Argument from prophecy

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Portrait of Blaise Pascal

Holy books are often validated based on alleged prophecies that have been fulfilled. This validates that the Holy Book is divine and thereby proves the existence of God. It is alleged that the prophesy is either fulfilled later in the holy book or in recorded history.

"Today, the only way Bible scoffers can explain away this astronomical probability [of chance fulfilment of prophecy] is to discredit the prophecies in one way or another. Their only alternative is to accept that God is the author of the Scriptures. The Bible is a reliable book of genuine divine prophecy. You can trust it! [1]"

"But to prove Christ we have the prophecies which are solid and palpable proofs. By being fulfilled and proved true by the event, these prophecies show that these truths are certain and thus prove that Jesus is divine."

Blaise Pascal

An accurate prophecy is arguably a form of miracle. Several proposed criteria that prophesy should meet have been suggested for it to be considered valid.


The argument

  1. A holy book makes verifiable prophetic predictions before the occurrence of the predicted event
  2. Events occur that fulfil the prophesy
  3. It is unlikely chance would account for fulfilment of prophesy
  4. Therefore the holy book contained accurate knowledge of the future
  5. The only explanation is divine authorship or inspiration
  6. God exists



For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Bible article:

The life and works of Jesus is said to have fulfilled many Biblical prophecies. [1]

The history and future of Israel and Jerusalem is a major subject of prophecy. For instance Amos 9:14-15 predicts God will bring back his people, the Jews, from exile to their promised land and they shall rebuild and inhabit it. This was supposedly fulfilled by the establishment of Israel's nationhood in 1948. [2]


Skeptics Annotated Quran.jpg
For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Quran article:

At one time, Mohammed and his followers were denied the ability to perform pilgrimage to Mecca. Mohammed received a vision that they would be able to make the pilgrimage in the future (Qur'an 48:27). This was fulfilled soon after. [3] Other prophecies cited include (30:1-6) (48:1) and (61:13) [4]


The future coming of Buddha Maitreya is prophesied in many schools of Buddhism. [5]

In Mahāsupina Jātaka, Buddha interpreted 16 dreams of King Pasenadi of Kosala in the form of prophecies. [6] The prophecies relate to a decline of the world and human affairs. They are very general in nature.

Counter arguments

The Bible is written to claim prophecy was fulfilled

The Bible is not an accurate record of history. It is easy for an author to write an early book that has prophecies of future events and then a later book in which prophecy is fulfilled. Alternatively, the prediction and fulfilment can both be invented after the event. The New Testament was written with an agenda of converting believers by claiming Jesus was the messiah. The authors simply included prophecy fulfilment as part of the New Testament without reflecting the historical events.

Apologists would argue that the Bible is the word of God and therefore accurate. In the context of this argument, this assumption is begging the question since Biblical truthfulness is what the argument is attempting to establish!

Vague wording of prophecy

Most prophecies are vaguely worded, with no specific date or names involved in future events. Since there is no deadline for most prophecies to occur, they are generally not falsifiable since apologists can claim it will occur in future.

Humans have a biases called apophenia and confirmation bias that results in seeing patterns in random data or to fit an expectation. In the case of prophecy, people reinterpret events to fit the expected result.

For example, Psalm 22 is supposedly referrs to Jesus. [7] However, no where does it refer to this being a prophecy of future events, or explicitly mention crucifixion or refer to Jesus. This makes the "prophecy" extremely vague and unfalsifiable. There are also verses that are ignored because they do not fit the story of Jesus, which a case of cherry picking the evidence. [8]

Likely events

A prediction of a likely event is not miraculous.

The destruction of a city or an empire is also likely if a long time scale is considered. Many prophecies may be simply lucky guesses.

Self fulfilling prophecy

Political policy is sometimes driven by religious ideas. If the agents involved in a prophesied event are aware of the prophecy and are working to fulfil it, the prediction is not miraculous.

The Qur'an predicts pilgrimages would resume to Mecca (48:27). This is hardly a surprising event since Mohammed was actively working to make the event occur!

Unfulfilled prophecy

Main Article: Failed prophecy in the Bible

If a holy book had been divinely inspired, we might expect all prophecies to be fulfilled at some point. There are many bizarre unfulfilled prophecies in holy books. The most glaring example in the New Testament is Jesus predicted the end of the world in the life time of his disciples (Mark 9:1 and in many other places [9]).

Fulfilled predictions does not validate an entire holy book

The holy book may contain a mixture of truth and falsehood. Even if it contained accurate predictions of future events and be actually divinely inspired, it may still contain a mixture of truth and falsehood on other matters, such as ethics and the nature of God.

Argument from ignorance

Even if the Bible contained accurate prophecies, it is unclear if these should be attributed to divine inspiration. There may be other methods of predicting the future or some mechanism that is guiding events. To assume God did it is an argument from ignorance.

Fulfilled prophecies by themselves do not establish any particular God with certainty. Multiple God may exist and they may impersonate each other from time to time.

Chance or God dichotomy

The argument assumes that prophecies are either of divine inspiration or are fulfilled by chance. This is a false dichotomy. Other possibilities are also likely. Many religions claim that their prophecies have been fulfilled. Many of the claims, particularly of monotheistic religions, are not compatible.


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Interactive Bible, Genuine divine Bible prophecy [1]
  2. Watchman Bible Study, 10 Prophecies Fulfilled in 1948 [2]
  3. [3]
  4. [4]
  5. Maitreya, Wikipedia [5]
  6. [6]
  7. Gordon Robertson, Psalm 22 and The Passion of Jesus [7]
  8. Bob Seidensticker, Failed Prophecy: Psalm 22, September 5, 2012 [8]
  9. Skeptic's Annotated Bible, What the Bible says about the End of the World [9]

See also

External links

v · d Arguments for the existence of god
Anthropic arguments   Anthropic principle · Natural-law argument
Arguments for belief   Pascal's Wager · Argument from faith · Just hit your knees
Christological arguments   Argument from scriptural miracles · Would someone die for a lie? · Liar, Lunatic or Lord
Cosmological arguments   Argument from aesthetic experience · Argument from contingency · Cosmological argument · Fine-tuning argument · Kalam · Leibniz cosmological argument · Principle of sufficient reason · Unmoved mover · Why is there something rather than nothing?
Majority arguments   Argument from admired religious scientists
Moral arguments   Argument from justice · Divine command theory
Ontological argument   Argument from degree · Argument from desire · Origin of the idea of God
Dogmatic arguments   Argument from divine sense · Argument from uniqueness
Teleological arguments   Argument from design · Banana argument · 747 Junkyard argument · Laminin argument · Argument from natural disasters
Testimonial arguments   Argument from observed miracles · Personal experience · Argument from consciousness · Emotional pleas · Efficacy of prayer
Transcendental arguments   God created numbers · Argument from the meaning of life
Scriptural arguments   Scriptural inerrancy · Scriptural scientific foreknowledge · Scriptural codes
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