Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Did the Bible Predict Television?

An argument that I have heard from some Christians is that we can know that the Bible is divinely-inspired because it predicts the coming of television.  I’m not saying that sophisticated Christian apologists like William Lane Craig use this argument—-they would probably shy away from it, shun it completely, or ridicule it.  But I have heard this kind of argument from some Christians.

Their reasoning goes like this: the Book of Revelation predicts that all people or people of various nations will see certain events.  Revelation 1:7 says that every eye shall see the future coming of Christ.  Revelation 11:9 states that people of the kindreds, tribes, and nations will see the dead bodies of the two witnesses for three-and-one-half days.  But how can everyone, or people from various nations, see a single event, especially if that event occurs in one particular location?  The answer that some Christians give is that people will see the event on television.  The Bible, therefore, predicted television about a thousand years ago.  God must be its author!  Or so their reasoning goes.

I was wondering if other ancient literature has a motif of everyone seeing a particular event.  I found one place: IV Maccabees 17:14.  IV Maccabees is about Antiochus IV’s torture of seven devout Jewish brothers, who refused to eat the unclean meat that the king put before them.  IV Maccabees 17:14 states: “The tyrant was the antagonist, and the world and the human race were the spectators” (NRSV).

The question would then be how the world and the human race were spectators to Antiochus’ torture of the devout Jewish brothers.  Why did IV Maccabees say that?  Maybe the world and the human race are spectators in that they have heard about the events, through word-of-mouth of Jews in the Diaspora, or through word-of-mouth of some of the Seleucids.

Are Revelation’s references to every eye seeing Jesus’ return and various nations seeing the two witnesses’ corpses a prediction of television, and thus an indication of the Bible’s divine inspiration?  IV Maccabees says that the world and the human race saw the resistance of the devout Jews against Antiochus, and that was about a time long before television.  Revelation is most likely partaking of an ancient motif rather than predicting television.

2 comments:

  1. James, Look up all the times in the Bible and other ancient literature where the authors declare that "the whole world" would see or be affected by something. It's ancient hyperbole. The biblical authors, like other ancient authors, even imagined their kingdom lay at the center of the earth. The Bible is filled with hyperbole, from the vastly exaggerated ages of the Patriarchs to the vastly exaggerated extent of the flood and the tall tale that goes with it, to the exaggerated concerns of an infinite being for particular people and blood sacrifice, to exaggerated tales of miraculous desert wanderings and conquests, all the way to the exaggeration that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. Here is a long list of such exaggerations: http://apatheticagnostic.com/articles/meds3/med51/med1061.html

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  2. I agree with you that it is an ancient figure of speech, or motif. I also agree with you that there was hyperbole in the ancient world. On exaggerations, though----like the ages of the patriarchs---are you saying that the biblical writer did not actually believe that the patriarch lived that long?

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