The Fulfillment of Prophecy...
......establishing a Baseline
It became clear to me after I finished the piece on Typology, in the Response to Jim Lippard's "Fabulous Prophecies of the Messiah" that the question of the apologetic value (not to mention, interpretation of, messianic prophecy) was ambiguously connected to the related--but different--subject of non-messianic prophecy and its fulfillment.
This issue came into focus for me as I prepared the different responses to Jim's work. Jim's objections to the evangelical "use" of messianic prophecy generally centered around two main issues:
- The prophecy was NOT a messianic prophecy at all (often based on the reality of a near-term fulfillment in Israel's history);
- If the prophecy WAS messianic, then Jesus of Nazareth (or other subjects of the prophecy, e.g. Herod or John the Baptist) did not fulfill it (in history).
The general methodological approach I took to these objections are obvious:
Now this raised two specific questions in my mind (at least!), which I have shared and articulated to both Jim Lippard and Robby Berry (who also writes on the subject of messianic prophecy) as issues for thinking/research:
- To the objection that they were NOT messianic prophecies (until the early Christians got hold of them!), I attempted to show that they were considered messianic by non-Christian Jewry, and additionally, that one METHOD of identifying messianic prophecy "embedded in" normal historical events and personages (i.e. typology) was VERY "Jewish" and rooted in Israel's experience of the patterns of God's action in their history.
- To the objection that they were NOT fulfilled in history at all, I attempted to show that all available data DID suggest an actual fulfillment-at a reasonable level of precision.
- Given that some messianic prophecies had typological content (and therefore had a lower level of precision than say Micah 5.2), the force of that prophecy might be only apparent to someone who shared the worldview that ALLOWED FOR typological content. In other words, to someone like myself, who has experienced certain patterns in how my Father deals with me, it is quite reasonable (i.e. epistemically justified) for me to interpret present events in light of those patterns . For someone who has not known the Lord over a period of time, my interpretation would probably seem wishful (if a positive experience), paranoid (if a negative experience), and/or simply unwarranted (in both cases). So the question arises: "to what extent was Israel's understanding of messianic prophecy-esp. typological-justified?" Can we, for example, find any "control data" that can act as a baseline with which to measure Israel's approach to messianic prophecy? Since messianic prophecy is often understood as a subset of prophecy, I hope to go through a large number of non-messianic prophecies, especially those with recorded fulfillments, to see if they shed any light on this subject.
- The problem of historical fulfillment of messianic prophecy in the person of Jesus raises the question of prophetic 'precision' or 'clarity' in messianic realms. There are multiple strains of messianic prediction in the OT-Son of David, Melki-priest, New Moses, Son of Man, Servant--but not a lot of disclosure that identified these roles with a single, unique individual! Indeed, several of the messianic movements in Jesus' time expected a couple of messiahs-with each sharing PART of the responsibilities. Israel could not 'put them all together'-witness Jesus use of this problem in Matt 22.40ff, the Qumran community, and the rabbinical example in bSanh.98a. So, in this research piece I hope to look at our 'control data' to see if there are any hints for our methodological search. Also, given the inherent issue of historical ambiguity in typological exegesis (often entailing what is sometimes called 'double fulfillment'), we will need to look at the broader issue of ambiguity of referent in REGULAR prophecy. How precise were normal prophecies? Were they vague like "something bad will happen to you someday" or were they more often like "this time next year your barren wife will have a baby"? (leading the witness, you say?--grin...). How much specificity is "required", esp. given a 'converging lines of evidence' approach?
[There is, of course, a much broader issue of the character of the apologetic force of fulfilled prophecy. To the modern, fulfilled prophecy would seem to fall roughly into the category of miracle, and have at least a much force as that might carry. But this is askew of the biblical function of predictive prophecy, for in the OT it is used as proof that God is alive and can be active-indeed, determinative(!)-in human affairs. The formula that often follows a prophecy in the OT is "and you will know that I am the Lord"-the formula for sovereign authority. To my way of thinking, some prophecy has a much greater force that even nature miracles, since the prediction and fulfillment is often widely separated in time. Apart from issues of deliberate fulfillment and self-influencing (see below), the large numbers of variables involved in some of these, generally coupled with one or two rather detailed and/or unusual elements, produce a historical complex that is often difficult to explain by 'conventional means.' This is outside the scope of this study, but the differences between fulfilled prophecy as miracle and fulfilled prophecy as proof of God's agent-actions in history should be remembered throughout the study.]
There are a number of different elements I hope to examine about these 'control' prophecies:
- How precise were the word choices in the pronouncement (e.g. Gen 3.15 vs. "Cyrus" in Is 28-45.10)?
- How precise were the word choices in the 'fulfillment notice' (Josh 21.45 vs. 2 Kings 15.12)?
- How long of a gap occurred between pronouncement and fulfillment (Gen 49.10 vs. 2 Kings 7.1,18)?
- Would this prophecy fallen into any genre-types (e.g. conditional judgment-Jonah 3.4, blessing-the promise to David, miraculous or natural sign-Is 7.14; Ezek 24.24)?
- What 'multi-media' was involved, esp. drama, lecture, symbolic actions (Jeremiah's yoke vs. Jeremiah's dictation to Baruch)?
- Was there anything unusual about the event-other than the prediction of its occurrence? In other words, is the predictive element the ONLY 'surprising' thing about the deal, or are there other 'surprising' elements involved (Is 48.5 vs. Birth of Isaac to a past-age Sarah)?
- To what extent is the prediction itself the focus of the prophecy, as opposed the events foretold (Is 48.5)?
- To what extent is the prophecy simply a promise that God will do something without other agents (e.g. Ex 14.13ff) as opposed to divine knowledge of future events (e.g. Ezek 21.21)?
- Does this prediction include elements that are not specified/predictable from genre and mosaic covenant-dynamics patterns (e.g. 1 Kings 13.2-the bone-burning was not in the Curses formulas of the covenant stipulations)?
- Were there any interpretations and/or distortions in interpretation noted (e.g. Ezek 12.27; 20:49) ?
- What is the relative 'folk probabilities' associated with the predicted event (an unborn ruler named Cyrus versus Destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon AFTER Israel was defeated)?
- Was there some indication that agents in the story felt obligated (the issue of deliberate fulfillment) to fulfill the prophecy (e.g. I Kings 16.12; 2 kings 9.26; 23.16 ) or indications to the contrary (e.g. I Kings 16.34)?
- Would the public utterance/disclosure of this prophecy have generated any historical forces toward the fulfillment of this prophecy, or against it (i.e. the issue of self-influence, or the less accurate term, "self-fulfilling")?
- Is this prophecy a repeat of an earlier one (e.g. Gen 18.10,14) or a restatement/expansion/summary of another current one (e.g. many Major Prophets re: the nations)?
- Is this a fulfillment WITHOUT the prediction actually recorded (e.g. 2 Kings 14.25)?
- Does the fulfillment passage even MENTION the prophecy? (e.g Ez 1.7)?
- Is there any information about how this prophecy was known/preserved (e.g. 2 Kings 23.17)
- Are there any references to/uses of this prophesy later in scripture (cf. Dan 9.2)?
- Do we have any extra-biblical information about the prophesy or the fulfillment (e.g. the Fall of Tyre, or Herodotus on the events of Is 37.36f)?
- In the case of fulfillment that is only discovered in extra-biblical sources, what uncertainty issues are involved (e.g. Jericho and arch.dating, does geographical site re-use constitute a "rebuilt" city?)
- Are there any issues related to the same author relating both the prediction and the fulfillment? Does the use and/or literary setting lead us "suspect something" here?
- How would we assess any apologetic 'force' this prophecy/fulfillment pair might have?
With that in mind, I will list many of the non-messianic prophecy/fulfillment pairs here, and later come back through and analyze according to the above program. (Format is P: prophecy verse and F: fulfillment verse.) Some of these may be questionable, and as I study through these, I will try to discuss any problems that arise.
- Isaac's birth, [P: Gen 15.4; 17.19, 21; 18:10,14 and F: Gen 21.1-3]
- Jacob and Esau's births[P: Gen 25.19-23 and F: Gen 25.24-26]
- Samson's birth [P: Judg 13.2-5 and F: Judg 13.24]
- Samuel's birth [P: 1 Sam 1.17-18 and F: I Sam 1.20]
- Birth of the Shunammite woman's son [P: 2 Kings 4.16 and F: 2 Kings 4.17]
- John the Baptist's birth [P: Lk 1.13-17 and F: Lk 1.57-64]
- Jesus' birth [P: Lk 1.26-33 and F: Lk 2.4-7]
- The coastal city of Tyre to be captured by Nebuchadnezzar [P: Ezek 26.7; F: history (source later)]
- The island city of Tyre to be scrapped and made flat, like the top of a rock [P: Ezek 26.4, 14; 28.1-10 and F: history-Alex the Great (source later)]
- Both cities of Tyre to become a place for the spreading of nets [P: Exek 26.14 and F: history]
- Both cities of Tyre to have their stones and timbers thrown into the sea [P: Zech 9.3-4 and F: history-Alex the G (source later)]
- Neither of the cities of Tyre to be rebuilt [P: Exek 26.14 and F: history (source later)]
- Jericho to fall on the seventh day at the hands of Joshua [P: Josh 6.1-5 and F: Josh 6.20]
- Rebuilder of Jericho to lose two of his sons when Jericho was rebuilt [P: Josh 6.26 and F: I Kings 16.34]
- Ninevah to be destroyed[P: Nah 1.3,6 and F: history (source later)]
- Ninevah's destruction to be partially due to a mighty overflowing of the Tigris River [P: Nah 1.8 and F: history (source later)]
- Ninevah's overthrow by attackers wearing red colors [P: Nah 2.3 and F: history (sources later)]
- For Jerusalem to be spared from invasion by the alliance of the Northern Kingdom and Syria [P: Is 7.1-10 and F: Is 7.1 et. al. ]
- For Jerusalem to the spared from invasion by the Assyrians [P: Is 37.33-35 and F: Is 37.36-37]
- For Jerusalem to be destroyed by the Babylonians [P: Is 3.8; Jer 11.9; 26.18; Mic 3.12 and F: Lam 2.7; 2 Chron 36.19]
- For the temple of Solomon to suffer destruction [P: I Kings 9.7-9; Ps 79.1; Jer 7.11-14; 26:18; Ezek 7.21-22; 24.21; Mic 3.12 and F: 2 Chron 36]
- The temple vessels to be carried to Babylon and later returned to Jerusalem [P: Jer 28.3 and F: 2 Kings 25.14-15; 2 Chron 36.18; Ezra 1.7-11]
- Jerusalem to be rebuilt by the Jews after 70 years in Babylonian captivity [P: Is 44.28; Jer 25.11-12; 29.10 and F: Ezra 1.1-4]
- For the rebuilding of Jerusalem to be during times of 'trouble' [P: Dan 9.25 and F: Ezra 4-5; Neh 2.6]
- The walls to be rebuild 483 years prior to the crucifixion of the Messiah [P: Dan 9.26 and F: history (sources and discussion later)]
- Joshua and Caleb to enter Canaan after a period of 40 years [P: Num 14.24, 30 and F: Josh 3.7, 17; 14.6-12]
- Sisera to be defeated by a woman [P: Judge 4.9 and F: Judg 4.21]
- Hophni and Phinehas to die on the same day [P: 1 Sam 2.34 and F: I Sam 4.11]
- The Priesthood to be taken from the line of Eli [P: I Sam 2.27-36 and F: I Sam 3.11-14]
- Saul to become Israel's first king and save them from the Philistines [P: I Sam 9.15-16 and F: I Sam 11, 14]
- Saul's kingdom to be terminated [P: I Sam 13.14; 15.28; 24.20 and F: 2 Sam 3.1; 5.1-3]
- Saul to die in battle on a specific day [P: I Sam 28.19 and F: I Sam 31.1-6]
- The sword to plague David's house [P: 2 Sam 12.10-12 and F: 2 Sam 13.28-29; 16.21-22]
- Jeroboam's dynasty to be destroyed [P: Kings 14:10-11and F: 1 Kings 15:27-28]
- Ahab to be victorious over the Syrians [P: I Kings 20:28 and F: 1 Kings 20:29-30]
- Ahab to die in battle for killing Naboth [p: 1 Kings 21:19; 22:17 and F: 1 Kings 22:37]
- The dogs would lick Ahab's blood from his chariot [P: 1 Kings 21:19 and F: 1 Kings 22:38]
- Jezebel to be eaten by wild dogs [P: 1 Kings 21:23; 2 Kings 9:10 and F: 2 Kings 9:35]
- Naaman to recover from his leprosy [P: 2 Kings 5:3, 8, 10 and F: 2 Kings 5:14]
- The starving citizens of Samaria to enjoy an abundance of food in 24 hours [P: 2 Kings 7:1
and F: 2 Kings 7:16-17]
- An arrogant aide of king Ahab to see this miracle, but not eat of the food [P:2 Kings 7:2, 19
and F: 2 Kings 7:17, 20]
- A Syrian king (Hazael) not to recover from his sickness [P: 2 Kings 8.10 and F: 2 Kings 8:15]
- Jehu to have four generations upon the throne of Israel [P: 2 Kings 10:30 and F: 2 Kings 15:12]
- Jehu's dynasty to then be destroyed after 4 generations [P: Hos 1.4 and F: 2 Kings 15:8-12]
- Joash to defeat the Syrians on three occasions [P: 2 Kings 13:18-l9 and F: 2 Kings 13:25]
- Jehoram to suffer with an intestinal disease because of his sin2 [P: Chron. 21:15 and F: 2 Chron. 21: 18-19
- Amaziah to die for his idolatry [P: 2 Chron. 25:16 and F: 2 Chron. 25:20, 22, 27]
- Sennacherib not to invade Jerusalem [P: Isa. 37:33-35 and F: Isa. 37:36-37]
- Sennacherib to fall by the sword in his own land [P:Isa. 37:7 and F: Isa. 37:37-38]
- Hezekiah to be healed of a fatal disease [P: Isa. 38:5 and F: Isa. 38:9]
- Jehoahaz to never return to Judah, but to die in his Egyptian captivity [P: Jer. 22:10-12 and F: 2 Kings 23:33-34]
- Josiah to burn the decayed bones of Jeroboam's pagan priests upon the false altar Jeroboam had constructed [P: I Kings 13:1-3 and F: 2 Kings 23:~6]
- Jehoiachin to be captured by Nebuchadnezzar [P: Jer 22.25 and F: 2 Kings 24:15]
- A false prophet named Hananiah to die within a year [P: Jer 28:15-16 and F: Jer. 28:17]
- Zedekiah to be captured by Nebuchadnezzar [P:Jer 21.7 and F: Jer. 52:8-9]
- Nebuchadnezzar to win over the Egyptians at Carchemish [P: Jer 46 and F: testimony of history]
- Nebuchadnezzar to invade Egypt [P: Jer. 43:9-13; 46:26; Ezek. 29:19-20 and F: history]
- Nebuchadnezzar to be reduced to an animal for his pride [P: Dan. 4:19-27 and F: Dan. 4:28-37]
- Belshazzar to have his kingdom removed from him [P: Dan. 5:5, 25-28 and F:Dan. 5:30]
- Cyrus to allow the Jews to go back and rebuild Jerusalem [P: Isa. 44:28 and F: Ezra 1:1-2]
- Alexander the Great to conquer Greece and establish a world empire [P: Dan. 2:32-39; 7:6;8:5-8, 21; 11:3 and F: history]
- Alexander to defeat the Persians [P: Dan. 8:5-8 and F: history]
- Alexander to die suddenly and his kingdom to be divided into four parts [P:Dan. 8:8, 22;11:4 and F: history]
- Egypt to experience seven years of plenty and seven years of famine [P: Gen. 41:l-7,17-24; 45:6, 11 and F: Gen. 41:47-48, 53-57; 47:13, 20]
- Egypt to host Israel for 400 years and afflict them [P: Gen. 15:13 and F: Exod. 12:40; Acts 7:6]
- Israel to leave Egypt with great "plunder" [P: Gen 15.14 with F: Ex 12.35-36]
- The Northern kingdom of Israel to be carried off into Assyrian captivity [P: I Kings 14.15-16; Hos 1.5; 10.1,6 and F: 2 Kings 17.6-7, 22-23]
- The Captivity of the Northern Kingdom would happen 65 years after the Isaiah/Ahaz meeting [P: Is 7.8 and F: 2 Kings 17.24]
- Length of the Babylonian captivity would be 70 years [P: Jer 25.11; 29.10 and F: Dan 9.2]
- Egypt to defeat Israel at Megiddo [P: Jer. 2:16-17, 19,36-37 and F: 2 Kings 23:29-35]
- Egypt to stumble and fall before Babylon at Carchemish [P: Jer. 46:5-6, 10-12 and F: history]
- Egypt to be invaded by Nebuchadnezzar [P: Jer. 43:7-13; 46:13-26 and F: history]
- Babylon to expand under Nebuchadnezzar [P: Hab. 1:5-10 and F: history]
- Babylon to defeat the Egyptians at Carchemish [P: Jer. 46 and F: history]
- Babylon to defeat the Assyrians [P: Nahum and F: history]
- Babylon to be defeated by the Medes and Persians [P: Isa. 13:17; Jer. 5l:ll and F: Dan. 5]
- Three world powers to follow Babylon (Persia, Greece, Rome): [P: Dan. 2, 7 and history]
- Persia to consist of an alliance between two peoples (the Medes and Persians) [P: Dan. 8:14, 20 and F: history]
- Persia to defeat the Babylonians [P: Dan.2:39; 7:5 and F:Dan. 5]
- Persia to be defeated by the Greeks [P: Dan. 8:5-8, 21-22 and F:history]
- Greece to be invaded by Persia [P: Dan. 11:2 and F: history]
- Alexander the Great to conquer Greece and establish a world empire [P: Dan. 2:32-39; 7:6; 8:5-8, 21; 11:3 and F: history]
- Greece to defeat the Persians [P: Dan 8.5-8 with F: history]
- Greece to be divided into four parts after Alexander's death [P: Dan. 8:8, 22;11:4 and F:history]
Rome to defeat the Greeks [P:Dan. 2:40; 7:7;11:18-19 and F: history]
- [TO BE CONTINUED...]
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