Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New prophecies: Towards a full analysis

While reviewing how prophecies are handled in the New Testament and especially by the authors who wrote the canonical gospels, I had decided that I would not be satisfied with my research until I had made a review of all the "new prophecies" (prophecies made during the New Testament era). Below please find my results as a table showing the prophecies, where they are recorded as being made, and where they are recorded as being fulfilled (if they are recorded as being fulfilled). I have put numbers by each prophecy; any associated notes are placed below the table with the same number. Notes on methods are below that. The general summary and analysis are in an upcoming post.

#EventRecord of prophecyMade byRecord of fulfillment
01Birth of John the BaptistLuke 1:13-17Angel (Gabriel)Luke 1:57-63
02Zechariah to be struck dumb until son's birthLuke 1:20Angel (Gabriel)Luke 1:64
03Birth of JesusMatthew 1:21
Luke 1:31-33
Angel (Gabriel)Matthew 1:25
Luke 2:5-7
04John the Baptist to be Jesus' heraldLuke 1:7ZechariahLuke 3:2-6; Luke 6:27
05Jesus destined to cause rising and falling of many in IsraelLuke 2:34SimeonVarious losing/gaining prestige and position (if that is the point of "rising and falling") associated with Jesus in Luke and Acts
06Herod's attempt on the infant JesusMatthew 2:13An angel of the LordMatthew 2:16
07Coming of one more powerful than John the BaptistMatthew 3:11
Mark 1:7-8
Luke 3:16
John 1:26-27
John the BaptistMatthew 3:13-16
Mark 1:10-11
Luke 3:21-22
John 1:29-34
08Baptism of the Holy Spirit (and fire)Matthew 3:11
Mark 1:8
Luke 3:16
John the BaptistMatthew: n/a
Mark: n/a
Acts 2:1-4
09Coming of the Holy SpiritLuke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5
John 14:26, John 15:26, John 16:12
JesusActs 2:1-4
John 20:22
10Jesus' upcoming absence from the worldMatthew 9:15, Matthew 25 (large portions)
Mark 2:20
Luke 5:35, 17:22-24
John 7:33-39, John 16:28
JesusMatthew: Matthew 28:20 implicit
Mark 16:19*
Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9
John 21:22-23 implict
11Jesus’ death and / or resurrectionMatthew 16:21, Matthew 17:12, Matthew 17:22-23, 20:17-18, 26:2
Mark 8:31-32, 9:9, 10:33-34
Luke 9:22, 9:44, 18:31-33
John 2:19, 8:21-22, 8:29, 10:14-18, 12:23-33, 16:20-23
JesusMatthew 27-28
Mark 15-16
Luke 23-24
John 19-21
12Some standing here will see the kingdom of GodMatthew 16:28
Mark 9:1
Luke 9:27
JesusMatthew: n/a (or 12:28)
Mark: n/a (or 11:9-10)
Luke 11:20, 17:20-21 (or n/a)
13Jesus' departureLuke 9:31Moses and Elijah during the transfigurationLuke 23-24
14Persecution of the disciplesMatthew 10:17-36
Mark 13:11-13
Luke 12:11, 12:52-53
John 15:20, 16:1-4
JesusMatthew: n/a
Mark: n/a
Acts: many (e.g. 4:18-20, 5:17-41, 6:8-15, etc.)
15Jesus to lose none of those given himJohn 6:39JesusJohn 17:12, 18:8-9
16Jesus’ return, last judgment and/or general resurrectionMatthew 19:28, 24:30-31, 24:42-44, 25:31-46
Mark 13:26-27, 13:34-37
Luke 12:40, 22:30
John 6:39-40, 6:44, 6:54, 12:48
Jesus(Not yet fulfilled)
17Destruction of Temple and/or destruction of Jerusalem, with accompanying signsMatthew 23:35, much of Matthew 24
Mark 13
Luke 19:43-44, Luke 21:6-32
JesusMatthew: n/a
Mark: n/a
Luke: n/a
18Destruction of Temple? Short comment that is deliberately ambiguous; debatable whether should be considered a prophesy of temple's destruction.John 2:19JesusJohn: n/a
19Judas to betray JesusMatthew 26:21-25
Mark 14:18-21
Luke 22:21-22
John 13:21-30
JesusMatthew 26:47-50
Mark 14:43-46
Luke 22:47-48
John 18:2-3
20Disciples to abandon JesusMatthew 26:31
Mark 14:27
John 16:32
JesusMatthew 26:47-50
Mark 14:50-52
John 18:15
21Peter’s denialMatthew 26:33-34
Mark 14:29-31
Luke 22:34
John 13:38
JesusMatthew 26:69-75
Mark 14:66-72
Luke 22:44-60
John 18:15-18, 25-27
22Peter to be arrested and executedJohn 21:18JesusJohn 21:19 makes more sense in light of past fulfillment, but the event is not explicitly recorded
23Disciples question whether it is a prophesy: That the beloved disciple would live until Jesus’ returnJohn 21:22-23Jesusn/a: The disciples cite Jesus’ wording to indicate they do not think it is a prophesy
24FamineActs 11:28AgabusActs 11:28
25Paul’s arrest in JerusalemActs 21:10-11AgabusActs 21:33
26Shipwreck but survival of all passengersActs 27:22-25, 34Paul (with an angel)27:40-44

The order in which these are listed is roughly according to the first occurrence of the prophecy in the chronology of Luke / Acts. Additional prophecies of the same event are noted together with the first prophecy. Any prophecies that are not mentioned in Luke / Acts are set into the list based on their estimated place in the timeline.

My general comments on this information should be ready soon.

Notes on individual lines

10 - The reference on the fulfillment in Mark is in the appendix, i.e. the lines probably not part of the original text. It can then be argued that in Mark this prophecy could also count as unfulfilled; no weight can be placed on this particular verse in Mark for the overall analysis.

11 - There is some record that the hearers did not understand the prophecy (Mark 9:10, Luke 9:45, Luke 18:34). There is also a record of the remembrance of the prophecy (Matthew 27:64-64, Matthew 28:5-7, Mark 16:6-7, Luke 24:5-8, Luke 24:44, John 2:23).

12 - The meaning of this prophecy is disputed among Christians, as to what it means to "see the kingdom of God" (or even, more simply, what the "kingdom of God" means). Some argue that it means the end of the world, others that it means Jesus receiving authority to rule and being declared Son of God with power, still others that it was fulfilled through the events surrounding the destruction of the Temple. I do not intend to settle or even assess these differences here, just to raise awareness of how much dispute there is over the meaning of these words. I will have more to say on the subject in my analysis rather than here in the end notes to the table.

14 - While John does record early persecutions of Christians (see John 9:22 and John 12:42) and/or the disciples in hiding for fear of persecution (see John 19:38 and John 20:19), these events do not seem to be directly the point of the prophecies, so these items are not listed in the table as the fulfillment.

16 - Matthew and Luke warn about surprise fulfillment (Matthew 24:50, Matthew 25:13, Luke 12:46).

17 - This set has a hesitancy formula attached in Matthew and Mark: "no one knows the day or the hour" (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32).

18 - A remembrance of this prophecy is recorded in John 2:23. Here the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the obsolescence (destruction?) of the Temple are seen as part of one interlinked chain of events.

Notes on methods

Unless you have a special interest in how I decided what counts as a prophecy and things of that nature, you're welcome to skip this last section.
  • I needed a working definition of a prophecy that was clear enough to distinguish between what is a prophecy and what is not. Should we count “I will make you fishers of men” as a prophecy or a promise – or simply a plan? So I made the distinction that a promise or a plan can be accomplished by the actions of the one speaking. We do not count “I will eat dinner before I go to bed” as a prophecy since it was within our own power to accomplish. A prophecy is distinguished from a promise by the fact that it was not the speaker’s human actions, influence, or power that caused the results.
  • A prophecy is also not an obvious result of an ongoing chain of events. "It will grow dark tonight, and lighter in the morning" is not a prophecy. I am not counting as prophecy a simple foreknowledge of something so predictable that anyone with ordinary knowledge and common sense might easily have reached the same conclusion. For example, Paul’s expectation of a disastrous voyage sailing under bad conditions (Acts 27:10) is not counted as a prophecy.
  • Indirect references are not counted as a prophecy unless it is clearly intended as a prophecy as shown by wording or context. For example, “I have a baptism to undergo” (Luke 12:50) is generally taken to refer to Jesus’ death and resurrection, but is not counted as a prophecy, simply to keep to things that are more likely intended as prophecies.
  • Sometimes it is not plain whether the text indicates a prophecy or a pre-arranged plan with another person. For example, "As you enter the village you will find a colt tied there" (Luke 19:30), or "a man carrying a jar of water will meet you" (Luke 22:10) are not listed as prophecies. Also, when it is arguable that something was more of Jesus’ instructions rather than a prophecy, it is not listed as a prophecy. For example, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8) is not counted.
  • Sometimes there is a question whether to count a prophecy as a "new prophecy" if it was already made in the Old Testament, but Jesus is shown to repeat it as a prophecy having special applicability at that time. For example, "They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law" (Luke 12:53, see also Micah 7:6). This was done simply to allow such things to be recorded, if they should prove to be of interest. So when the text shows Jesus applying an old prophecy and enlisting it as still future, it is listed with the double reference both to Jesus’ use of it and to the original setting. The more common case -- when an older prophecy is simply mentioned in the text of the gospel -- is not counted as a new prophecy.
  • There are times when it is unclear whether someone is making a prophecy or someone levelled it more as an accusation. Stephen the Martyr may have mentioned Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem (Acts 6:13-14); then again, the people mentioning it were introduced as false witnesses. Given that Stephen’s lengthy recap of the history of Israel climaxes with quotes about the inadequacy of the temple, it may be that he had mentioned its destruction, but for this purpose I will let it go as too tentative. Fortunately that particular prophecy (if it was one) is superfluous, given the number of clear examples where a destruction prophecy is recorded.


Tony-Allen said...

Thanks a lot for posting this! Your research is appreciated.

Weekend Fisher said...

You're very kind. I still view it as a work in progress. So much fine tuning could still be done, and there are a few things that are borderline whether to count them. (Also wonder if in that much volume I've missed anything.)

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Martin LaBar said...

That's quite a piece of work. Thanks!

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Martin

It's part of a larger project. I've been at it for awhile. Almost done ... the actual *point* of it all is next: what can we know about the dates of the gospels (if anything) from the different ways in which different prophesies are handled?

I've seen various claims made that "the date must be in this range because ..." ... but without any thorough study to back it.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Martin LaBar said...

Sorry for the comment in my post. I should have been more specific, and more accurate. As I understand it (and just checked with the Free Dictionary) "prophecy" is a noun, and "prophesy" is a verb. You have "prophesy" at the top of a column of your table, and I think it should have been "prophecy."

You are correct -- you haven't used "prophesys" in your post. I mistakenly added the "s" to it. My apologies.

Once again, your work on this series is excellent.

Feel free to delete this comment.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Martin

I'd actually checked before publishing 'cause I thought it was funny that my spell-checker took it either way. My dictionary had the verb always with the 's', but the noun either with the 'c' or the 's'. But if people are thinking it 'looks funny', I'll consider updating it (and the others) when I have some spare time. Myself, I don't mind constructive feedback constructively delivered; I'm not planning to zap your comment. :)

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF