From the secular viewpoint, prophecy isn’t real. If you don’t belief in God or the supernatural, there’s no room for prophecy as well. Often times when I attempt to use prophecy as a means of justifying the Bible’s supernatural origins, one of the common rebuttals I get is that prophecies are often “general” statements so they can be fulfilled eventually in the future.
The 2 Witnesses
The argument that Bible prophecy is too general or vague is a statement that can only be made if one isn’t familiar with Bible prophecy to begin with or either doesn’t understand what it’s saying. Often times in the Bible, for a prophecy to be fulfilled, prior prophecies would have needed to be fulfilled as well. Below are great examples of “vague” prophecies in the Bible:
“And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Revelation 11:3, 7-13)
The first example of a “generic” prophecy in the Bible actually contains a wealth of information and specifics and requires prior events to have occurred before it’s completely fulfilled. We’re told who this focuses on (the 2 witnesses), how long they’ll be preaching for (1,260 days), what occurs after they finish (they’re killed), who kills them (the “beast” from the bottomless pit), where their bodies lie (where Jesus was crucified), how the world reacts to their death (they send gifts), it tells us that God resurrects them and when they’re resurrected as well as an earthquake that kills an exact number of 7,000 people. If this isn’t enough detail, then I don’t know what it is. You can read more about this prophecy as well as the extra-biblical evidence for its future fulfillment here.
Another great example is in Proverbs 22.
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Psalms 22:1)
But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!” (Psalms 22:6-8)
For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots. (Psalms 22:16-18)
Proverbs 22 contains prophesies about the future messiah – Jesus, how he will be beaten, mocked (specifically concerning his faith in God and a reference to his reaching), dividing his clothes and casting lots for it, and eventually his crucifixion. These 3 passages are fulfilled in the Gospels but something truly amazing about this is that David talks about the future messiah getting his hands and feet pierced, what we know as the crucifixion. Crucifixion wasn’t invented at the time this was written. We can be sure of this thanks to the dead sea scrolls and ancient manuscripts that this portion of the psalms was written around 1,000 BC. The history of crucifixion dates back to at least 6th century BC but wasn’t brought to Rome until the 3rd century. Where did David get this info from being at least 400 to 500 years before the earliest uses of crucifixion?
“In antiquity crucifixion was considered one of the most brutal and shameful modes of death. Probably originating with the Assyrians and Babylonians, it was used systematically by the Persians in the 6th century BC. Alexander the Great brought it from there to the eastern Mediterranean countries in the 4th century BC, and the Phoenicians introduced it to Rome in the 3rd century BC.” (The history and pathology of crucifixion.)
The bible is composed of around 1/3 prophecy but here we only used 2 to examine the claim that bible prophecy is too vague. From these 2 examples only, we can see that that’s an overgeneralizing of what’s actually written in the bible in an attempt to dismiss it’s claims. For this argument to truly be correct, one would have to examine all the prophecies of the bible to be able to come to that conclusion, and that should be the question posed to anyone who makes this claim.
I would recommend taking a look at 2 of my previously written articles below to get a better idea of how intricate Bible prophecy actually is. Despite the titles, I explore the 300+ prophecies written in the Bible concerning Jesus’ first coming as well as the probability of even one of them being fulfilled, the prophecy concerning the ancient city Tyre and it’s destruction, and a literal alignment of planets, stars, and constellations talked about in Revelation 12.
- Christianity and Islam: Reliability of the Bible (Part 1)
- Christianity and Islam: Reliability of the Bible (Part 2)