Monday, December 18, 2017

Can prophetic fulfillment be staged?

One objection to the argument from prophecy is whether it's naturally possible to stage a prophetic fulfillment. What if a Jew read OT oracles, then decided to "fulfill" them by imitating them? He'd be acclaimed the messiah. 

Well, that depends. In theory, it would be humanly possible to "fulfill" some prophecies by manipulating circumstances. Mind you, the argument from prophecy doesn't rest on a handful of instances.

There are, however, some formidable obstacles to pulling that off systematically. 

For instance, a messianic pretender can't prearrange to be born in Bethlehem. He has no say in where he will be born, since he doesn't exist at that point. It's up to his parents. 

Or take this oracle:

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy (Isa 35:5-6).

Suppose a messianic pretender tried to imitate that? In the original, this is probably metaphorical, but that would make it all the more impressive if he could do it literally. But, of course, it isn't naturally possible to heal the blind, deaf, mute, and lame. 

By the same token, consider this oracle:

8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied (Isa 53:10-11).

Vv8-9 describe messiah's violent death. And it's naturally possible to provoke the authorities into executing you. Mind you, what would be the incentive to get yourself killed if you know it's a hoax? 

But putting that aside, the encore is the really tricky part. Isa 53 presents a paradox that would be deeply baffling to OT readers. The messiah dies, and yet–according to vv10-11–he lives again!

Engineering your own resurrection isn't naturally feasible. 

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