XFiles Friday: Bull’s eye, or bull’s something else?

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 13.)

The next section of Geisler and Turek’s book is entitled “Hitting the Bull’s-Eye,” but before we get into the text, let’s do a little exercise in prophetic interpretation. In each of the following examples, which two texts say essentially the same thing?

1 [Speaking to a snake] And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel. Women and children won’t like snakes, and will kill them, and snakes will bite people on the feet. Messiah will be born of a virgin, and will ultimately defeat Satan.
2 [Speaking to Abraham] I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on the earth will be blessed through you… To your offspring I will give this land. God is on Abraham’s side and will help his friends and oppose his enemies and bless everyone through him, and give “this land” (i.e. Palestine) to his descendants. The Messiah will be Abraham’s seed, and will ultimately bless all the peoples on the earth and rule over Palestine.
3 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the rulers staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. A member of the tribe of Judah will always be king until the kingship passes to the one who deserves it and who rules over the Gentiles as well. The Messiah will come from the tribe of Judah (one of Israel’s 12 tribes).

As you might guess, Geisler and Turek are trying to make the case that the Old Testament “hits the bulls-eye” in its predictions of the coming Messiah. But there’s more bull than bulls-eye in their examples. In each of the three samples above, the first column is the Bible “prophecy,” the second is my paraphrase of the prophecy, and the third is Geisler and Turek’s claimed “Messianic prediction” supposedly based on the Bible text.

There are many interesting features in their list of fulfilled prophecies, which goes on for 5 more passages. Let’s start with the first, where God curses the talking snake for having been more honest than He was about the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit. Here’s the full text of what Geisler and Turek claim is being said in Genesis 3:15:

Seed of a Woman The offspring of Eve (literally the “seed” of Eve) will ultimately crush Satan. But this human being, unlike other human beings, will be from the seed of a woman rather than from the seed of a man.

You like that? There is absolutely nothing in Genesis 3 about the Messiah not coming from the seed of a man. But that’s the main prophetic point Geisler and Turek see, somehow, in this passage. What makes this even more ironic is that in the very next passage, Geisler and Turek claim that the Messiah will be the seed of Abraham—and Abraham is a man! Right off the bat, they’ve refuted their own claim. Oops.

The next “prediction” is even more unfortunate, since by the time Jesus was born the “scepter” and the “ruler’s staff” hadn’t been between Judah’s feet for centuries. Oops again. But more significantly, this little “prediction” is something of an anachronism. Israel did not have a king at all for the first part of its existence, and when they did take a king, their first king was Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin (not Judah). Many OT scholars see this particular blessing as an interpolation introduced during the reign of King David (of Judah) to try and legitimize his overthrow of the previous government. But regardless, it fails both as a “prediction” of Judah’s uninterrupted supremacy and as a Messianic sign.

The next passage exploits most people’s ignorance of Hebrew, particularly as relates to the implied verb “is” which is frequently omitted from things like people’s names, but is implied nonetheless. (A similar example can be found in the Islamic motto, “Allahu Akbar,” which translates literally as “God Great”, but which means “God [IS] Great”.) The supposed Messianic prophecy comes from Jeremiah 23, so let’s look at the passage itself, in context.

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the LORD. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.

“So then, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land.”

Pretty straightforward, right? As in the latter portion of Isaiah, the prophet is predicting (perhaps retroactively) that the Jews will be released from the Babylonian Captivity and be allowed to have their own king again, and God will bless the restored kingdom and protect it (in return for abandoning polytheism). But Geisler and Turek take just the middle paragraph, out of context, and claim it is making this prediction:

Messiah will be a son of David, and he will be called God.

Somebody can help me out here, but I don’t think that the phrase “The LORD [is] our righteousness,” as a Hebrew name, works out to be Yeshua. Then again, Isaiah apparently got Jesus’ name wrong too, when he “prophesied” that it would be Immanuel. In any case, not only did Mary not name Jesus “God,” (or The Lord Our Righteousness”), but it also failed to come to pass that Judah was saved and that Israel lived in safety in his days. Since Jeremiah is speaking of a period of history in which the Big Event was the return of the Exiles (rather than the Return of Christ), it’s clear that this “Messianic prediction” also failed rather significantly.

I probably shouldn’t belabor the point, but I have to admit, this is actually kind of fun. I was steeped in this kind of credulous, easy-to-please prophetic hermeneutic, and there’s something deeply satisfying about looking at the details once again, minus the relentless imperative to make everything a proof that Jesus is somehow True. So we’ll pick this up again next time and have a look at the last four items on Geisler and Turek’s list of bullsh—er, eyes.

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Posted in IDHEFTBA, Unapologetics, XFiles. 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “XFiles Friday: Bull’s eye, or bull’s something else?”

  1. Danny Says:

    And those are just a drop in the bucket. I’ve read the top 20 or 30 “best” messianic prophecies, and they’re mostly just as egregious.

  2. R. C. Moore Says:

    DD —

    This is a great post — your table demonstrates the clear difference between objective results and subjective results. The second column is clearly objective, all observers will arrive at the same conclusion, within some variation.

    The third column is clearly subjective. and this could be easily proven: Take a sample population of people not familiar with the Bible or apologetics, and ask them to find the first column using only the information in the second column. Count how many successes you have.

    Now repeat the experiment with the third column. I doubt anyone not already primed, could successfully match the text.

    People don’t think about this much, be real knowledge always works both ways (one way may be harder than the other). When knowledge only maps one way it is not real knowledge. It is random opinion. Anyone who states a conclusion that cannot be worked backwards to the basis, using only the facts which led to the conclusion is speaking nonsense.

  3. Daniel Says:

    On the issue of Genesis 3:15 supposedly foretelling the virgin birth, I’ve seen some Jewish websites point out the the word translated “seed,” or zerah, (which can mean semen, seed, or decendents) and related words like “zar’ech” (your seed) are also used in relation to many other women, like Hagar (Gen 16:10), and Rebbeca (Gen 24:60). Does this mean that there have been multiple virgin births?