According to the Scriptures, the God of the Hebrews spoke to his people through prophets, men and women who were especially attuned to God and who may or may not have been a part of the religious establishment. Some of the prophets’ messages were for the present; others, for the future. Either way, their role was to proclaim God’s declarations and disclosures to the people.
In general, being a prophet ranked up there with working at a meatpacking plant among the world’s most hazardous occupations. Even when they were telling the truth, prophets might be killed or thrown into prison by people who didn’t like what they were saying. (Some kings hated hearing bad news.) According to historical accounts, the prophet Isaiah was sawn in half.
So consider a prophet’s dilemma: death if he was proved wrong and the possibility of death if he was right. No true prophet wanted to offend God, and just as few wanted to be sawn in half. Thus most prophets waited until they were absolutely convinced that God had spoken, or else they kept their mouths shut. Kings began to shudder at their words. A true prophet’s messages were never wrong.
So how would the accuracy of these biblical prophets match up with today’s psychics?
To consider whether modern psychics’ accuracy approaches that of biblical prophets, let’s take Jean Dixon as a case study. This American psychic seemed to have a special ability to foretell events. But upon analysis her reputation seems unwarranted.
For instance, Dixon had a vision that on February 5, 1962, a child was born in the Middle East who would transform the world by the year 2000. This special man would create a one-world religion and bring lasting world peace. She saw a cross growing above this man until it covered the whole earth. According to Dixon, this child would be a descendant of the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti.¹ Where is this guy? Have you seen him? And how about that lasting world peace–it’s nice, huh?
In fact, an exhaustive search of her prediction yields two indisputable facts. Her rate of accuracy is equivalent to those guessing the future, and her most publicized fulfillments were prophecies so intentionally vague as any number of events could have been hailed as fulfillments.
Even the widely publicized prophecies of Nostradamus have frequently been proved wrong in spite of his vague oracles, which are difficult to disprove.² For example, here is one of the predictions of Nostradamus:
“Takes the Goddess of the Moon, for his Day & Movement: A frantic wanderer and witness of Gods Law, In awakening the worlds great regions to Gods will (Ones Will).”³
This is said to be about the death of Princess Diana. (You were probably thinking Margaret Thatcher.) Prophecies like this are as nebulous as seeing images in clouds. Yet some insist this is evidence of a Nostradamus prophecy fulfilled. Highly suspect, but difficult to disprove.
And this is generally the track record of psychics. When “The People’s Almanac” researched the predictions of 25 top psychics, 92 percent of the predictions had proved wrong. The other 8 percent were questionable and could be explained by chance or general knowledge of circumstances.4 In other experiments with the world’s foremost psychics, their rate of accuracy has been shown to hover around 11 percent, which might not be a bad average except for the fact that people making random guesses about the future score at the same percentile. This doesn’t disprove all future telling, but it certainly explains why psychics aren’t winning the lottery.
The difference between psychics and prophets seems to be more one of kind than one of degree. Prophets made specific declarations about future events in relation to God’s unfurling plan-and did it with unwavering accuracy. Psychics are more mercenary, providing vague sketches of the future to a market willing to pay for their services. They offer sensational information, but with a flawed track record.
Prophecy can be rather mystical, metaphysical, and-for lack of a better word-creepy. It conjures up images of séances and other worlds. In Star Wars there is the foretelling of one who would bring balance to the Force. The Lord of the Rings movies weave their imaginary themes around scenes of prophetic utterances. But such is the world of imagination.
Regarding the real world, it has been said that if a person knew just one minute of the future he could rule the world. Think about it. One minute of knowing every hand dealt at the Trump Casino. You’d become the richest person in the world and Donald would become a postal worker.
But in the world of religion, prophecy serves an important function. It becomes one sure way to know if someone is speaking from God or if he is not, for only an omniscient God could exhaustively know the future. And on this point the prophecy in the Old Testament stands as unique, for most of the renowned holy books from other religions are devoid of predictive prophecy. For example, while other books claim divine inspiration, there is really no means to corroborate their claims; you’re simply left with “Yeah, that sounds like something God might say.”
Bible scholar Wilbur Smith compared the prophecies of the Bible with other historical books, stating that the Bible “is the only volume ever produced by man, or a group of men, in which is to be found a large body of prophecies relating to individual nations, to Israel, to all the peoples of the earth, to certain cities, and to the coming one who was to be the Messiah.”5 Thus the Bible lays out its claim for inspiration in such a way that it can be either substantiated or disproved.
So how accurate were the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament? Click here to continue reading.
The above post was excerpted from the Y-Jesus article “Was Jesus the Messiah?”
¹ Terence Hines, Pseudoscience and the Paranormal (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 2003), 193.
² Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1999), 194.
³ Prediction 3, Quatrain 2, 28.
4 McDowell, Ibid.
5 Quoted in McDowell, 12-13