Editor’s note: This is a Q & A already published at the site, but this is a very common issue raised and I thought it would be worth publishing as an article. This is a series of about ten questions. For ease of following the arguments, I will intersperse my answers between the questions.
I stumbled upon a website known as “RationalWiki” which lists supposed unfulfilled prophecies of the Bible which deeply trouble me in my understanding of the Bible. The most difficult of these prophecies are those listed below. Thank you for your time concerning these issues. “Ezekiel 29:8-12 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.”
My general answer is that the people who posted these criticisms clearly know relatively little about the Bible. Either that or they are not doing sincere research but are simply trying to dig up “dirt” with no sincere intent to fairly study the question of biblical reliability.:
Ezekiel 29:8-12 was penned by Ezekiel “in the tenth year,” which is the tenth year after Ezekiel was taken into captivity-in other words 587 BC. Within a year of Ezekiel recording this prophecy Egypt abandoned Judah, allowing Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem. Egypt remained independent for another two generations, but after Cyrus destroyed Babylon in 539 BC, his son Cambysses invaded Egypt in 522 BC, bringing devastation throughout Egypt. Herodotus (Herodotus 3:7-33) describes in detail the destruction of Egypt, the capture of Pharaoh Psammenitus and the devastation of Egypt, as prophesied by God through Ezekiel. Cambysses took Memphis and Sais, even killing the apis bull, shaming the Egyptians. Later, the Egyptians did regain their independence, but they were never again the world power they had been for more than two thousand years before this prophecy. This fulfills Ezekiel 29:14f “I will bring them back from captivity…. There they will be a lowly kingdom. It will be the lowliest of kingdoms and will never again exalt itself above the other nations.” This is a remarkably accurate prophecy and the claim of RationalWiki that this is “one of the most erroneous in the Bible” is evidence that these authors are not particularly reliable.
The Nile will dry up which is mentioned twice, Ezekiel 30:12, and Isaiah 19:1-8. It is hard to even accept this did or will happen at all, the Nile is the longest river in the world. What does this mean?
Ezekiel 30:12 does not say that the Nile will dry up completely, but in fact it says “I will dry up the streams of the Nile.” Therefore, some of the tributaries will dry up. Isaiah 19:1-8 is another prophecy of the devastation of Egypt by Cambysses and the Persians. “I will hand the Egyptians over to the power of a cruel master and a fierce king will rule over them.” (Isaiah 19:4) Isaiah then describes a great drought in which the plants on the banks of the Nile dry up. It does not literally say that the entire river will dry up. It says that at the time of the invasions of Cambysses there will be a great drought. How is this evidence of a biblical error? Read the passage for yourself and you will see. Great droughts have been a periodic problem in the history of Egypt.
Egyptians will speak Canaanite? Isaiah 19:18, Egyptians never spoke Canaanite ever…..
True to a point, but Isaiah 19:8 does not say that all of Egypt will be speaking a Semitic language, but it does say that five cities in Egypt will speak one of the languages of Canaan. It also says that a temple of Jehovah would be built in Egypt. This prophecy was in fact fulfilled. At the time of Nebuchadnezzar and the destruction of Jerusalem a great number of Jews went down to Egypt, occupying a number of settlements and building a temple at Elephantine. This Jewish community survived in Egypt into modern times. The Jewish population in Egypt was only second to that in Palestine into Romans times. The evidence of history is that many Jews did in fact go down into Egypt, establishing Jewish-dominated cities and building an alternative temple at Elephantine. It would appear that the RationalWiki critic has not done his or her homework.
Exodus 23:27 says Israel shall never be defeated, but how does that explain Assyria and Babylon…..
I do not even know what RationalWiki is talking about here. Just read the passage in question for yourself. It is a prophecy of the time when the Jews conquered parts of Canaan at the time of Joshua. This passage does not say anything LIKE Israel will never be defeated for all time. It is a prophecy that at the time Joshua and the Jews enter Canaan, God would send confusion into the Canaanites, allowing the Jews to conquer much of the area. Just read this passage. It says that the Jews only would conquer the Promised Land gradually. The very passage RationalWiki is claiming is a false prophecy that Israel will never be defeated implies that Israel would only conquer the Promised Land quite slowly, which clearly implies some defeats, which is in fact exactly what happened. This is further reason to take what RationalWiki is saying with a massive grain of salt. From here the supposed contradictions get even less believable.
2 Samuel 7:13-16 and 1 Kings 11:34-36 says David’s line shall rule Judah forever, but yet it was ended by Babylon…… 2 Samuel 7:12 says Jesus must have been a direct descendant of David on the paternal side, not born of a virgin from Mary.
David’s son, as prophesied multiple times in the Old Testament (Micah 5:2, Isaiah 11:1 for example) is the Messiah. Jesus rules as king of spiritual Israel even today. God’s kingdom, with King Jesus ruling over that kingdom, will be an eternal kingdom. The Church is the fulfillment of this prophecy. Yes, it is true that David’s descendants no longer rule over political Israel, but his son Jesus is a king forever. 2 Samuel 7:12 says nothing like what these folks claim. Here is the quote: “When your (ie David’s) days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.” This prophecy was fulfilled when Solomon took the throne. His descendants ruled Judah for more than four hundred years. The passage does say later that David’s kingdom would be established forever. This prophecy was fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus who is a king forever. Jesus was a descendant of David, both through is mother (Matthew 1:1f) and through his adopted father (Luke 3:23f).
Isaiah 45:1 does not even mention Babylon as being the nation that Cyrus the Great will conquer…..
What is the point? Isaiah prophesied, more than two hundred years before the events, that a man named Cyrus would conquer great nations and would send Israel back to their homeland to reoccupy the Promised Land. This is an astounding prophecy, which was fulfilled by Cyrus in 538 BC when conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and occupy their land. This decree of Cyrus is found in Ezra 1:1-4, and is consistent with the Cyrus cylinder, which is found in the British Museum. Isaiah 44:24-45:7 is a truly amazing prophecy of the future whose fulfillment is a matter of historical record. What is the point these people are making? Isaiah did not list the nations Cyrus would conquer. So what? The list of nations conquered are Lydia, Babylon and Egypt, and Cyrus did precisely what Isaiah prophesied. By the way, also note Isaiah 45:13 which adds that Cyrus would set the exiles free, but not for a price. Exactly!
Isaiah 8:3 does not indicate that Isaiah insinuated the concept of virgin birth, rather that the mother of the Messiah would be a young woman “almah”. Question, even if almah could be considered an age young enough for virginity, how do we know that is what Isaiah even meant?
Isaiah 8:3 is not a messianic prophecy. Perhaps you mean Isaiah 7:14 which prophecies that “the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin (literally young woman, almah) will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (literally God among us). It is true that the Hebrew here is alma which means young woman, and not necessarily a virgin. However, for a married woman to give birth to a son is certainly not a sign. The prophecy states that this birth will be a miracle. Given that a miracle is prophesied, the most reasonable interpretation of the Hebrew is a virgin, not simply a married young woman. Add to this the fact that when the Jews translated the Old Testament into Greek about 250 years before Christ, they used a Greek word which is definitely for a virgin. This proves that the Jews understood this to be a prophecy of a virgin birth before Jesus was born. Either way, in what way is this evidence that the Bible has an error? Even if the prophecy is not of a virgin birth, in any case, Jesus was born of a young woman. So, how does this prove that the Bible cannot be trusted? Why do these critics even mention this when in absolutely no way does this undermine biblical accuracy? Hmmm…..
Micah 5:2 does not say the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem but that the Messiah would be born from a clan known as Bethlehem.
What? Bethlehem Ephrathah was a town in the time of David, it was a time during the time of Micah and it was a town during the time of Jesus. It was never a clan. What Micah is saying is that the clan of Judah which lived in Bethlehem was a small clan. What is the point here? Is this supposed to disprove that Micah prophesied the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem? The Jews were very well aware of this prophecy and they never interpreted it how RationalWiki falsely interprets this! We know that the Jews interpreted this to imply that the Messiah would come from the town of Bethlehem. I am content to let the Jews interpret their own scripture rather than RationalWiki critics.
Hosea 11:1 is referencing Israel not Jesus as coming from Egypt.
These folks clearly do not understand Hoseah 11:1 This passage reminds the people that God called Moses out of Egypt (which happened) . It also reminds the people that he called his children Israel out of Egypt (which happened). It is ALSO a predictive prophecy that God will call Jesus out of Egypt, as he calls all people out of “Egypt” metaphorically. All of us are called out of slavery in Egypt metaphorically, as all of us are slaves to sin and are called out of “Egypt” when we are saved in Christ. Hosea 11:1 is both a recounting of what God did and a prophecy of what God was still to do. Again, RationalWiki seems not to understand this passage.
The Fourth Servant Song, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, is frequently referred to in the New Testament as being the source of prophecies allegedly fulfilled therein. Although many Christian scholars maintain the author had foreshadowed Jesus’ crucifixion, other (especially Jewish) scholars maintain that he had meant instead to refer to the mistreatment of the nation of Israel.
Jewish scholars may be correct in part. Isaiah 52 and 53 are a prophecy of God saving Israel, and it is also a prophecy of God saving all mankind in Jesus. This is one of many examples of a prophecy in the Old Testament which is fulfilled in multiple ways. I do not deny that the Jews would have understood parts of this passage this way, and God did in fact save Israel. Jewish scholars may not be completely misunderstanding this passage, but clearly they are not going to see Jesus as the fulfillment of this passage, no matter how obviously he fulfilled this prophecy. This passage also applies to Jesus, as anyone can see, when it continues to describe one who is pierced, who is despised and rejected and who is silent when accused. This certainly applies to Jesus and not to Israel. This prophecy is about Israel, but even more so it is about Jesus as anyone can see. Israel was never pierced. Israel was never silent when accused. Israel never poured out its life or bore the sins of many (Isaiah 53:12). Surely no scholar will claim that this applies to Israel better than it applies to Jesus.
In Daniel 8:14, it claims that: For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state. William Miller, a Baptist preacher, predicted and preached the imminent return of Jesus Christ to the earth. He first assumed that the cleansing of the sanctuary represented purification of the Earth by fire at Christ’s Second Coming. Then, using an interpretive principle known as the “day-year principle”, Miller, along with others, interpreted a prophetic day to read not as a 24-hour period, but rather as a calendar year. Miller stated: “My principles in brief, are, that Jesus Christ will come again to this earth, cleanse, purify, and take possession of the same, with all the saints, sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.” Nothing happened, aside from a lot of confused Christians suddenly n oticing Matthew 24:36 and starting up Seventh-day Adventism.
Miller was simply mistaken in this false interpretation. The fact that Miller gave a false interpretation of Daniel 8 says nothing about the reliability of the Bible. In fact, the prophecy in Daniel 8:9-14 is about the desolation of Israel under Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BC. At this time the Greek ruler sacrificed pigs in the temple and outlawed all forms of Jewish worship, including making curcumcision of male childred a capital crime. All this is recorded by Josephus as well as in 1 Maccabees. The desolation of the temple began in November 167 BC and ended on December 25, 164 BC. The duration of the desolation of the temple was three years and one or two months, which is approximately 1150 days which is 2300 evenings and mornings. This is one of the most amazingly precise prophecies in the entire Bible. Om the 550s BC God told Daniel the exact length of the desolation of the temple. This prophecy has nothing to do with the return of Jesus, despite William Miller’s incorrect interpretation. The fact that William Miller had a grossly incorrect interpretation of this passage does nothing to change the fact that this is an amazing prophecy which was fulfilled more than two thousand years ago. Miller was a false teacher, but the Bible is inspired by God as proved, in part, by Daniel 8:9-14. I go into much more detail about this prophecy inmy book Daniel, Prophet to the Nations, which is available at www.ipibooks.com. You should consider picking up a copy.
So much for this supposed proof that the Bible is not reliable. To be honest, this is rather shallow criticism. These folks clearly do not know much about the Bible. If they took the time and trouble to investigate their supposed examples of biblical errors they would not make such biased and unfounded accusations. Their supposed “scholarship” speaks for itseff. This is biased criticism does absolutely nothing to tarnish the reliability of the Bible.
I hope this helps.