In two earlier installments, I have responded to 10 of the 13 prophecy-fulfillment claims that Dr. Hugh Ross presented as evidence that the Bible was inspired of God. Before addressing the remaining claims, we should notice again the characteristics of valid prophecy fulfillment as they were presented in my first article:
To these criteria, we could also add the obvious requirement that an event allegedly fulfilling a prophecy must not be one that could have been deliberately contrived in an attempt to bring about fulfillment. If, for example, the Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, as Matthew (21:4-5) claimed, then one would have to prove that the fulfillment event was completely independent of any deliberate attempt to give the impression that prophecy was being fulfilled. After all, if someone believed that such an event had been prophesied, the odds would be one in one that he could get a donkey and deliberately stage the event in order to claim prophecy fulfillment.
This factor poses a big problem for Dr. Ross's seventh example of prophecy fulfillment. He alleges that Jeremiah 31: 38-40 correctly predicted "(t)he exact location and construction of Jerusalem's nine suburbs," the building of which began in 1948, 2600 years after the prophecy." To assess Ross's claim, we should look at the alleged prophecy:
Did construction work that began in the suburbs of Jerusalem in 1948 follow the pattern laid out in Jeremiah 31: 38-40? I don't really know, but even if it did, to prove his case, Ross would have to show that it wasn't done by religious zealots (which Israel has no shortage of) in a deliberate attempt to give the appearance of prophecy fulfillment. Otherwise, it could well be that a planned effort was made to have the construction work proceed according to the Jeremiah text so that prophecy fulfillment could be claimed. In such a case, this would be no more of a prophecy fulfillment than if someone should deliberately contrive to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey and claim that he had fulfilled Zechariah 9:9 (which wasn't even a prophecy anyway). In other words, even if it should be true that construction in and around Jerusalem had proceeded in the pattern presented by Jeremiah, Dr. Ross would have a lot of proving to do before this could be considered a verified prophecy fulfillment.
That isn't the only problem in this particular prophecy-fulfillment claim. Dr. Ross said that Jeremiah "referred to the time of this building project as `the last days,' which Ross went on to interpret as the time period of "Israel's second rebirth as a nation in the land of Palestine"; however, an examination of the text shows that Jeremiah made no reference to "the last days"; he simply said that "the days are surely coming" when the city would be rebuilt. How Ross gets the "last days" from this is a mystery to me. However, even if Jeremiah had said that this would happen in "the last days," it would be purely arbitrary on Ross's part to say that this was a reference to Israel's "second rebirth" in the 1940's, because the New Testament identifies "the last days" with an epoch that began shortly after the ascension of Jesus (Acts 2:17; Heb. 1:2). So clearly Ross is not even meeting the first criterion of valid prophecy fulfillment, which is the requirement to give reasonable evidence that he is correctly interpreting the passage on which he is basing a prophecy- fulfillment claim.
A second problem in Ross's claim is the well known fact that Jerusalem was rebuilt during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Since Jeremiah said only that the days were surely coming when Jerusalem would be rebuilt, why shouldn't the accuracy of Jeremiah's prediction be evaluated in terms of how the city was rebuilt the first time? Did the construction then follow the pattern laid out in the Jeremiah prophecy? If not, why not? Since Jeremiah was so obviously concerned with the time when the Jews would return from 70 years of Babylonian captivity (Jere. 25:11; 29:10), why should we not believe that Ross's text was actually intended to refer to the rebuilding of Jerusalem at that time? Why would Jeremiah have skipped over that time to speak of a rebuilding so far in the distant future that it would offer no hope to the Jews of his generation? On the other hand, if the rebuilding of Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah did follow the pattern laid out in Jeremiah 31, that would raise an interesting issue. Scholars know that the book of Jeremiah underwent considerable revision and redaction (see "The Jeremiah Dilemma," TSR, Autumn 1990, pp. 6-10). That being true, how can we know that an editor who was familiar with the reconstruction work at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah did not revise the Jeremiah text to leave the impression that prophecy had been fulfilled in the first rebuilding of Jerusalem? In a word, there are far too many unanswered questions in this matter to accept Ross's claim that reconstruction work in 1948 had fulfilled a 2600-year- old prophecy.
Dr. Ross claims that certain prophecies made by Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah were fulfilled in the dispersion of the Jews. Ross sees the passages he cited as predictions that the Jews would be taken captive Romans. Ross alleges that the prophecies predicted that the Jews would be gathered again "to the land of Palestine to reestablish their nation for a second time." The proof-texts that Ross cited were Deuteronomy 29, Isaiah 11:11-13, and Jeremiah 25:11. The text in Isaiah speaks of a second recovery of the Jews from "Assyria and Egypt, Pathros and Cush, Elam and Shinar, and Hamath and the islands of the sea." Since the restoration of the nation of Israel was accomplished in the late 40's by Jewish refugees who had immigrated to Palestine primarily from Europe following the Nazi holocaust, I fail to see how Ross can connect this with a prophecy that predicted a second gathering of the Jews from the locations cited in Isaiah 11:11-13. None of these places were located in Europe. Indeed, most of them had lost their geographical identities long before the 1940's.
Since Jeremiah 25:11 refers to a 70-year bondage in Babylon, the only other text cited by Ross that could possibly refer to a Jewish return to Palestine in the 1940's would be Deuteronomy 29. Ross alleges that Moses predicted that "the second conqueror... would take the Jews captive in ships, selling them or giving them away as slaves to all parts of the world." Ross cited no specific verses in support of this claim, so apparently he meant to say that this prophecy of Moses was in chapter 28 of Deuteronomy as well as chapter 29. In both chapters, a long harangue against the Israelites was delivered, allegedly by Moses, but neither chapter states that they would be taken "captive in ships" and sold or given away "as slaves all over the world." The only reference to ships in either chapter is in 28:68, but here the prediction was that the Israelites would be taken "back *to Egypt* in ships." I know of no event that Ross can cite as a fulfillment of this prediction. Furthermore, this verse declared that when the Israelites were taken back to Egypt in ships to be offered for sale as slaves, "No one will buy you." Can Ross cite historical evidence that the Jews were ever taken to Egypt in ships to be sold as slaves but that no one would buy them? I personally know of no historical events that could be cited as evidence that such a prophecy as this was ever fulfilled.
Dr. Ross further asserted that this chapter prophesied of a captivity by "a fourth world kingdom," which he then identified parenthetically as Rome, but where does Moses' tirade in these chapters mention a "fourth world kingdom"? I suspect that Dr. Ross is merely engaging in wishful thinking, wanting to give his readers the impression that Moses was able to see thousands of years into the future when Rome would defeat the Jews in the wars of A.D. 66-70, but if such details as these were present in the prophecy, exactly where can they be found? This part of Ross's article was conspicuously lacking in specific references to Moses' speech that would give reasonable evidence that this is what he meant. When all things are considered, we can only conclude that Deuteronomy 28-29 prophesies of a Roman conquest of Palestine and subsequent Jewish captivity simply because desperate inerrantists arbitrarily declare that it does.
Another problem in Ross's interpretation of this "prophecy" is his complete failure to mention popular scholarly opinions about the dating of the book of Deuteronomy. Biblical inerrantists cling to the traditional belief that the book was written by Moses, but reputable scholars reject this view. Most scholars date the preliminary writing of the book at around the 8th century B. C. and then an editing of it at *circa* 622 B. C. when "the book of the law of Yahweh given by Moses" was "discovered" during the renovation of the temple (2 Chron. 34:14). Evidence is seen of a final editing that occurred following the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B. C., and the long tirade of Moses in chapters 28 and 29 is one of the clues to this final reediting. Many of the things that "Moses" said in this speech fit conveniently into events that accompanied the fall of Jerusalem and the subsequent captivity in Babylon. Many proponents of prophecy fulfillment have cited statements in Deuteronomy 28 as examples that were fulfilled at the time of Babylon's overthrow of Jerusalem, and they make a much better case for their position than Ross did for his. They can do this, of course, because Deuteronomy 28 was written after the fact in the final editing of the book. At any rate, we have to be suspicious of prophetic interpretations that have been applied to both the Babylonian and the Roman destructions of Jerusalem. They can hardly be considered resounding evidence that the Bible is a divinely inspired book.
Probably more printer's ink has been wasted on Daniel 9:24-27 than any other Old Testament prophecy. It has been interpreted and reinterpreted and applied to various historical events in which Bible believers have wanted to see evidence of prophecy fulfillment. This widespread disagreement about the meaning of the passage is by itself enough to cast suspicion on Ross's interpretation of it or, for that matter, all of the other interpretations too. If this text were indeed a divinely inspired prophecy, surely the god who inspired it would have stated it clearly enough to avoid the controversy that has surrounded it. To see that this "prophecy" was not clearly worded, we have only to read it:
In Ross's article, he devoted only one paragraph to his explication of this obviously complex passage and concluded that "(a)bundant documentation shows that these prophecies were perfectly fulfilled in the life (and crucifixion) of Jesus Christ," yet he said nothing to explain the many symbolic and figurative expressions in the text. He merely declared arbitrarily that the life of Jesus "perfectly fulfilled" all details of the prophecies.
The literature on this passage is too extensive to review in a single article, but a good source of information would be The Interpreter's Bible, which gives a detailed analysis of the book of Daniel to show, first of all, that it was not written by its namesake who allegedly lived in Babylon during the captivity but by an unknown author living during the time of the Seleucid Empire, which arose from the partitioning of Alexander's kingdom after his death. This writer's purpose was to give his countrymen reason to believe that centuries earlier a prophet of Yahweh had foreseen the rise of the Seleucid Empire and had predicted the triumph of the Maccabean struggle for independence against Antiochus Epiphanes, who in 175 B. C. had succeeded his brother Seleucus IV as ruler of the empire. Textual clues for fixing the date of authorship at this time are discussed in detail but are too complex to review in this article. Suffice it to say that a book written under such a pretense as this would be an unlikely place for a morally perfect deity to put a prophecy of the Messiah's coming.
The Interpreter's Bible also analyzes Daniel
9:24-27 in detail and assigns very
sensible interpretations to the many symbols and figurative expressions
text. Specific events
from the life of Antiochus Epiphanes are identified to give reasonable
evidence that the
writer of Daniel wanted his readers to understand that the "prince" who
destroyed "the city and the sanctuary" with his troops was Antiochus,
and this analysis
cites passages from
the apocryphal Maccabean books to confirm that these events had
interpretation shows how that for a period of three and a half years
of a week) the
holy place was defiled with sacrifices of swine and other unclean
Hence, the conclusion is that Antiochus Epiphanes was the "abomination
desolation" of this
prophecy, and it makes much more sense than does Ross's arbitrary
was prophesying events that would be fulfilled in the life of Jesus
Christ. One thing at
least is sure: the lack of consensus on this passage doesn't give Dr.
example of prophecy fulfillment. The first characteristic of a valid
of prophecy fulfillment is that the claimant must show that he is
interpreting the text on
which he is basing his claim. Dr. Ross has not done that.