How do you counter arguments about biblical prophecy?

Not being a biblical scholar, nor much up on the history of Ancient Mesopotamia I feel I tend to struggle with this.

Since I'm well aware of the nature of how The bible was written and how it is inconsistent or vile and how predictions of the future are useful if they comes as Commandment XVI: thou shalt attend to microbial organisms and wash they hands before every meal or surgery but significantly less so when they are 'a messiah shall be born' sort.

Basically I find it rather hard to intellectually grapple with the idea that people think a book predicts the future.

Countering arguments from design, first-cause, morality and 'the dualism of the supernatural' I'm quiet at home with but I continue to feel all at sea over prophecy.

It's clearly nonsense but how to argue it as such to those who propose it?

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Very hard

I'm not a biblical scholar myself, any information i have gleaned concerning prophecy was from listening to Dr Robert M Price on the Infidel guy and other podcasts, i think he has written a few books also. Victor Stenger had a section in his book "God the failed hypothesis", which listed about 5 old testament prophecies which never happened.

I tend not to get involved with debating biblical points with the credulous, if they believe that the cobbled together rantings are the literal word of a god then they are not going to relent to any rational argument or evidence i can provide. Hard to avoid though.
From an article by Ferrell Till,

What about all of the prophecy fulfillments? Biblicists almost always ask this question when their belief in biblical inerrancy is challenged. No doubt those who ask the question sincerely believe that prophecy fulfillment is irrefutable proof that the Bible was divinely inspired, but in reality the question reflects a naive view of the Bible for which no credible evidence exists. The "evidence" most often cited by prophecy-fulfillment proponents will usually fall into two categories: (1) Unverifiable claims by biased biblical writers that certain events fulfilled certain prophecies. (2) "Fulfillments" of prophecies that were probably written after the fact. Anyone can successfully refute prophecy-fulfillment assertions by simply demanding clear evidence when confronted with either category of claims. In other words, if a biblicist cites a New Testament claim that such and such event fulfilled such and such prophecy, simply insist on seeing reliable nonbiblical corroboration that the alleged fulfillment event actually happened. Herod's massacre of the children in Bethlehem would be an example of an uncorroborated event. The massacre allegedly fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy (Matt. 2:18), but no one has ever found an extrabiblical source that corroborates the lone biblical reference to this event. If corroborating evidence of a fulfillment event should exist, then demand evidence that the "prophecy" of this event was undeniably written before the event. In the debate over Jeremiah's 70-year prophecy, which resumes in this issue of TSR (pp. 4-11), the demand for clear, undeniable evidence that this prophecy was made before the fact has proven to be an insurmountable hurdle for Dr. Price, who has yet to produce extrabiblical corroboration of the prophecy.

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.
I've managed to rack down an online copy of Thomas Paine's 3rd part of 'The Age of Reason': Examination of Th Prophecies' which deals with his treatment of prophetical arguments of the gospels, and I intend to sit and read it when I've the time.

Meanwhile I've begun reading the Bart Ehrman book 'Misquoting Jesus' for some information on the construction of the gospels as purely human documents.
simple way to start countering their augurement for it as them if they believe they have free will 99% will say yes, then reply back if prophecy is true how can their be free will (true prophecy means the future is Predetermined and there is no freewill).

i tend to find that the best starting point on that subject because then they have to question the very concept itself because both view points cant be true and after its pointed out they will have to choose to give one of those ideals up and usally it always be prophecy they give up.

the only "prophecy" i believe in is self fuliled prophecy eg: someone claims the city will be destroyed soon and then everyone who hear the "prophecy" painics and ends up destroying it themselves but only because they heard the "prophecy" and caused it to happen because of their own stupidity.
Ask them to show actual physical evidence of the supposed prophesy.
Ask them to prove that later books weren't just written to coincide with what earlier books predicted. The Harry Potter books also predicted things that happened later in the series, but that sure doesn't mean they're true!
Hi Richard,

Start checking in the archives of this site: Biblical Criticism & History. It's a great site and it has helped me immensely.

Maybe start here: Recent Prophecy Threads

Usually, they find out about these prophecies after the event happened. Are they able to predict something that will happen in the future using only the bible? They say they can, but when their prediction doesn't occur, it's because they made a mistake. Of course, they're only humans. It's just an excuse, they make predictions that are too general (like horoscopes on magazines) and when those are more specific and don't fulfill they'll make another one until it does happen... and that's what they call this a prophecy.

One of my teachers once said that the main characteristic of science is that it can make predictions, myths and stories like those on the bible (and similar books) can’t.
Genesis 2:17
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Genesis 3:6
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Genesis 5:5
And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.

Unfulfilled prophecy.
God-"you eat from that, you die that day". Adam eats and live for another 930 years.
I went to borders and picked up The Atheist Manifesto, by Michel Onfray. It really gave me many key intellectual points to use when I'm deadlocked in a debate with a theist.


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