Bible prophecy, or "biblical prophecy" is the belief in prophecies in the Bible. Believers engage in exegesis and hermeneutics of scriptures which they believe contain descriptions of global politics, natural disasters, the future of the nation of Israel, the coming of a Messiah and a Messianic Kingdom, and the ultimate destiny of humankind. Various passages are said by premillennialists writers to foretell future events, while amillennialist writers believe such passages to be only figuratively relevant in foretelling events. These passages are widely distributed throughout the Bible, but those most often cited are from Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation.
Instances of alleged bible prophecy include the supposed prediction of events that have already happened as well as predictions of future events. Some prophetic passages are depicted as direct statements from God while other statements are expressed as the privileged perspective of the biblical author considered to be a prophet. The Biblical prophets are usually considered to have received revelations from God, subsequently recording them in the relevant writings.
In the books of Hebrew Bible
prophets, one prophetic theme is that of God
warning the Israelites
to repent of their sins
, with the threat of punishment as a consequence or promises of rewards upon their return to faith
. There are many actions attributed to the deity that are documented as happening to specific Biblical regions and peoples: blessings
, or amalgams of both. According to believers in bible prophecy, many of these prophecies are viewed as having been fulfilled within later passages. However, the possibility of midrash
leaves open the question as to whether the predictions were not added at a later date to confer the appearance of prophecy on an (apparently) older passage.
A second prophetic theme is the coming of a Messiah or Messianic Age. Most Christians believe that these Messianic prophecies are fulfilled by Jesus either through his life of through the Second Coming. Jews await the initial arrival of a Messiah of the Davidic line, or a Messianic age.
Some Evangelical Christians believe that the Messiah will not arrive until the era in which the Temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt for its third standing. One other major theme in the Christian perspective on bible prophecy concerns a period Christians refer to as the "End Times", or "Last Days". Some major themes in this regard include a world-wide ruler (the antichrist) and a battle between good and evil (alternatively God/Jesus and Satan) at the battle of Armageddon to be followed by the Messianic Age.
Bible prophecy can be broken down into several groups of related prophecies sharing a central theme. Some prophecies can share multiple themes, and may occur in more than one list. As with many other Biblical topics, viewpoints often divide along Christian and Jewish denominational lines.
- General — Bible Prophecies that deal with various places and people.
- Eschatology — The prophecies concerning the last things.
- Christian eschatology — Christian viewpoint of final events.
- Jewish eschatology - Jewish viewpoint of future events
- Millennialism — Belief in a thousand year reign of Christ on earth
- Israelology — Prophecies concerning Israel, the nation, the people and the man.
- Messianic — The prophecies concerning the Messiah.
Claimed instances of biblical prophecy
- In Genesis 6, God is quoted as saying "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years. The oldest recognized people to have lived are a 122 year old female and a 119 year old male.
- Noah prophesied that Hamites will be enslaved by Japhetithes. These passages were used by Abrahamic religions to justify enslavement of black African people who were believed to be descendants of Ham, but this is seen as a misinterpretation by even the most conservative scholars since the mid-twentieth century. See Curse of Ham
- God promises Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan from the Nile to the Euphrates.Genesis 17:3-8 states,"The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." According to Acts 7:5 and Hebrews 11:13, God's promises to Abraham were not realized during his lifetime.
Joshua and Judges
- God promises that he will drive out the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, not because of Israel's righteousness but because of the wickedness of the mentioned nations, but the Israelites fail to do so.
- Joshua tells Manasseh that he will be able to drive out the Canaanites, but Manasseh did not.
The Davidic dynasty
- "David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel.", but the Davidic line's rule seems to have ended with Zedekiah. God also says that Solomon's kingdom will last forever, but the kingdom was destroyed about 400 years after Solomon's death. The placement of Jehoiachin, however, in a position of authority during Babylonian exile at the end of 2 Kings seems to indicate the survival of the Davidic kingship on some level. He was even called king under exile in several Babylonian food-rationing lists.
- Jeremiah prophesies that Jehoiakim will have no successor to the throne. His son Jehoiachin succeeded him at the age of eighteen reigned three months before being taken captive along with his mother, wives, servants, princes, and officers.
- God tells Zedekiah that he will die in peace and be buried with his fathers. His eyes were put out before he was taken to Babylon and remained a prisoner there until death.
- God promises Josiah that he would be "buried in peace" and then goes on to describe him not seeing all the disaster to come on Judah. Josiah was later killed in battle with the Egyptians.
- God told Isaiah to tell Ahaz, the King of Judah, not to be concerned about Rezin (the king of Syria) or Pekah (the king of Israel).
Say to him, 'Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah's son have plotted your ruin, saying, "Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it." Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: It will not take place, it will not happen...
According to 2 Chr.28:5-6 "God delivered him [Ahaz] into the hand of the king of Syria; and they smote him, and carried away a great multitude of them captives, and brought them to Damascus. And he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who smote him with a great slaughter."
- Babylonian palaces will be taken over by wild animals.
- Damascus will be completely destroyed and no longer be inhabited. Damascus has never been completely destroyed and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities. This is widely seen by Christian scholars to be an end-times prophecy.
- The river of Ancient Egypt (identified as the Nile in RSV) shall dry up..
- "The land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt. Ancient Judah never invaded Egypt and was never a military threat to Egypt.
- A prediction is made that there shall be five cities in Ancient Egypt that speak the Canaanite language.
- These verses predict that there will be an alliance between Egypt, Israel, and Assyria, but there has never been any such alliance.
- God says he is going to punish Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians for what they have done to his people. As part of the punishment, God will destroy the land of the Babylonians and will make it perpetual desolations.
'Second Isaiah' or 'Deutero-Isaiah' is the name of the chapters 40-55 of the Book of Isaiah
, which are believed to have been added to the words of the pre-exilic Isaiah
. The unknown second prophet predicts the coming of Cyrus
, who will liberate the Jews from their Babylonian Exile and will bring them to the Promised Land. The second Isaiah, 40-55, comes from the late exilic period which dates to about 540-539 BC. Biblical scholars believe that the reference to Cyrus is a vaticinium ex eventu
or "prophecy from the event".
- Jeremiah prophesies that "...all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord.".
- Jeremiah predicts that Hazor will be desolated.
- Jeremiah 29:10 predicted that the Babylonian captivity would end when the "70 years" ended. It lasted 60 years if counting from the deportation of the elite (597-537 BCE) and 49 years (586-537 BCE) if counting from the exile of the majority of Judah.
- Jeremiah prophesied that Babylon would be destroyed at the end of the seventy years. Babylon fell to the Persians under Cyrus in 537 BCE, 59 or 49 years after the Babylonian exile depending on how you count. According to Daniel 5:31, it was the currently unidentified "Darius the Mede" who captured Babylon.
- Jeremiah prophesies that Babylon will never again be inhabited. Saddam Hussein began attempting to reconstruct it in 1985, but was abruptly haulted by the invasion of Iraq. Iraqi leaders and UN officials now have an ambitious plan for restoring Babylon; according to an article published in April 2006, they plan to make it a gem of the new Iraq as a cultural center complete with shopping malls, hotels, and perhaps a theme park, but those plans are heavily dependent on security.
- Jeremiah 33:18 prophesied that "the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn cereal offerings, and to make sacrifices for ever", but the destruction of temple in 70 CE brought an end to the Jewish sacrificial system. (See Korban)
- Jeremiah 9:11 states "I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals; and I will lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there."
- Ezekiel prophesies that Tyre will be completely destroyed by Nebuchadrezzar and will never be built again, but it wasn't destroyed, as evidenced by the visits to Tyre by Jesus and Paul.
- Ezekiel prophesized that Egypt would be uninhabited by humans or animals for forty years after being destroyed by Nebuchadrezzar, but Egyptologists dispute this ever occurred.
- The rivers of Ancient Egypt (identified as the Nile in NIV, NASB, and RSV) shall dry up.
- Amos prophesies that when Israel is restored they will possess the remnant of Edom.
- Obadiah prophesies that Israel will destroy the house of Esau in the day of the Lord.
- The river of Ancient Egypt (identified as the Nile in NIV, NASB, and RSV) shall dry up.
- Zechariah prophesies a day when "...Never again will an oppressor overrun my people, for now I am keeping watch.
- "In a little while God will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land.
- Malachi prophesies that God will send Elijah before "the great and dreadful day of the LORD" in which the world will be consumed by fire. In Mark 9:13 and Matthew 17:11-13, Jesus states that John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy given in Malachi despite John the Baptist's denial of such in John 1:21.
- Jesus prophesies in Matthew 10:5-7:
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
- Jesus prophesies in Matthew 10:23:
When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
- Jesus prophesied in Matthew 12:40 "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Jesus spent only one full day and two full nights in the grave. According to Mark 15:42-46, Jesus was buried in Friday night and according to Matthew 28:1-6 and John 20:1, Jesus' tomb was found empty on Sunday dawn. Christians have attributed this to how they say the Jews of that period reckoned time. Explanations for a Friday crucifixion fulfillment have included the statement that "Jesus was 'in the heart of the earth' the night he was betrayed by Judas to the authorities" and the speculation that the Jews counted partial days and nights like full ones. Alternatively, a full 3 days and 3 nights Wednesday crucifixion has been invoked.
- Jesus prophesies in Matthew 16:27-28:
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.
Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.
- Jesus prophesies in Matthew 26:34 and John 13:38 that the cock shall not crow till' Peter hast denied him three times. The cock crowed after the first denial as well as after the third denial.
- The author of Matthew in Matthew 27:9 quotes from Zechariah 11:12 and 13 in relation to buying a field for 30 pieces of silver, but attributes it to Jeremiah. Jeremiah is desribed as buying a field in Jeremiah 32:6-9 for seventeen shekels of silver.
- Matthew 2:23 refers to a prophecy being fulfilled by Jesus living in Nazareth which is not found in the Old Testament.
- The author of Mark quotes from both Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 but attributes only to Isaiah.
- Matthew 24:1-2 states that "Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 'Do you see all these things?' he asked. 'I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.'. Luke 21:6 mirrors this passage.
1 & 2 Thessalonians
- Paul the apostle prophesied about the Second Coming "...we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
- Paul prophesies in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-11:
For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, Peace and safety, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth".
Early church fathers
like St. Chrysostom
remarks that this passage is speaking of the Gnostics
, the Marcionites
, the Encratites
, the Manicheans
, and other ancient heretics, who absolutely condemned marriage, and the use of all kind of meat; because they pretended that all flesh was from an evil principle.Many protestant commentators believe this refers to the Canon law of the Roman Catholic Church
, involving priestly celibacy
promulgated by the medieval church. (see Great Apostasy
- Paul prophesies in Romans 13:11-12
And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Messianic prophecies in Judaism and Christianity
The following are agreed by both Jews and Christians as to the scriptural requirements concerning the Messiah, his actions, and his reign. Jewish sources insist that the Messiah will fulfill the prophecies outright. Some Christians maintain that some of these prophecies are associated with a putative second coming
while Jewish scholars state there is no concept of a second coming in the Hebrew Bible.
- The Sanhedrin will be re-established
- Once he is King, leaders of other nations will look to him for guidance.
- The whole world will worship the One God of Israel
- Jews will return to full Torah observance and practice it.
- He will be descended from King David via Solomon
- The Moshiach will be a man of this world, an observant Jew with "fear of God
- Evil and tyranny will not be able to stand before his leadership
- Knowledge of God will fill the world
- He will include and attract people from all cultures and nations
- All Israelites will be returned to their homeland
- Death will be swallowed up forever
- There will be no more hunger or illness, and death will cease
- All of the dead will rise again. According to the Zohar, the resurrection will take place forty years after the arrival of Moshiach
- The Jewish people will experience eternal joy and gladness
- He will be a messenger of peace
- Nations will end up recognizing the wrongs they did to Israel
- The peoples of the world will turn to the Jews for spiritual guidance
- The ruined cities of Israel will be restored
- Weapons of war will be destroyed
- The Temple will be rebuilt resuming many of the suspended 613 mitzvot.
- He will rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
- He will gather the Jewish people from exile and return them to Israel.
- He will bring world peace.
- He will influence the entire world to acknowledge and serve one God.
- He will then perfect the entire world to serve God together He will give you all the worthy desires of your heart
- He will take the barren land and make it abundant and fruitful
Prophecies associated with Jesus
While Christians have cited the following as prophecies referencing the life, status, and legacy of Jesus, Jewish scholars maintain that these passages are not messianic prophecies and are based on mistranslations/misunderstanding of the Hebrew texts.
- Deuteronomy 18:18
- 14 - Matthew 1:22-23 states \"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel\" — which means, \"God with us\". However the Jewish translation of that passage reads \"Behold, the young woman is with child and will bear a son and she will call his name Immanuel.\" Isaiah chapter 7 speaks of a prophecy made to the Jewish King Ahaz to allay his fears of two invading kings (those of Damascus and of Samaria) who were preparing to invade Jerusalem, about 600 years before Jesus’ birth. Isaiah 7:16: "For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken."
- Isaiah 53 - According to the Bible commentator Rashi, the suffering servant described in Isaiah chapter 53 is actually the Jewish people; sometimes Isaiah mentions groups of people as if they were one person.
- Isaiah 9:1-2 - In Isaiah, the passage describes how Assyrian invaders are increasingly aggressive as they progress toward the sea, while Matthew 4:13-15 has re-interpreted the description as a prophecy stating that Jesus would progress (without any hint of becoming more aggressive) toward Galilee. While Matthew uses the Septuagint rendering of Isaiah, in the Masoretic text it refers to the region of the gentiles rather than Galilee of the nations, and it is likely that the presence of the word Galilee in the Septuagint is a translation error - the Hebrew word for region is galil which can easily be corrupted to galilee.
- Daniel 9:24-27 - King James Version puts a definite article before "Messiah the Prince". The original Hebrew text does not read "the Messiah the Prince," but, having no article, it is to be rendered "a mashiach, a prince". The word mashiach["anointed one," "messiah"] is nowhere used in the Jewish Scriptures as a proper name, but as a title of authority of a king or a high priest. Therefore, a correct rendering of the original Hebrew should be: "an anointed one, a prince."
- Hosea 11:1 - Matthew 2:14 states, "So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'Out of Egypt I called my son.'" However, that passage reads, "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son."
- 16 - The NIV renders this verse as "they have pierced my hands and feet". The Septuagint and Syriac manuscripts along with some Hebrew manuscripts would render it as "like the lion, my hands and feet".
- Psalm 16:10
- Psalm 34:20
- Psalm 69:21
- Isaiah 9:6 - The verse reads: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." A more accurate translation of that phrase would be "A wonderful counselor is the mighty God, the everlasting father ..." Like the name "Immanuel," this name describes God, not the person who carries the name. The two letter word "is", is usually not stated in Hebrew. Rather,"is" is understood. For example, the words "hakelev" (the dog) and "gadol" (big), when joined into a sentence "hakelev gadol" means "the dog is big," even though no Hebrew word in that sentence represents the word "is."
- Psalm 110:1 - Matthew 22:44 states "The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet." Although Hebrew has no capital letters, the Hebrew translation of that passage reads "The Lord said to my lord" indicating that it is not speaking of God.
- Micah 5:2 - Matthew 2:6 quotes this prophesy as fulfillment of the prophesy: "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel." The verse in the Old Testament reads "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." It describes the clan of Bethlehem , who was the son of Caleb's second wife, Ephrathah.
- Zechariah 9:9 - Matthew reads as if Zechariah meant there were two animals: a donkey, and a colt, instead of just a donkey that was a young colt. Matthew 21:1-5
Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. The Hebrew translation of that passage reads:
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!/Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem/See, your king comes to you,/righteous and having salvation,/gentle and riding on a donkey,/on a colt, the foal of a donkey. The gospels of Mark, Luke, and John state Jesus sent his disciples after only one animal.
- Jeremiah 31:15 - Matthew 2:17-18 gives the killing of innocents by Herod as the fulfillment of a prophecy spoken of in Jeremiah:
Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.
In Jeremiah 31:15, the phrase "because her children are no more" refers to the captivity
of Rachel's children in Assyria
. The subsequent verses describe their return to Israel.
- II Samuel 7:14 - Hebrews 1:5 quotes this verse as, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son.". However, the verse doesn’t end with the phrase quoted in the New Testament, but continues: "When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men." This cannot possibly fit the Christian Bible’s view of a sinless Jesus. The Old Testament verse is referring to Solomon.
Prophecies associated with Muhammad
These passages have been interpreted by Islamic scholars as prophetic references to Muhammad
- Genesis 21:13,18 - God promises to make Ishmael a great nation. Ishmael is said to be the ancestor of Arab people according to Jewish and Islamic traditions, and great grandfather of Mohammad
- Deuteronomy 18:18 and 33:1-2 - God promises to raise a prophet who would be among the brethren of the Jews and like unto Moses. Muslim scholars interpret "brethren" as a reference to Ishmaelites, the ancestors of Muhammad. Ishmael is the half brother of Isaac, the father of the Jews.. Moreover, Muslims think that Jesus was not like Moses in several aspects of his life, unlike Muhammad.
- Habakkuk 3:3 - Muhammad's migration from Mecca to Medina. Since according to Genesis 21:21 the wilderness of Paran was the place where Ishmael settled (i.e. Arabia, specifically Mecca), this is also disputed
- Song of Solomon 5:16 - The name "Mahammadim", pluralized with "im" for respect, prophesied in the Hebrew pronunciation. Some Christians argue that this is a prophecy for Jesus
- Isaiah 21:13-17 - Arabia is the land of the promised one
- Isaiah 29:12 conforms the way Muhammad first received his revelation from the angel Gabriel
- John 1:19-25 has John the Baptist being asked if he was "the Prophet" after refuting he was the Messiah or Elijah. Islamic scholar Ahmed Deedat said this was a prophecy of Muhammad.
- John 14:16, 15:26, 16:7 and John 18:36 - These verses describe a "Paraclete" or comforter. John 14:26, identifies it as the Holy Ghost, while Muslim scholars doubt the underlying meaning of the term.
- John 16:12-14 - Comforter was to bring complete teachings
- Matthew 21:42-44 - The rejected stone according to Islamic understanding of these passages is the nation of Ishmael's descendants which was victorious against all super-powers of its time. "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder."
- Acts 3:20-22 - Muhammad to come before the second advent of Jesus
Literalism vs. skepticism
Biblical prophecy is believed to be literally true by a number of conservative Christians. Some Christian prophecy interpreters uphold this principle of the literal view by providing detailed analysis of how prophecies were fulfilled accurately to the day. These interpretive issues are related to the more general idea of how passages should be read or interpreted - a concept known as Biblical hermeneutics.
A separate issue concerns the source of the prophetic verse. Those who hold to the doctrine of Biblical inspiration assert that the god of the Bible spoke through the Biblical prophets in order to provide moral teaching, guidance, comfort, warning, or to foretell important events. They typically maintain that the Bible has detailed prophecies which have foretold the future, and see this as a verification of biblical inspiration. In this view it is usually maintained that no Bible prophecy has ever failed, or ever will. Bible prophecy is an area which is often discussed in regard to Christian apologetics.
Traditional Jewish readings of the Bible do not generally reflect the same attention to the details of prophecies as predictors as occurs in Christian hermeneutics. It is one of the Jewish principles of faith articulated by Maimonides, the great Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages, that Moses was the greatest of the prophets and only Moses experienced direct revelation, and most concern with Moses' revelation involves law and ethical teaching rather than predictive prophecy. In accord with the explanation taught in Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed, Jews generally believe that the prophets repeatedly used metaphors and analogies and that except for Moses, their words are not to be taken literally. Nonetheless, it is one of the Jewish principles of faith that the words of the prophets are true. Accordingly traditional Judaism generally believes in the efficacy of Biblical prophecy in the main if not in every detail; including that some foretold events have already occurred, and some are yet to occur.
According to the Talmud, prophecy ceased in Israel following the rebuilding of the Second Temple; the prophets who participated in its rebuilding are regarded as the last. Nonetheless, the codes of Jewish law explain how to identify a prophet. Maimonides held that a prophet can be identified if his or her predictions come true. Some Orthodox Jews believe that a future prophet, perhaps a returned Elijah, will identify the future Messiah, the correct location of the Holy of Holies, and other matters essential for the restoration of Jewish worship.
Many academic scholars and historians who read the Bible today maintain that it contains no accurate predictions of any past or future events. They say that in some cases, transcribers of the scriptures may have inserted prophecies or attributed work that was written much later to earlier authors. In other cases, they say it is the readers of the Bible who are creating what they see as "prophecy". This common tendency is known as postdiction--retroactive clairvoyance, or prediction after the fact. In the last century this view has been accepted by some more liberal theologians.
Critics of Bible prophecy state that prophetic verses are largely vague, and are ambiguous enough to allow an excessive flexibility of interpretation. Others say that there are prophecies which either were not, or could not be fulfilled within certain time frames which have already expired. The remaining prophecies which do appear to have been fulfilled are attributed to coincidence, or to being written after the fact. The establishment of facts related to events two millennia ago makes scientific proof of specific prophecies problematic.
Over the centuries there have been many proponents and detractors of Bible prophecy. For example, Professor Peter Stoner and Dr. Hawley O. Taylor believed the Bible prophecies were remarkable, sufficiently detailed and did not occur by mere chance. On the other hand, neo-Platonist philosopher Porphyry of Tyros argued for example that the eleventh chapter of Daniel was written around 165 B.C. rather than at the time of the Babylonian exile period of 6th century B.C. when the book was purported to have been written (a view now shared by many modern scholars: see Book of Daniel). Another example, would be that Arthur C. Custance maintained that the Ezekiel Tyre prophecy (Ezek. 26: 1-11; 29:17-20) was very remarkable. Crtics argue Tyre prophecy to have failed as Tyre still exists, contrary to the wording of the prophecy, and scholar Gustave Holscher maintained that certain passages of the book of Ezekiel were not written by a pre-Exilic prophet of Israel but were later added in the Persian period.
Christians who believe in the biblical inerrancy view or who have conservative theological views usually profess belief in bible prophecy as an article of faith. They also dispute the legitimacy of non-biblical prophets and psychics.
Bible prophecy implications
Various ideas from Bible prophecy have gained notoriety even outside communities of believers.
Among many Christian religions, the prophecy that Jesus will return to Earth (second coming
) is a major doctrine. Since 32 AD, many specific timeframes for this prediction have been declared by individuals and groups, although many of these dates have expired without the occurrences predicted. An official statement of the Vatican
, issued in 1993, asserted, "we are already in the last hour
Much later, in the nineteenth century, other groups, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Worldwide Church of God (Armstrongism) and some other religious movements have stated their own prophetic beliefs based upon their founders' beliefs and understanding of the biblical scriptures. Although there are many variations in perspective among religious believers, a few specific events which are commonly held by those of the dispensationalist school of thought have been attributed to the below Bible passages:
- The revival of Israel as a nation, (last generation before Christ): Parable of the fig tree, Matt.24:32, Mark 13:28, Luke 21:29
- A strong and united European state, or a United States of Europe, (revived Roman Empire): Daniel 2
- Various tribulation events, (signs of the end-times): Matt.24:4, Mark 13:5, Luke 21:5
Additionally, some popular conjectures on the progression of currently existing situations into prophecy fulfilment include:
- Implantable microchip identification -> Mark of the beast, Rev.13:16
- Role of the EU in Middle East peace -> Antichrist & peace treaty, Dan.9:27,11:21, Rev.13
- The new Sanhedrin, plans for new Temple (Many end-time passages require Temple to exist)
- War in Iraq -> Jeremiah 50:1-3 - Concerning Babylon: A nation from the north will capture "her" (It is important to note that Iraq has been conquered several times by Ottoman Turks, Persians, Greeks, Arabs, and the British.)
Claimed instances of biblical references to end times
- The Old Testament prophet Isaiah prophesied that in the end times the Kingdom of God would be established in Jerusalem, as chief among the nations.
- The Old Testament prophet Hosea indicated that in the end times Israel would return to their land and seek the Lord their God.
- The Apostle Peter said that in the end times, God would pour out His spirit on all people and show signs in the heaven and on the earth before the coming great and dreadful Day of the Lord.
- The Apostle Paul wrote that there would be terrible times in the end times. People would have a form of godliness but denying its power.
- The author of Hebrews wrote that the world was already in the end times.
- James wrote that people would hoard wealth in the end times to their destruction.
- The Apostle Peter indicated that in the end times even religious people would dismiss the idea of Christ's return.
In the 1990s, a new way to prophetically interpret the Bible was instigated. Proposed by Eliyahu Rips
, it was said that words and short phrases were hidden in the Hebrew Bible as skip-letter sequences (every 30th letter, for example). The mathematical probability for several coded words which are related to occur within the same area of the Bible was calculated by Rips to be enormously greater than chance, though mathematicians with formal training in statistical analysis place this figure at 1:2. A comprehensive explanation of how this phenomenon can occur naturally was later published in 1999 by Brendan McKay et al.
, although the Bible code continues to be explored and debated.
- D. Witztum, E. Rips and Y. Rosenberg, "Equidistant letter sequences in the Book of Genesis", Statistical Science, 9 (1994) 429-438
- B. McKay, D. Bar-Natan, M. Bar-Hillel, G. Kalai, "Solving the Bible Code Puzzle", Statistical Science, 9 (1999) 150-173
- Jeffrey, Grant R., Armageddon:Appointment With Destiny, Bantam (1988)
- Frederick, William, "The Coming Epiphany; A Guide to Understanding End Times Bible Prophecy"
- N. Geisler, "Nostradamus", www.johnankerberg.org/Articles/theological-dictionary/TD1001W4.htm
- Custance, Arthur, "Prophetic Fulfillments That Are Irrefutable: Or, A Tale of Two Cities"
- Stoner, Peter, Science Speaks, Chapter 2: Prophetic Accuracy, Chicago, Moody Press, 1963 (online version available)
- Pratt, Richard L. Jr. "Historical Contingencies and Biblical Predictions" - An essay on the importance of conditionality in Bible prophecy
- Taylor, Hawley O., "Mathematics and Prophecy," Modern Science and Christian Faith, Wheaton,: Van Kampen, 1948, pp.175-183.
- Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, (Prophecy, p.1410, Book of Ezekiel, p.580), Moody Bible Press, Chicago, 1986
- Nabion-- the House of the Prophets of Modern Israel (online) at nabion.org 2006
- Kathryn, John ben (son of), Book of Jachanan ben Kathryn, Nabion.org, 2006.
- De Jesus, John A. "Introduction to biblical prophecy"(http://prophecy101.freeservers.com)
- The latest in Bible Prophecy interpretation (http://www.bibleprophecyrevealed.us)