Bible Prophecy: Failure or Fulfillment? Book Review.

Bible Prophecy: Failure or Fulfillment? by Tim Callahan (Altadena, CA: Millennium Press, 1997); 274 pp.; $21 paper. --- reviewed by Larry A. Taylor

Who would have foreseen that a book about "Bible prophecy" could have been published in Altadena without mentioning Herbert W Armstrong? How the mighty have fallen!

If Tim Callahan's book had been published thirty years ago, it could have saved me a lot of trouble. As a young listener to The World Tomorrow on radio, I heard and read preacher Armstrong's pronouncements on Bible prophecy: that the Bible was proved true by its amazing series of fulfilled prophecies, visiting ruin on the ancient powers of Tyre, Sidon, and Babylon; that the beasts of apocalypse from the books of Daniel and Revelation were unholy alliances of foreign powers bent on destroying the peace of the world. Armstrong is gone but the fundamentalist preachers have continued by book and radio to chew on the same biblical passages. Callahan takes on Joshua McDowell, Hal Lindsey, Walter Martin, Gleason Archer, James Dobson, Hank Hanegraaf ("The Bible Answerman"), and others in their interpretation of prophecy as prediction. Although he is an amateur in biblical studies, the young author carefully uses the facts of history and applied common sense to expose the sloppiness of well-known fundamentalists, many of whom have doctorates.

For a prophecy to be a fulfilled prediction, Callahan sensibly requires it to have been made before the event predicted; that it is clear and specific enough to be able to be judged as significant. Many of the prophecies used by preachers simply never took place as predicted. The Bible says clearly that Nebuchadnezzar was to finish off Tyre and conquer Egypt. The Chaldean king indeed attacked Tyre, but the city endured for many centuries; Egypt was not invaded by Babylonians and it certainly was not depopulated for forty years.

Even the most secular readers of the Humanist have been exposed to the bit of Christmas text taken from the Old Testament: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive. . . ." Christian partisans have insisted that Jesus fulfilled this and hundreds of other Old Testament prophecies of the Jewish messiah. But as Callahan points out, the actual Hebrew text of Isaiah 7:14 makes no mention of a virgin, only a "young woman" (almah), and the context of the passage does not deal with the distant future or mention a messiah. Like many prophets whose words are twisted out of their natural setting,

Isaiah was dealing with events of his own time, in the twilight of the kingdom of Judah. Similarly, Callahan examines the long list of prophecies used to validate [Jesus] as Messiah and finds many misinterpretations, circular reasoning, and actions taken consciously to appear to fulfill prophecies.

In the last few chapters of the book, Callahan tackles prophecies of the apocalypse. Herbert Armstrong was not alone in predicting a monster European power at the end of the world. Preachers spend much time identifying Gog and Magog as Russia or some other world power; but, as Callahan points out, the names of nations in Ezekiel are simply ancient nations that occupied Asia Minor and were at the extreme limits of the world known to the Hebrews.

The book closes with a chapter on the secular conspiracies popular in the United States that are sometimes combined with fundamentalist interpretations or with conservative politics. We have more to fear from the paranoids among us than we do from Masons, Illuminati, or black helicopters from the United Nations.

Larry A. Taylor has advanced degrees in computer science and history and is a software engineer at Wisdom Technologies in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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