Scriptural fulfillments (cont.)

Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday. One of the chief consequences of the Myth Hypothesis is the prediction that, having no divine quality control, any Scriptures men write will be subject to human weaknesses and fallibilities. We have a good example of that in Ezekiel 26.

In the eleventh year, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me… “I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you… 4 They will destroy the walls of Tyre and pull down her towers; I will scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock. 5 Out in the sea she will become a place to spread fishnets, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD…

7 “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: From the north I am going to bring against Tyre Nebuchadnezzar [a] king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, with horsemen and a great army… 9 He will direct the blows of his battering rams against your walls and demolish your towers with his weapons… 12 They will plunder your wealth and loot your merchandise; they will break down your walls and demolish your fine houses and throw your stones, timber and rubble into the sea. 13 I will put an end to your noisy songs, and the music of your harps will be heard no more. 14 I will make you a bare rock, and you will become a place to spread fishnets. You will never be rebuilt, for I the LORD have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD.

Amazingly, Tyre was attacked and destroyed, and siege engines were indeed brought up against her previously impregnable island fortress just off the mainland coast. Unfortunately, the prophet got two things wrong: Tyre was rebuilt after Nebuchadnezzar’s attack, and the brilliant general who used rubble from the mainland to build a causeway to the island fortress was Alexander the Great—not Nebuchadnezzar.

It’s fairly obvious what happened. The writer/editor of Ezekiel, some time after Alexander’s conquest of the Middle East, thought to bolster his God’s reputation by giving Him credit for the destruction of Tyre. But he got his conquerors mixed up. He knew that somebody had come up with an ingenious (shall we say, “inspired”?) tactic for overcoming Tyre’s natural defenses. It was 50/50 between Nebuchadnezzar (who was more significant to Jewish history) and Alexander. But Ezekiel, or whoever added this prophecy to Ezekiel, guessed wrong.

Nor did the prophet guess correctly about Tyre’s ultimate future as a “bare rock,” never again to be rebuilt. Check out Acts 21:3.

When we came in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left, we kept sailing to Syria and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload its cargo.

Tyre was still (again?) a thriving and prosperous coastal port in the days of Paul’s missionary journey,
View Larger Map and is still a major seaport to this day.

Moving on, let’s consider the Bible’s need for accommodations and rationalizations for God’s absence, as predicted by the Myth Hypothesis. The classic example here is Acts 1, where Jesus is portrayed as ascending into Heaven, thus conveniently accounting for the fact that Christians have no Risen Savior to offer as verification for their stories about a “resurrection” (even though we now know that there’s no physical place up there for him to ascend to). We might also turn to passages like Isaiah 59 that blame men for God’s failure to manifest—it’s our sins that have separated us from God, and not any inability on God’s part. Yeah, that’s it, it’s all our fault.

Where we really hit the jackpot, though, is when we look at the prediction that Scriptures would be expected to assume at least a portion of God’s authority in His absence. That one is not only fulfilled, but exceeded. The Bible does not just share in God’s authority, it has become “God’s Word” in the minds of many. Indeed, the Bible has assumed God’s role to such a great extent that a large number of people have trouble remembering that it is only a book of things men have written about God, and is not a book penned by God Himself. Even in more traditional sects like the Roman Catholic Church, the Bible has a special and unique status as God’s authoritative voice, above all other documents.

As for the prediction that there would be passages that were “muddy, obscure, and subject to reinterpretation,” we see that easily fulfilled in the number of competing and conflicting “Bible-based” sects that have arisen and that continue to arise since Martin Luther’s day. We’ll also have a spectacular example of the “repurposing” of Scriptures in tomorrow’s XFiles Friday.

Now, let’s contrast that with the predictions of the Gospel Hypothesis. If we had a God Who wanted us to be saved so that He and we could have an eternal personal relationship together, what implications would that have for any Scriptures that might arise through His religion? Looking back over my notes, I see I’ve left out the most obvious implication: we would expect that God would write some or even most of those Scriptures Himself! That one hasn’t happened, though, unless you count the Qur’an.

As for the rest—supernatural quality control, divine assistance in correct interpretation, detailed, specific and time-stamped prophecies, and continual revelation—we find that they all fail to happen. If we look at the Scriptures and ask ourselves what a divinely wise and powerful deity could do to make the Bible a more effective tool for achieving His goal of bringing all mankind to a saving knowledge of Himself, we find that virtually none of them is actually happening.

Again, these are not merely ad hoc justifications or arbitrarily selected “predictions.” We’re talking about the things that would logically follow as the wise and strategically beneficial consequences of having a capable Heavenly Father with a known goal of saving as many of His children as possible. The most fundamental and obvious behaviors that would accomplish God’s alleged will are the behaviors which we do not see happening.

Most Christian interpretation of the Bible is retrospective: given the known, actual discrepancy between what the Bible says and what ought to be true according to Christian presuppositions, what plausible-sounding interpretation can we propose to reconcile the two? But if we start from the presuppositions and reason forwards, we can see clearly that the actual facts are much more consistent with the Myth Hypothesis than with the Gospel Hypothesis. The theological approach is backwards thinking, and amounts to rationalization. The truly rational approach is to evaluate what the premises imply, and then select the premise whose necessary consequences are most consistent with the real-world evidence. And that leads us, once again, to the validity of the Myth Hypothesis.

 
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Posted in Evidence Against Christianity, Unapologetics. 9 Comments »

9 Responses to “Scriptural fulfillments (cont.)”

  1. R. C. Moore Says:


    It’s fairly obvious what happened. The writer/editor of Ezekiel, some time after Alexander’s conquest of the Middle East, thought to bolster his God’s reputation by giving Him credit for the destruction of Tyre. But he got his conquerors mixed up. He knew that somebody had come up with an ingenious (shall we say, “inspired”?) tactic for overcoming Tyre’s natural defenses. It was 50/50 between Nebuchadnezzar (who was more significant to Jewish history) and Alexander. But Ezekiel, or whoever added this prophecy to Ezekiel, guessed wrong.

    I disagree. Ezekiel may will have lived around the time of the siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar, and merely documented it in his fashion, composing history as a voice from God. It may have been how he supported himself for all we know, or kept himself alive in captivity, writing verses that attested to the glory of the rulers. Whether the style is to boast God’s reputation or Ezekiel’s, who knows? There is no reason to drag Alexander into this at all (now if Ezekiel had mentioned building a causeway from the ruins of an abandoned city on shore in order to attack Tyre, that would be a different matter).

    It is definitely not prophecy. It is a embellishment of an attack on an often attacked city. And I doubt a later writer, because Ezekiel’s calendar system would probably not be familiar to a later writer, but was in use in the time frame of Nebuchadnezzar.

  2. Deacon Duncan Says:

    (now if Ezekiel had mentioned building a causeway from the ruins of an abandoned city on shore in order to attack Tyre, that would be a different matter).

    Done.

    ‘They will destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; and I will scrape her debris from her and make her a bare rock.

    She will be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘and she will become spoil for the nations.

    Also her daughters who are on the mainland will be slain by the sword, and they will know that I am the LORD.'”

    For thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will bring upon Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, chariots, cavalry and a great army.

    He will slay your daughters on the mainland with the sword; and he will make siege walls against you, cast up a ramp against you and raise up a large shield against you.

    The blow of his battering rams he will direct against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers.

  3. R. C. Moore Says:

    Not even close :)

    Maybe if you ran it through one of those keyword search algorithms the Bible Code guys use. Of course then you would find the passage also predicts the fall of the WTC.

  4. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Well, if you say so. I’ve heard of lots of people who’ve tried to deny that Ezekiel’s prophecy went unfulfilled, but you’re the only person I know of who seems to deny that Alexander fulfilled it.

  5. R. C. Moore Says:

    There are much better histories of Alexander available now. He did take Tyre, but not by land (the causeway failed in its initial purpose). He actually was forced to take Tyre by sea (using battering rams, but not on the walls, but the sea wall foundation, with is quite different in purpose).

    Things that match for Alexander: (or Nebuchadnezzar for that matter) he came from the north (not much of guess, you only have north and south really, with mountains to the east), he approached from the mainland (duh), he had cavalry and a large army (who didn’t?), and and he used battering rams (but naval ones).

    The “making of siege walls” is interesting: it could mean the failed “siege towers” Alexander constructed when the causeway plan failed.

    Things that do not match for Alexander: no walls were destroyed, nothing take to bare rock. Alexander was careful to leave something to rule over, and he needed the harbor city for strategic purposes. No sword-slain mainland daughters, when Alexander arrived, Tyre was wholly an island city, they removed their own causeway, the mainland was abandoned and empty. No siege walls, no ramp, no large shield (whatever that was).

    I of course have no idea what the real story is behind this passage from Ezekiel, whether it was later embellished, but it is so vague, I think it fits any number of interpretations. And if you look at the history of writers who mythologized the exploits of Kings (Alexander himself had several on the payroll), maybe Ezekiel was earning his keep in Babylon (where he most likely wrote from while a captive) by creating myth-histories.

    Your guess is as good as mine.

  6. R. C. Moore Says:

    Reading my last point, a critical assumption on my part that is not clear: that Ezekiel wrote after the fact, using the style of what we now consider prophecy. I follow Bart Erhman’s interpretation of the OT Biblical prophecies; they were never meant to be that, but to be critiques, warnings, and commentaries, hidden in prophetic language to avoid getting one’s head removed from one’s torso.

  7. R. C. Moore Says:

    Sorry to keep commenting, but one other point:

    and he will make siege walls against you, cast up a ramp against you and raise up a large shield against you.

    This was exactly the technique used by the Romans, siege wall, ramps, and large shields, and axes, around 200 B.C. but not used earlier. So that would indicate a very late date for the couple of last paragraphs, and indicate that Ezekiel was added to through time.

  8. Bacopa Says:

    I recall that the Athenians used shield walls, axes, and giant crowbars to destroy palisade walls near Platea in 479 BCE. Presumably there were some Hebrews among the Persian forces and experience of this siegecraft might have made its way into scripture at a very early date.

  9. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Interesting comments, RC, thanks much. I think the main point still stands: the taking of Tyre did not happen the way Ezekiel said it would in chapter 26. What’s really interesting is to read just three chapters later. “Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon drove his army in a hard campaign against Tyre; every head was rubbed bare and every shoulder made raw. Yet he and his army got no reward from the campaign he led against Tyre. Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to give Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will carry off its wealth. He will loot and plunder the land as pay for his army. I have given him Egypt as a reward for his efforts because he and his army did it for me, declares the Sovereign LORD.” (Ezekiel 29:18-20)

    Sounds like somebody slipped the old boy a note and said, “Hey Zeke, ’bout that prophecy you made last week…”