Tim Callahan's "Bible Prophecy": A Critique
[Introduction] [Review of Preface and Introduction] [Review of Chapter 1] [Review of Chapter 2] [Review of Chapter 3]

Tim Callahan, author of the book Bible Prophecy: Failure or Fulfillment? (Millennium Press: 1997), is in some ways a fair-minded and intelligent critic, but one still ill-informed. One cannot fail to be unimpressed with the source work: A mere seven encyclopedias, several Bibles, two Bible commentary sets (including one from 1929), and less than 20 total sources are used in support of the authors' own viewpoint.

In contrast, less than a dozen conservative works are used including McDowell's ETDAV and Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Callahan is apparently unaware that there are more capable warriors on the field for our side. (The fact that he uses the word "fundamentalist" throughout his work in a derisive manner - while never really defining it - suggests that he is a bit too inclined towards a desire to tweak the "religious right".)

Here is what we shall cover:

Callahan's Preface, Introduction, and Chapters 1 through 3 will be reviewed.

Chapters 4 and 5, respectively, cover the same area as articles written at a different time, so we will link to those.

Chapter 6 is a brief introduction to apocalyptic literature that, while containing some material we find disagreeable, we will not address, for it should be obvious that such a broad topic cannot be adequately covered by Callahan in such a small space.

Chapter 7, on Daniel, we have covered elsewhere.

Chapters 8 through 10 - In these last three chapters, we have Callahan's expose' of the less desirable elements of "doomsday" Bible prophecy experts ranging from the "black helicopter" crowd to Hal Lindsey who interpret every world event in light of the Book of Revelation.

Our comments here shall be limited, because quite frankly, Callahan is correct in the overwhelming majority of his criticisms here. Nevertheless, we do not recommend Callahan's work on this subject except perhaps as a primer. The Christian reader is better served material noted here.)

We will not cover again objections that we have already covered on this sire, so if you happen to be reading along, check our Scripture Index (see left sidebar) if we pass over something you want to know about.

Preface and Introduction


Chapter 1

In chapter 1 of his book Callahan offers up a review of "who wrote the Bible" - and, not surprisingly considering the limited range of sources he uses, arrives at all of the usual conclusions supporting the JEDP theory, Q, etc.

Not that we expected him to re-invent the wheel, but perhaps he should have simply stated these matters as presuppositions and avoided any pretence of doing a careful analysis altogether. He has basically lifted concepts here from badly outdated general and biblical encyclopedias (with such whoppers as saying that Yahweh was "originally one of the gods of the Canaanite pantheon"[!] - 11) and presumed that they are still and all that is available.

Chapter 2

In this chapter Callahan tells us "How to Think About the Bible." It is a review of the nature and function of prophets and prophecy along with a good serving of basic history of the sort one might find in an encyclopedia. As such, it is generalized and contains little that we need to address, and little that we have not addressed before. The objection about Jepthah's daughter is present and accounted for. Here's a new one, about 2 Kings 3:27 --

Then he took his firstborn son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall. The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land.

The "he" here is the king of Moab, who is taking on the Israelites and was losing pretty badly up to this point. Callahan sees this verse as evidence that Yahweh was at one time a mere tribal deity, not the overall Creator, and "the Israelites believed that Yahweh had no power in Moab" against Chemosh, the Moabite god - for otherwise, what is the "wrath" here, and why would they withdraw in the face of victory?

There is one big thing that speaks against this "wrath" being from Chemosh - in this war against Moab, Israel was not alone: They were accompanied by the Edomites and by the armies of Judah, and there is no indication that either of these armies had to take a break from the field.

However, Herzog and Gichon in Battles of the Bible [171] provide the answer: Child sacrifice was often performed in the ANE because of imminent plague. The Israelites would have interpreted the sacrifice as an indication that plague was already in the city, and therefore would have made haste to leave as soon as possible.

The word for "wrath" means indignation or strife, and "against" is a preposition that can mean among, between, concerning, or through.

Chapter 3

In this chapter Callahan devotes attention to the earlier prophets. He accepts uncritically arguments about the division of Isaiah (his main source for this is from 1895 - for a brief look at the unity of Isaiah, see here). Let's have a look at some specifics.