The Dongola Times

(Anachronistic) Dispatches from the Kingdom of Makuria.
27th of August, 2013

Unfair Criticism of the Ancient Prophets

It is common for secular analysis of prophecy to be explicitly weighted and biased against even the mere possibility that the prophecies are genuine. Now, this is not to say that they always necessarily are, but rather to say that these free-thinking critics should leave as much room and freedom for the prophecies to be true as they leave for the prophecies to not be true.

For instance, they insist that deutero-Isaiah has to have lived in Babylon during the Captivity, which is the only way he would have known of Cyrus by name, and spoke of the captivity from the viewpoint of a captive. Now there is nothing directly wrong with this, because who cares how God assembles the prophecies?
Nevertheless, what happened to leaving room for Isaiah—before the captivity—having these viewpoints? This possibility is discounted a priori, even though the prophecy asks for it to be left on the table—not necessarily accepted, but left on the table—such that from the get-go, there is no chance that the prophecy will win against the critic.

Remember that prophecies do have this problem when they are correct. Namely, that they will seem to have been written after the fact.
If we didn’t know for sure that the New Testament was written before the Dome of the Rock was built, we would be shouting ourselves hoarse now to prove (or disprove) that it anticipated the thing to within the year. Certainly after our time, it would be impossible to prove to anyone that the New Testament predicted this building, and even less that those among us who believed in the New Testament drew encouragement from this prophecy. For those who would have come later, these would have been the creations of later liars who then appended their stuff to the end—and if that other stuff at the end is not (yet) fulfilled, this would be proof that the prophecies were fake, since they failed past the point of the lifetime of the “pretend-prophet”.

For this reason it looks more and more reasonable that one takes a fideistic approach, as I take. Because if we have to believe, as indeed we do, and reason will be weighted against faith all the time, as indeed it is, we are left only with a rebellious and recalcitrant faith in faith. Indeed, the Calvinists later on started doing something very similar to this, calling it “presuppositional apologetics.” They are an improvement on Kierkegaard, who was an improvement on al-Ghazali. But a simple Gospel-mad fideism—“Let God be true and every man a liar”—is an improvement even on the presuppositional Calvinists.

So there are two cases, as it were, that need examining. In the past, I myself saw a lot of attacks against a particular prophecy of Isaiah. Indeed, they are still on the Internet now, but I will not link to them. They presumed that we had followed well-contructed fables in considering certain men prophets over a period of thousands of years. They said that Isaiah chapter 19 was a clear sign that the prophecies of Isaiah were fabrications written after the fact, which is why chapter 19, which predicts havoc and desolation in Egypt, never came to pass. What we now see, when we turn on news from Egypt, is that Isaiah 19 has become headlines. I do not expect Isaiah 19 to become the convincing argument in favour of Isaiah’s prophetic bona fides, of course, since those who do not believe will not believe. But my point is that it is remarkable that these people, who brag about their open minds, never left room for Isaiah 19 to attain fulfilment in our times. And yet it has.

Funny enough, Isaiah 18, just behind Isaiah 19, had  saw fulfilment in the last century, which was when Sub-Saharan Africa turned to Christianity in an extremely fast progression that had not been anticipated or noticed by any document—even as it was beginning and then progressing—with the sole exception of Isaiah 18, written millennia before.

Then there is the Book of Enoch. It has a few scattered fragments in it that are clearly prophetic—as in, true in their prophecy.
I do not expect that al of 1 Enoch is fit for such respect, but certainly some fragments in it betray a ridiculous ancientness and prescience, that I would have to be biased against them from the get-go in order not to give them this respect. For starters, chapter two is just once sentence long. This shows that it was a small and well-preserved record that happened to be true, and it was preserved without modification for a long time. This is how it ends up so awkwardly preserved not just in 1 Enoch, but also in Jude. Its isolation in 1 Enoch is proof of its independence from the rest of work generally. That Jude saw it as having attained fulfilment is therefore proof that it is valid prophecy. —And yet the critics had already lined up to say that 1 Enoch was a creation of later Christian forgers, until archæology slapped them on the mouth. You can see the bias.

Then there is a very similar case for another isolated part of 1 Enoch, which is the Second Parable (chapters 44 to 54). Again, critics said that it was the work of later Christian forgers, because it was impossible that there could be so damn accurate a prediction of Jesus Christ. Then when archæology slapped them on the mouth, they changed tack and said that Christianity, and Jesus’ ministry, was patterned on 1 Enoch, rather than being a fulfilment of the prophecy therein. Still you can see the problem: they do not leave any room for a prophecy to actually be a true prophecy. They only accept the prophecies that fail, and the things that are forged as prophecies after the fact. If it happens to be a true prophecy, they work it into being a later creation or an influence on the events it prophesied. There is no way for a true prophecy to win against these critics, therefore the wise one doesn’t pay much attention to the critics. —Indeed, the wise one avoids the opinions of the critics.

You will be amazed how often the ignorant rush forth with advice.

Regarding 1 Enoch, I will note that the style of the writing is in keeping with the “bicameralism” that was typical of writing that predates the period when the critics say 1 Enoch was written. (For a fuller treatment of this, consider Julian Jaynes’ theory of the collapse of the bicameral mind.) Having seen that parts of 1 Enoch are clearly of ancient style, and that those parts had found fulfilment, a reasonable view of the book would be to at least consider those parts to have been genuinely prophetic, surrounded by parts that were not genuinely prophetic. This is supported by the partial acceptance of that book that exists even today in Protestant circles (where they accept the second chapter, and only the second chapter, as inspired). Certainly this would have been done with other secular documents. So while this evidence stands in favour of an earlier and more-trustworthy composition for at least parts of 1 Enoch, it will not be considered. —And if it is considered, it will be credited to any of forgery, accident, later interpolation, or whatever. The ancients do not stand a chance of winning, because rule one of the game is that they cannot possibly be correct.
And so our smartest people continue in such ways, and it is made clearer and clearer that it is not because we are very clever that we are chosen to see these things. (In fact, it was people who used 1 Enoch that Jesus once referred to as the babes and the sucklings said “I thank you, Father, that you have hidden these things from the wise and the prudent, and revealed them to the babes and the sucklings—yes, for it was your good pleasure.”) So the textual critics look and see nothing; the untutored come with a blind and rather naïve faith, and they see light and life.

Now, the critics of Ecclesiastes for instance insist that it was written during or after the Captivity. This is the theory fronted in Minds of the Bible, because Ecclesiastes has a lot of the language that never showed up in the World until after the collapse of the bicameral mind. Based on this, they say that king Solomon did not write Ecclesiastes, because he lived before the collapse. Now, this is exactly what I am talking of here, because the book claims to be written by Solomon who the Bible repeatedly affirms had a very different mind from normal people. Essentially, they have seen the work of a genius and said that it cannot have been written by him in his time, because it looks like the work of a very different mind from the minds of his time. They are saying Solomon the extremely philosopher (probably the guy responsible for introducing the collapse of the bicameral mind) could not have written the extremely unusual philosophy in Ecclesiastes because it reads like the work of an extremely unusual philosopher.

So you see, there isn’t even the chance of the Bible winning the argument, because the unspoken assumption of their argument is that the Bible has to be wrong. (And imagine, the man who wrote Minds of the Bible is a Jewish rabbi of a congregation called Temple Israel. What weirdness! “Are you the teacher of Israel, and you do not know these things?”)

In all this, just allow me to say “Blessed is the man who walks not according to the opinions of the ungodly.” The very first verse of the very first psalm.