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Why I Believe the Bible #21B (Probability of Messianic Prophecies of the Old Testament)

BIble

Last week, we looked at some of the Old Testament Prophecies of the Messiah, and I referred you to our Monday Morning Prophecy page.  This week, I want to look at a particular study which set out to estimate the probability that just 8 of the hundreds of Messianic prophecies would be fulfilled in one man.  In other words, what are the odds that one person in all of human history would fulfill each of these eight prophecies. 

The study was conducted Professor Peter Stoner and reflected in a book called Science Speaks.  The book was originally published in 1958.  Professor Stoner was chairman of the Mathematics and Astronomy departments at Pasadena City College until 1953.  At that time, he moved to Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California  where he served as chairman of the science division. 

Professor Stoner set out to predict what the probability was of one person fulfilling just the following eight prophecies.  The table below also includes his estimate of any one person fulfilling that specific prophecy:

Prophecy

Probability of One Person Fulfilling Prophecy

Old Testament Passage

Notes

The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

2.8 x 105

Micah 5:2

The average population of Bethlehem from the time of Micah to the present (1958) divided by the average population of the earth during the same period = 7,150/ 2,000,000,000

A messenger would prepare the way for the Messiah.

1 x 103

(1 in 1,000)

Malachi 3:1

What are the odds that a man has a forerunner as Jesus did in John the Baptist?

The Messiah would enter Jerusalem as a King riding on a donkey.

1 x 102

(1 in 100)

Zechariah 9:9

Of all those who have entered Jerusalem as a ruler, how many rode a donkey?

The Messiah would be betrayed by a friend and suffer wounds to His hands.

1 x 103

(1 in 1,000)

Zechariah 13:6

How many people in the world have been betrayed by a fried resulting in wounds to their hands and their feet?

The Messiah would be betrayed for exactly 30 pieces of silver.

1 x 103

(1 in 1,000)

Zechariah 11:12

Of those people who have been betrayed, how many by exactly 30 pieces of silver?

Betrayal money would be used to purchase of potter’s field.

1 x 105

(1 in 100,000)

Zechariah 11:13

How many men, after receiving a bribe for betraying a friend then tried to return the money only to have it refused and used to buy a potter’s field?

The Messiah would remain silent while afflicted.

1 x 103

(1 in 1,000)

Isaiah 53:7

How many innocent men when persecuted and afflicted have stood entirely silent?

The Messiah would die by having His hands and feet pierced.

1 x 104

(1 in 10,000)

Psalm 22:16

How many people, since the time of David have been crucified.

When all of these probabilities are multiplied together, that results in a probability (rounded) of 1 X 1028.  When you divide that by an estimate of the total number of people who lived on earth since the time of these prophecies (approximately 88 billion), it results in a probability of all eight of these prophecies being fulfilled in the life of one man of 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000 or 1 X 1017.

That’s pretty astounding odds.  Professor Stoner tries to help us wrap our minds around the number 1 in 1 X 1017 this way:

That is the same as filling the entire state of Texas knee deep in silver dollars.  Mark one of those silver dollars with a black check mark on the back.  Then, set a blindfolded man free in that sea of silver dollars to find the one marked coin.

Furthermore, this study only included 8 prophecies.  Jesus fulfilled many more than that.  If 16 prophecies are selected, the odds increase to 1 in 1 X 1045.  If 48 prophecies are used (still well less than half), the probability increases to 1 in 1 X 10157.  The idea that these Messianic prophecies were fulfilled by accident is statistically impossible.

In the forward to the 1976 revised edition to the book, Dr. Harold Hartzler, an officer of the American Scientific Affiliation wrote:

…the mathematical analysis included is based upon principles of probability which are thoroughly sound.

And that in the opinion of the American Scientific Affiliation, Professor Stoner had:

…applied these principles in a proper and convincing way.

While you may argue with some of the assumptions (though they seem very reasonable, perhaps even too conservative), you cannot argue with the statistical analysis performed by Professor Stoner.  All of this shows quite convincingly that Jesus was indeed the perfect fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

Thanks to Dr. David R. Reagan for his extensive treatment of this topic which was valuable in compiling this article.

Return to the Why I Believe The Bible index page.

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