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Debunking Christian Circular Arguments and Assumptions

Argument # 3: The Fulfilled Prophecies Argument. 


Stated as: “Fulfilled prophecies in the Bible prove its authority as the word of God.”


One of the favorite arguments that Christians use to support their argument that the Bible is God’s word and not man’s word, is the argument of fulfilled prophecies in the Bible.  However, these Christians never acknowledge, take into account, or were never told, that many of the alleged fulfilled prophecies were not even prophecies in the first place, and that there is a long list of failed prophecies in both the Old and New Testaments.  Let’s list all the factors that they never consider here. 


1)  First of all, we have no basis to assume that all the events described in the Bible ever occurred in actual history.  Therefore we have no reason to just take it for granted, as Christians would like us to, that they all took place.  No historian who is religiously unbiased takes the whole Bible as a book of historical facts.  In fact, they generally state that the Bible, especially the Four Gospels, were written with an agenda to preach or convert masses, and not as an accurate historical account.  Even though the Bible contains some real life historical events and places, we must remember that a work of fiction can contain historical places and events without its story being true.  For example, the story of the Wizard of Oz begins in the state of Kansas, which is a real US state, but that doesn’t mean the whole story is true.  Also, the movie Gone with the wind takes place during the Civil War, which is a true historical event, but that doesn’t mean that the movie’s events are a true story.  Shakespeare’s plays are also examples of this as well.


2)  Second, anyone can just write a prediction in one book, and that same person or another can just write the fulfillment of the prediction in another book, without the prophesied event actually taking place.  All you need is pen and paper.  For example, I could write in one part of a book, "Chapter One:  The pig will jump over the horse one day.” And then later write, “Chapter Two:  And then the pig jumped over the horse, as was prophesied back in Chapter One."  See how easy that is?  You could do that if you wanted to.  For example, I could find instances of prophecy fulfillment in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings book series.  There are also prophecy fulfillment examples in Homer’s work The Iliad (e.g. the prophecy that the first soldier from the Greek invasion fleet to set afoot on Troy soil would be killed, came true according to the story).  I could even find prophecy fulfillment in the modern Harry Potter books too.  But that doesn’t make these books the infallible divinely inspired word of God!  Nor would it mean that our eternal destiny hangs on what they say! 


Imaginary messianic prophecies


3)  Third, what Christian ministers and preachers NEVER tell you is that most of the Old Testament prophecies claimed by New Testament writers to be prophecies of Jesus, were not even meant as messianic prophecies in the first place!  For example, in Matthew 27:35, it says "And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, 'They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.'" which is referring to Psalm 22:18.  However, just one look at Psalm 22:18 by anybody will show that the writer, David, was merely singing a psalm as a plea of help from God for injustices done to him (David) and not predicting what would happen to the future messiah!  That’s a huge discrepancy! 


Likewise, in The Fabulous Prophecies Of The Messiah Jim Lippard points out:

“There are several verses taken to refer to crucifixion: Psalms 22:16, Zechariah 12:10, and Zechariah 13:6 are typical examples. Psalms 22:16 reads, "For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet." This is a psalm of David which gives no indication of being prophetic and which describes the speaker being hunted down and killed rather than being crucified. Gerald Sigal (1981, p. 98) argues that the Hebrew word translated here as "pierced" is "ariy," which means "lion," and so a more accurate translation would be "like a lion [they are gnawing at] my hands and feet." Gleason Archer (1982, p. 37), however, argues that "they pierced" is correct, based on the Septuagint's translation and other considerations.

Zechariah 12:10 says "they will look on me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for him, as one mourns for an only son ...." The gospel of John (19:37) takes this as prophecy fulfilled by Jesus' crucifixion, but there is no indication that this speaks of crucifixion. Further, the "him" being mourned for is not the "me" that is being pierced. The Jewish interpretation of this verse is that God is speaking of the people of Israel being "pierced" or attacked (Sigal 1981, pp. 80-82).”


Concerning a famous claimed prophecy of Jesus’ birth, Mr. Lippard also points out:


“There are a number of alleged messianic prophecies about Jesus' birth: prophecies about the location, manner, and time of his birth, about his genealogy, and about events which were to occur at the time of his birth. Probably the most famous of these prophecies is the prophecy that Jesus would be born of a virgin. The gospels of Matthew (1:18-25) and Luke (1:26-35) both claim that Jesus was born of a virgin, but only Matthew (1:23) appeals to the Hebrew scriptures as an explanation for why this should be the case. The verse appealed to is Isaiah 7:14, which reads: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel."

There are a number of difficulties with this passage. As many have noted, the Hebrew word translated as "virgin" in this verse is "almah," which is more accurately translated simply as "young woman." The Hebrew word "bethulah" means "virgin." In the book of Isaiah, "bethulah" appears four times (23:12, 37:22, 47:1, 62:5), so its author was aware of the word. In the New American Standard translation of the Bible, all other appearances of "almah" are translated simply as "girl," "maid," or "maiden" (viz: Genesis 24:43, Exodus 2:8, Psalms 68:25, Proverbs 30:19, Song of Solomon 1:3, 6:8). Thus the claimed fulfillment adds a biologically impossible condition which is not even present in the original prophecy.[2]

Another problem is that nowhere in the New Testament does Mary, Jesus' mother, refer to him as "Immanuel." Thus we have no evidence that one of the conditions of the prophecy was ever fulfilled.

But the most serious problem with this alleged messianic prophecy is that it has been taken out of context. Looking at the entire seventh chapter of Isaiah, it becomes clear that the child in question is to be born as a sign to Ahaz, King of Judah, that he will not be defeated in battle by Rezin, King of Syria, and Pekah, son of the King of Israel. Jesus' birth was some seven centuries late to be such a sign. In Isaiah 8:3-4, a prophetess gives birth to a son--Maher-shalal-hash-baz--who is clearly described as the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14.[3]”


Also, Christians seem to like to tout Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” as prophecy for the coming of Jesus.  However, no one who looks at that verse without being told that it is a prophecy would presume that it is a prophecy.  It simply says that since snakes and serpents can bite humans’ feet while humans can stomp on them.  To read more into it than that is total conjecture without basis, and especially to claim it as messianic prophecy.


These are just some of many examples of false and imaginary messianic prophecies.  For more examples and details, see:


Prophecies: Imaginary and Unfulfilled 

The Fabulous Prophecies Of The Messiah

Examination Of The Prophecies by Thomas Paine


Nonexistent prophecies


4)  Fourth, some of the prophecies claimed to be fulfilled in the New Testament don't even exist in the Old Testament! 


For example, in Luke 24:46, Jesus said:


"Thus it is written and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day." 


However, nowhere in the Old Testament does it predict or say that!  Also, in John 7:38 Jesus said,


"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of

living water."


If Jesus was right in saying that scripture prophesied this, where is it then? No such statement in the Old Testament scriptures has ever been located, yet "the scripture" Jesus referred to would certainly have been in the Old Testament.  How could there be a fulfillment of a prophecy that was never even made?


In another example, Jesus claimed another fulfillment of nonprophecy in Luke 24:46.


"Thus it is written and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day."


Paul also claimed that Christ's resurrection on the third day was also predicted by scriptures.  He said in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4


"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures."


However, Christian apologists cannot produce a single Old Testament passage that made this alleged third day prediction!  It simply doesn't exist!  Likewise in John 20:9


"For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead."


How could they not know the scripture, since the scripture prophesying that doesn't even exist?  No such scripture has ever been found.  Jesus also said in Mark 1:2


"It is written in Isaiah the prophet: 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way'"


Yet no statement like that appears in the book of Isaiah!  That is a clear error there, without a doubt.  In Acts 20:35 it says


"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: `It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"


Yet no such words of Jesus are found in the Bible!  Later on, James said in James 4:5


"Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?"


Again, no such words are found in scripture!


In another indisputable example, Matthew said that Judas' purchase of the potter's field

with the thirty pieces of silver cast back to the chief priests and elders fulfilled a prophecy made by Jeremiah:


"Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was priced, whom certain of the children of Israel did price; and they gave them for the potter's field as the Lord appointed me." (Matthew 27:9-10)


The only problem here is that Jeremiah NEVER wrote anything remotely similar to this!  So how could this be a fulfillment of "that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet"?  There is a passage in Zechariah that this might refer to though, however, if the Bible is the inerrant word of God, then how could it make mistakes like this?!


When Joseph took his family to Nazareth after they went to Egypt, Matthew said he did this so


"...that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophets, that he should be called a Nazarene." (Matthew 2:23)


Again, Bible scholars have never been unable to find any statement from any prophet that this could be referring to!  As a matter of fact, neither the word Nazareth or Nazarene was ever mentioned in the Old Testament.  If this is so, how could the period of Jesus' residency in Nazareth have been prophesied by the prophets?


How can an inerrant Bible contain huge mistakes like this?  Is it any wonder why Christians never refer to these verses as fulfillment of prophecy?  These critical errors clearly render the fulfillment of prophecy argument inept.


Failed, expired, and unfulfilled prophecies


5)  Fifth, and perhaps most damaging, there are many prophecies in the Bible which never came true or went unfulfilled, expiring beyond their predicted time. 


For instance, here are 16 obvious failed prophecies in regard to the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world, which was supposed to take place in the First Century Apostles’ lifetime! 


Below Jesus clearly predicts that his Second Coming will be during the lifetimes of the First Century Christians who lived in their time. 


"Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." (Matthew 16:28)


"But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:27)


Jesus clearly predicted in those two verses above that the apostles standing with him would see his second coming in their lifetimes.  It's clear and simple, nothing allegorical or symbolical.


These following verses also indicate that Paul expected that he and the Christians of his time would see the Second Coming of Christ.


"But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;" (1 Corinthians 7:29)


"For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven... Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds..." (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)


"God...Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son..."  (Hebrews 1:1-2)


2000 years ago it was the "last days"!?  More similar verses below.


"For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry."

(Hebrews 10:37)


"But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer."

(1 Peter 4:7)


"Christ...was manifest in these last times for you,..." (1 Peter 1:19-20)


"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord... stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh...behold, the judge standeth before the door." (James 5:7-9)


"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass;..." (Revelation 1:1)


"Behold, I come quickly." (Revelation 3:11)


"And he said unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand... He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." (Revelation 22:10, 20)


"But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come."

(Matthew 10:22-23)


Jesus said there that his second coming would occur WHILE his apostles were preaching in the cities of Israel!


In the following three verses, Jesus says that the generation living at the time would experience his second coming.


"So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.  Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done." (Mark 13:29-30)


"So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.  Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled." (Luke 21:31-32)


"So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.  Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." (Matthew 24:33-34)


Obviously, that generation that Jesus was speaking to has long since passed!  What an impressive assortment of failed prophecies!  Is this convincing to you of the divine infallible inspiration of the Bible?


Also, in the Old Testament, the Bible made many prophecies which never came true.  Here are some examples.


In the book of Deuteronomy and Exodus, God promised Moses and the Israelites that he would deliver them to a promised land. (Deuteronomy 7:17-24, 4:33-39, 7:1-2, 31:1-8, Exodus 23:20-33)  However, rather than sending them directly to this “promised land”, instead they were dragged through the hot desert for 40 years, hungry and miserable, and expected to not complain about it!  (Hmmmm, I heard that patience is a virtue, but is that fair?)  To read the details of this, see Farrell Till’s Yahweh's Failed Land Promise.


Also, a number of prophecies in Ezekiel, Isaiah and other books also failed.  Farrell Till lists some in The Prophecy Farce:

“Another--and even more effective-- counterargument to use against those who claim that prophecy fulfillment proves the inspiration of the Bible requires sufficient knowledge of the Bible to show that many Old Testament prophecies obviously failed. Anyone who is willing to put the time into learning just a few of those failures will have no problems rebutting the prophecy-fulfillment claims of any biblicists he/she may encounter. The prophetic tirades of Isaiah (13-23) and Ezekiel (24-32) against the nations surrounding Israel provide a treasure house of unfulfilled prophecies. Ezekiel, for example, prophesied that Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Egypt and leave it utterly desolate for a period of 40 years, during which no foot of man or beast would pass through it (chapter 20), but history recorded no such desolation of Egypt during or after the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.

Ezekiel also prophesied that Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Tyre, which would never again be rebuilt (26:7-14, but Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Tyre failed to take the city, and Tyre still exists today. A curious thing about this prophecy against Tyre is that Isaiah also predicted that Tyre would be destroyed, but, whereas Ezekiel predicted that Tyre would be permanently destroyed and "nevermore have any being," Isaiah prophesied that it would be made desolate only for a period of 70 years. A comparison of these two prophecies is an easy way to show the silliness of claiming that prophecy fulfillment proves the inspiration of the Bible.

As noted in my exchanges with Matthew Hogan on Ezekiel's tirade against Tyre (September/October 1997; November/December 1997), Ezekiel clearly predicted that Tyre would be destroyed, become a bare rock and a place for spreading nets, and would be built no more forever (26:7-14, 21; 27:28; 28:19). As Ezekiel did, Isaiah in his prophecies of destruction against the nations around Israel also predicted the overthrow of Tyre. In 23:1, he said, "The burden of Tyre. Howl, you ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of Kittim it is revealed to them." The prophecy continued in typical fashion through the chapter, predicting waste and devastation, but beginning in verse 13, Isaiah indicated that the destruction of Tyre would be only temporary, not permanent:

Look at the land of the Chaldeans! This is the people; it was not Assyria. They destined Tyre for wild animals. They erected their siege towers, they tore down her palaces, they made her a ruin. Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for your fortress is destroyed. From that day Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years, the lifetime of one king. At the end of seventy years, it will happen to Tyre as in the song about the prostitute: Take a harp, go about the city, you forgotten prostitute! Make sweet melody, sing many songs, that you may be remembered. At the end of seventy years, Yahweh will visit Tyre, and she will return to her trade, and will prostitute herself with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth. Her merchandise and her wages will be dedicated to Yahweh; her profits will not be stored or hoarded, but her merchandise will supply abundant food and fine clothing for those who live in the presence of Yahweh.

So Ezekiel predicted a permanent destruction of Tyre that would last forever, but Isaiah predicted just a temporary destruction that would last only 70 years or the estimated lifetime of one king. The fact is that neither prophecy was ever fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar did not destroy Tyre forever, and it was never made desolate for a period of 70 years. Even when Alexander the Great succeeded in his campaign against Tyre in 332 B. C., the city was soon rebuilt (Wallace B. Fleming, The History of Tyre, Columbia University Press, p. 64) and has existed ever since. Matthew Hogan was objective enough in his consideration of the evidence to admit later that Ezekiel's prophecy against Tyre had failed ("From the Mailbag," TSR, March/ April 1997, p. 12), but regardless of whether this prophecy failed or succeeded, it was impossible for both Isaiah's and Ezekiel's prophecies against Tyre to succeed. At least one of them had to fail, and so proponents of biblical prophecy fulfillment have a problem that they must explain. If the Bible was really inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity, why would he have directed one prophet to predict a temporary destruction of Tyre and then later direct another prophet to predict that Tyre would be destroyed forever and never be rebuilt? A likely answer is that neither prophet was divinely inspired; they both simply blustered in the exaggerated rhetoric typical of biblical prophets and, working independently, contradicted each other.”


So as you can see, not only did both Isaiah and Ezekiel’s prophecies concerning the city of Tyre fail, but they contradicted each other as well!  In fact, Tyre still exists today, though some of it is buried underwater.  Despite God’s direct declaration, Nebuchadnezzar was unable to destroy Tyre though he tried for years.  It was not until 240 years later when Alexander the Great destroyed it was it temporarily brought down before being rebuilt, contrary to the Bible prophecy that Nebuchadnezzar would destroy it forever without being rebuilt.


Paul Tobin also showed the Tyre example to be an irrefutable inescapable failed Bible prophecy as well.

Ezekial's Failed Prophecies on Tyre and Egypt


Ezekiel made a prophecy that, at the time he wrote, seems most likely to be fulfilled. The prophet was writing, in 587BC, at the time when Nebuchadnezzar was laying siege on Tyre. With such a powerful army like Nebuchadnezzar’s, it was not surprising that Ezekiel prophesied the fall of Tyre to the Babylonian king.


Ezekiel 26:7-14
For thus says the Lord: "Behold I will bring upon Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, and with horsemen and a hosts of many soldiers. He will slay with the sword your daughters on the mainland; he will set up a seige wall against you. He will direct the shock of his battering rams against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers...With the hoofs os his horses he will trample all your streets; he will slay your people with the sword and your mighty pillar will fall to the ground...they will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses... I will make you a bare shall never be rebuilt, for I have spoken," says the Lord God.


The whole passage clearly prophesied the sack and complete destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar. However, the vivid description of the sack and fall of Tyre never happened. After a siege of thirteen years, until 573BC, Nebuchadnezzar lifted his siege on Tyre and had to arrive at a compromised agreement.[3] Thus Nebuchadnezzar did not destroy Tyre. Tyre was destroyed by Alexander the Great, 240 years later. And furthermore, despite the prophet, the city of Tyre was eventually rebuilt.[4].

Its amazing that despite these disconfirming evidence some apologists actually try to salvage that prophecy. One example is Josh McDowell in his Evidence that Demand a Verdict.[5] In it he claims that the prophecy was actually fulfilled. We will look at two of his specific arguments regarding the prophecy. First this is what McDowell writes about the “destruction of Tyre


When Nebuchadnezzar broke the gates down he found the city almost empty. The majority of the people had moved by ship to an island about one half mile off the coast and fortified the city there. The mainland city was destroyed in 573, but the city of Tyre on the island remained a powerful city for several hundred years.


The implication of this paragraph is clear: that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed a major portion of Tyre. However McDowell got it wrong! Tyre’s main city was always on the island. The part of the city on the mainland is nothing more than a suburb. In other words, Nebuchadnezzar could achieve no more than take over a relatively minor part of the city. Furthermore it is obvious from the passage in Ezekiel that the complete destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar was prophesised. McDowell tried to argue that the complete destruction by Alexander the great was the one actuallly prophesised here. This is a forced reading on the passage-nowhere in the passage was anyone else except Nebuchadnezzar mentioned. However the most powerful argument against McDowell’s apologetics is that Ezekial himself admitted that this prophecy was a mistake!


Ezekiel 29:17-20
...the Lord God came to me: “Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made his army labour hard against Tyre; every head was made bald and every shoulder was rubbed bare; yet neither he nor his army got anything from Tyre to pay for the labour that he had performed against it...”


McDowell tried to twist history to show that Tyre has never been rebuilt. His argument is that the modern city of Tyre is not the old city of Tyre since the former was not on the exact location of the latter. Suffice to say that no one agrees with such a twisted method to fulfil prophecy. Furthermore the prophecy says that Tyre shall never be rebuilt after the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar-which never happened-since he never destroyed the city. Even after the destruction by Alexander the Great, the city was still rebuilt. In fact the city of Tyre was even referred to, by that name, in the New Testament (Mark 7:24, Acts 12:20). Tyre exists to this day and has a population of about 12,000.

Having failed in one prophecy did not make Ezekiel shy about making more:


Ezekiel 29:8-12
...thus says the Lord God..and the land of Egypt shall be a desolation and a foot of man shall pass through it and no foot of beast shall past through it; it shall be uninhabited for forty years. And I will make the city of Egypt a desolation in the midst of desolated countries; and her cities shall be desolated forty years... I will scatter Egyptian among the nations, and disperse them through the countries.


This passage must take the cake for the most prophecies proven wrong!

Egypt has never been desolate and waste.

Men and people have always walked through it.

There has never been a single moment (let alone forty years) when Egypt was uninhabited.

Egypt has never been a desolated countries surrounded by more desolated countries.

Its cities has never been desolated for any period of time

and finally there was no Egyptian diaspora[6].

Ezekiel tried his luck with another prophecy regarding Nebuchadnezzar:


Ezekiel 29:20
I have given him [Nebuchadnezzar] the land of Egypt as his recompense for which he has laboured, because they worked for me, says the Lord God.


Unfortunately, here too he failed! For Nebuchadnezzar never conquered Egypt.

(End of excerpt)


More examples of failed prophecies can be found at:



For more reading on the subject of debunking Bible prophecies, check out this list of books:


Finally, perhaps the following amusing story best illustrates what Christians do when they cite instances of fulfilled prophecy in the Bible.

“While traveling through a forest, a person noticed a circle marked on a tree with an arrow shot perfectly into the center. A few yards away he noticed several more targets, each with arrows in the center. Later, he met the talented archer and he asked him, "How did you become such an expert that you always get your arrows into the center of the bull's-eye?" "It's not difficult," responded the archer, "First I shoot the arrow and then I draw the circle."”

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