The Proof From Prophecy - Part 2
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Now, it may be said, indeed, that a prediction fulfilled, an exhibition of supernatural prescience, proves nothing for or against the truth and necessity of conduct and righteousness. But it must be allowed, notwithstanding, that while human nature is what it is, the mass of men are likely to listen more to a teacher of righteousness, if he accompanies his teaching by an exhibition of supernatural prescience. And what were called the `signal predictions' concerning the Christ of popular theology, as they stand in our Bibles, had and have undoubtedly a look of supernatural prescience. The employment of capital letters, and other aids, such as the constant use of the future tense, naturally and innocently adopted by interpreters who were profoundly convinced that Christianity needed these express predictions and that they must be in the Bible, enhanced, certainly, this look; but the look, even without these aids, was sufficiently striking.
Yes, that Jacob on his death-bed should two thousand years before Christ have 'been enabled,' as the phrase is, to foretell to his son Judah that ` the sceptre shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh (or the Messiah) come, and unto him shall the gathering of the people be,'' does seem, when the explanation is put with it that the Jewish kingdom lasted till the Christian era and then perished, a miracle of prediction in favour of our current Christian theology. That Jeremiah should during the captivity have `been enabled' to foretell, in Jehovah's name : ' The days come that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch; in his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUS-NESS !' —does seem a prodigy of prediction in favour of that tenet of the Godhead of the Eternal Son, for which the Bishops of Winchester and Gloucester are so anxious to do something. For unquestionably, in the prophecy here given, the Branch of David, the future Saviour of Israel, who was Jesus Christ, appears to be expressly identified with the Lord God, with Jehovah. Again, that David should say :
The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool,'—does seem a prodigy of prediction to the same effect. And so long as these prophecies stand as they are here given, they no doubt bring to Christianity all the support (and with the mass of mankind this is by no means inconsiderable) which it can derive from the display of supernatural prescience.
But who will dispute that it more and more becomes known, that these prophecies cannot stand as we have here given them ? Manifestly, it more and more becomes known, that the passage from Genesis, with its mysterious Shiloh and the gathering of the people to him, is rightly to be rendered as follows : ` The pre-eminence shall not depart from Judah so long as the people resort to Shiloh (the national sanctuary before Jerusalem was won); and the nations (the heathen Canaanites) shall obey him.' We here purposely leave out of sight any such consideration as that our actual books of the Old Testament came first together through the instrumentality of the house of Judah, and when the destiny of Judah was already traced ; and that to say roundly and confidently : ` Jacob was enabled to foretell,, The sceptre shall not depart from Judah,' is wholly inadmissible. For this consideration is of force, indeed, but it is a consideration drawn from the rules of literary history and criticism, and not likely to have weight with the mass of mankind. Palpable error and mistranslation are what will have weight with them.
And what, then, will they say as they come to know (and do not and must not more and more of them come to know it every day?) that Jeremiah's supposed signal identification of Jesus Christ with the Lord God of Israel : 'I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and this is the name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS,' runs really : ' I will raise to David a righteous branch ; in his days Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell safely ; and this is the name whereby they shall call them-selves : Ike Eternal is our righteousness!' The prophecy thus becomes simply one of the many promises of a successor to David under whom the Hebrew people should trust in the Eternal and follow righteousness ; just as the prophecy from Genesis is one of the many prophecies of the enduring continuance of the greatness of Judah. ' The Lord said unto my Lord,' in like manner;;—will not people be startled when they find that it ought instead to run as follows : ` The Eternal said unto my lord the king,'—a simple promise of victory to a royal leader of God's chosen people ?