More on Prophecy

Commenter Koseighty wrote this response to Don Camp following Don’s assertion that we’re living in the End Times. Koseighty explains perfectly how Biblical prophecy is constructed and how inevitably it can only fail.

Don said:
I base my conclusion (never absolute) on the fact that all the markers of the end of the age are converging in these days.

Koseighty: This is what every generation of Christian has said since, and including, Jesus himself. But, besides being nauseatingly clichéd, it shows you don’t understand Jewish apocalyptic literature.

Here’s how Jewish apocalyptic literature works. It’s written in two parts. In the first part the author elaborates all the woes afflicting the people, most often in highly symbolic language. In the second part, the author tells how God is going to set things right, again most often in highly symbolic language.

The first part, the woes part, is not in any way prophetic. The woes and abominations it describes is how the author see his world at the time of writing. The second part, while prophetic, is imminent. It is not something that will happen thousands of years later. The author’s prophecies are going to happen any minute now. “Behold, I come quickly!”

Inevitably what we see in these writings is the first part accurately describes the time of the author, and the second part fails to occur. Believers then either twist the words of the second part to “show” they really did happen, or they place the fulfillment at some future date, collectively called by Christians “The End Times™.”

We see this in Daniel. Scholars can give the year Daniel was written – 167 BCE, if I recall correctly – because the first accurate part describes events prior to that date, and the second prophecy part never happened.

The same can be seen in Mark. The author describes the, current to him, destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, but the imminent coming of Christ in clouds of glory doesn’t happen.

The same with Paul. He describes his times and the imminent resurrection at Christ’s coming (which will include Paul and his followers), but neither the coming nor the resurrection ever happen.

As with the author of the Revelation. He describes his current view of the world and the Roman empire and the imminent destruction to precede the imminent coming of Christ (“Behold, I come quickly!“) which never happens.

Sorry, Don. You’re making the same mistake all those Christians have made before you. Taking Revelation as a prophecy of a distant (to the author) future time instead of happening right then in the time the author was describing.

Perhaps the church should have listened to all those heretics rather than burning them. Perhaps they should have read those heretical texts rather than burning them. Perhaps then Christianity could have come to an accurate consensus on these things rather than the ridiculous one they came up with.

33 thoughts on “More on Prophecy

  1. Pretty good analysis of how apocalyptic literature works. I am surprised.

    The phrase “the end times” is not strictly speaking a biblical term (except in 2 Timothy 3:1). The idea is found, however, in several other terms such as “the day of the Lord.” Usually, it refers to a time when God will right the wrongs done to Israel. Not even in Daniel or Mark do we find the exact phrase.

    Paul uses the term. But he does not mean by it what you say. The phrases in 2 Timothy 3:1implies that the last days include the present time and continue until the end when the Lord will return. The time of the end is a common theme throughout prophetic literature, however. It always refers to a distant time when God will put all things right.

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    • To summarise, you find Koseighty’s points surprisingly good but you’re sticking to your existing belief that prophecy refers to events thousands of years in the future. Even though Kos shows you they don’t? How do you manage the resulting cognitive dissonance, Don?

      BTW, your new post on your own blog (which of course won’t allow comments) includes the lie that I ‘couldn’t answer your question’ about what ‘I am the Resurrection’ is a metaphor for. I did reply to this and as promised will address it more fully in my next post. Is ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness’ another metaphor you can safely ignore, Don?

      Liked by 1 person

    • And, so far, it’s always been wrong! And this is because they were, in fact, referring to their own contemporary age! Neil is completely right and if you take offs the blinders (for which I hold out no hope) you would easily see. Jesus and Paul and John were ALL referring to the empires of their day (Roman) the persecution of their people (Jews) and their present age. “Truly I tell you that there are some here today that will not taste death before all these things come to pass”

      He couldn’t have made it any plainer. Paul is just as literal when he speak about “we who are still living will meet the Lord in the air.”

      As with everything mythological, it’s all nonsense.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ark, as you’ve noticed he tends to avoid answering certain questions and/or responding to comments that hit home. And if he does, the answers tend to go round and round the mulberry bush.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I am having similar issues with SOM who is claiming he has presented loads of evidence for Yahweh (God … sic) yet refuses to offer a link to a single post of his where all this evidence is.
        Sigh …T’was ever thus.
        Cowards and Liars one and all.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I remember watching a video made by a guy who was following up on the tradition that the Apostle Thomas went to India in the first century to preach the resurrection and gospel of Jesus. He interviewed one old priest of the Martoma church in southern India and asked for the evidence that Thomas came to India. The priest answered that he was the evidence. And he was right.

        So, one evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is me. I am a believer because I believe in the resurrection and the gospel as I was told – by someone who had the same experience. If you follow the trail back, you finally come to someone who was not told but knew by experience. And we have his testimony.

        That is the usual. My great grandfather homesteaded in Washington State in the 1890s. How do I know? My mother told me. How did she know? She knew from her mother who lived on the ranch. The trail is shorter, but that is basically all the evidence I need. It leads back to eyewitness and personal experience.

        For almost all historical events and people, that is what you have. A trail back to the event or person. If you need firsthand testimony, you can find it in the Bible, but you probably won’t bother to look. Oh well, you won’t believe that Plato lived in Athens either because that personal experience testimony by people you also don’t know is all you’ve got really.

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      • I have read the bible cover to cover and still read parts when the need arises. But your snarky quip is noted.

        So , back to evidence for the resurrection
        Muslims claim Mohammed flew on a winged horse.
        I doubt you would accept any historical reference to this somewhat outlandish claim, would you?
        Me neither.

        So, it would be fair to say that anyone can claim as true or factual almost anything at all
        Of course,without evidence to substantiate such claims they remain just that. …claims.
        Therefore personal testimony does not count as evidence unless it can be substantiated
        So, once again, what evidence can you provide to demonstrate the veracity if the claim that the character Jesus of Nazareth ressurected.

        I look forward to an interesting discussion.
        Regards
        Ark.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting, Don, that you fixate not on the points that I made but on a phrase I attributed to “Christians.” Not the Bible. Not a specific author in the Bible. But you felt it necessary to school me on its proper use.

      If you can’t counter an argument, deflect. Deflector shields to maximum! Deflect! Deflect! Deflect!

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  2. I think that Kos is the one with cognitive dissonance; he repeatedly rejects the way the people of Jesus’ time understood the prophecies and continues to hold on to what modernist scholars declare. That to me seems a bit crazy. It is like my asking you what your name is and when you reply Neil correcting you. Sometimes I do that as a joke. BUT IT IS A JOKE. Who knows your name better than you? (Warning. That is a simile.) Who knows what the prophecy is saying better than the people who were accustomed to prophecies and interpretations?

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    • Actually my first name isn’t Neil so that’s an unfortunate choice of simile there.

      Leave the interpretation of prophecy to those who were accustomed to it 2000 years ago?

      Two points: 1) it’s not these people who are interpreting it now. It’s deluded souls like you.
      2) Your 1st century ‘experts’ believed the prophecies that you’re desperately trying to salvage were going to happen then, for them. The NT tells us this repeatedly.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Don:
      Who knows what the prophecy is saying better than the people who were accustomed to prophecies and interpretations?

      The Jews – “who were accustomed to prophecies and interpretations” – then and now, rejected the Christian message. Left to a Jewish audience, the Christian message would have died like all the other false messiahs of the time.

      But Paul! Paul mangled Jewish prophecies and Greco-Roman philosophy into something new. Something that appealed to a gentile audience.

      Who knows what the prophecy is saying better than the people who were accustomed to prophecies and interpretations? Exactly! And they rejected the Christian story wholesale.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Don>/b>:
      Who knows what the prophecy is saying better than the people who were accustomed to prophecies and interpretations?

      To elaborate on the fact that the Jews, whose prophecies they were, didn’t accept Jesus as messiah or son of God.

      Christians love to go on about the 666 (or some ridiculous number) Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus in the New Testament. But none of these were prophecies of the promised messiah. They are scriptural contortions performed by the New Testament writers to create prophecies for Jesus to fulfill.

      None of the actual messianic prophecies where fulfilled by Jesus. In fact, Christianity had to create a “second coming” for Jesus to return and do all the stuff the messiah was supposed to do.

      Most Jews weren’t fool by this sleight of hand. Most Christians are. Completely ignoring the fact.

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  3. Sorry about the problem with replying on my blog. It is a problem with how Google as configured it, I think. They own and manage the site. You might have to be signed in to Google to reply.

    “Thou shalt not bear false witness” is a metaphor? Really. It seems pretty straight forward to me. What is it a metaphor of?

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    • Irony, Don. Sarcasm. Of course ‘thou shalt not bear false witness’ isn’t a metaphor; I asked if it was when you seemed happy to ignore it, which is what you usually do with commands you’ve consigned to the metaphor bin. D’y’know, jokes never work as well when they have to be explained.

      As for your blog, the problem does lie with Google in that it won’t let me (and others?) sign in using my Google account. Perhaps you need to check your settings.

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      • Neil:
        As for your blog, the problem does lie with Google in that it won’t let me (and others?) sign in using my Google account.

        Same for me. Seems Blogspot isn’t receiving Google’s love since their acquisition.

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  4. Don tells us that we can easily tell metaphor from literal in the Bible because it’s obvious. Further, he says that Christians have been able to do this consistently throughout their history. So we are either lying or stupid when we question what is so obvious.

    If only we would approach the Bible in its true form as English literature, we’d agree with him.

    There are many, many problems with this approach but I’ll only touch on a two.

    The first comes when any language translation is done. If you’ve ever learned a second language, you’ve come across words or phrases that you know the literal meaning of but which make no sense in context. These idioms contain metaphor unfamiliar to non-native speakers. The only way to know for certain what they mean is to ask someone to explain it using non-metaphorical language.

    Jesus taught in Aramaic, was recorded in Greek, translated into Latin, and then into English. Every translation is, of necessity, an interpretation. An obvious meaning to a 21st century English speaker may not be what was intended by a 1st century Aramaic speaker. To say it is, is to misrepresent the entire enterprise.

    The second problem with recognizing “obvious” metaphor comes from one of my favorite genres: fantasy. Fantasy is set in worlds where our normal rules don’t apply. Most do. But there exist a magic system that breaks our rules, but is perfectly normal with theirs.

    For us, “raining like cats and dogs” is metaphor for angry rain, like cats and dogs fighting. But in a fantasy world, you may step outside to find it literally raining cats and dogs.

    Where magic is present, we can’t be sure that what would be obviously metaphor in our world isn’t literal in theirs and vice versa. To not lose the reader, a well crafted fantasy must clearly set out the rules and limits of the magic system. Without limits, anything is possible in a magic world.

    The Bible delivers us into a magic world. And without clear descriptions of the magic system, we can never really know what is fact or metaphor. Did that donkey literally talk? In-world, it is possible.

    We are told that Jesus turned water into wine. If literal, we learn he can metamorphose elements.

    Later, we are told, “Take, eat. This is my body.” and “Take, drink. This is my blood.”

    This can be taken literally – Jesus has the power to metamorphose wine into blood. Or, it can be taken symbolically. “This represents my body/blood.”

    Don tells us things like this are obvious and Christians – throughout their history – have know if this is obviously literal or obviously metaphor.

    Don paints a very kumbaya picture of Christianity where Christians have always agreed on the important stuff. That picture is a lie, of course. But Don lies all the time to prove his points.

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    • Hey, I rather like your analysis of the difficulties of dealing with a text in translation and from a very different culture. I think every translator would agree, whether translating the Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible or Don Quixote. (It is surprisingly difficult for even modern Spanish speaker/reader to translate Don Quixote. The language is decidedly old fashioned both in vocabulary and idioms. I cannot do it, even though I read Spanish.)

      It is also true that the modern worldview and the biblical worldview are quite different. In the modern worldview miracles do not occur; they are magic. Resurrections do not occur. In the biblical worldview both happen., and they happen not only in the ancient texts but in real life today. It may seem like magic to you, but it is not to those whose worldview allows them to recognize miracles and resurrections.

      So, good analysis.

      That said, it is still not impossible to determine what is metaphor and what is not in most instances. And in particular, it is not difficult to determine that raising of Lazarus is not a metaphor. Note the detailed ordinary description in the whole passage, which continues into chapter 12, btw. Note the lack of elaboration on the event as we find in the metaphorical passages where Jesus said he was the bread of life and the living water. And finally, as I said to Neil, metaphors are comparisons.

      “One of the best ways to understand the nature of something is to compare it against something else whose attributes are known. Authors frequently use comparisons in their writing to help to express what they mean in terms with which the reader can relate.” https://figurativelanguage.net/metaphor.html

      So, what is resurrection in John 11 compared to?

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      • Don:
        the metaphorical passages where Jesus said he was the bread of life

        The Catholic church requires the communion host to include gluten because they equate gluten with bread and to become a true host for Jesus’ body there must be bread. So I’m confused on the level of obvious metaphor or obvious literalness going on in these very simple and obvious passages.

        Don:
        So, what is resurrection in John 11 compared to?

        Death.

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      • Don:
        It is also true that the modern worldview and the biblical worldview are quite different. In the modern worldview miracles do not occur; they are magic. Resurrections do not occur. In the biblical worldview both happen., and they happen not only in the ancient texts but in real life today. It may seem like magic to you, but it is not to those whose worldview allows them to recognize miracles and resurrections.

        And yet, Don, neither you nor any other supernaturalist (superstitionist?) can demonstrate this magical world you claim to live in. Despite repeated requests.

        Have you noticed that, as you wonder the internets in search of atheists to save, if you stay very long at any given blog, invariably someone will call you “delusional?“ Have you searched your soul for why that might be?

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      • We wait in vain for evidence of the magical. Note too how Don talks of ‘the biblical worldview’, with its magic, incantations and supposed miracles, and the ‘modern worldview’ as if the two are of equal standing.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. It is not the Bible that delivers us into a world where there are gods; the whole world saw reality like that. It was not until the Renaissance that thinking began to change – for a some. But I understand perfectly your difficulty in incorporating the worldview that allows for gods and miracles into your view of reality. It must seem like a fantasy.

    I hope you can appreciate my view of reality, as well. I see the real world just as you see it plus the dimension of the spiritual realm. I actually think a reality without the spiritual realm makes no sense; even the basic premises of a purely material cosmos does not make sense.

    That does not mean I cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy. I was a fan of sci-fi for a lot of years and enjoyed the fantasy. I enjoyed the worlds of The Federation as much as anyone. But new the difference.

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    • Generally speaking, what makes “sense” to one person doesn’t always make “sense” to another. The problem arises when the religious community insists their view of what makes sense is more genuine/authentic … yet can offer no valid evidence that this is so.

      Liked by 1 person

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