Steven Carr, The Jury Is In: Response

When I first wrote this response in the late 1990s, I found it difficult to take Steven Carr seriously as an opponent. Most of his objections had little if anything to do with the arguments being made by Josh McDowell in ETDAV.

In May 2009, as I edit this article for the first time in nearly a decade, Carr is someone I take even less seriously, as one still offers irrelevant (and sometimes incoherent) objections, and seems content to repeat the same arguments again and again, even those that have been refuted and to which he has never replied.

By the same token, I also never took Josh McDowell's ETDAV seriously as an apologetics resource, even when I came to his defense. This particular chapter was not one that I thought useful to defend.

The subject of McDowell's 11th chapter of ETDAV is general Biblical prophecy (as opposed to Messianic prophecy, which he covers in his Chapter 9). Prophecy, we readily admit, is a difficult subject to use apologetically; for Skeptics that I have encountered invariably say that the Bible books in question were written AFTER the events they describe, so that no prophecy was involved at all. And that is generally that, for we do not have sufficient physical evidence to prove otherwise.

Thus, when Carr says things like this:

Given that this chapter has been edited by admirers of Ezekiel, it is not too hard to guess when the section mentioned by McDowell was written.

Although it is rather a pedantic way to accuse Biblical authors of being liars, it is no more substantive than its contrary assertion by Christian defenders. More honest Skeptics, like Tim Callahan admit that this is a matter of a pre-determined paradigm for both sides; Carr does not. For my part, it is for this reason that I have never (since writing the original form of this essay) returned to this subject and used it as an apologetics defense.

Carr is also not above disseminating accusations of dishonesty as a substitute for argument, as here, where he notes that part of what McDowell offers as evidence in this chapter is "odds of fulfillment" of some of the prophecies presented. These numbers are provided by Peter Stoner, whose work was reviewed and approved by the American Scientific Affiliation. Of this, Carr writes:

McDowell says that Peter Stoner's book has been reviewed by the American Scientific Affiliation. As this is also a fundamentalist body, we have the normal McDowell situation of one fundamentalist saying that another fundamentalist is correct, but presented as though they were completely impartial sources.

One wonders why Carr does not simply come right out and accuse McDowell, Stoner and the ASA of lying or incompetence - and indeed, why, if he disagrees with their findings, he does not offer us alternate odds in their place. (Altrhough, even if Stoner and the ASA are as much as 50% off in their estimates, the numbers are still rather impressive.) This is but one example of many places where it is evident that Carr is not up to the task that he has assumed -- and his record in this regard remains unchanged a decade and more later.

In terms of specifics for this chapter, I noted the following.

First, with some of Carr's "arguments" it is not quite clear what point is being made and why, since no direct connection is made between the data presented and what is presumably being argued. For example, in several places, Carr cites the existence of textual corruptions in this or that book under consideration; yet these corruptions are not once shown to have any effect on the particular prophecy in question - as though "guilt by association" is enough to cast doubt on the veracity of the prophecy.

This has remained a staple of Carr's argumentation to this day.

Second, Carr's presentation relies on a minuscule number of sources, and his proficiency in use of sources leaves much to be desired. He relied far too much on non-scholarly sources when he responded to McDowell. I am glad to see that this has changed somewhat in more recent years, as he has taken time to examine a few (not many) depth scholarly sources.

Even so, in spirit, his approach to research has changed little since the response to McDowell, when he made use of the New Jerome Bible Commentary - which is a good source, to be sure, but Carr's reasons for choosing it reflect a poor understanding of the purpose and methods of research:

A lot of the time I shall be using the New Jerome Bible Commentary (NJBC). There are a few reasons for this. The first is that it is a good commentary. The second is that it is widely available in both the USA and UK where I am writing. The third is that it is written by a raft of Catholic scholars. Nobody can accuse Catholics of not believing in God, the supernatural and miracles. Indeed, they believe in more miracles than Protestants do.

In answer to the above, we may say:

Third and finally, I regard Stephen Carr as an author of low credibility for his work has (mostly) the appearance of something done over a few hours on a rainy afternoon. Carr makes an incredible number of mistakes in comprehension of McDowell's presentation and shows little indication of understanding his source material to any depth. This too is a trend that has continued to this day.

And with that, we proceed to McDowell's specific claims. Carr's response is quoted throughout in italics.

Genesis 3:15-16

McDowell says `The first prophecy goes all the way back to Adam and Eve with the predicted and promised Divine Redeemer of Genesis 3:15-16'. Genesis 3:15-16 says - `I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel. To the woman he said `I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing. In pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.' Has McDowell given us the wrong reference? I can find no prophecy here to a Divine Redeemer.

"He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel" is taken to refer to the a messianic figure defeating the serpent, regarded as evil's vessel - for a "bruise" to the head (also adequately expressed as "crushing blow") is a fatal blow. Had Carr read McDowell's 9th chapter, he would have seen that this verse was interpreted by rabbis as Messianic quite a long time ago.

Numbers 12

McDowell also quotes Numbers 12:6-8. Numbers 12, supposedly written by Moses, says that `Moses was very humble, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth' (NIV translation) and then goes on to say that Moses was a very special servant and prophet of God. Does this sound like the writings of the most humble man in the world?

The verse in question is actually Numbers 12:3, which is irrelevant to the issue at hand (prophecy), but let's look at the verses in question:

12:1-4 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. "Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?" they asked. "Hasn't he also spoken through us?" And the LORD heard this. (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.) At once the LORD said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, "Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you." So the three of them came out.

Many regard the comment about Moses' humility as a later interpolation of a commentator - being that the concept of footnotes was somewhat in the future. More specifically, it has been seen as an explanation by Joshua about his mentor.

It is somewhat necessary to the story to see the vivid contrast between the characters, and this is one aspect of Moses' personality that only a contemporary like Joshua would have known about; it also makes sense for Joshua to have added it as he was beginning to lead Israel: We know that he renewed the covenant and wrote down at least parts of the Law again, so he is the likeliest candidate, both for this comment and the "obituary" of Moses at the end of Deuteronomy.

Also rather intriguing is the proposal by Rogers [CR.Mos] that the word in question should be rendered, "miserable".

Finally, Carr's argument errs in terms of cultural values: In the Biblical world, frank and open assessment of one's abilities was normal and expected. If indeed Moses was humble -- and had the evidence to back it up -- then there is no reason why he would not have noted it.

1 Samuel 9:9

McDowell also quotes 1 Samuel 9:9. This is the passage that explains that formerly in Israel, people used to go to prophets to inquire about God, because a prophet used to be called a seer. The NIV has this in brackets. Why would Samuel write about this practice in the past tense? Surely if Samuel was written by Samuel , no note explaining what happened long ago would be necessary.

This, like the Moses commentary and the notation on the city of Dan (see link 1 below), is a type of statement that was a later addition by scribes rather like our margin notes, put in to explain customs and other information that had fallen into disuse or become anachronistic. No one denies that these are present in the Biblical text.

Ezekiel, Ecstasy and Bias

He gives a rule that prophecies given in `prophetic ecstasy' are often false. This seems to me to rule out most Christian revivalist meetings. It also rules out a lot of Ezekiel who seemed to spend almost all his time in an altered state of consciousness or ecstasy, as McDowell admits.

Putting the sarcasm aside (along with the disrespect for varying opinions in Christian circles concerning charismatic states of religious ecstasy) - McDowell nowhere "admits" that Ezekiel was "roughly overall" ecstatic and nowhere says he was, as Carr describes, "seeming to spend almost all his time" that way. McDowell also notes that "this quality was not wholly divorced from the true prophets," including Ezekiel and Isaiah - the point being that false prophets often took upon themselves a state of ecstasy as a means of "proving" that the prophetic spirit upon them was genuine. In other words, they used a counterfeiting method.

McDowell gives a rule that false prophets were usually on a paid staff under the king. Again McDowell has to admit this is not a final test as it rules out a lot of Biblical prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel had close connections with the priesthood. Isaiah's vision and calling occurred in the temple.

I think it hardly needs pointing out that having undefined "connections" to the priesthood, or having a vision in the temple, is not the same thing as being on the paid staff of a king who wants you to pass out positive prophecies about him.

Jeremiah 23:22, 29

McDowell quotes Jeremiah 23:22 which says that a true prophet `would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds." In other words, a true prophet is one who is listened to and gets results. McDowell tries to change this to a true prophet is merely one who `calls the people to righteousness and obedience.' This is necessary because a lot of the `true' prophets in the Bible did not turn people from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.

This is rather an incorrect exegesis of Jeremiah 23:22. Let's look at the context of this verse:

Jer. 23:16-22 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They keep saying to those who despise me, 'The LORD says: You will have peace.' And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, 'No harm will come to you.' But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word? See, the storm of the LORD will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand it clearly. I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.

Jeremiah 23 is a specific message against specific false prophets in Judah. 23:22 says that if these specific prophets had been on God's side, their message would have served to turn the people from their evil ways. It means no more and no less than what it does in this specific situation - and it certainly does not set some kind of standard that true prophets are ones that get results.

McDowell also quotes Jeremiah 23:29 which he says `presents a message of conviction and repentance'. My Bible reads for Jer. 23:29 ` "Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces." Perhaps, McDowell could explain what he means here.

Actually, McDowell cites Jer. 23:29; he does not quote it. But let's explain what the verse means: Being that God's word is effective, it has the effect of conviction and repentance, much as fire has a refining effect and a hammer has a molding effect. Fire destroys and refines; a hammer beats out base material. This is how the commentaries interpret this verse.

Parsing Books

McDowell says that `one of the reasons the books have been carved up so much by the critics is because of the mistaken impression that true prophets have only one message -- doom.' Naturally, Biblical criticism has never used such a mistaken impression to decide that eg. Isaiah is the work of at least 3 people. McDowell is , once again, setting up a straw man and refusing to give any of the arguments used by Christian Biblical scholars.

Actually, Biblical criticism has done essentially that in many cases - inasmuch as it is assumed that a prophet cannot forecast both gloomy judgment and positive messages of renewal as Isaiah did.

McDowell gives a list of dates from Unger's Bible dictionary for the prophet's ministries. A lot of these dates are quite wrong according to modern Christian Biblical scholarship. For some reason, McDowell gives the date of Matthew. I never knew Matthew was considered to be written by a prophet.

Here Carr has not read McDowell carefully: McDowell indicates that Matthew is included because it includes prophetic statements by Jesus. As McDowell also says, the Unger book "places the various prophets' ministries or the dating of the various books as follows," (emphasis added) and McDowell refers to predictions in Matthew 11 later in the chapter.

Carr then quotes Bernard Katz:

Or take the date McDowell says the Jews who lived in Egypt translated the Bible into Greek and his conclusions regarding the prophetic books based on that date: 'All of the Old Testament prophets were translated into Greek in the Greek Septuagint by about 280 - 250 BC Therefore, we can assume that all of the prophets (including Joel and Obadiah) were written before this time.' This is simply not so according to another highly reputable source, the Abingdon Bible Commentary, edited by F. C. Eiselin, E. Lewis, and D. G. Downey. In the chapter 'The Transmission of the Old Testament,' pp. 103-4, we are given this information about the Septuagint: 'The books were translated at different times by men unequally prepared for the task, the whole process extending over a period of approximately two hundred years, from about 250 to 50 BC. Notice that where McDowell says that the cut-off date for the Greek translation is about 280 BC, Professor I. M. Price, author of the Abingdon article, tells us that that is when the translations were actually started!

The refutation of McDowell here may be correct, but even so it is rather pointless. Two hundred years waiting for translation hardly makes a difference when the books in question were purported to have been written several hundred years even before that.

The Issues Over Ezekiel

Why has McDowell chosen Ezekiel? He says he has done it because he will use Ezekiel than any other book. He seems, though, to use other books just as much. It is probably because Ezekiel is one of the few books where indeed the date he gives is accepted by the majority of scholars.

McDowell "seems" to use other books just as much? Here's the breakdown of what books he uses - first number represents how many times McDowell uses the book in the 12 prophecy sets cited; second number, how many verses he cites total from that book in all 12 prophecy sets:

It looks like McDowell does NOT use other books "just as much" - unless we mean collectively; and in that case, what is the point, exactly? Actually, what is the point overall? One wonders why Carr insists on engaging in this sort of trivia in the first place.

In regard to the dating of Ezekiel, which has been the subject of much controversy, McDowell uses as a witness the famous archeologist W. F. Albright who, according to McDowell, stated this in his 'The Old Testament and Archeology' this critical attitude [i.e., to the dating of Ezekiel] is not justified in the least, and to his way of thinking [i.e., Albright's], there seems to be every reason for going back to a more conservative attitude.'
This statement, unfortunately for McDowell's case, is contradicted by the very same Albright, who says in his From the Stone Age to Christianity p. 326: .... . it is clear, however, that the manuscript tradition [i.e., of Ezekiel] must have been very corrupt, since the present masoretic text is full of doublets and conflate readings, many of which were not yet incorporated in the recension used by the Greek translators of the second century BC ... Since McDowell places the book of Ezekiel at 592-570 BC, we have caught this apologist through his own witness!

Here the point is completely lost. Albright's statement about textual corruptions has absolutely nothing to do with the original writing date of Ezekiel. This is simply a case of Carr trying to establish "guilt by association" - there are corruptions in the text of Ezekiel, so the prophecies in question are probably corrupt, too.

For some strange reason, McDowell tells us that fragments of Ezek. were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. What relevance can this have to a dating of Ezekiel?

Obviously, it allows us to date Ezekiel with certainty before the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls. As with most OT books, our earliest copies prior to the discovery of the Scrolls were from up to 1000 years later. Thus, the Scrolls had great significance for the dating and textual integrity of all of the OT.

He quotes Cooke as saying that Ezekiel `is the basic author of the book.' Why do people use phrases like `the essential unity' and `the basic author' if they believe that every word is by Ezekiel?.

This demonstrates a misapprehension of what evangelicals like McDowell believe about the composition of the Bible. We freely acknowledge that textual emendations were made (to remove anachronisms, for example, as noted above) and that language and writing styles changed over the centuries, necessitating changes in the texts to keep them understandable to their current readers.

Similarly, our English editions of Dante's Inferno come from original material by Dante, but cannot truly, fully be said to be by Dante himself, since he had no part in the English composition; yet Dante would still be called the "basic author."

Also, it is recognized that Ezekiel, for example, did not sit down and write out all 48 chapters of his book at one time. The pieces of Ezekiel's book were quite likely assembled at a date sometime after his death, and there may therefore be minor additions such as connective phrases, placed in the text to maximize coherence.

Evangelicals have no problem whatsoever acknowledging this, and (as far as I am concerned) this poses no difficulties for a doctrine of inerrancy. Unfortunately, Carr seems beholden to a "fundamentalist" understanding of the text and its composition.

McDowell quotes E.J.Young as saying that one of the reasons we can trust the book is that `the first person singular is employed throughout'. I take it then that a book like Daniel which switches between the first person and third person is regarded by McDowell with great suspicion.

First, Young actually gives two other arguments in addition for this one, not for trusting the book, but for regarding Ezekiel as the only author: he also notes the dating and location of the prophecies and the similarity of thought and arrangement throughout the book as being in favor of a single author.

However, second, this does NOT mean that, conversely, a book NOT written in first person throughout can be automatically suspected of being multiply authored. The criteria only applies in one direction.

Prophecy Set #1 - Tyre

Please refer to our essay at link 2 below for information on the subject of Tyre. From this section, however, we have further observations regarding a point that is related:

I would like to add that Nebuchadnezzar never conquered Egypt as Ezekiel prophesied. Not even Nebuchadnezzar claimed that.

In reply, we may note that our sources for this period are very sparse, and the best that can really be said is that there is no positive evidence that Nebuchadnezzar took Egypt as prophesied. Extant records DO indicate that Nebuchadnezzar did indeed conquer Egypt - whether he took them into captivity and left Egypt desolate for 40 years is neither proven nor disproven by our sources.

However - it is known that it was Nebuchadnezzar's policy to deport peoples from conquered lands (as he did with Judah), and there is a 33-year gap between the time that Nebuchadnezzar attacked Egypt and the time that Cyrus defeated Babylon. Allowing either for rounded numbers or time to return to Egypt, we have a possible span into which we could see those 40 years. Therefore, for lack of evidence, this prophecy cannot be judged a priori a failure.

An interesting point, however, is raised by Ellison in this regard. Noting our sparse information, he writes [Elli.Zeke, 103]:

Except where a promise is confirmed by God's oath (Gen. 22:16; Psa. 105:9; Heb. 6:13) we are safe in concluding that every statement of God about the future has some element of the conditional in it, something ancient Israel was as unwilling to believe as we are...a change of behavior can annul the prophecy.

Ellison notes in this regard Jeremiah 18:7-10:

If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

Ellison therefore proposes that Ezekiel's prophecy was unfulfilled because of a change of behavior on the part of Egypt. Is there evidence of this? None that is clear; although the sin of pride for which Egypt was convicted may well have been abandoned at the prospect of being shellacked by Nebuchadnezzar's army. The question remains an open one.

Prophecy Set #2 - Sidon

Ezekiel 28:22-23 about Sidon. It is worth quoting this in full. " And say "thus says the Lord God -'Behold, I am against you, O Sidon, and I shall be glorified in your midst. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I execute judgments in her and I shall manifest my holiness in her. For I shall send pestilence to her and blood to her streets and the wounded will fall in her midst by the sword upon her on every side. Then they will know that I am the Lord'.
McDowell makes great play of the fact that Ezekiel does not mention the destruction of Sidon and Sidon still exists today.
Uncanny isn't it. In fact, Ezekiel does not mention that Sidon would be the headquarters of the UN and he does not mention that Sidon would host the 1948 winter Olympic games or that Sidon would be the birthplace of Beethoven and not *one* of those things happened either! All McDowell can say is that Ezekiel did not make a false prediction that Sidon would be destroyed. He cannot claim that Ezekiel made a prediction that Sidon would not be destroyed because no such prediction was made.
As far as I can see, the prophesy about Sidon could apply to any city. Most cities have had battles and pestilence at some time in their histories. The prophecy is totally unspecific. It does not say when or how many times Sidon would suffer or if the sufferings would stop or who would attack Sidon. In fact, the references to wounded and blood in her streets could apply to the attackers of Sidon, not only the Sidonians.

Carr actually does little justice to McDowell's presentation here. What makes this prophecy unusual - as McDowell very clearly points out - is that Sidon is Tyre's sister city, and may therefore have been expected to suffer a similar fate - which it did not. McDowell cites Davis: "No human mind could have foretold 2500 years ago that Tyre would be extinct, and Sidon would continue, but suffer tribulation during the succeeding centuries."

To be sure, we may agree that this is not as significant and detailed a prophecy as the one about Tyre: McDowell himself cites no "odds of fulfillment" for this prophecy, so he evidently does not place high value on it. Thus, Carr's objection - Is this prophecy about Sidon really one of the 12 best examples in the Bible? - is irrelevant. In fact, I do not see where McDowell makes any claim to have brought the "best 12" forward in his chapter.

Prophecy Set #3 - Samaria

Here again, Carr resorts to "guilt by association":

McDowell uses Hosea and Micah about the fall of Samaria. He uses Hosea 13:16 and Micah 1:6.
Do we have the original words of the prophets or has there been later editing?
Dennis J. McCarthy (3), late Professor of Old Testament Studies, Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome and Roland E. Murphy, Professor Emeritus, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina say in the NJBC about Hosea `There are, of course, glosses in the text, but they are identified easily enough (eg several insertions of the name of Judah). Aside from these, it is agreed that the substance of Hosea comes from the prophet, which does not minimise the difficult problem of textual corruption. The book of Hosea has suffered more than almost any other OT book in this regard.'
Leo Laberge (3), Professor of OT, Saint Paul University, Ottawa writes in the NJBC about Micah :- `The concluding verses 7:8-20 seem to be a liturgical text from the days after the exile' and about Micah 2:12-13 - `These verses are usually considered additions composed during the exile, because they interrupt the flow of sentences which constitute a unity of thought between chapters 2 and 3. We find here a promise of restoration, in terms quite similar to the ones found especially in Deutero-Isaiah [45:1-2, 52:11, 62:10]'
So the books are in parts textually corrupt and in parts edited much later.

What, precisely, is the point here? The prophecies under examination are in Hosea 13 and Micah 1. McCarthy's comment has nothing to do with Hosea 13, or any verse associated with the prophecy in question; Laberge is referring to material in Micah 2 and 7, not Micah 1.

Hosea 13:16 The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.
Micah 1:6 Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble, a place for planting vineyards. I will pour her stones into the valley and lay bare her foundations.

McDowell identifies five elements to these two prophecies. The first is that Samaria will fall violently (Hosea). Carr writes:

How hard was it to foresee the fall of Samaria by someone that even McDowell must admit was writing only a few years before? What was the political situation? I quote the NJBC again. It is talking about the 20 years before the fall of Samaria.
`The renewed pressure which Tilgath-pileser III soon applied to the states of Syria and Palestine revealed the hollowness of Israel's power. In the 20 years between Jeroboam's death (746) and the end of the kingdom , six kings reigned in Israel. Menahem was the king who had to accept Assyrian overlordship and pay a heavy tribute. He was succeeded by Pekahiah. Pekah at the head of an anti-Assyrian party murdered Pekahiah. To the folly of opposing the invincible Assyrian, Pekah added an alliance with Damascus.'
...a succession of weak and murderous kings of Israel tried to play power politics with a mighty superpower and to break away from overlordship. Any half-decent political commentator of the time should have been able to see what was coming. It hardly took divine guidance.

Carr once again overstates McDowell's case. McDowell's information agrees that this is not a spectacular prophecy: odds of fulfillment are given as only 1 in 4. But let's go to some less-likely prophecies, the more detailed prophecies done by Micah.

The first says that Samaria will become "a heap of rubble." Carr writes:

McDowell states that ` it is now in vain to look for the foundations of the stones of the ancient city `. However in the very next paragraph, he states that `her foundations stones, those greyish ancient quadrangular stones of the time of Omri and Ahab, are discovered and lie scattered about on the slope of the hill'.

This is again an uncharitable or careless reading. McDowell notes (via John Urquhart) that, "it is now in vain to look for the foundations and stones of the ancient city" because "the ground has been ploughed for centuries" - meaning, in context, that it is vain to look for those stones in their original place, because they have been removed. The point is then made by McDowell (quoting Van de Velde) that the stones were found in a rubbish dump in a nearby valley.

On to the second specific from Micah, that vineyards will be planted on the site:

McDowell states that the hill has upon it `olive and fig trees' and that this is a fulfilment of a prophecy that `vineyards will be planted there'. I thought vineyards had to do with grapes.

On the very next page, McDowell quotes Urquhart as notes that the site has been cleared for the purpose of establishing "fields and vineyards" - so that's that part fulfilled. On the other hand, it is quite possible that the 1 in 100 odds cited by Stoner here should be reduced a goodly amount.

Parrot [AP.SmCI, 11] observes that the hill of Samaria, before the city was built, was already "situated in the midst of a fertile region of olive orchards and vineyards." So this prophecy is not quite as spectacular as we might think at first glance, and is more or less saying that the grounds will return to the same state they were before the city was built.

Even so - it has apparently been fulfilled to the letter.

McDowell states that `The remains of magnificent buildings of that period...can easily be identified today'. This is from `Israel: an Uncommon Guide'. I do not have this book. Does anybody know which period the book refers to? There are definitely ruins from very magnificent buildings of a much *later period*, namely the time of Herod.

As a research professional, I find it rather disturbing that Carr has reduced himself to asking his readers for help to this degree. Some books are rare and hard to get, but Carr needs to at least make an effort here.

At any rate, Carr provides no direct answers to the last two specifics, that Samaria's stones would be poured into the valley and her foundations laid bare. We have already seen that these were fulfilled.

Carr notes an entry from his MS Encarta to the effect that "On the ruined site of the ancient place, there still exist parts of a colonnade from the age of Herod, remains of a temple to Augustus, and other antiquities. A Harvard University expedition (1908-11) made important discoveries on the site, which was subsequently excavated in the 1930s and the 1960s by other major Palestinian archaeologists."

This has nothing to do with the city of Samaria referred to by Micah and Hosea, which was several hundred years before Herod and Augustus.

Hosea 14:4-8 says that God's anger has turned away from Israel. Israel will blossom like a lily. His splendour will be like an olive tree. God will answer and care for Ephraim and Ephraim will be fruitful. In other words, according to Hosea, the downfall of Israel is not prophesied. Israel can still flourish. This is dependent upon Israel repenting but the text as we have it seems to imply that Israel will repent and not perish. Even if the salvation from Assyria is conditional, the simple fact that it is made means that Hosea is not giving the fall of Israel as a definite fact to happen in the future.

Let's look at the text, rather than at a paraphrase:

Hos. 14:1-9 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to him: "Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say 'Our gods' to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion." "I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. Men will dwell again in his shade. He will flourish like the grain. He will blossom like a vine, and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon. O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? I will answer him and care for him. I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me." Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

Hosea is not saying that Israel will repent, or even implying that; he is saying that it does not have to be the way he has described, if only Israel would turn and repent. But if they don't repent, they will be judged In other words, God leaves the door open for obedience and repentance, even if He knows you won't be walking through.

McDowell is right that Micah 1:6 prophesied the fall of Samaria. However, he fails to mention that Micah 1:9 prophesied the fall of Jerusalem and Jerusalem was not taken by the Assyrians. Compare Micah 1:6 with Micah 3:12. If McDowell is right that Micah 1:6 means that Samaria will be a heap of stones in the field, then Micah 3:12 means that today Jerusalem must be a heap of rubble and there should be no buildings on the Temple Mount.

Is this what it says? Let's see:

Micah 1:7-9 All her idols will be broken to pieces; all her temple gifts will be burned with fire; I will destroy all her images. Since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes, as the wages of prostitutes they will again be used. Because of this I will weep and wail; I will go about barefoot and naked. I will howl like a jackal and moan like an owl. For her wound is incurable; it has come to Judah. It has reached the very gate of my people, even to Jerusalem itself.

Micah 1:9 says nothing about the fall of Jerusalem - only that the "wound" has come to Judah; i.e., the sin of Samaria.

Micah 3:11-2 Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the LORD and say, "Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us." Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.

There's a major difference in these prophecies: Unlike the prophecies of Samaria, there is no indication of Jerusalem's stones being thrown into valleys. Nor, in either case, is there any indication that the cities will remain heaps of rubble forever, though it seems that Samaria certainly has.

Odds of fulfillment cited by McDowell: 1 in 40,000.

Prophecy Set #4 - Gaza/Ashkelon

McDowell uses Amos 1:8 , Jeremiah 47:5 and Zephaniah 2:4,6 and 7 ( but not verse 5) about Gaza and Ashkelon. Let us take Jer. 47:5 first as it is the easiest. `Baldness has come upon Gaza, Ashkelon has been ruined.. O remnant of their valley, how long will you gash yourself?'
McDowell quotes Peter Stoner who says `What better description could you give of a city buried under sand dunes than to say that it had become bald?' Well, just off the top of my head, `buried under sand' strikes me as a better description. Was Jeremiah incapable of saying flat out that it would be buried under sand? In fact, I don't quite know what a bald city could mean. The New International Version of the Bible has the translation 'Gaza will shave her head in mourning'. This makes much more sense, but it refers to the people of the city and not the city itself as McDowell claims.

No, even in the NIV version, the prophecy does not refer to the people; it does refer to the city, which includes all of its people. In any event, it does not seem here that Carr can refute the fulfillment of the prophecy itself, other than questioning the metaphor involved.

On the other hand, to be fair, no commentator I have seen has yet resorted to any explanation other than that this refers to the citizens being in mourning - and that, in any case, would also fulfill the prophecy, though of course with lesser odds.

McDowell admits himself that it took 2,000 years for Ashkelon to be destroyed and 700 years for any rebuilding to start. In 2,700 years almost anything could happen, especially in the Middle East. How can you go wrong if you are allowed to chooses the time scales that McDowell chooses? How can McDowell justify phrases like `precisely as predicted'? To the nearest 2,700 years is not precise in anybody's dictionary.

This, in reference to the prediction of Zephaniah 2:4, that desolation shall come on Ashkelon. Carr ignores, however, the predictions of verses 6 and 7, which say that the site of Ashkeleon shall become a place for sheep to pasture, and later remnants of the house of Judah will inhabit the site, both of which, as McDowell points out, have been fulfilled. This is rather more specific and somewhat harder to justify as chance occurrences.

Let us look at the Amos quote. Amos has been subject to post-exilic redaction. Amos 1:2 quotes the Lord's words from Joel 3:16, a book written much later. (I will ignore the possibility that God is quoting Amos). Rememeber, Jeremiah 23:30 warns prophets about stealing from each others books!

This is another "guilt by association" argument. Amos has been subject to "post-exilic redaction" -- does this affect the verses in question in some way? If so, how specifically?

Carr also notes: "In any case, John R Bartlett, formerly Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin and now Principal of the Church of Ireland Theological College and someone who has taken part in excavations in Jerusalem and the regions of Edom and Moab, states in his book ` The Bible - Faith and Evidence' (1994 p.98 ) `That is to say, our present book Amos may derive from the exilic period, with Amos' oracles edited and arranged so as to provide a message appropriate to that period.' "

Again, what is the point, and how are the specific verses in question affected? And as to that "warning" in Jeremiah -- let's look at it in context:

Jer. 23:13-30 "Among the prophets of Samaria I saw this repulsive thing: They prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah." Therefore, this is what the LORD Almighty says concerning the prophets: "I will make them eat bitter food and drink poisoned water, because from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has spread throughout the land." This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They keep saying to those who despise me, 'The LORD says: You will have peace.' And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, 'No harm will come to you.' But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word? See, the storm of the LORD will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand it clearly. I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds. "Am I only a God nearby," declares the LORD, "and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?" declares the LORD. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the LORD. "I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, 'I had a dream! I had a dream!' How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who they think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship. Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?" declares the LORD. "Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? "Therefore," declares the LORD, "I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me.

Jeremiah is here referring to false prophets who borrow words from each other, not from true prophets. Carr also objectss elsewhere about prophetical sayings from different books that sound or look alike in his opinion, but this is quite frankly irrelevant: God is not subject to copoyight restrictions, and nor were ancient writers. It was within their cultural paradigm to re-use the same warnings (or similar ones) in their own works. Oral cultures thrived on repetition, and God is not obliged to entertain our Skeptical friends by providing infinite expressive variations upon the same theme.

Just one verse later in Amos (1:9-10), Amos prophesies about Tyre. Why does McDowell mention the prophesy in Ezek. 26 about Tyre in great detail and ignore the prophecy in Amos, just one verse from the verse he uses? Could it be that Amos prophesied that Tyre would fall in flames and that never happened?

Here is what Amos says:

Amos 1:10 I will send fire upon the walls of Tyre that will consume her fortresses.

Amos 1:10 is a figurative way of saying that Tyre will be brought to judgment - as elsewhere in the Bible, fire = judgment, which as we have seen, did happen to Tyre.

Obviously, fire does not consume fortresses that are made of stone; and at any rate, it has been offered that this prophecy of Amos was fulfilled in an earlier attack on Tyre by Assyria -- not the one by Nebuchadnezzar.

Some of Amos's prophecies are very doubtful. Amos 7:11 is reported to have said that `Jeroboam will die by the sword and Israel will surely go into exile away from their native land'. 2 Kings 14:23 says that King Jeroboam `slept with his fathers' a phrase that usually means a peaceful end and his death did not coincide with any exile. Of course, Amos's words are reported by a hostile priest but Amos (or the editor) does not deny them .

Let's quote again:

Amos 7:8-11 And the LORD asked me, "What do you see, Amos?" "A plumb line," I replied. Then the Lord said, "Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer. "The high places of Isaac will be destroyed and the sanctuaries of Israel will be ruined; with my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam." Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: "Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. For this is what Amos is saying: "'Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.'"

Obviously, the hostile priest is misreporting the prophecy in verse 9, which only says that a sword shall rise against the house of Jeroboam - not that Jeroboam will die by the sword, etc. Now, do we really need a direct denial by Amos to see that he is being misrepresented by the priest? Hardly.

Finally, McDowell uses Zephaniah 2:4 and 6b-7 but not verse 5. What then does verse 5-6 say? ` Woe to you who live by the sea, where the Kerethites dwell, the word of the Lord is against you, O Caanan, land of the Philistines. I will destroy you and none will be left. The land by the sea where the Kerethites dwell will be a place for shepherds and sheep pens'. (NIV translation) It is strange that McDowell misses a verse and a half out of his prophecy. P. Wahl, Assistant Professor of Theology, Saint John's University, Minnesota, writing in the NJBC, explains that the Kerethites came from Crete. He also explains that pasture (karot) as mentioned by Zephaniah is a play on words on Crete. This is a sign that we are dealing with metaphor here and not literalism.

"Kerethites" and "Philistines" mean the same people. Why can't Zephaniah use a pun and still be taken literally, especially in the context of ANE literature where punning was a regular practice, even in literal contexts? What, exactly, is the literality that Zephaniah intends behind this supposed metaphor? Carr's information does not even remotely aid his conclusion.

McDowell says that 'Judgment fell upon the Philistines precisely as predicted. Sultan Bibars destroyed Ashkelon in 1270 AD.' However, Joel 3:4-8 states clearly that the inhabitants of Philistia will be sold to the Sabeans. Did this happen in 1270 AD? Certainly, 1270 AD has nothing to do with the Philistines. They had been quietly absorbed into Syria in the 2nd and 1st century BC.

1270 AD, as McDowell clearly points out, is the date of the final destruction of Ashkelon - not the Philistines. Joel refers to a single set of actions that made some of the city's inhabitants captives of war, not to Ashkelon's destruction and final disposition. Indeed, Joel says this:

Joel 3:4-8 'Now what have you against me, O Tyre and Sidon and all you regions of Philistia? Are you repaying me for something I have done? If you are paying me back, I will swiftly and speedily return on your own heads what you have done. For you took my silver and my gold and carried off my finest treasures to your temples. You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, that you might send them far from their homeland. 'See, I am going to rouse them out of the places to which you sold them, and I will return on your own heads what you have done. I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, a nation far away.' The LORD has spoken.

The "sons and daughters" will go into slavery; but obviously, whoever is being warned - the "parents" - are still in the city. Joel, again, is not referring to Ashkelon's final destruction.

All that said, I can accept that McDowell is erring in his application in the same way I think he errs with Tyre (see link above). It is not necessary to appeal to the 1270 AD destruction.

Odds of fulfillment cited by McDowell: a minor 1 in 12,000.

Prophecy Set #5 - Moab/Ammon

McDowell quotes Ezekiel 25:4 and Jeremiah 48:47 and Jeremiah 49:6 about Moab and Ammon.
It is worth quoting Ezekiel 25:4. 'Therefore, behold, I am going to give you to the sons of the east for a possession, and they will set you encampments among you and make their dwellings among you. They will eat your fruit and drink your milk'. Now McDowell says that this means that Ammon will be a site for palaces. Where on earth does it say that? Surely encampments means tents not palaces.

Here we will agree: I do not see where McDowell gets "palaces" from. Even so, the prophecy has been fulfilled, as McDowell points out.

Sons of the east is also hardly specific. It could mean anything. McDowell also says that the prophecy means that Moab and Ammon will be inhabited by the original Moabites and Ammonites. He also says that it is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see it happening in the future. Where are these lost tribes of Moabites and Ammonites to come from?

Offhand, my reply wopuld be that the prophecy referenced is to be regarded as to be fulfilled in the reign of Christ when the dead are resurrected.

McDowell quotes Howard Vos who says that a purely secular encyclopaedia supports him. What is the name of this work? Alas, we shall never know, for McDowell quotes not the name of the book but instead an UNPUBLISHED work from the Dallas Theological Seminary. Would it have been too much trouble to give us the name of the encyclopaedia?

I'll agree that this is poor practice, but the members of Secular Web are no less apt at this sort of practice, including Carr. As for the "unpublished work," Carr might at least try to contact the seminary and ask for a copy of the paper. Even so many such works by collegians, in all topics, contain useful material, yet remain unpublished.

Odds of fulfillment, in any event, are not impressive - only 1 in 1000.

Prophecy Set #6 - Petra/Edom

McDowell refers to the kingdom of Edom and its capital Petra. Immediately, this is a mistake. The capital of the Edomites was Bozrah, later called Buseirah. Petra was the capital of the Nabataean Arabs who displaced the Edomites after the 4th century BC.

This is correct. McDowell has either made a mistake, or more likely he has simply neglected to make this clarification. But this is really irrelevant as to whether prophecies in question have been fulfilled, which Carr himself does not dispute significantly.

McDowell quotes 6 prophets who prophesied against Edom. He quotes Obadiah and Jeremiah 49. Anyone glancing at Obadiah can see that half the book is just a scrambled version of Jeremiah 49. I could take the verses from Jer. 49 and mix them up, but few people would say that was the word of God.

"Glancing" is not a way to achieve an understanding of a text. Jeremiah 49:7-22 consists of prophecies against Edom, which are similar in a few cases in substance, but not in style in the least, to the predictions of Obadiah, as anything more than a "glancing" would tell us. (And again, God is not obliged to make things interesting for modern readers.)

To be sure, it has been suggested that Obadiah is directly dependent on Jeremiah [see BD.Edom, 58], but such assumptions, and their corollaries, are hazardous when referring to societies where oral tradition was the norm. Dicou is probably correct in seeing "free and creative use of the original text for composing a new text" (ibid.), but it is doubtful that there was direct copying - more likely is an option that Dicou rejects: That both oracles stem from a common oral source.

Let us look at the scripture McDowell gives. He gives Isaiah 34:6-15 but misses out a few verses on the way. Why does he miss out verse 9? Is it because it says `Edom's streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulphur, her land will become blazing pitch'? Is this really the condition of the land today?

McDowell "misses out" verse 9 because it is unnecessary to his point - verse 10b (and others) get the literal point across that verses 9-10a makes poetically, as we can see:

Is. 34:9-10 Edom's streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur; her land will become blazing pitch! It will not be quenched night and day; its smoke will rise forever. From generation to generation it will lie desolate; no one will ever pass through it again.

The point is that Edom will be made desolate. These are examples of vivid Semitic metaphors, as alluded to by authors like Caird in Language and Imagery of the Bible.

Isaiah 34 continues into Isaiah 35 with no change of subject. Chapter 35 says the desert will bloom. Chapter 35:8 says the land will become a way for pilgrims.. As McDowell says that it was foretold that trade would cease and he quotes William G. Blaikie as saying that `none shall pass through it', it is not surprising that McDowell stops his quotes from Isaiah at 34:15.

Chapter 35 is a prophecy of renewal after destruction. McDowell isn't writing about Edom's renewal, which is why he "stops" at 34:15.

McDowell also quotes Ezek .25:13 `...I will stretch out my hand against Edom and cut off man and beast from it. And I will lay it waste; from Teman even to Dedan they will fall by the sword.'. The plain meaning of this is that the people of Teman are in trouble. As McDowell quotes Floyd Hamilton to say that Teman is still a prosperous town, he cannot allow it to mean this. Instead he takes it to mean destruction *as far as* Teman.
First of all, Ezek 25:13 says *from* Teman not *as far as* Teman. Just to make things totally clear, here are some other prophesies about Teman. Jer. 49:20 (just 2 verses from where McDowell stops quoting Jer. 49!) `Therefore hear the plan which the Lord has made against Edom and the purposes which he has formed against the inhabitants of Teman: Even the little ones of the flock will be dragged way, surely their fold will be appalled at their fate.'
Or look at Amos 1:12 `So I will send a fire upon Teman and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah'. Obadiah 9 `Your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman'.
McDowell has had to do some very,very selective quoting about Teman.

Does the assertion, "clouds stretched from Chicago to Detroit" include the cities themselves? There is no way to say from that statement by itself, so we can neither exclude nor include Teman in the prophecy of total and permanent desolation, although it is indeed obvious that Teman was in for trouble - which they did indeed get.

Even so, the word "Teman" is actually an allusion to the general southern region of Edom, rather than to the city itself, which was called "Teima" at the time - see BD.Edom, 97.

The following is written in reference to McDowell's use of Ezekiel 25:14, which says that Israel will be used as an instrument of vengeance on the Edomites:

McDowell says that Israel conquered the Edomites. This is a strange way of looking at things. The Edomites were displaced and moved to a region south of Judah, called Idumea. The most famous Idumean was Herod the Great who ruled the Jews. Although the Jews and the Idumeans fought ,it is hard to say that the Jews conquered the Idumeans if they ended up being ruled by one of them. Even McDowell can go no further than to say that the Edomites were incorporated with the Jewish nation. He says that the Idumeans were admitted to the Holy City. This sounds like immigration to me, not conquest.

As McDowell shows on page 292, however, Edom was conquered by Israel in the time of the Maccabees and Hyrcanus, and thus were indeed instruments of vengeance upon them, thus fulfilling the prophecy. That they came out from under Israel's thumb later is beside the point.

Finally, McDowell makes great play of the desolation of Petra (never populated again), although as mentioned, this was not the capital of the Edomites. He quotes Encyclopaedia Brittanica but forgets the final part of the entry which says that some of the tombs in Petra are still used as dwellings.

A few vagrants living in tombs is hardly incongruent with desolation, and indeed, serves to reinforce it: What kind of city is it that is wholly deserted except for people living in the graveyards? Is "desolate" too strong a word? Is not such a place one that has been "laid waste"?

Odds of fulfillment cited by McDowell: an incredible 300 million to one.

Prophecy Set #7 - Thebes/Memphis

McDowell uses Ezekiel 30:13-15 and takes them to be prophecies about Thebes and Memphis.
...McDowell says that the multitude of Thebes was cut off and never returned there and that Thebes would be broken up into multiple villages. First of all, this seems to be the one and only time in which McDowell takes a prophecy of `destroyed' to mean `broken up into multiple villages'. I wonder why McDowell takes `destruction' to mean `broken up' this one time. Could it be that he is fitting the prophecy to outcome? Secondly, I do not know what McDowell counts as a village but the city of Luxor, built on the site of Thebes, has a population of over 125,000.

First, Ezekiel 30:14 says that God will "execute judgments" on Thebes, which, as Carr rightly says, does not equal being "broken up." But Carr can only claim a Pyhrric victory here, for history shows that Thebes was indeed attacked, as McDowell points out.

The modern city of Luxor is beside the point; the prophecy does not say that the site of Thebes will never be inhabited again.

As for Memphis, McDowell quotes Amelia B. Edwards ,who says that "Much of what remains is hardly worth the effort of observing; and the leftovers are so few, they can be listed with ease". OK, let me list them. There are , inter alia, the temples of Ptah, Isis, and Ra, the Serapeum, two statues of Ramses II, and many dwellings. Let me assure McDowell that these are well worth seeing. One statue of Ramses II is over 43 foot tall. What does Evidence that Demands a Verdict say about there being no idols left in Memphis?

Actually, I see nothing in ETDAV about "no idols" being left in Memphis, and whether objects like a 43 foot statue of Ramses 2 are "worth seeing" is a matter of opinion. At any rate, Edwards' point seems to be that compared to its prior glory, Memphis (what is left of it) is hardly worth seeing, and therefore, Ezekiel's prophecy that the idols of Memphis shall be destroyed (30:13) has been adequately fulfilled.

I do not know what to make of McDowell's claim that Egypt `s government has been headed since 350 BC by foreigners. Surely Egypt is ruled today by Egyptians? It is true that Ptolemy was Greek and his descendants ruled Egypt for a long time but how many generations does it take before they can be accepted as Egyptian? Perhaps McDowell would say that America is ruled by foreigners. After all, no Native American has ever been elected President. All Presidents have been the descendants of immigrants.

McDowell would technically be right in saying that America is ruled by "foreigners" - or shall we say, descendants of foreigners. In any event, this prophecy has been remarkably fulfilled, as no native Egyptian has ruled Egypt since Dynasty 30 ended in 341 BC. After that, the Ptolemies ruled until 30 BC; then came the Romans until 395 AD, the Byzantines until 639; and the Arabs since then. The modern rulers of Egypt are no more native Egyptians than Romans are now rulers of Italy. [Elli.Zeke, 114]

McDowell cites no odds of fulfillment on these prophecies.

Prophecy Set #8 - Nineveh

There are a couple of mistakes in Nahum. Nahum 3:8 says that Thebes is surrounded by water. Thebes is on the river Nile but it is not surrounded by water.

Here is what the verse says:

Nahum 3:8 Are you better than Thebes, situated on the Nile, with water around her? The river was her defense, the waters her wall.

The Hebrew word here is used to describe a general environmental situation; in the case of Thebes, that particular city had a number of moats, channels and canals throughout that acted as a defense against invasion.

Nahum 3:14 tells the Ninevites to prepare for a siege by stockpiling water. McDowell is adamant that rivers flowed thru Nineveh. In this case there would seem to be little need to stockpile water.

An interesting claim. Were not even the ancients capable of constructing a simple dam to block rivers that brought water into a city? Herodotus tells us that the Persians stopped up the river going under the walls of Babylon to let their armies through the resultant gap.

As a matter of fact, in the case of Nineveh, stockpiling water would have been a very good idea. Nineveh was near the Tigris River, but what ran through it was a small, weak tributary called the Khosr, which Sennacherib built an aqueduct under in order to make it more useful. All those invaders had to do was block or disable the aqueduct, along with the other canals - or maybe use them as latrines for the army - and there goes your source of fresh water.

Nahum mentions a flood a few times so, naturally, McDowell says that Nineveh was destroyed in a flood. The main source he gives for this is an UNPUBLISHED thesis by George Meisinger. For some bizarre reason , he quotes as supporting evidence Gadd who says that heavy downpours swelled the Euphrates. But Babylon is on the Euphrates, not Nineveh!

We sympathize with the objection here, but note that McDowell puts a (sic) after Gadd's cite of the Euphrates, indicating that this was a mistake by Gadd. Nineveh was actually near the Tigris and on the Khosr river. We also note, again, that just because a thesis is unpublished does not mean that it is not useful.

The only evidence that McDowell gives for the flood which weakened Nineveh and the feasting and drinking of the Ninevites which left them off their guard, is a paraphrase from Diodorus of Sicily. For some unaccountable reason, McDowell forgets to mention that Diodorus lived more than 500 years later and cannot reasonably be called an eye-witness of the events. McDowell also forgets to mention that books 21-40 of Diodurus, which McDowell uses, exist only in fragmentary form.

Carr neglects to mention that many historians of antiquity wrote centuries after the events that they describe, and that we have only fragments left of their reports - and yet we do not go around arbitrarily ashcanning their works on that basis. Hence, Carr is being unreasonable in saying, Couldn't McDowell find any writer between 612 BC and 50 BC who backs up his claim that a flood destroyed Nineveh?

But in fact, there is a record in that time period that confirms that a flood aided the fall of Nineveh, although McDowell does not refer to it - unless he does so indirectly in a quote from Gleason Archer, and another by Walter Meier.

The Babylonian Chronicle states that after the Medes and Babylonians besieged Nineveh, the city was taken at a time of unusually high flooding. Archer, in the quote used by McDowell, indicates that a flood carried off part of Nineveh's walls, allowing the invaders to take the city; Meier adds that Nineveh fell at the time when rivers in the area were at their greatest height.

Also, Xenophon in his Anabasis indicates that thunder was associated with the fall of Nineveh, perhaps alluding to a storm of some kind. Thus, available evidence indicates that Nahum's prophecy was fulfilled.

McDowell cites no odds of fulfillment for these prophecies.

Prophecy Set #9 - Babylon

Carr's presentation in this section contains suggestions about prophecies written after the fact and duplicate prophecies which we need not examine here again.

Jeremiah 51:28-31 states clearly that the Medes will capture and destroy Babylon. However, it was the Persians, led by Cyrus who captured Babylon and not the Medes. Also, Babylon surrendered. There was no large-scale destruction. Joseph Jensen (3), Associate Professor of Old testament Studies, at the Catholic University of America, writing in the NJBC, says `yet the Medes were at one time allies of Babylon and the city fell, not to them, but to Cyrus the Persian'.

The Medes and Persians were allies in the overthrow of Babylon, so Carr's objection is off the mark.

The specific prophecy that McDowell gives from Jeremiah 51:25 is that no stones would be removed for new buildings. However, the Encyclopaedia Brittanica says `Humra contains rubble removed by Alexander the Great from the ziggurat in preparation for rebuilding, and a theatre that he built with material from the ziggurat'.

The above is confirmed to an extent by Oates [JO.Byn, 160], but it is not really relevant. Jeremiah 51:26 (not 25) actually says that "No rock will be taken from you for a cornerstone, nor any stone for a foundation." Obviously rubble cannot be used for cornerstones or foundation blocks, except perhaps in government housing projects.

Again, the book of Isaiah, in a verse curiously omitted by McDowell, says that the Medes will capture and destroy Babylon, when Babylon surrendered peacefully to the Persians. McDowell uses Daniel as history for this. However, Daniel was written about 167-164 BC and says that Darius the Mede, son of Xerxes, was ruler of Babylon. As stated, it was Cyrus the Persian who captured Babylon. Darius was Persian, not Median, and the father, not the son of Xerxes. Daniel is not good history for Babylon.

This accusation, along with many others, is dealt with in link 3 below. For summary purposes, let it only be said that the evidence clearly indicates an earlier date for Daniel, and the identification of Darius the Mede with the later Darius that Carr alludes to is far off base.

McDowell says that Jeremiah 51:57 is about the death of Belshazzar. Jer. 51:57 says `I will make her officials and wise men drunk, her governors, officers and warriors as well. They will sleep for ever and not awake'. Apart from the fact that this denies the Christian doctrine of the resurrection, Daniel 5 states clearly that Daniel was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom by Belshazzar. By McDowell's logic, Jeremiah foretold the death of Daniel at the hands of Cyrus!

The "sleep" here refers to the death of the physical body. A resurrection would not be an awakening, but a renewal. So this passage in no way denies the Christian doctrine of resurrection.

As for the rest, it is Semitic hyperbole and generalization. Only by overliteralization can we assume here that it is meant that every single governor, wise man, etc. would be drunk and be killed - just as in verse 56, where God says of Babylon, "her bows will be broken," it does not mean that every bow in town would be broken. (One can imagine Carr, following the fall of Babylon, picking through the rubble, overturning corpses, etc. looking for bows that had not been broken so that he could brandish it before Jeremiah delaring that his prophecy had been mistaken.)

Odds of fulfillment: an interesting 1 in 5 billion.

Prophecy Set #10 - Chorzain/Bethsaida/Capernaum

In this section McDowell tells of the fate of the 4 cities near the shores of the Sea of Galilee. These four cities were Capernaum, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Tiberias. Three of these cities have perished. Only the last named is standing today. McDowell uses Matthew 11:20-24.
McDowell starts off this section by saying "A fulfilled New Testament prophecy is unique indeed". Does this mean that no other New Testament prophecy has been fulfilled? This is a surprising admission from someone who claims that Biblical prophecies are divinely guided.

What this "admission" means is that: a) there are very few prophecies in the NT, and, b) most of them have to do with Jesus' parousia, not events like this one; therefore, c) there are few prophecies in the NT that can have been fulfilled so far (though as noted in the link, I disagree).

McDowell quotes George Davis who says that Capernaum was destroyed around 400 AD and doubtless Chorazin and Bethsaida perished around the same time. Actually, there is considerable doubt. This gives no evidence at all that Chorazin and Bethsaida were destroyed at the same time. Indeed, the fate of Chorazin is not clear. Chorazin is only mentioned in the Bible and only mentioned in terms which do not pin down its location. There is a site near Galilee which probably was Chorazin but it is not totally certain.

This argument refutes itself. So we cannot be sure that the prophecy has been fulfilled, because we do not know if Chorazin has been destroyed as predicted. And why? Because its location is uncertain. Well, is it not logical that if we are uncertain about an ancient city's location, it is precisely because it has been destroyed beyond recognition?

Davis may be wrong about the times that the cities perished, but it is clear from their lack of existence today and our uncertainty in pinpointing their location that they have perished, exactly as predicted.

Carr also neglects to mention that Bethsaida's site has been positively identified and is "living proof" of the fulfillment of the prophecy. He is also incorrect in two things: about uncertainty concerning Chorazin's location, for it has been identified with a high degree of certainty with a site called Khirbet Kirzah; and he is wrong about Chorazin only being mentioned in the Bible - it is referred to by Eusebius and Jerome [who gives its location as one that matches Khirbet Kirzah] and it is mentioned in the Talmud as well.

McDowell offers no odds of fulfillment on this set.

Prophecy Set #11 - Jerusalem's Enlargement

McDowell takes Jeremiah 31:38-40 to be a prophecy of the growth of Jerusalem in the twentieth century. He says the prophecy has come true, defying odds of 80 billion to one. This is quite impressive. The reader might like to guess which of the following aspects of the growth of Jerusalem in the 20th century Jeremiah prophesied, which would justify these odds. Was it the airport, the university, the Knesset, the cafes, the restaurants, the police stations, the hospitals, the fire stations, the Zoo, the railway station, the schools, the libraries, the car parks, the high-rise apartment blocks? Of course, Jeremiah mentions not one of these. Apparently, you can prophesy the growth of a city in the twentieth century without mentioning one aspect of twentieth century life!

So evidently, for his own personal satisfaction, Carr would have Jeremiah predict as follows:

"The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when this city will be rebuilt for me. There will be a place called an airport where things called airplanes fly, a place called a university where teachers will give lectures, advanced medical facilities, a collection of cramped cages for animals to live in, libraries, expensive high-rise apartments, and a really nice Kentucky Fried Chicken to eat at. These are the things you should be concerned with above all, says the Lord of Hosts. And by the way, the city will never again be uprooted or demolished, because I like Kentucky Fried Chicken."

This is a misdirection from the obvious truth that Jerusalem has indeed expanded in size (content of the city being quite irrelevant) as predicted by Jeremiah, and further than that. But let's look at this more closely. First the verses under consideration:

Jeremiah 31:38-40 "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah. The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the LORD. The city will never again be uprooted or demolished."

Carr says:

This whole section is one of the more desperate attempts of McDowell to fit the facts to the Bible. The size of the city, as mentioned by Jeremiah, corresponds to the size of the city in Jeremiah's time.

This is true only of the first sentence, concerning the Tower and the Corner Gate. The remainder grew later, in line with the prophecy, as McDowell points out step-by-step. Carr, however, is only able to engage in yet more childish complaining:

McDowell gives us a map of Jerusalem. This is one of the worst maps I have ever seen. He leaves out all the city to the south of the Old City walls! The municipal boundaries of Jerusalem extend almost as far as Bethlehem to the south.

What is the point of the objection here? McDowell is not concerned with the city to the south - only with the city as far as the prophecy describes.

McDowell says that the growth of the city has followed, point by point, the itinerary in Jeremiah. Encyclopaedia Brittanica says `The first neighbourhoods outside the Old City walls, built from the 1860's onwards, were scattered chiefly along the main roads leading into the city'. Residential quarters established between World War 1 and World War 2 include Rehavya in the centre, Talpiyyat in the south and Qiryat Moshe and Bet ha-kerem in the south. The growth of Jerusalem has been piecemeal and does not resemble McDowell's map.

The above is also irrelevant. The "main roads" bit agrees with McDowell, for his map shows growth along the Jaffa Road and the road to Damascus. The between-wars quarters is outside the prophecy, but does not contradict it.

What is worse is that the itinerary in Jeremiah is unclear to us. The hill of Gareb and Goah are mentioned only in Jeremiah and their precise location has been lost to us. McDowell says that he knows where they are. Perhaps he would be kind enough to tell Guy P. Couturier, Professor of Scripture at the University of Montreal, where they were as the Professor writes in the NJBC that their location can only be guessed at.

Perhaps Professor Couturier and McDowell should indeed compare notes. Even so, in the context of Jeremiah, it is clear that they are somewhere northwest of the city, and growth has indeed been accomplished in that area.

Thus, Carr says nothing to countermand those odds of 1 in 80 billion.

Prophecy Set #12 - Palestine

McDowell uses Leviticus 26:31-33 and Ezekiel 36:33-35 as prophecies about Israel.
Let us look at his use of the Bible first. He states that Leviticus 26:31-33 was fulfilled in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. Now, Leviticus says nothing specific. It does not mention any date. It does not mention Romans. It does not mention Jerusalem. It does not even mention the temple . It just says sanctuaries - plural. There was only one temple.

True, only one temple - but there were a large number of synagogues, and the Hebrew word here, miqdash, can refer to any holy place, not just a specific place, so synagogues could be included easily.

Furthermore, Leviticus 26:29 says that the Jews will indulge in cannibalism. Nobody, not even McDowell, says that that came true in 70 AD. Leviticus 26:22 says that plagues of wild animals will reduce the numbers of Jews. Nobody, not even McDowell says that that came true in AD 70. McDowell has gone in for selective quoting and fitting the facts to the prophecies again.

Actually, Josephus records that those besieged in Jerusalem did resort to cannibalism; we have no reports of wild animals, but that's not the sort of story that would interest Josephus when people were starving.

But let's look at this rather large section. We will leave some of the verse numbers in:

Leviticus 26:14-34 "'But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you. (18) "'If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of the land yield their fruit. (21) "'If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve. I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted. (23) "'If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me, I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over. And I will bring the sword upon you to avenge the breaking of the covenant. When you withdraw into your cities, I will send a plague among you, and you will be given into enemy hands. When I cut off your supply of bread, ten women will be able to bake your bread in one oven, and they will dole out the bread by weight. You will eat, but you will not be satisfied. (27)"'If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars and pile your dead bodies on the lifeless forms of your idols, and I will abhor you. I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings. I will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled. I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths.

Note that these verses represent a multi-step progression of judgments - these judgments will come on Israel consecutively, not all at once. Thus, Carr's objection re plagues, cannibalism, etc. miss the point - the events predicted in 31-34 are to be the "last straw," as the events of 70 AD indeed were.

Astonishingly, he quotes Mark Twain as an authority on Palestine! Mark Twain is one of my all time favourite authors, but I have never thought of him as a great expert on the 19th century Middle East. How many of the 5,000 hours were put in to scanning 2,000 years of literature looking for something which might back McDowell up?

We might have asked Larry Taylor in Chapter 3 of The Jury Is In. the same question once, since he quoted Mark Twain on a very important Biblical issue in a previous edition. The quotes from Twain are from one of his travelogues, and simply describe what he saw in Palestine during his visit there. McDowell uses it because - as Carr fails to note - Twain quoted the passages in question (Leviticus 26:32-34) and admitted that the prophecy had been fulfilled - quite a statement to be made by a professed skeptic like Twain.

On the other hand, I do believe that McDowell's use of the Twain quote is inappropriate, for reasons seen below.

I quote from Microsoft Encarta. I have made a few comments in brackets.
Two more Jewish revolts erupted and were suppressed in AD 66 to 73 and 132 to 135. After the second one, numerous Jews were killed, many were sold into slavery, and the rest were not allowed to visit Jerusalem. Judea was renamed Syria Palaistina. Palestine received special attention when the Roman emperor Constantine I legalised Christianity in AD 313. His mother, Helena, visited Jerusalem, and Palestine, as the Holy Land, became a focus of Christian pilgrimage. A golden age of prosperity, security, and culture followed. Most of the population became Hellenized and Christianized. Byzantine (Roman) rule was interrupted, however, by a brief Persian occupation (614-629) and ended altogether when Muslim Arab armies invaded Palestine and captured Jerusalem in AD 638. (A golden age of prosperity does not sound like a land of ruins to me)

Here is where I will fault both McDowell and Carr for overlooking an important point: The subjects of the prosperity were not the Jewish people, whom the prophecy was directed against. Palestine harbored many foreigners after 135, but very few Jews until 1948; and being that the Levitical prophecies are against the Jews, any Gentile prosperity would be irrelevant.

Odds of fulfillment: 1 in 20,000.

Concluding Points

So far, I have looked at McDowell's prophecies. Most of them have been very vaguely worded. McDowell had to choose the vaguely worded ones to give himself at least a chance of showing that they might have come true. However, the Bible contains a lot of other, very definite prophecies. Let us look at a couple.

Vaguely worded? Not one of these prophecies in question have been the least bit vague. If we want to see vague, we should read Nostradamus. But the Bible prophecies, vague? Poetic, perhaps. But vague only to someone who does not do enough research into the modes of expression of the ancient world.

I quote from Robin Lane Fox's book `The Unauthorised Version' (1992) pages 271-273. His book has an excellent bibliography. It includes, unlike McDowell's, a number of books written by people with opposite viewpoints, such as R.K. Harrison `Introduction to the Old Testament' (1970).

A few techincal, general points:

  1. Fox's book contains a few unworthy presuppositions, though it is overall fair.
  2. Fox's bibliography is far from excellent in the way described, inasmuch as one cannot find anyone other than Harrison who is quoted and has an "opposite" viewpoint. Furthermore, Harrison's book plays a token role.
  3. We are constrained to remind yet another member of Jury that McDowell is NOT under any obligation to present opposing viewpoints, since it is not his purpose to evaluate evidence - only present it.

In any event, Fox's quote used by Carr served no purpose in the context of Carr's overall essay: No specific prophecy is disputed; all Fox is says is that Ezra did a poor job (in his estimation) of recording history, and that prophecies written by Haggai and Zecharaiah show influence of their circumstances, which I find not the least bit disagreeable. So how does Carr link this to McDowell?

He doesn't. His comments after the quote are:

As always Fox backs this up with references eg Bickerman, Studies in Jewish and Christian History (III) (1986) p. 331-336 Greenfield and Porten, The Bisitun Inscription of Darius the Great (1982) Oppenheim Cambridge History of Iran II (1985) 563-5 Ackroyd, Achaemenid History III (1988) p.33


It seems that in only a few months specific prophecies about people could become false. It also seems that the prophets were well attuned to the political situation of their time. Even considered as political commentators though their record is not perfect.

There is nothing in Fox's quote to suggest that any specific prophecy "became false." No one would disagree that the prophets were attuned to their current political situations (they did not after all live in cisterns); and there is no indication that their record was imperfect in terms of political commentary, though even if it were not, we are talking about Haggai and Zechariah, not William Safire and Bill Buckley.

In close: Carr has changed little since he wrote this piece -- and no more reason to take him seriously than before.


The following Bible commentaries were the primary ones used for this essay. Information stated above may be found in one or more of the titles listed, or directly in ETDAV, or in a Hebrew concordance.

  1. Achtemeir, Paul J., ed. Harper's Bible Commentary. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985.
  2. Ackroyd, P. R., et al. The Cambridge Bible Commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge Press, 1976.
  3. Allen, Clinton J. Broadman Bible Commentary. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1969.
  4. The Anchor Bible Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 1966.
  5. Bruce, F. F.International Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.
  6. Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia. New York: Joseph F. Wagner, 1959.
  7. Gaebelen, Frank E., ed.Expositor's Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989.
  8. Gehman, Henry.New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970.
  9. Hermeneia. Fortress Press.
  10. International Theological Commentary. Eerdmans.
  11. Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 1962.
  12. Mills, Watson E., ed.Mercer Dictionary of the Bible. Macon: Mercer U. Press, 1990.
  13. Pfeiffer, Charles, ed.Wycliffe's Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1962.
  14. Word Biblical Commentary. Word Books.
  15. Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary. Moody Press.

Other Sources

  1. BD.Edom - Dicou, Bert. Edom, Israel's Brother and Antagonist. Sheffield: JSOT, 1994.
  2. Ellison, H. L. Ezekiel, the Man and His Message. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956.
  3. JO.Byn - Oates, Joan. Babylon. London: Thamas and Hudson, 1979.
  4. AP.SmCI - Parrot, Andre. Samaria: The Capital of the Kingdom of Israel. New York: Philosophical Library, 1955.
  5. CR.Mos - Rogers, Cleon. "Moses: Meek or Miserable?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 29, September 1986, pp. 257-63.


  1. here
  2. here
  3. here