becoming a nation again must be a metaphor for the Christian Church (the "sons of Abraham", "the children of God", etc.). The statement that this would happen "in a day" was taken to mean, "during a specific era or age in history", and the masses of God's people returning to His holy city must have been a reference to some sort of revival or sudden growth in popularity of Christianity. After all, Israel had not been a nation since about 700 B.C., so it did not seem possible these events could literally take place.

    However, on May 14, 1948, pursuant to a resolution passed by the general assembly of the United Nations, a Jewish state was re-established in Palestine. In a meeting that began in the morning of that day, the name of this new nation was decided upon, and ceremonies announcing its birth were conducted. Shortly after 4 PM that same day the ceremonies were finalized with the famous (or perhaps infamous) announcement; "the State of Israel is established. The meeting ends". The birth (or rebirth) of this nation was quickly followed by a large-scale immigration of ethnic Jews, which was prohibited up until that date by an act of British Parliament.

    I think it would take a tremendous lack of intellectual integrity for me to say that, because this is not the way the prophecy was interpreted, these events were not the fulfillment of this prophecy. The fact that I did not correctly understand a prediction in advance does not excuse me from recognizing the truth once it has been revealed, once the event has occurred.

    Unfortunately, this is not always possible. The prophecies under discussion from the book of Daniel are a good example. The idea of "assuming all is literal" is strictly forbidden by the text itself. It is not an option that is left open to personal opinion or individual interpretation. The "abomination" alluded to is said to begin in the middle of a "week", and continue to the end of that week. The duration of this ongoing event is given as "1290 days". 1290 literal days do not constitute one-half of a literal week, so it is obvious that at least one of these two time references must be taken figuratively.

    Personally, I try to take a literal view of Bible prophecy whenever such view is not expressly prohibited by context. However, I always bear in mind that my view could be the wrong one. After all, had I been alive and a student of Bible prophecy prior to 1947, I am almost certain I would've gotten that one wrong.
  4. Aug 29, 2003 #3
    Nostradamus is a bad case....since what he wrote can really be said to match many, many events through history. There is a whole body of work to back that up, including yet another article in Skeptical Inquirer. In addition, we have seen over the last few hundereds of years,especially, how the Bible has been re-interpreted over and over, to match current events. It has been the end-times on and off since the end of the Civil War, pretty much, according to believers. Hell, there is a whole industry based on it now, and they will continue to milk the 'the Bible prophesizes...' scam well into the next 2-3 decades, for sure.
  5. Aug 30, 2003 #4


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    Re: Re: Criteria for judging prophecy

    I am not quite sure that I would use the term "rewritten" but it is certain that the translators translations were/are influenced by there own bias as to what they believe were the intentions of the author There translations do not always reflect the reality of the linguistics of the time. A good example is that which I gave in the other thread.

    This single word and at first site apparently minor translation error, obviously changes the manner in which a phrophesy could be or would be predicted and/or interpreted.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2003
  6. Aug 30, 2003 #5


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    Yes, translation is a tricky animal, and there's no denying that. However, the principal I am trying to advocate applies equally well to interpretation or translation. If there are two possible ways to translate a word, and the choice of translation will change the essential meaning of a prophecy, this does not necessarily render the prophecy meaningless.

    If it is my intention to investigate the validity of that prophecy, I must examine the context of a word and make the best guess I can as to which way it should be translated. If I then see events taking place in the world around me which perfectly fit the occurrences the passage would have described, had I chosen to translate that word the other way, it is not "forced wish fulfillment" to say that I simply made the wrong choice in my translation. The prophecy could be taken one of two ways, or even three. Given that an infinite number of futures were possible at the time of the writing, if one of these two or three possibilities becomes reality, then I must admit that the author new what he was talking about, even if I didn't.

    This is an ackward description; I express myself better by metaphor. So when I log back into the Forums, I will use an analogy in the form of a scientific experiment to clarrify.
  7. Aug 30, 2003 #6
    Yeah, you may want to clarify...to me, if a prophesy is vague enough to apply to more than one event, it is disqualified. If you make a vague prophesy about war, especially, odds are you can link it to at least one battle in any war over the last 2000 years, you know? People don't change that much, history repeats itself, and therefor vague prophesies will always seem to be fulfilled after the fact.

    We should see a phophesy like this, and I would buy it in a heartbeat:

    23 years and 2 months after the fall of the wall separating East and West Germany, a giant rock will fall from the sky, destroying a major South American city.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2003
  8. Aug 30, 2003 #7


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    And then it will be interpreted as:

    East and West Germany refers to the spiritual centres of the two, and thus the wall refers to the royal family getting married. Years and months refers to Mercury years and months. And a giant rock refers to a small incident of high atmospheric pressure, occuring suddenly.

    I think I am agreeing with radagast here. What may be a start is to begin with the context in which the prophecy is made - what did the prophet intend to convey to the reader, as opposed to what he actually wrote.
  9. Aug 31, 2003 #8


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    Yes, it may be interpreted that way by someone. However, if a meteorite of 300m diameter then fell on Sau Paulo Brasil, leveling the city on Jan. 9, 2012, (OR early in 2013), would you still claim that the prophecy was not fullfilled? It would not be indicate a lack of "intelectual honesty", IMHO, to say that the interpretation was wrong, and a giant rock falling from the sky and destroying a South American city 23yrs and 2mo after the fall of the Berlin Wall is the fullfillment of this prophecy.

    On the contrary, I think it would be a breach of intelectual integrity to say, "because that was a literal rock, and not a high-pressure system, the prophecy is not proven", or,"the name of the city is not given, nor an exact measurement of the 'giant rock', and the date could be 23yrs and 2mo after the Berlin Wall was first opened on Nov 9, 1989, or the day the last piece of it was removed, sometime in early 1990. So ANY rock falling from the sky could have destroyed ANY South American city, on EITHER of those two days, this prophecy could be applied to anything!".
  10. Aug 31, 2003 #9
    The difference between that and Biblical prophesy, is 1) it is far and away more specific, 2) the time isn't open for interpretations(I didn't say 23 time periods that you may interpret to fit later, like the Bible does), 3) it is something that hasn't happened yet.
  11. Aug 31, 2003 #10


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    Yes, but the critical difference is that we know what the prophecy meant! Living within the context of the prophecy, we can see what they were trying to talk about, instead of trying to shoehorn a prophecy onto it.

    What I am saying is that when we read something like the "abomination that maketh desolate", would someone living at the time of the prophecy see that as implying the building of a muslim temple there? How probable is it that the maker of the prophecy would choose explicitly to use this phrase to mention something like that in the context they lived in?

    Suppose we live in a time where meteorite collisions are inconceivable, and do look at it as signifying a high-pressure system. When a pressure system does occur, we would in fact consider it as a prophecy occuring. That is the thing with metaphorical interpretation of prophecies.
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