Prophecy Historicized vs. History Prophesied
Secular Biblical scholarship is premised on the notion that
prophecy is simply not possible. Thus, if a Bible text contains a recognizable description of
events subsequent to the author's time, why, then, the putative author could not have written it.
Thus we hear of 'Deutero-Isaiah'; since Isaiah is a historic figure contemporary with
Hezekiah, remarks about Cyrus cannot have been written by him. How, after all, can Isaiah possibly
have known anything about Cyrus, a historical figure born centuries later?
Bible believers do not share this assumption. Indeed,
Isaiah marked out as the dividing line between the True God and the pagan nothings, that God knew, and
could communicate to man, the future: "Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no
other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from
ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My
pleasure,'..." (Isaiah 46:9-10).
God foreknows not only what will happen, but everything
that could have happened but never did. It seems to be beyond human comprehension how He could
know an infinity of possible worlds, but when you look at scripture, it has to be that way.
First of all, He knows what will be: "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of
the world." (Acts 15:18).
But not only that, He knows what might have happened...but didn't. For
instance, He answers David, "Then said David, O LORD God of Israel,
thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to
destroy the city for my sake. Will the men of Keilah deliver me up
into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O LORD God
of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the LORD said, He
will come down. Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me
and my men into the hand of Saul? And the LORD said, They will deliver
thee up. Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose
and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And
it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to
go forth." (1 Samuel 23:10-13; Matthew 11:21).
So God told David what people would do...except that they
didn't do it, because forewarned by the prophecy, David skipped town. So His foreknowledge is
so complete as to include those things which would have happened under other circumstances, but never
actually happened. He foreknows all events of all possible worlds.
We, finite creatures bound by time, are like a caterpillar crawling along a twig. Beneath
our myopic gaze lies one little segment; we can only guess at what lies ahead, and reminisce about
what lies behind. But God does not grovel along the twig; He sees the whole complete: the
"end from the beginning".
God's foreknowledge does not in and of itself constrain
anyone, any more than my perceiving that 'You are sitting in your arm chair' constrains you to sit in
the arm chair. To Him, the entire continuum of past, present and future lies open to gaze.
This is precisely what He foreknows, our freely chosen actions: "If then our freedom is
preserved, however vast the number of inclinations it has to virtue or to vice and, again, to what is
becoming or to what is unbecoming, it, along with everything else from creation and from the
foundation of the world will be known to God before it comes to be for what sort of freedom it will
be...And so, God's foreknowledge is not the cause of everything that will come to be, even of our
freedom when we are made active by our own impulse...But if God takes the order for the
governance of the universe from His foreknowledge, then all the more is our individual freedom useful
for the ordering of the world." (Origen, On Prayer, Part One, B. VI.3).
It's a free country, and scholars are certainly entitled
to reject the very possibility of God communicating future events to man. Great caution should be
exercised, however, to avoid circular 'arguments' in which conclusions about dating drawn from the
presupposition that prophecy is impossible are then used to rebut the possibility of prophecy; e.g.,
'Second Isaiah lived contemporaneously with the events he 'prophesied', therefore there is no such
thing as prophecy'. This begs the question, since the theory that there is such a party as
'Deutero-Isaiah' is premised upon the denial that prophecy is possible.
The assumption that prophecy is simply not possible is
indeed quite widespread in the world of unbelieving Bible scholarship; thus, so far at least the
authors are correct in saying, "The scholarship represented by the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar is
the kind that has come to prevail in all the great universities of the world." (The Five Gospels, p. 35).
But wait -- the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar are fully
prepared to take it to the next level! Not only can prophets have no special insight into the
future, but actual historic events cannot correspond with prophesy even by
coincidence, nor by intent. So, the manner of Christ's entry into Jerusalem having
been prophesied, Jesus cannot have so entered Jerusalem, even though there's nothing supernatural
about it at all: "Entry into Jerusalem. The account of Jesus' entry
into Jerusalem is based on Zech 9:9 and Ps 118:26. The story was conceived to fit the prophecies."
(The Five Gospels, p. 228).
This seems to be a generalization of the principle, 'A
watched pot never boils.' It's the same type of magical thinking people employ when they say, 'It
didn't rain because I brought my umbrella'. It's as if my saying, 'The Yanks will win the
World Series', will 'jinx' them so that they cannot win the World
Series, though this otherwise is not an impossible nor a supernatural outcome. The Fellows of
the Jesus Seminar actually believe that, Christ's humble entry into Jerusalem having been prophesied,
He cannot have so entered Jerusalem...even though that's actually a more
economical alternative to entering the city on a richly caparisoned war-horse!
Brick by Brick
"The Fellows generally follow the rule: the simplest is the earliest."
(The Five Gospels, p. 63).
Secular Bible study starts from an evolutionary perspective
that would have gladdened the hearts of Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin. Grain by painful grain,
the trickling water wears away the stone, until inexorable uniform processes slowly produce visible
results. Thus the Fellows' rule, "the simplest is the earliest."
Even in the fields where that postulate originated, it's been superseded
by punctuated equilibrium, the gaps in the fossil record having proven
unbridgeable. And what business did it ever have in the field of
religious history, where new sects and movements spring forth like Athena
fully formed from the brow of Zeus! No such brick-laying process is observable
with those new sects whose origination is open to history. Did Mary
Baker Eddy first timidly propose that folks should pray about sprains;
then the successor generation, gaining boldness, recommended prayer for
the flu; finally producing the painfully won gains of the third generation,
commending prayer for cancer? Of course not; either you have the whole
project complete, or not at all. Who would even have paid attention
to a lady commending prayer for sprains?
The common historical perspective assumes a new sect is
built brick by brick, as a bricklayer would lay a course of bricks, one element at a time. This is
the reason they try to spread out the writing of the New Testament over as long a period as
possible; to give themselves the several generations which correlate with the vast ages of
Lyell and Darwin.
But what evidence is there that it ever works this way? The
'prophet' Elijah Muhammad made the bold claim that Wallace D. Fard was Allah walking around on the
street. Such a bold claim must have taken several generations to work up to, right? Well, no;
Fard himself made that claim: "On Wednesday morning, November 23, Fard was apprehended while
leaving his hotel room at 1 West Jefferson Street...According to police and press transcripts,
Fard identified himself as the 'supreme being on earth' and claimed responsibility for starting the
Nation of Islam, assisted by Ugan Ali, who was also arrested." (An Original Man: the Life and Times of
Elijah Muhammad, Claude Andrew Clegg III, p. 31). Far from advancing Elijah Muhammad's more
esoteric teachings after his death, the sect he founded made a lunge for the Islamic mainstream
under his son's leadership.
Is there any reason why the Holy Spirit cannot be as bold and quick as His imitators?