Tag Archives: prophecy

The Story of the Witch of Endor
The Fall of Tall Saul

The Philistines came to attack Israel, and King Saul was afraid. Despite what had happened the last time he had sought God’s help, he asked God for advice, but God wouldn’t answer him. (Maybe God was deep in thought, or busy, or traveling, or sleeping…)

Saul wanted to ask God’s prophet Samuel for advice, but by this time Samuel was dead. Saul decided to ask Samuel for advice anyway. So he found a witch and got her to resurrect the spirit of Samuel. He promised her that she would not be punished for what she was doing, which was against God’s law.

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The Fall of Tall Saul
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The Story of the Hunt for David
David Joins Israel's Enemies

David went to the Philistine city of Gath to escape from Saul. But the people there thought they recognized him as a notorious Philistine slaughterer. So David pretended he was insane,1 and then he ran away and hid in a cave.

Then he went into a city and fought the Philistines who were attacking it. But God told him that Saul was coming, and that the people of the city would hand him over to Saul to keep him from destroying their city. So David left the city, and what God predicted didn’t happen.

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David Joins Israel's Enemies
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Jesus did not fulfill any messianic prophecies

Lots of people have claimed to be the Messiah, or have been claimed to be the Messiah. Why should we think Jesus is the real one? Christians say you can tell that Jesus really is who he says he is because he fulfilled all those messianic prophecies from the Old Testament. One problem with that idea is the fact that he didn’t.

All the prophecies that Jesus supposedly fulfilled either aren’t accurate descriptions of Jesus, or are out-of-context quotes of passages that have nothing to do with Jesus or the Messiah, or weren’t even originally written as prophecies, or can’t be found in the Old Testament at all.

Prophecies Jesus allegedly fulfilled

The New Testament has quite a few passages that quote the Old Testament while talking about Jesus, but don’t actually have anything to do with what the gospels say Jesus did. The passages quoted in those parts are clearly not messianic prophecies, so I’m not going to bother listing all of those. But I will look at the things that actually look like they could potentially be fulfilled messianic prophecies, and I’ll show why they’re not.

Not in the Old Testament

These “predictions” mentioned in the New Testament don’t actually appear in the Old Testament at all. It looks like the gospel writers just made them up.

The gospel of Matthew claims that the prophets said the Messiah would be called a Nazarene, but it doesn’t say that anywhere in the Old Testament. (Maybe the author was thinking of the part where it says somebody will be a Nazirite… which is not the same thing as a Nazarene, and was not said by the prophets, and was clearly about somebody else.)

Jesus told his disciples that everything that was written by the prophets about him (also in the books of the law and the Psalms) was about to be fulfilled: He would be handed over to the Gentiles to be tormented and killed, and then come back to life on the third day, and forgiveness through repentance would be preached everywhere in his name. Paul said the prophets predicted something like that as well. None of that is actually in the Old Testament, though.

The gospel of John says people knew that when the Messiah came, no one would know where he was from, and that he definitely wouldn’t come from Galilee. Not only do the prophets not actually say that, but even if they did, that would mean Jesus didn’t qualify.

Jesus claimed that Judas had to be doomed to destruction so the scriptures would be fulfilled, but there doesn’t seem to be anything about that in the Old Testament scriptures.

Peter claims that all the prophets said that anyone can get their sins forgiven by believing in Jesus. Really, all of them? I’m not sure I can find even one Old Testament prophet who sounds like he was saying that.

Paul attempts to quote a passage about a deliverer coming from Zion and changing Israel’s behavior, which Paul seems to think is about Jesus enabling both Jews and Gentiles to be saved, or something. But that passage doesn’t even appear in the Old Testament at all. The closest thing I can find is Isaiah talking about a redeemer coming to Zion in response to Israel’s behavior changing.

Not prophecies

The book of Acts says David talked about the kings of the earth conspiring against God and his anointed one, and it interprets that as a prediction about the various people who were involved in getting Jesus killed. But if this was indeed David talking about God’s anointed one in the quoted psalm, I would think he was just talking about himself. There’s nothing about the quoted passage that makes it seem like it’s a prediction about somebody else.

And if it is an attempt to predict what happened to Jesus, it’s wrong. None of the people involved in the supposed fulfillment were kings, not even Herod (Antipas). Also, whoever that psalm was about seems to be awfully violent and oppressive. Doesn’t really sound like Jesus, does it?

The New Testament also says that by appointing Jesus to his role, God fulfilled another passage in that same psalm which mentioned God declaring someone to be his son now. But again, the passage in Psalms sounds like it’s just the psalmist talking about himself. He says “He said to me”, not “He will say to somebody else who will be born a thousand years from now”.

Peter (slightly mis-)quoted a psalm where David was obviously talking about himself and how he was sure that God would always save his life. But since David did eventually die of old age, Peter concluded that he must have actually been talking about Jesus, and how he would only die temporarily. A more plausible conclusion would be that David was wrong, or that he just meant God wouldn’t let his enemies kill him.

In support of the idea that that psalm was about Jesus, Paul offered what appears to be an attempt to quote a verse from Isaiah, maybe, which mentioned God giving someone the blessings promised to David. But the original passage in Isaiah is about God offering things to whoever needs them, not to anyone special in particular.

The gospel of John says the way the soldiers who crucified Jesus took his clothes for themselves happened in order to fulfill the scriptures. But the quoted passage is from Psalms, and isn’t actually a prediction at all, just David describing his own current situation.

Some people also claim that the same psalm includes a prediction of how Jesus was mocked, though the mockers really aren’t saying the same thing at all. And they say it contains a prediction of Jesus’s hands and feet being pierced when he was crucified, but that’s a mistranslation. It doesn’t even say “pierce” in the Hebrew Bible, but that’s how the early Christians happened to interpret it at one point when they made a translation of a translation of that psalm. And since that came out looking so much like a prediction of Jesus, Christians have always opted to translate it that way since then.

John says the fact that they didn’t break Jesus’s legs after he died was to fulfill the scripture that says not one of his bones will be broken. But the passage that says that in Psalms isn’t a prediction about a specific person. It’s just David saying what he thinks happens to righteous people in general.

Jesus’s preferred explanation for his own bad reputation at the time was that it was the fulfillment of a prophecy: “They hated me without reason.” He said that was written in the Jewish law, but that sentence doesn’t actually appear anywhere in the Old Testament. There are a couple of psalms where David mentions people hating him without reason, though. But those aren’t written in the law, nor are they prophecies. David is just describing his own current situation. So no, there was no prophecy for Jesus to fulfill by being unpopular. He was just unpopular.

David’s comment about his friends and companions staying away from him has been claimed to be a prophecy about Jesus’s followers keeping their distance during his trial and execution. Of course, David is just talking about himself, not about the sinless Christian Messiah. He clearly says that everything that’s happening to him is the result of his own sin.

The book of Hebrews quotes (or probably misquotes) a passage from Psalms where David claims he wants to do God’s will, but also that God isn’t interested in all those sacrifices he commanded his people to make. But Hebrews claims that this is something Jesus said, and oddly doesn’t even mention that it’s from the Old Testament. If Jesus did say that, it obviously wasn’t a prophecy when he said it. And when David said it, it wasn’t a prophecy either. He was just talking about himself, as usual.

Jesus said Judas’s betrayal was a fulfillment of what the scriptures said about the one who shared someone’s bread turning against him. But again, the passage he’s quoting out of context here is from Psalms, and it’s not a prediction about someone in the future, but David describing his own current situation.

The book of Hebrews quotes a badly written psalm that can’t decide who it’s addressed to, which states that God or a king or whoever it’s talking about is righteous and has been anointed by God and his throne will last forever. Hebrews claims that that passage is about “the Son”, but whoever it’s about, it doesn’t appear to be a prediction (besides the part about the throne lasting forever, which is not something that has been or can be confirmed to be true). If it’s about a king, it’s about the one who was king at the time.

The gospel of John suggests that Jesus’s temple tantrum was a fulfillment of a scripture about being consumed by zeal for God’s house. Paul thinks that passage has something to do with Jesus too. But once again, the quoted passage from Psalms is just David describing his own current situation. (John misquotes it to make it sound more like a prediction.)

It says Jesus said he was thirsty in order to give people an opportunity to fulfill the scriptures by giving him vinegar to drink. The quoted passage, of course, is from Psalms, and isn’t a prediction at all, just David describing his own current situation. (Notice how different David’s attitude toward his enemies is from Jesus’s. Shouldn’t they be the same, if David is really talking about Jesus?)

The gospel of Matthew claims that by speaking in parables, Jesus fulfilled the words of a prophet. The quoted passage is from Psalms, and isn’t actually a prediction at all, just the psalmist announcing that he’s going to tell a parable.

There’s a psalm that briefly mentions a “son of man” by God’s right hand, but it doesn’t actually predict anything or give any additional information about this man, so there’s not really any reason to think that’s referring to either the Messiah or Jesus.

The gospels claim that when Isaiah mentioned someone saying to prepare the way for the Lord, he was predicting John the Baptist preparing people for Jesus. Again, this doesn’t look like it was even meant to be a prediction. And if it was, it’s an excessively vague one that could have just as well meant a lot of other things. (Especially since Isaiah probably didn’t even say the one calling would be in the wilderness. It looks like the gospels may have misinterpreted Isaiah as saying that, when he actually meant the way should be prepared in the wilderness.)

A verse in Isaiah about being beaten and spat at has been claimed to be fulfilled when Jesus was arrested, even though it’s just Isaiah talking about himself, and even though it really doesn’t have that much in common with what the gospels say happened to Jesus.

The gospel of Luke says Jesus read a passage from Isaiah and claimed to have “fulfilled” it, even though it was just Isaiah talking about what God had told him to do, not predicting what somebody else would do. Jesus also throws in a line about healing the blind, which isn’t actually in that passage, which is too bad because that was the main thing that made it sound like it could be about Jesus.

Matthew claims that by killing lots of babies in an attempt to kill Jesus, Herod fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy about “Rachel weeping for her children“. Looking at that Old Testament verse in context, it doesn’t seem to be a prediction at all. It’s just a description of how things already were, and the actual prediction comes after that. The prediction was that the children would come back, which has no fulfillment in the gospel story. It also sounds like Jeremiah was talking about the descendants of Jacob1 in general seeming to be doomed,2 not about somebody’s actual children dying. And that alleged slaughter3 happened in Bethlehem, not Ramah.

Matthew also gives a mangled attempt at a quote that he thinks is from Jeremiah, which he claims was fulfilled when Judas gave the 30 pieces of silver back to the priests and they bought a potter’s field with it. Jeremiah did mention buying a field, but not from a potter or for 30 pieces of silver. Perhaps what Matthew was trying to quote was Zechariah’s confused shepherding story, where he gets paid 30 pieces of silver for his work, and then “throws it to the potter”. Either way, the prophets are just describing their own actions here, not predicting what a group of people would do in the future. And neither of the prophets’ stories really matches the gospel account very well.

Jesus living in Egypt as a child is supposed to have fulfilled a “prophecy” about God calling his son out of Egypt. If you look at the actual verse in Hosea, you’ll find that it’s not a prophecy at all. It’s God talking about something that happened in the past. And when he mentions “his son”, he’s referring to Israel, and when he mentions calling him, he’s talking about calling idolators to repent. When it’s not being quoted out of context, it’s obvious that this passage has nothing to do with Jesus.

Not about the Messiah

Often if you look at the context of the Old Testament passage the New Testament is quoting and claiming corresponds to what’s happening with Jesus, you’ll find that the original passage is clearly talking about something completely different, and has nothing to do with Jesus.

(Those passages usually don’t have anything to do with the Messiah, either. A lot of the things Christians associate with the Messiah, and that they think are predicted in the Old Testament, aren’t actually part of the original Jewish concept of the Messiah at all. The Messiah being a virgin-born miracle-working divine being who sacrifices himself and resurrects so that people all over the world can overcome their state of sin and be “saved” is entirely a Christian invention.)

Some people claim that when God said the offspring of the woman and of the serpent would be enemies and would injure each other, he was actually talking about Jesus suffering and defeating Satan, which is a huge stretch. Humans and snakes can be considered enemies in general, so there’s no reason to think the offspring of the woman means any specific person. If it was, it could be anybody. And Satan isn’t a descendant of a snake, is he?

In the book of Acts, Peter quotes Moses telling his people that God will send them another prophet like him, and telling them they need to listen to that prophet. Peter seems to think that was about the Messiah, but it could just as easily be about any prophet of God.

Peter also quotes a psalm where David states that God wouldn’t let him die, then he points out that David did die, and then he somehow concludes that what David said about himself was actually a true prediction about the resurrection of the Messiah.

Paul also mentions that “prediction” from Psalms, and he thinks that by giving that blessing that he promised to David to Jesus instead, God was fulfilling a prophecy from Isaiah. But the actual passage in Isaiah he’s quoting isn’t addressed to Jesus. It’s addressed to anyone who needs what God has to offer.

Some people interpret it as a messianic prophecy when God refers to a son of David as his own son, and tells David that he’ll establish that son’s kingdom forever, that the son will build a house for God, and that he’ll be flogged by human hands. But that’s obviously about David’s actual son, Solomon, who built God’s first temple. Also, it says this son will be punished when he does wrong, so it can’t be about Jesus if Jesus never did anything wrong.

Peter quotes another psalm that says something about a rejected stone becoming a cornerstone. Okay? What does that have to do with the Messiah or Jesus? Peter asserts that that’s what it’s about, but there’s absolutely no reason anyone who didn’t have that preconceived idea would get anything like that out of the original verse.

The New Testament quotes David telling what God said to “my lord” as if God was talking to the Messiah or Jesus, including that he would be a priest forever like Melchizedek. But David never made it clear at all who he was referring to. (And the godlike properties the book of Hebrews attributes to Melchizedek have no basis in the Old Testament.)

Matthew claims that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy about a virgin giving birth to a son, but that’s clearly not actually about Jesus, for a bunch of reasons. First of all, it’s a mistranslation. Isaiah didn’t actually say anything about a virgin giving birth, just a young woman, so that could be about anybody.4 Isaiah specified what this son’s name would be, and it wasn’t Jesus. Jesus is supposed to be God, so he should have had a perfect sense of morality from the beginning, unlike the child Isaiah was talking about. And the point of what Isaiah said was to give an idea of how soon the kingdom of Israel would end, so it would make no sense for him to be referring to someone who wouldn’t even be born till hundreds of years after Israel was conquered.

The gospel of John claims that when Isaiah mentioned God preventing people from listening to him and repenting, he was talking about people who heard Jesus and didn’t believe him. But of course, that passage doesn’t say anything about Jesus or the Messiah or the future.

John also claims that another verse from Isaiah is about the same thing, the verse that asks who has believed a message and had God’s arm revealed to them. That verse in Isaiah is actually the beginning of a chapter that Jesus claimed was about him, and it’s saying he’s the one who has believed. So apparently that was not a rhetorical question suggesting that the answer is no one, so it has nothing to do with any later event where nobody believes a message.

Daniel has a passage about God permanently giving power over the whole world to “one like a son of man“, and maybe even letting everyone worship that guy. If you’re used to hearing Jesus call himself “Son of Man”, you might assume this is about him. But judging by what it says just a few verses later, it sounds like the Jews are the ones being given the world, and it clarifies that God is the one being worshipped.

Daniel gives a vague estimate of long it would be before the Anointed One (which is what the word “Messiah” means) would be put to death and would put an end to sacrifice. This time estimate is pretty ambiguous, but it can be interpreted as pointing roughly to Jesus’s time.5 And Christians believe the death of Jesus made sacrifice rituals no longer necessary. But despite those particular details seeming to match fairly well, this is not a prophecy about Jesus, or at least not a true one. This prophecy is about someone who would set up an abomination in the temple and lead people to destroy Jerusalem.

The gospel of John quotes part of a verse from Zechariah about “the one they have pierced”, and claims that this was fulfilled when a soldier stabbed Jesus’s dead body with a spear. But I don’t see anything in the chapter that’s from that indicates that it has anything to do with the Messiah. What I do see there is a prediction that everyone in Jerusalem would be very upset that the one who was pierced had died. Did that ever happen with Jesus?

Zechariah said something about a prophet saying he got his wounds from his friends, and apparently a lot of people think that somehow has something to do with Jesus. They think it’s a prediction about the wounds Jesus got when he was crucified, or maybe a prediction of how Jesus was “wounded” by his friend Judas.

Zechariah was actually talking about a lot of prophets, not one particular prophet. He considered these people to be false prophets, and he thought God was against them. He said their own parents were going kill them, with God’s approval. Does any of that sound like Jesus?

What Zechariah says about wounds is premised on the idea that those are a typical mark of a prophet. So if he was just predicting that a prophet would have wounds, that would be a completely unimpressive prediction. (Zechariah also seems to think being wounded by your friends is nothing unusual.)

What Zechariah is actually predicting is that these people are going to lie about where their wounds came from. Either Jesus is many ungodly lying false prophets who were disowned by their parents and then had to pretend they were farmers and had never been prophets… or this passage has nothing to do with Jesus.

Jesus implies that the prophet Zechariah had predicted the disciples deserting Jesus when he was arrested. The passage he quotes is actually about God’s plans to kill most of his people.

The gospels misquote Malachi, mentioning a messenger sent by God to prepare the way for someone else. Malachi actually said the messenger was to prepare the way for God, and didn’t say anything about a man coming. Either way, this description is so vague, there’s no good reason to think it’s about John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus.

Malachi said God was going to “send the prophet Elijah”, which Jesus claimed also meant John the Baptist, though John the Baptist disagreed. Jesus said everything that was written about this “Elijah” had happened to him, despite the fact that the prophecy about Elijah didn’t actually say anything about what would happen to him, and really doesn’t have any resemblance to anything that happened in John’s life at all.

Not true of Jesus

Some people call it a fulfillment of prophecy when the New Testament quotes the Old and asserts that what it says is true of Jesus, when the New Testament writers clearly have absolutely no reason to think it is true of Jesus other than the fact that they read an Old Testament passage that they thought must be about him. So this is basically just the Old Testament passages being taken as somehow being the fulfillment of themselves. These are obviously not actual cases of fulfilled prophecy.

And when the predicted events are included in the actual story, and not just in a statement that a prophecy was fulfilled, that’s not much better. The gospel writers, who were convinced that Jesus had to have fulfilled a bunch of prophecies, very likely wrote stories about him based on the Old Testament prophecies, rather than based on any actual knowledge of what Jesus did. So if Jesus’s life appears to match things the Old Testament says, that’s probably why. That said, I’m going to mostly ignore that fact, and show that no prophecy fulfillment has taken place even if you assume the gospel stories are true.

Paul seems to think that when God told Abraham he would bless all nations through him, he was talking about Gentiles who would believe in Jesus and be saved. The Old Testament doesn’t actually say it was about anything like that, though. And according to the gospels, Jesus never intended to save Gentiles at all.

Jesus is claimed to have fulfilled prophecies from Isaiah, Micah, and Zechariah about a king of the Jews or a ruler of Israel, who would reign on David’s throne. This is what the Messiah is supposed to be, and this is what Christians claim Jesus was. But Jesus actively refused to be king of the Jews, and the Jews didn’t consider him their king either. His “kingdom” was something else. Something unrelated to David’s throne.6

Jesus isn’t even qualified to be the king of the Jews. If he was even a descendant of David at all, he was a descendant of Jehoiachin (AKA Jeconiah), whose descendants the prophet Jeremiah said could never rule on David’s throne again.

Matthew made sure to write his story in a way that would “fulfill” what he thought Zechariah had predicted about how this “king” would arrive, no matter how little sense it made… except he forgot to “fulfill” the part about the Messiah coming to bring peace. And in the story, Jesus was clearly fulfilling the donkey prophecy on purpose. So even if it’s a true story, there’s nothing impressive about the fact that what Jesus did matched the prophecy.

Several more prophecies in the Old Testament mention a king, who they refer to as a “Branch”. The Branch is a righteous king descended from David who is to bring God’s people together again, which is what the Jewish Messiah is supposed to be. Does Jesus match the description of this Branch? Not really,7 but even if he did, it wouldn’t matter. That position has already been filled. According to the Bible, the Branch was Joshua son of Jozadak, a high priest who lived around 500 years before Jesus.8

Paul attempts to quote a verse from Isaiah, which he thinks is about a descendant of David ruling over foreign nations. Why should that be taken to be about Jesus, rather than one of the actual kings descended from David who reigned after Isaiah said that? Maybe none of them ruled over foreign nations? Well, Jesus didn’t rule over any nations.

Even if Jesus had become king and reigned forever, Jeremiah’s prophecy that David would never fail to have a descendant on the throne of Israel would still be false, since David’s line already failed to do that a long time ago.

Isaiah mentioned a chosen servant of God who would not cry out or be heard in the streets. Jesus did cry out, and was heard in the streets, so Jesus must not be who that was about. Unlike the part of Isaiah that Jesus misquoted as if it was a prediction of him healing the blind, this chapter actually mentions someone healing the blind. But it says whoever’s healing the blind will also free people from prison, which isn’t something the gospels say Jesus ever did.

Isaiah has a whole chapter about one innocent man taking the punishment for everyone else’s sins, and coming back to life after being killed. Despite the fact that it’s in the past tense, Jesus and his disciples thought this was a prediction about Jesus. But this chapter can’t be about him, because unlike Jesus, this man suffers silently. It says this man was pierced, but then it also says he was crushed. Why should we think this prophecy has been fulfilled by someone who only had one of those things done to him?

Matthew also misquotes one verse from that chapter so he can claim it’s about Jesus healing people, but even Matthew’s version of that verse doesn’t accurately describe what the gospels say about Jesus. He makes it sound like Jesus ended up suffering from all the conditions he took away from other people!

Also in that chapter of Isaiah is a statement that this man was given a grave with the wicked and the rich, which some people think was fulfilled when Joseph of Arimathea put Jesus in his own tomb. Joseph of Arimathea is described as rich, but not wicked, so that doesn’t work.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem,9 which is where Micah predicted a ruler would come from,10 who Matthew equates with the Messiah. But the person Micah was talking about was supposed to rescue Israel from the Assyrians, and I don’t think Jesus ever did anything like that. The New Testament doesn’t even mention Assyria.

Actual messianic prophecies that Jesus failed to fulfill

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The Story of the Inauguration of Saul
Your Cattle or Your Eyes

When Samuel was getting old, his evil sons were next in line to take over the nation. The people of Israel suggested appointing a king to lead them instead. But Samuel didn’t think that was a good idea, so he asked God about it. God didn’t like the idea either, because he thought that meant his people wouldn’t consider him their king. But he told Samuel to do it anyway.

So Samuel warned Israel that their king would steal their property and enslave them. And he said God would never save them by putting an end to the king’s reign. The people said they wanted a king anyway, because all the other nations had kings. When God heard this, he said Samuel should go ahead and give them a king.

A tall, handsome young man named Saul came to Samuel to see if the prophet could tell him where his father’s lost donkeys were. Before he could ask him, Samuel told Saul that the donkeys had already been found while he was away looking for them.

Then Samuel took Saul home with him and kissed him and oiled him and told him God had made him the ruler of his people. Saul hid, but when the people of Israel found out that he was to be their king, they got God to find him for them. And they dragged him out and made him their king.

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Your Cattle or Your Eyes
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The Story of the Calling of Samuel
Why the Family of Eli Was Cursed

A man named Elkanah had two wives, named Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah didn’t, because God wouldn’t let her. Peninnah kept tormenting Hannah about this for years, and she was miserable. Her husband told her she should stop crying, because she had him, which was better than having children. Hannah silently asked God to give her a son. When Eli, the priest and leader of Israel, saw her mouth moving but didn’t hear her saying anything, he told her she needed to stop getting drunk.

Then God let Hannah have a son, and she named him Samuel. She was so happy to finally have a son that she gave him away to Eli, whose sons were scoundrels. Eli tried to get his sons to change their ways, but God wouldn’t let them repent, because he wanted an excuse to kill them.

Continue reading The Story of the Calling of Samuel
Why the Family of Eli Was Cursed
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False prophets in the Bible

The Bible expects you to take the words of God’s prophets very seriously, because they speak for God. It doesn’t approve of all prophets, though, and it’s equally adamant that some prophets should be ignored. But even false prophets can do miracles and stuff. So how can you tell who the real prophets are?

The Bible provides a few different ways to tell which prophets you shouldn’t listen to. And it encourages us to test prophecies and reject every kind of evil. So let’s see how many of the prophets in the Bible are not actually true prophets of God, according to the Bible’s own criteria.

Some of the Bible’s prophet tests are not so useful: It suggests that if a prophet doesn’t acknowledge Jesus, his prophecies are not coming from God. But most of the prophets in the Bible lived before Jesus, so can we really expect them to acknowledge him? Well, we are talking about prophets, so maybe we should expect that of them. But still, there’s no way to know for sure that a prophet didn’t ever acknowledge Jesus. Maybe they did, but the Bible just doesn’t mention it. So that test isn’t going to be useful for evaluating prophets of the past. But don’t worry, the Bible has other methods we can use to spot false prophets.

Prophets the Bible specifically calls false

The most obvious way to tell that someone is a false prophet according to the Bible is when the Bible specifically says so:

Now that you have a good idea of what the God of the Bible thinks of false prophets, let’s see who else God’s law says should have been treated the same way…

Prophets of other gods

The Bible says if a prophet tells you to worship other gods, God did send that prophet… but he has to be executed anyway. So does anyone who claims to speak for other gods. That means these people should have been killed and not listened to:

  • Aaron was “Moses’s prophet“, but he made idols and encouraged the people to worship them.1
  • Balaam got the Israelites to worship the gods of Moab.2
  • Micah’s priest, who was also a prophet, served a guy who made his own household gods. And then when some other people convinced him to go with them and be their priest instead, he took those idols with him, so those people could worship them too.
  • The prophets of Asherah were brought along with the prophets of Baal when Elijah challenged them to prove that their gods were real. But for some reason it doesn’t say what the outcome was for the prophets of Asherah. If they had failed as well, you’d think the author would have been eager to report it… But even if their gods were real, the Bible still says prophets who speak in the name of other gods have to be killed.

Prophets who made false predictions

There are a ton of false predictions in the Bible, so that’s another easy way to spot false prophets. The Bible says if what a prophet predicts turns out to be false, God has not actually sent that prophet or spoken through him, and that false prophet must be killed. That makes all these people false prophets:

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False predictions in the Bible

The Bible says you shouldn’t “treat prophecies with contempt”… at least not without testing them first. Then you can reject the bad ones. So let’s do that. Let’s see how many of the Bible’s prophecies have turned out to be wrong (according to the Bible and/or in reality).

I’m not quite going to be able to “test them all“, though, because a lot of prophecies are unfalsifiable. That means even if they are in fact false, even if those predictions are never going to come true, there’s no way to know that. It’s always possible that those particular things just haven’t happened yet. But here’s what I will be evaluating:

  • Prophecies that specify or imply any kind of deadline for fulfillment. (These can be falsified (shown to be false) if the deadline has gone by.)
  • Prophecies that are no longer possible to fulfill, even if they didn’t originally have a deadline. (If it hasn’t happened yet in that case, it’s a false prophecy.)
  • Prophecies that say something will never happen. (These can be falsified if it does happen.)
  • Prophecies that are considered to be already fulfilled. (Some of these may not exactly be falsifiable, but I can still dispute the supposed fulfillment.)

I’ll be writing about true predictions in later posts. For now, here are some of the false ones:

Acknowledged false prophecies

The Bible doesn’t completely deny that prophecies can be false. Usually it tries to portray the false ones as having nothing to do with God, but then of course it has to go and contradict itself and attribute ALL prophecy to God.

Sometimes in the Bible, God even intentionally has prophets make false predictions. He had Ahab’s prophets tell him he would be victorious, when he knew Ahab was going to die in battle. Even God’s own prophet Micaiah, who could never prophesy anything God hadn’t put in his mouth, gave the same false prediction at first. God’s prophet Elisha, too, told a king he would live when he knew the king was about to die. God deceived his people when he told the prophet Jeremiah that they would have peace.

No more false or delayed prophecies?

In Ezekiel 12, though, God tells Ezekiel that from now on, not only will there be no more false prophecies ever again, there won’t even be any more delayed prophecies. God is tired of people thinking his predictions aren’t going to come true any time soon (if ever). So he says from now on, all prophecies will be fulfilled without delay.

That means every prediction that is made after this chronologically and isn’t fulfilled immediately is not only a false prophecy itself, but also shows that this Ezekiel 12 prediction is false. And there are plenty of those. The very next chapter is all about false prophets, who aren’t supposed to exist anymore.

In the chapter after that, God says his people are going to stop going astray and sinning. Did that happen immediately? No, if they had, God would have instantly forgiven them and not punished them. Instead, God immediately starts talking about how much he’s going to punish his people, and how much they deserve it. And he goes on like that for at least several chapters.

A few chapters later, we hear about the false prophets again, who are still having “false visions” despite God’s prediction that they wouldn’t anymore. Then God says he’s going to destroy Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia. But that doesn’t happen without delay. All of those nations lasted at least another century, except Philistia… which had already been conquered two centuries earlier.

Next, God claims that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon will completely and permanently destroy Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar did attack Tyre during Ezekiel’s time, but unsuccessfully. It wasn’t really conquered until decades later (by a different king, after Babylon was taken over by Persia). Tyre wasn’t actually destroyed until hundreds of years later, by Alexander the Great. And Tyre did later recover. It existed in the New Testament, and it still exists today.

God also claims he’s going to make Egypt a desolate uninhabited wasteland,1 which never happened. Then in the next chapter, he says the day of the Lord is near, when all nations will be destroyed. That certainly didn’t happen immediately. A couple of chapters after that, God describes a bunch of nations being destroyed. But that should have already happened if the “no more delay” thing was true, since he had already said all the nations would be destroyed. Some of those nations had in fact already come to an end before Ezekiel was written, and others continued to exist for a long time after.

God told Ezekiel that the Jews would return from captivity, which didn’t happen for a few more decades, and that the other nations would never scorn or oppress them again, which wasn’t true at all. He said Israel would no longer have malicious neighbors, but Israel has never been completely at peace with its neighbors.

He went on to claim that all the Israelites would return from the nations where they had been thoroughly scattered, so the twelve tribes would live in their land again. That never happened. The people from the former kingdom of Judah returned, but the majority of the tribes (which formed the kingdom of Israel and which were exiled first) never came back as far as I know. God says Israel will then be attacked after reassembling “in future years”. That sure doesn’t sound like it’s happening without delay.

Daniel, too, made false or delayed predictions after God claimed that those would never be made again. He predicted the rise of a unique kingdom that would “devour the whole earth“, which never happened. And he predicted that sin would permanently come to an end in “seventy sevens” (490 years?), which would be a significant delay even if it was true. And then there’s Jesus, who is said to have promised he would return “soon“, yet 2000 years later he still hasn’t come back. His words were certainly not “fulfilled without delay”.

More unacknowledged false prophecies

Back when Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, God claimed that from then on all animals would become submissive and would fear humans. But the Bible says some animals, like the Leviathan, remained fearless and never submitted to humans at all.

God said if Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, all the water in Egypt would turn into blood. Not just the big exposed natural bodies of water, but all the water everywhere in Egypt. But that’s not quite how it turned out. People were still able to get actual water in Egypt. They just had to dig a little.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God promised his people that he would never inflict his wrath on them again, or even rebuke them again. But God does continue to constantly rebuke his people and talk about how he’s planning to punish them, all throughout Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and quite a few times in other later books as well. God can’t even predict his own actions.

Isaiah said the uncircumcised would never enter Jerusalem again, but Jerusalem does not have a ban on uncircumcised visitors. God failed to predict his own actions again when he said he would bless his people from then on, but then later he decided to curse them all.

John the Baptist predicted that someone greater than him would come after him. This is supposed to have been fulfilled by Jesus. But according to Jesus himself, as someone born of a woman, he could not have been greater than John.

Jesus claimed that anyone who came to him would never be hungry or thirsty again. So are all Christians “breatharians“, able to live without eating or drinking? Of course not. Jesus is wrong, as usual. Even if you interpret his claim metaphorically, he’s still wrong.

Jesus also claimed that everyone who believed in him would be able to do everything he could do and more. Specifically, he said they would be able to handle snakes and drink poison without being harmed. Unfortunately, he was wrong, and a lot of people have died trying to do those things. Being a Christian doesn’t give you any of those abilities.

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The Story of Balaam’s Ass
God Can't Make Up His Mind

The Israelites wanted to peacefully pass through the country of the Amorites on the way to Canaan. But the king of the Amorites wouldn’t let them, because God made him stubborn. So to punish the king for what God had made him do, the Israelites murdered all the Amorites, stole all their possessions, and took over their land. When Balak king of Moab found out about this, he was terrified of Israel. So he decided to hire Balaam, a prophet of God, to curse God’s chosen people. Great idea, Balak. /s

Balak sent messengers to Balaam to ask him to come and weaken the Israelites so Moab could defeat them, but God told Balaam not to do that, so the messengers returned to Balak without him. Then Balak sent more messengers to Balaam and offered him a large reward for cursing Israel. For some reason, “God” changed his mind and said Balaam should go with them this time.

So Balaam got on his donkey and started to go with the messengers to see Balak. But when God saw that Balaam was going with them after he had told Balaam he should go with them, God was very angry. So God tried to get Balaam to stop by putting an invisible angel in his way. Balaam’s donkey could see the angel standing in the road with a sword, so the donkey turned away from the road. Balaam beat his donkey to get it to get back on the road.

Then while Balaam was on a narrow path between two walls, the donkey saw the angel again, and it crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. Balaam beat his donkey again, but there was nowhere the donkey could go, so it lay down, and Balaam kept beating it with his staff.

Then God enabled the donkey to talk, so it could tell him that it had a good reason not to keep walking, and that he had no good reason to beat it. God also enabled Balaam to see the angel. The angel told Balaam that he was being reckless by going down the straight and narrow path to meet Balak, and that if his donkey hadn’t turned away, the angel would have killed Balaam, but spared the donkey.

Balaam said he had sinned by going with Balak’s men when God had told him to go with Balak’s men. He was going to go back home, but the angel that had been sent to stop him from going to meet Balak told him to keep going and meet Balak.

Continue reading The Story of Balaam’s Ass
God Can't Make Up His Mind
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Mundane miracles

A miracle is a supposed event that is contrary to the laws of nature.1 The idea is that an event like that can only be explained as the work of a supernatural being like God. But what if it turns out that an apparently miraculous event can actually be explained in terms of ordinary natural phenomena? It may still be amazing, and it may be useful… But there’s no reason to think it’s a true miracle in that case, and it’s not very strong evidence of anything supernatural.

How many of the miracles reported in the Bible (supposing the stories aren’t entirely made up) have possible natural explanations?2


There are a lot of prophecies in the Bible. A lot of them have turned out to be false. A lot of them fail to specify a deadline for fulfillment, making it impossible to tell whether they’re false. Some of them seem suspiciously like they were written after the fact. Some of them predict events that are nothing out of the ordinary. Some of them are so vague that it’s no surprise that something happened that could be considered to fit the description. Some of them have only been fulfilled because people who knew about the predictions fulfilled them on purpose. And a lot of the passages that are considered prophecies weren’t even meant to be predictions at all. That doesn’t leave very many actual impressive predictions, if any.

Jesus and other prophets in the Bible are said to have been able to read minds and demonstrate inexplicable knowledge of other people’s pasts. It’s surprisingly easy to give the impression that you have abilities like that. When people want to believe that you’re psychic, they will perceive your readings as amazingly accurate no matter what you say. They’ll do most of the work for you, interpreting whatever you say as something meaningful and accurate. And they’ll ignore everything you get wrong.

Creation, destruction, and transformation

There’s one miracle that the Bible actually admits was faked: Joseph and his steward secretly put Joseph’s brothers’ money back in their sacks, after the brothers had spent it. Then Joseph and his steward lied to the brothers, and let them think God had created some new money and put it in their sacks. How many other fake miracles are there that the Bible isn’t telling us are fake?

What’s up with that burning bush Moses found that wouldn’t burn up, before he started hearing God talking to him? Maybe it was some kind of Acacia. They can be easily flammable and slow to burn up, and they can even trigger religious experiences.

Moses and Aaron tried to prove that God had sent them by turning a staff into a snake. But the Egyptian magicians were able to do the same thing. So either they were prophets of God too, or that trick doesn’t prove anything. I’ve heard it’s possible to do the stick-to-snake trick by holding an Egyptian Cobra and applying pressure near its head. That makes it go stiff and motionless so it looks like an inanimate stick, until you put it down.

The Bible says during the first of the ten plagues of Egypt, the water turned into undrinkable blood and killed everything in it. That sounds a lot like a phenomenon known as a red tide, where a certain kind of algae causes water to turn red and toxic. That could explain some of the other plagues, as well. Frogs flee from the unhealthy water and die, bugs get out of control because of the lack of frogs, bugs spread disease among the people and livestock, etc. And the remaining plagues could be explained by food poisoning and a volcano.

The collapse of Jericho could have been the result of a convenient earthquake that the Israelites later took credit for causing.

Why did the Philistines keep finding the idol of Dagon fallen over in the morning, bowing down toward the ark of the covenant, and eventually broken to pieces? Might one of the Israelites have snuck in and vandalized the idol during the night? It wouldn’t be the first time.

God told Isaiah he was planning on greening a desert, so that everyone would know God did it. But that would not be a justified conclusion, since that’s something people can do.

How could a crowd of over 5000 people eat and be satisfied if Jesus’s disciples only had five loaves of bread and two fish to offer them? Well, it never says nobody brought their own food. And why wouldn’t they?

Some branches of Christianity consider the Eucharist ritual to be a miracle. They believe the bread and wine actually turn into the body and blood of Jesus… which just happen to be completely indistinguishable from ordinary bread and wine for some reason. Least impressive miracle ever! No explanation needed.

Continue reading Mundane miracles
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The end of the world

This is a summary of what the Bible says will happen when the world ends. The predictions are scattered throughout various parts of the Bible, which makes it hard to tell how they’re all supposed to fit together. Some things just don’t fit together at all. But I’ve attempted to put everything in order and make a fairly coherent narrative out of it, using whatever chronology clues I could find in the Bible.

Fantastic beasts

In the end times, God will send many false Messiahs and false prophets. They will perform miracles, which can only be done with God’s help.1

Satan and his angels will lose a war in heaven. Then he will be thrown down to earth, where he will go to war against the Christians. A beast like a leopard with bear’s feet, a lion’s mouth, seven heads, and ten horns will come out of the sea. Satan will give the beast power over everyone for 3.5 years. All the people God arbitrarily decided not to save will worship the beast and Satan. The beast will speak against God and conquer his people.

Then a second beast with a lamb’s horns and a dragon’s voice will come out of the earth. It will perform great signs, confirming that its word is true. It will make a talking image of the first beast, and kill anyone who doesn’t worship the image. It will force all people to receive the mark of the number of the beast on their hands or foreheads.

An angel will preach the gospel to the world.2 Then Jesus will come on a cloud and harvest the earth. An angel will throw trillions of people into a winepress so Jesus can trample them to death, and a five-foot flood of blood will flow out of it. Seven more angels will bring seven plagues on the world. Festering sores will break out on the people who have the mark of the beast.3 The water will turn into blood and the Euphrates will dry up. The sun will scorch people, but the kingdom of the beast will be in darkness.

Then three frog-demons will perform signs, proving that God is on their side. They will gather the kings of the world for battle at Armageddon. God will send storms, giant hailstones, and an unprecedented, city-destroying earthquake that will split Babylon into three parts. All the islands and mountains will be removed.

The beast4 will be put in the Abyss and come back out. Then God will give power to the beast, which together with ten very briefly-reigning kings will burn down Babylon. With a sword from his mouth, Jesus will destroy the nations, the kings of the earth and their armies, and the beast and the false prophet5 will be thrown alive into hell.

God saves Jerusalem from himself

Satan will be locked in the Abyss for a thousand years, and God will resurrect Christian martyrs from every nation who have not worshiped the beast or received its mark,6 and bring them to Israel to reign alongside Jesus as priests. After the thousand years are over, God will bring unprecedented distress on everyone.

Continue reading The end of the world
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