Friday morning I woke up, turned on my computer, looked at the news headlines and got a shock. One of the headlines read, “In Jerusalem, scholars trace Bible’s evolution.” The first two paragraphs were most unsettling:
JERUSALEM (AP) — A dull-looking chart projected on the wall of a university office in Jerusalem displayed a revelation that would startle many readers of the Old Testament: the sacred text that people revered in the past was not the same one we study today.
An ancient version of one book has an extra phrase. Another appears to have been revised to retroactively insert a prophecy after the events happened. (MATTI FRIEDMAN Associated Press The Associated Press Friday, August 12, 2011 5:38 AM EDT)
The article went on to say that this is a little-publicized project that has been going on for over 50 years at Hebrew University by orthodox Jewish scholars. At first I thought, “just more higher criticism of the Bible, same old stuff I’ve seen before.” On reading the article more carefully though, it appears that this is much more serious than I first thought. Are those scholars going to rewrite the Old Testament according to what their expertise has determined to be better ancient manuscripts?
Theologians for years have known about scribal errors which usually deal with a single letter within a word. They also have found more serious errors that are truly anomalous,which happen rarely. But when scholars add entire sections of text and replace a number of words that completely change the meaning of a text, it raises warning signals.
I think Peter must have been thinking of times like this when he wrote, “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19 NKJV). So, looking back at the many prophesies which ones would give me faith at a time like this?
There are three that I can think of:
ISAIAH’S PROPHECY OF BABYLON:
19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,
The beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride,
Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
20 It will never be inhabited,
Nor will it be settled from generation to generation;
Nor will the Arabian pitch tents there,
Nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there.
21 But wild beasts of the desert will lie there,
And their houses will be full of owls;
Ostriches will dwell there,
And wild goats will caper there. (Isa 13:19-21 NKJV).
What is significant about this prophecy is the fact that what it says about Babylon is an accurate description of what the ancient ruins are today. It is a national historical park. No one lives there, and no one raises sheep there.
THE METAL MAN IMAGE OF DANIEL
Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.” (Dan 2:41-43 NKJV).
How did Daniel know that an extremely strong empire would emerge after Greece and that in the latter part of its life it would fragment in such a way that it would never come back together again? There have been numerous attempts to unite Europe, which is that fragmented empire. and all of them have completely failed. Even though they have united in some ways, France is still France, and Germany is still Germany. Neither are they being called a united something of Europe. Each still remains fully autonomous.
THE TIMING OF THE ONE WEEK PROPHECY OF DANIEL
Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the wall,
Even in troublesome times.
26 “ And after the sixty-two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;
And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end of it shall be with a flood,
And till the end of the war desolations are determined. (Dan 9:25-26 NKJV)
Luke in his Gospel pinpoints the anointing of Jesus to within one year of this prophecy (Luke 3:1-2). Furthermore, the prophecy foretells Christ’s sacrifice three and a half years later and then, finally, the destruction of Jerusalem.
What is significant about these prophesies is that all of them are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls which date Isaiah to at least 100 BC and Daniel to at least 150 BC. Besides that, they are, for all intents and purposes, the same that we have in our Bibles today. Even if one wishes to conclude a late authorship some time before the second century BC, the fact that these prophecies have been fulfilled and are still holding to this day is undeniable.
To illustrate the incredibly low probability of this happening by chance, consider the compound pendulum. Anyone who has seen a clock that has an object swinging back and forth in it knows what a pendulum is. It is that swinging object. Now, if you attached another pendulum to the bottom of that pendulum you would have a compound pendulum. The thing about compound pendulums is that no matter how consistent you are in starting it swinging, by about the second swing its motion is different than the previous times you started it. The instruction is clear, a little tiny change in the beginning means a great big change at the end. This theme has been exploited in many movies that dealt with time travel and usually ends up with a paradox. If you change something that prevents you from being born, then how can you be alive to go back in time?
This is why meteorologists have an immensely difficult time accurately predicting weather beyond a few days. So, if the Bible is only a literary work that has been manipulated through history, how could these prophets predict precisely what was going to happen over 2000 years in the future? (Or even 200 years in the future, for that matter.)