The Jupiter temple in DamascusThe Bible is a rather large collection of documents. There’s a lot of material there, and if one cares to do so, one can easily sift out of it things that, on the surface, might appear to have been ancient predictions of subsequent events, or “prophecies.” As I’ve explained before, though, this approach to the Bible is invalid, because it contains a number of predictions that have utterly failed and literally can never come true. Even so, fundamentalist Christians continue acting as though the Bible is full of “prophecy.”

Most recently, as Time reports, fundamentalists are viewing the US’s imminent attack on Syria as yet another example of Biblical prophecy coming true (WebCite cached article):

“See, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins. Her towns will be deserted forever.”

That’s a prophetic passage from the Biblical book of Isaiah, chapter 17, and now some fundamentalist Christian blogs are buzzing with the belief that the escalating violence in Syria means the ancient text may soon be fulfilled. ”The long prophesied end days are here,” one blog announces [cached]. “With the terrorist groups that operate out of Damascus building up arms caches on the border of Israel in anticipation of another war in the near future, it may not be long before this prophecy from Isaiah 17 becomes history,” another group awaiting Jesus Christ’s return predicts [cached].

Nearly all Biblical scholars, however, argue that such a literalist interpretation of the text is highly problematic. The passage was written more than 2,500 years ago, and it condemns Jerusalem’s enemies around the time of the Assyrian invasion. The prophetic oracles, as that section of Isaiah is called, name not just Syria but numerous ancient nations, including Moab, Babylon, Egypt, and Tyre, that threatened the Jewish people at the time.

Isaiah 17 indeed refers to the apparent destruction of Damascus, and the district or country to which it belonged, Aram. But it also mentions lots of other places and things. For example, Aroer, whose location is unknown but which may have been any of several settlements or cities that have long been ruins. It mentions “Ephraim,” probably meaning the district in which the tribe of Ephraim lived, but they, too, are ancient history. Verse 4 says that “the glory of Jacob will fade,” but that probably means Israel which doesn’t appear to be going anywhere just now. It also mentions “the valley of Rephaim,” which refers to a valley outside ancient Jerusalem, now part of the modern city. I’m not sure what that, in particular, could have to do with an attack on Syria. It mentions humanity forsaking “Asherim,” most likely Asherah poles, but those haven’t been used since classical times. Incense stands, however, are mentioned as being forgotten along with the “Asherim,” but they are still used in Catholic and Orthodox churches.

The bottom line is that, while Isaiah 17 does literally mention the defeat of Damascus, it also mentions other places and things which can no longer be read literally, either because they don’t exist, or because if one does read them literally, there are conflicts (such as the Asherah poles that haven’t been used in centuries and incense which has been). The appearance of a “prophecy” works only if one reads some parts of this section literally and others metaphorically, and willfully mixes ancient and modern places and practices together as though they’re all present at the same moment.

When one does this, the only thing one can produce, is nonsense.

As I said, I’ve explained why all Biblical prophecy — and I do mean ALL of it! — is bullshit. You see, the Bible contains specific, explicit predictions, given by none other than Jesus himself, which have failed to come true and by now cannot ever come true (emphasis mine):

“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Mt 16:28)

“But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:27)

All of these first century people who were present to hear Jesus say these words, are dead, and have been for nearly 2,000 years. Yet, Jesus never returned during their lifetimes. Thus, Jesus’ prediction failed completely.

Fundamentalist Christians really need to grow up and get over their Bible-worship. Their ideas about the Bible force them to lie about it, which is simply unacceptable. It needs to fucking stop already.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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