A comment/digression on the issue of typology...


[created 4/5/97]
Jim wrote in...

Hi, Glenn...

just briefly looked over parts of your in-progress response to "Fabulous Prophecies"--I went straight for the typology section. I don't think it's at all implausible that this kind of typological understanding was *used*, but I think it's highly implausible that it has any evidential value as predictive prophecy, since human brains are pattern-finding machines that can find analogies between almost any pair of things (text or otherwise).
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I personally agree with you on this...I actually state that in a number of places in those responses...

I am having to re-visit the issue of precision in predictive prophecy--not strictly from an evidential point of view, which is a MUCH MORE difficult issue--but in the hermeneutical problems...

For example, the Christian 'versus' Rabbi arguments are NOT about the reality of typo/predictives but over the identification of a fulfillment...

But in a Christian 'versus' non-theist, the problem is much more basic--:


  1. is there adequate precision of prediction and adequate correlation of historical fulfillment to satisfy 'most' parties of a fulfillment;
  2. is it at the fringes of statistical probs and/or does it provide the best inference to the best explanation; and
  3. are there ENOUGH of these situations to identify something as a 'motif' of progressive prediction and revelation...

There is an inherent ambiguity in ALL prediction ("I am going to town today to buy a car") and fulfillment ("I bought you a remote controlled model Stingray')...that, at some level, is ONLY resolved at 'ostensive' time...We DO rely on the brain's pattern detection to generate the closure...

I personally am classically guilty ( in my life, historically speaking) about seeing patterns where none exist, so I am hyper-sensitive about this issue...and it actually is less an issue of "Can I defend it to non-Christian skeptics" than "Can I stand before my God with an honest confidence that I didn't do an un-truth"...

In light of this issue that we both recognize...

The way I am having to approach this (vis--vis the skeptic in me) is

(1) examine non-messianic prophecies to see if we have any control elements that demonstrate some appropriate level of precision and obvious historical fulfillments (e.g. Daniel?)...the cases given in McDowx for example, partake in various levels of ambiguity/precision, and accordingly have different evidential values to me, to a regular Christian, to a Rabbi, to a muslim, to a non-theist, etc...

(2) approach the messianic prophecies from a dual-axis of precision and range...to put it crudely, what would be more convincing to me: One prophecy of 100% precision (e.g. birthplace in Beth?) or 10 prophecies at 70% precision or 150 prophecies at 30% precision (the %-terms are simply conceptual, obviously, but I am sure you understand my point)...it is sorta like if I have 5 really strong ones, that 'strike me' very vividly as fulfillments, then others of LESS CONVINCING (but not totally questionable) may provide supporting data of less weight (but more cases)...maybe even approximating a cumulative case argument(?)...

well...I have blathered on here too much...but I do believe that the tolerances we make in normal language for predictive ambiguity need to be applied (adjusted slightly for culture, I suppose) to some of the biblical materials...but I am trying to figure out how those two compare...

I find it interesting that the vast majority of what I wrote so far in response to your stuff was NOT about actual fulfillment, but rather a demonstration that:

1. the prophecy was CONSIDERED messianic by the original audience (since you made the counter-claim often) and

2. the alleged fulfillment was not UNREASONABLE, given what we know about Herod, J the B, etc...

Neither 1 nor 2 provide any real 'apologetic value' to the argument--at best they remove 'impediments' to consideration...

Plus, the first ones I covered were generally the VERY FUZZY ones that Matthew used with his audience (which DIDNT have a problem with prophecy and operated with similar hermeneutical approaches)...what I really need to get to are the Betrayal/Crucifixion ones...

As I mentioned in the Virgin Birth one, I would NEVER use that for evidential support!...

warmly,
glenn


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