# Contesting Christianity: Messianic Prophecies

(This post is part 7 of the series entitled “Contesting Christianity.” Please see the index for the other posts in this series.)

One of the arguments that Christians use to prove that Jesus was who he said he was is that he fulfilled all of the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. As the argument goes, there are hundreds of prophecies that foretell of the Messiah and what he would do, and many of these were even prophecies that Jesus had no control over. He might have been able to control whether he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, but he couldn’t control where he was to be born! Usually the argument then states that the likelihood of one man fulfilling all these prophecies perfectly is extremely unlikely:

The following probabilities are taken from Peter Stoner in Science Speaks (Moody Press, 1963) to show that coincidence is ruled out by the science of probability. Stoner says that by using the modern science of probability in reference to [just] eight prophecies, “we find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 1017.” That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. In order to help us comprehend this staggering probability, Stoner illustrates it by supposing that “we take 1017silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep.

“Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man.” (source)

Of course, because there are more than eight prophecies, the probability is increased, and so we have the argument that Jesus could not possibly have fulfilled all of them by chance.

I am going to take a look at some of the most common Bible passages claimed to be “prophetic” and examine whether they truly do lead us to conclude that Jesus was the Messiah. First, let me be clear that the number of prophecies said to be in the Bible varies depending on who you ask. So I am well aware that I won’t be dealing with all of the passages that people have claimed are prophetic. But I will deal with most of the major ones, and I think that the principles I am using cover the rest pretty well.

## Birth Prophecies

### Isaiah 7:14

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the virgin is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

This is a commonly used prophecy that Christians say foretells the virgin birth. However, there are several difficulties with this interpretation. For starters, although Matthew references this verse to indicate that the prophecy had been fulfilled with Jesus (Matthew 1:23), he was working with the Greek translation of the Scriptures, and this passage is likely improperly translated. In the Hebrew, the word translated here as “virgin” is “ha-almah”, which actually just means “young woman” or “maiden”. It has no specific connotations of virginity. When specifically wanting to refer to a virgin, the Hebrew word is “betulah”. However, when the passage was translated into Greek, the word “parthenos” was used, which does have connotations of virginity. Thus, what is likely a more accurate translation is, “Look, the young woman is with child…”

However, with that issue set aside, the prophecy is also clearly not intended to be a Messianic prophecy anyway. Reading the context of the passage reveals this. At the time it was spoken, King Ahaz, the king of Judah, had the kings of Aram and Israel breathing down his neck. They wanted to attack and destroy Jerusalem, and Ahaz was frightened that they would. Isaiah then comes to Ahaz and tells him that it won’t happen, and that the sign that this prophecy will come true will be a young woman bearing a son and naming him Immanuel. Scholars disagree as to just who the “young woman” was; it might be Ahaz’ wife, or Isaiah’s wife, or some other member of the royal family. But the point is that the child being born was intended to be a sign that the two kings would not succeed. What good would it have done Ahaz if the sign wasn’t to come for another 700 years? Jewish tradition has never considered this passage to be a Messianic prophecy, and it seems clear that reading the actual context makes it a prophecy for that time and place.

As a final point, it’s not clear that Jesus even fits this description anyway. Nowhere in the Bible is it ever indicated that he was called “Immanuel”, and the passage goes on to say, “For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted” (Isaiah 7:16). If Jesus is the son of God and therefore perfect, what does it mean for him to have learned how to “refuse the evil and choose the good”? One would think he might already know how to do that.

### Micah 5:2

“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” (Micah 5:2)

This prophecy from Micah is used to show that the Messiah was supposed to come from the town of Bethlehem. However, the passage here is most likely not talking about the town of Bethlehem, but the person named Bethlehem. This Bethlehem character was the son of Caleb and his wife, Ephrathah (1 Chronicles 2:50-51). And this passage in Micah indicates that the ruler would come from his clan. Now, perhaps the clan of Bethlehem lived in the town of Bethlehem. It makes sense, but I really don’t know. However, neither Matthew nor Luke mention Jesus as being from the clan of Bethlehem in their genealogies (Matthew 1; Luke 3). Moreover, Jesus never “ruled in Israel”, so it seems the prophecy wouldn’t fit him anyway.

## Prophecies of Suffering

### Isaiah 53

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

This is one of the most well-known prophecies of Jesus, foretelling his death in what seems like eerie detail. It mentions this “servant of God” being wounded, taking on transgressions, being silent before those hurting him, and bearing the sin of many. How could this prophecy be referring to anyone else?

"Ecce Homo", by Antonio Ciseri

Well, to be honest, this passage is actually quite vague. There are no names, dates, or places mentioned, and words like “wounded” and “afflicted” are pretty ambiguous. If one read this without any knowledge of Jesus, one would get no details like the crucifixion, crown of thorns, etc. It’s only when one already has previous knowledge of the events of Jesus’ death that one can “see” it referring to him. But let’s take a look at some of the details that are there. He is “acquainted with infirmity/grief” (v. 3), a word which is probably more accurate translated as “sickness” or “disease” (see here for details). Verse 4 explicitly mentions that he has “carried our diseases”. Does this sound like Jesus? Did Jesus have a disease like leprosy or something (and if he did, couldn’t he have healed himself)? Verse 7 mentions that “he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth.” But we have verses which tell us that Jesus did speak during his trial (Matthew 26:64, for example). Verse 9 says that “they made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich”, but Matthew tells us that Jesus was buried in a “new tomb” (Matthew 27:60), and Luke tells us that it was a tomb “where no one had ever been laid” (Luke 23:53). It is hard to be buried with the wicked or the rich if he was buried with no one at all. Finally, verse 10 tells us that the suffering servant would “see his offspring, and shall prolong his days”. We have no indication that Jesus ever had children, and dying on a cross at around the age of 33 is hardly having one’s days “prolonged”.

So if this passage is not referring to Jesus, who is it referring to? Well, the most obvious answer can be found by reading the rest of Isaiah. Several times, Isaiah refers to Israel (or Jacob) as God’s servant (see, for example, 41:8, 43:1-10, 44:1-2, 44:21, 45:4, 48:20, 49:3). Most likely, then, the servant referenced in chapter 53 is also referring to the nation of Israel—who, indeed, suffered for their sins. I have also read explanations by people who interpret it as being a description of King Uzziah, who was king of Judah right before Isaiah became a prophet. Uzziah at one point angered God and thus he contracted leprosy, and lived out the rest of his life in quarantine. It may be that Isaiah was drawing a parallel between the life of Uzziah and the nation of Israel, and saw the suffering of Uzziah as a punishment for Israel’s sins. This interpretation would explain some of the elements that do not seem to fit the life of Jesus.

### Psalm 22

“[T]hey pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” (Psalm 22:16-18)

Another very common Messianic prophecy is Psalm 22. It is said that this provides a very detailed description of Jesus’ death. However, the problem with this (and with all the other prophecies as well) is that the gospel writers had access to these passages when writing their accounts. Nowhere in Psalm 22 is it even indicated that it is intended to be a prophecy. It is very clearly a poem written by (or at least about) David. He suffered for many years, and so he wrote poems about his suffering. But eventually, passages like Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 came to be seen as archetypes of the “suffering righteous man”. Jews took these passages and would allude to them when describing other individuals, much like we might say that something was a “Herculean task” or that someone was a “Good Samaritan”. So, since the gospel writers were well aware of these passages, it would have been simple enough to include specific references to them when describing the events of Jesus.

It’s not that the gospel writers were lying; they saw Jesus as a righteous man who had suffered and been persecuted, and so they may have added details to make this connection more concrete. Such a desire would explain why Mark puts Psalm 22:1 in Jesus’ mouth: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It explains why it is mentioned that Jesus’ clothes had lots cast for them (22:18), that his bones were not broken (34:20), and that he was given vinegar to drink (69:21). Sure, okay, it might be the case that the gospel writers wrote every detail down with perfect accuracy and that these details were supernaturally foretold within the life of David as well, but we simply cannot know. We know for sure that the gospel writers had access to the scriptures, and we certainly know that David was a very important figure in Jewish history. Thus it is certainly not a stretch to say that they might have added in a few details here and there, in order to help others make that comparison just as they did.

One final note about this passage is that the reference to “piercing my hands and my feet” (v. 16) is not a certain translation whatsoever. In fact, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translates this as, “My hands and feet have shrivelled”, with a note that the “meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain”. The notes for the New International Version (NIV) say that some translations mention something about a lion. Neither one of those have quite the same parallel to Jesus’ death, though, do they?

## Triumphal Entry

### Zechariah 9:9

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)

Jesus sitting on his ass.

This, indeed, is a Messianic prophecy, although it’s one that Jesus could have certainly fulfilled intentionally. That in itself makes it fairly weak evidence, as does the fact that this Messiah was supposed to create “peace to the nations” and a dominion from “sea to sea” (v. 10). Jesus never did these things, although the obvious Christian retort is that he will do so on his second coming.1 Very well; however, that means, then, that Jesus has not truly fulfilled this prophecy yet. All he’s done is ride on a donkey—not an impressive feat when donkeys were the main form of transportation back then.

However, I mostly bring up this prophecy in order to point out an amusing mistake in the gospel of Matthew. Hebrew poetry often uses repetition to convey emphasis; in this passage in Zechariah, it is mentioned that the Messiah will ride on “a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah emphasizes the riding on a colt by repeating it in two slightly different ways. However, when Matthew wrote his gospel, he understood it to mean that Jesus rode on a donkey and a colt. Take a look: “The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them” (Matthew 21:6). If one needs more proof of what I said above, about the gospel writers altering the story to make Jesus fit with the Old Testament scriptures, one need look no further. One wonders how Jesus rode on both a donkey and a colt. Did he straddle both? Or did he put one foot on each and stand on them? And we can be reasonably sure it was a mistake of Matthew and not what actually happened, since neither Mark (11:1-10), Luke (19:29-38), nor John (12:12-15) mention two donkeys. Evidently Matthew put Jesus into a bizarre situation in order to fulfill the prophecy as he (mis)read it.

## Conclusion

As I’ve gone through each of these major prophecies, I have shown that they typically fall into one or more of the following categories:

1. They are not actually Messianic prophecies;
2. They are not actually prophecies at all;
3. They have been reinterpreted to fit the story of Jesus; or
4. They have been used to shape the story of Jesus.

Of course, if you are already of the opinion that the Bible must be inerrant and that Jesus must have fulfilled all the prophecies about him, than these explanations will mean nothing to you. But that is a backwards way of going about things. When reading passages in the Bible, it is important to try and understand what the author originally intended to say. If David was not writing prophecy, then it is ridiculous to interpret his writings as if they were prophecies. Readers are free to do that, of course, but only if they recognize that they have moved from accurately understanding Scripture to confirming their own preconceived beliefs. I think it is telling that most of the prophecies Christians point to as ones that Jesus fulfilled are not actually Messianic prophecies, and the passages that actually are clear Messianic prophecies (such as the ones about bringing everlasting peace and a lasting Jewish nation) are ones that they simply say Jesus will fulfill during his second coming. If Jesus didn’t fulfill any (or very few) of the real prophecies and only fulfilled some passages that have been selectively reinterpreted as prophecies, what does that say about him? What it suggests to me is that perhaps, just perhaps, he isn’t the Messiah that Christians say he is.

## More Information

• Jesus and Messianic prophecy – A Wikipedia page listing and describing many of the prophecies said to be fulfilled by Jesus.
• Forer effect – A Wikipedia page describing how vague, generic descriptions can be seen as specifically written about a certain person.
• Examination of the Prophecies – An essay by Thomas Paine, one of the founding fathers of the United States, critiquing the Messianic prophecies that are mentioned by the gospel writers.
• Jesus as the Messiah – A Jewish perspective on the prophecies claimed to be about Jesus, by Rabbi Shraga Simmons.

#### Notes:

1. Of course, some might claim that Jesus did do these things, but in a metaphorical sense. However, such a claim seems to misrepresent the original intention of the author, who is in the middle of a long tirade against the enemies of Judah and how they will be destroyed. To take this passage metaphorically does not seem to do justice to the overall theme of the book, nor to broader Jewish theology about the Messiah as a literal king and conqueror. []

### 28 responses to “Contesting Christianity: Messianic Prophecies”

then who is he??

#### Jeff

Well, that’s somewhat outside the scope of my article. I am merely arguing against the idea that Jesus is the Messiah, as foretold in prophecy. But that leaves who he might actually be wide open.

However, to give you my own answer, I’d say that he was likely an apocalyptic prophet. He was someone who probably travelled around talking about the coming “kingdom of God” and gathered a few followers who believed in him. He may have also done a form of “faith healing” as part of his ministry. I don’t think he was trying to start a new religion, nor was he against Judaism. However, as we well know, people who believed in him later on began to view themselves as distinct from Judaism and eventually broke off to form their own sect.

So who is Jesus? A Jew in first-century Palestine that became a big deal.

#### Frank

Jeff,

Interesting articles that you have written.

Clearly, in your writings, you’re leaning towards or are an athesist, of some degree. However, your arguments, in my opinion seem to be very ill-written. In fact, there are many issues with your posts, that well just scream out – bullshit!

Now, as someone that does not have a “religious preference” I must help and try to be objective as a I read your posts. But then again my “non-religious preference” I guess would be a religion as it is a set of beliefs, or a least an idea that controls my actions.

You have written an series of arguments entitled “Contesting Christianity.” There is nothing objective about your posts at all, in fact if you were to research both sides of each arguments to each of your posts, I think you would come across as more objective.

It is clear that somewhere in your past you were a religious person, probably a Christian from what I can gather. But like a lot of twentysomethings, you have “journeyed” from your religious upbringing? Why?

And furthermore, why contest Christianity? why not contest islam or hinduism or other religions?

In my opinion, when you start using your brain like you are in these posts, something happens, where you begin to “think” that you are bigger then the higher-‘unknown’-being. Somewhere, you have to ask yourself the question, why am I able to think? There has to be something or someone, empowering you to use your brain. Would you agree?

Your posts are soooo biased, that it’s almost like you have jumped from your religious upbringing, to the athesist bandwagon? but athesism, is well just another religious idea…is it not?

Where does faith come into play? Now I am sure you’ll argue that faith is illogical, and unwise, but for you to fully 100% believe that, does it not take faith?

Can you explain how everything works? I hope not, but if you could, then by all means, I have found the higher being–Jeff Hughes.

But that is where the problem lies. If you get to the point where you think because your 20 something, that your brillant, and that you can explain why religion and faith are ridiculous, then I think you are doing more harm then good.

Jeff, clearly your scarred from your religious upbringing but don’t write it off because you think your smarter then Christianity and you have a brain. Because in the end I am pretty sure you’ll end up realizing that your brain was created by something or someone, and that you are not even close to being as smart as the creator of your brain.

anyways, so much for my run on sentences. Jeff, I think you need to maybe write a post on Christianity: Why it could be true? and start to relook at the faith of your childhood.

Cheers.

#### Jeff

I find it interesting that people who know next to nothing about me can feel confident enough to psychoanalyze me and pick apart how I think and why I write things. Frank, it’s clear that you want to consider me a stupid, angry kid so that you can write off what I say. Meanwhile, you say that what I’ve written is “ill-written”, that there are “many issues” with it, and that it is “bullshit!” But you fail to actually tell me anything that’s wrong with it. Instead of trying to attack the person like you’ve done, why not actually engage my arguments? Have I actually written something that’s incorrect, or is it simply reaching a conclusion that you don’t like?

Regardless, I’ll answer some of your questions. Yes, I used to be a firmly committed Christian, and now I have become an atheist. This was not part of an adolescent rebellion or being “angry with God”, but rather was the result of a long process of wrestling with and reasoning through my faith. You can say I didn’t do it properly–whatever. But I know that I did my absolute best to be objective and think through the issues to the best of my ability. I don’t care whether you, a complete stranger, think I didn’t do it right.

So why have I been writing this series? Well, because I think that many Christians make poor arguments to support their faith. I think that, if I am right, then Christians should know this, and that if I am wrong, Christians should be able to show me exactly why I’m wrong, and make their own faith stronger as a result. I do not think that beliefs should be held away from critical scrutiny. Moreover, I understand that my posts here are not “objective”. I never meant them to be. There are plenty of websites and books dedicated to arguing for the truth of Christianity, and I am merely challenging those arguments. One doesn’t criticize the prosecution for not presenting the case of the defendant. So what I write here is not meant to be an objective examination of Christianity as a whole. It’s intended as a counter-argument that people can then use (along with other materials) to evaluate the issues for themselves.

But why argue against Christianity and not some other religion? Well, because I grew up a Christian, I know and understand the arguments for Christianity, and Christianity has much influence in the lives of those around me and in the world as a whole. I leave the critiques of Hinduism or Judaism to those who have better knowledge than I do about the arguments and evidence supporting these religions.

Finally, I don’t claim to know everything, despite what you seem to think. I am not trying to be arrogant or “explain how everything works”. But your statement that “There has to be something or someone, empowering you to use your brain” is nonsensical. There are hormones and electrical impulses which empower me to use my brain. But I don’t see why there must be anything beyond that to explain how my brain functions. Neuroscience is a young field with much territory left to cover, but its initial discoveries have been astoundingly useful for an overall explanation of how the brain functions. But you don’t want that, do you? You’d rather think that the brain is too amazing, and thus some being must be behind it. Until you support that with something other than feelings and suspicions, it seems that you are not being any more “objective” than me.

#### vegeta

LOL sounds like Frank got a little butt hurt. Truth can be harsh and disturbing sometime. Im surprised that he restrained himself from using all caps like most other religious people do. Apparently large letters make childhood indoctrination more true.
I came across these little problems too when i decided to play detective and examine my faith all those years ago. Its really the tip of the iceberg really. I contend now that Jesus (real name Yeshua or Joshua) never really existed but was more of a mixing of greek demigod myths with hebrew uber king and the eastern wiseman/god Avatar. and just evolved through time and the other beliefs/gospels/superstitions went extinct and we have the the current “christian” diversity/denominations/schools of theology that we have today. (sort of like the evolution of the santa clause myth or like king arthur)
You could have posted some apologetics alongside what you wrote but that might have taken away from the main theme. The problem with apologetics (another word for lies) is that there are so many different variations. It seems like its spamming speculation and strawmen just to quickly brush it under the rug. They focus a lot on context context context (as ive seen it written) when it comes to fight contradictions but not so much when the context doesnt work out to be on their side. Really i was quite disappointed with apologetics when i started to question my faith. And in fact it kind of pushed me farther towards atheism since they all where just flim flamming about and couldnt really offer real evidence besides feelings and hiding behind that trusty shield of faith. and of course the threats. thinly veiled or not. Like ..well you better be right.. you’ll be sorry… or who do think you are to question. And when those come out its pretty obvious that they are scared and desperate and that the faith was nothing but a cult of tradition in the first place. i didnt really read the other parts of the blog so i dont know if you are an atheist but since this was on the reddit r/atheism i will go ahead and assume. and a happy holidays to you. =D

#### Jeff

Hi vegeta,

Thanks for the comment! I know what you mean about apologists using “context” when they are challenged but ignoring it when it doesn’t work in their favour. It is extremely obvious when investigating some of these Messianic prophecies, where just a verse above or below reveals that it can’t possibly apply to Jesus. Yet these verses are used time and time again as “proof positive” that Jesus was the Messiah.

So thanks for stopping by, and feel free to look around a bit further on my blog. I’m a little biased about this, but I think I’ve got some pretty interesting stuff on here 🙂 Happy holidays to you too!

#### Frank

Oh a good debate on our hands.

First, to Vegeta, you my friend are “dumber then a doorknob” if you actually belief your statement “I contend now that Jesus (real name Yeshua or Joshua) never really existed…”

I am not even a Christian…but if you actually believe this to be true, then you would be denying many accounts of history. In fact there is less evidence that historical figures like Julius Caesar existed then Jesus did. NO ONE who has a brain debates that Jesus existed.

Jeff,

You are clearly a Christian turned athesist. It’s to bad really. I find Christians (the majority of them…not wacked up Christians like those in the southern states) but actual christians. To be pretty committed to their faith and actually genuinly smart intellectual people.

Jeff, in your rant about the brain, you simply implied, that the brain was just a brain and controlled by hormones and what not. What the hell does that mean?

Who controls the hormones?

So Jeff what actually does Jeff the athesist belief about life? You would have to belief there is no God, but beyond that what do you belief?

Cause, your whole brain works on hormone argument is retarded. For instance, let’s use your theory that a brain can exist but a God cannot exist idea. Now lets apply that to every other area of our lifes. For instance could I say that a PS3 can exist but a PS3 inventor does not, could I say a computer can exist, but a software developer and a computer inventor cannot? Clearly the PS3 and computer have an inventor, a programmer.

Therefore, your brain argument is seriously flawed. If a high tec computer cannot exist without a programmer then how the hell could a brain exist without some form of programmer.

Jeff, your an athesist, because you don’t want to belief that some higher being exists, because if you belief that you cannot 1) be on the athesist bandwagon 2) you do not want to admit the impact that the existance of a higher being would have on your life.

Oh by the way I don’t think your a stupid angry kid, I think your misguided and you think your an intellectual phenom, but your not. I actually for your sake pity you, because your clearly unopen to the reality that there may be a god or a higher being and therefore, since you’ve already denied your Christian faith which you yourself said you were very “committed to” you’re pretty much screwed if there is a god.

Cheers Jeff, oh and your wingman vengeta,

#### vegeta

Then what are you frank? b/c that sad line is straight out of christian apologetics and spat out some intelligent design drivel. and you still sound pretty butt hurt.

#### Jeff

Frank,

While I don’t hold to the view that Jesus never existed, your statement that there is more evidence for him than for Julius Caesar is completely wrong. We have coins minted with Caesar’s face on them. We have sculptures of him, carved during his own lifetime. We have the words of historians and biographers living during Caesar’s lifetime who wrote about him. And most importantly, we have war commentaries about his military exploits, written by Julius Caesar himself. To say that we have more evidence for Jesus than for Caesar is one of the most ridiculous things one can say.

Anyway, to your questions now: “Who controls the hormones?” What kind of a stupid question is this? Why does it have to be a “who”? Hormones are controlled by a very complex biological system that I don’t have the time to explain right now. But it’s a very normal, natural thing. Scientists can observe how these things function. There is no “who” involved, nor is a “who” necessary. It is the result of biology and chemistry.

Then, of course, you take my argument to an extreme (and unwarranted) conclusion: “Now lets apply that to every other area of our lifes.” Why would one do that? Brains are not computers, or software, or programs. They are brains. Brains live within self-replicating organisms, whereas computers do not. Thus, to try to compare them in every aspect is foolish. Moreover, we have an answer to where brains come from: Evolution. You may disagree with that answer, but it’s up to you to prove how “God did it” provides a better explanation than a purely natural process of development over time. “God did it” is a cop-out, and does not actually explain how brains came to be.

So then, of course, you go back to psychoanalyzing me: “you don’t want to belief that some higher being exists, because if you belief that you cannot 1) be on the athesist bandwagon 2) you do not want to admit the impact that the existance of a higher being would have on your life.” And then, “I think your misguided and you think your an intellectual phenom, but your not,” and “your clearly unopen to the reality that there may be a god or a higher being.” Please stop trying to tell me why I do or don’t believe. I already know why I don’t believe in God, and I’ve already (briefly) explained my reasoning. I don’t even care to dignify this by giving an answer. But regardless of what I believe or why I believe it, my arguments still stand, since you have not dealt with them at all. Did Jesus really fulfill the prophecies in the Old Testament or not? Regardless of whether I’m right or wrong, the claims I made still stand unless you actually challenge them with counter-arguments.

#### Ted

Frank, most of your argument consists of ad hominem insults and random incomprehensible statements – I have to ask, is your first language English?

First off, there is more evidence that Julius Caesar existed than that Jesus existed. There are eyewitness accounts written of Caesar, multiple historians’ accounts, and then there is the actual evidence of his accomplishments, (and the multiple documents written in his distinct flavor of Latin) – like, you know, conquering Gaul, and the end of the Roman Republic following his assassination. There are no eyewitness accounts of Jesus that I know of — at least not in the Bible, and where else would they be? — and as for actual evidence…heh. Many historians documented Caesar’s life after his death, and they were not all exactly favorable – but all we have for Jesus is the gospels, upon which details have been, err, “reconstructed”.

I’m not sure where you’re going with this brain thing, but I think you should know by now that the human brain exists because it’s formed during birth. As for the organ itself, it evolved over millions of years from more primitive brains, of which we see examples in many contemporary creatures.

But I’m fairly certain that that isn’t what you were trying to get at – you were going for the ‘everything must have a creator’ argument – so, I’d like to ask you, what created God?

I have one more question for you – you said before that you were not a Christian. So, what do you believe? Why do you hold those beliefs over Christianity (i.e., what makes you right and them wrong?) ?

Anyway, Frank, do you think we could please avoid the insults and patronizing? In your recent post, there were no less than 14 insults or patronizing statements, and about 12 in the one before that. How about we just focus on the discussion? I know this is a personal topic for many and it’s easy to get caught up, but honestly, I’m tired of reading that stuff every time I discuss this topic – if you think I’m misguided, prove it, don’t just tell me it. You’d better believe I could fill a few pages up with insults, but I’m not going to 😛

#### Gandy

Frank Said…“Now, as someone that does not have a “religious preference” I must help and try to be objective as a I read your posts. But then again my “non-religious preference” I guess would be a religion as it is a set of beliefs, or a least an idea that controls my actions.”

Frank what kind of Gibberish is this ?

1.First you say you are ..“someone that does not have a “religious preference”

2.Next you say ..“But then again my “non-religious preference” I guess would be a religion as it is a set of beliefs, or a least an idea that controls my actions.”

Just in that one remark you contradicting yourself Frank.

And as others have already noted and stated ..”most of your argument consists of ad hominem insults and random incomprehensible statements ”

You accuse Jeff ..”In fact, there are many issues with your posts, that well just scream out – bullshit!”

But you fail to show any good reasons why?

All you are doing is saying Jeffs wrong and Franks right.

All your arguments are greatly lacking! in the “evidence” , “logic” and “reasoning” departments Frank

#### Gandy

Frank : “In my opinion, when you start using your brain like you are in these posts, something happens, where you begin to “think” that you are bigger then the higher-’unknown’-being. Somewhere, you have to ask yourself the question, why am I able to think? There has to be something or someone, empowering you to use your brain. Would you agree?

You got the “There has to be something” bit right Frank.

That “something” is called a Neuron http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuron

Thats why you are able to “think” Frank

These neurons send electrical and chemical signals inside the human brain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_brain

Check it out Frank.Do some reading.

#### JB

Isaiah 7:14
Does the word “almah” mean virgin? Well, Jeff you are right that it means, “young woman” or “maiden” but it can also mean “virgin.” In the Hebrew context when making reference to a young woman, you were implying they were unmarried and therefore in the Hebrew culture it was assumed they were still a virgin. Also, the word “almah” when referring to “young woman” is referring to the a girl who has just hit it puberty, so we are talking a very young woman, and therefore, the likelihood of her still being a virgin is very likely.
Now the word “Almah” is used within the Hebrew Scriptures six other times. (Gen. 24:43, Ex. 2:8, Ps. 68:25, Proverbs 30:19, S of S 1:3, 6:8). In each scenario, you cannot conclude that the word is referring to virgin, but you also cannot deny the word meaning virgin either.
Now, when Hebrew Scholars and Jewish rabbis began translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, in the 3rd century B.C. they translated the Hebrew word “almah” to the Greek word “Parthenos,” which definitely means virgin.
The translators, having no recollection of a virgin birth, or belief in a virgin birth, translated the word “Almah” in Isaiah 7:14 to be virgin. Therefore, the likelihood of the word “almah” in Isaiah 7:14 meaning virgin is highly likely.
Now to the actual meaning of the passage: Jeff the first thing you must know is that with most Old Testament prophecy there is a double meaning, or double prophecy. Yes, Isaiah most likely was referring to King Ahaz, but just because it referred to King Ahaz in the present, does not mean it is not a prophecy concerning the coming of the Messiah.
For more readings look at here.

#### Jeff

Hi JB,

Thanks for the comment! I’m glad someone actually tried to take the time to argue against the claims in my article, rather than just resorting to speculation about my motivations.

You’re certainly right that the implications of “young woman” or “maiden” in ancient Hebrew culture likely include that she is also a virgin. But at the same time, “ha-almah” does not specifically make reference to the virginity of the woman. So my argument is not that the two are impossible to reconcile, but rather that if Isaiah had been specifically wanting to point out the miraculousness of a virgin giving birth, then he had a better word at his disposal. That the Jewish rabbis later on translated it into “parthenos” really has little relevance to the original meaning of Isaiah’s statement. Words change over time, but what we want is to get back as closely as possible to the original meaning of the author, not the meaning of the translators 400 or 500 years later. Regardless, my point that the passage still does not refer to Jesus is untouched by this, regardless of whether Isaiah meant “young woman” or specifically “virgin”.

As regards your statement that “with most Old Testament prophecy there is a double meaning, or double prophecy”, I completely reject it as a Christian anachronism. I don’t see any reason to suggest multiple meanings other than that Christians later took some passages and reinterpreted it to create a second meaning. I take it as plainly obvious that when Isaiah addresses King Ahaz, he is giving King Ahaz a prophecy. That Christians have later come along and “found” some other meaning to it does not make it a double prophecy. It just means that the passages were vague enough to allow Christians to distort and twist them to fit Jesus.

I challenge you to find any mention by the Old Testament prophets that it was intended to have some sort of “double meaning”. What you find instead is that Christian theologians and pastors just say, “Well, these prophecies must have a double fulfillment, because…well, because we found a second one!” That’s not good scholarship, just willful gullibility.

#### JB

Jeff, now to Micah 5:2. Read this essay

For the sake of my time, I will highlight the main areas.

You said this, “This prophecy from Micah is used to show that the Messiah was supposed to come from the town of Bethlehem. However, the passage here is most likely not talking about the town of Bethlehem, but the person named Bethlehem.”

The main idea, of the essay above, is that in “society of Israel at the time in which this prophecy was written, to speak of a clan and to speak of a geographical location, would be to speak of the same thing.”
Now you also said this: “Moreover, Jesus never “ruled in Israel”, so it seems the prophecy wouldn’t fit him anyway.” I have copied, the link of above. It rebuts your argument pretty well.

“This objection comes from a partial understanding of what the Hebrew scriptures say about the Messiah. Over the centuries, it became the tendency in later Judaism to focus on the triumphal aspects of the Messiah, which is understandable given the suffering of the Jewish people during their dispersion among the nations. Of course, it is also the natural tendency on the part of anybody to want to focus on triumph and victory instead of suffering or sorrow, and later Judaism’s concentration on the “this-worldly” understanding of the Messiah reflects this. Yet, we need to understand that Hebrew scriptures themselves point out that the Messiah would fulfill BOTH roles – that of a suffering servant who bears the sins of His people, and a triumphant ruler who will exercise authority over the nations and who will rule His people Israel. The Messiah indeed does have a dual-role assigned to Him in the Hebrew scriptures, and this fact, in addition to playing a rather key role in Christian theology about Jesus, was ALSO well-understood by many of the Jewish theologians and Rabbis, both before and after the time of Christ.

Some will decry the claim of a dual role for the Messiah, and usually claim that it is some sort of Christian trick to work Jesus into the role of Messiah, the fact yet remains that both aspects are clearly presented in the Tanakh, both apply to the Messiah, and both have been understood by many Jewish commentators, both before and after the advent of Christianity, often in ways similar to how Christians have interpreted the scriptures about the Messiah.
The Messiah was understood in Rabbinical Judaism to be one who would come to suffer for His people. For example, in the Babylonian Talmud, Zechariah 12:10 is applied Messianically to the slaying of Messiah ben Joseph, which is the cause of the mourning seen in v. 12. Isaiah 53, a very contentious passage between Jews and Christians, was also widely understood to be referring to the Messiah – the interpretation of the Suffering Servant as Israel herself being a minority interpretation until modern times. The Messiah was understood as a sufferer in Isaiah 53, indeed the Messianic name “Leprous” comes about because of Talmudic application of this passage (cf v. 4, describing the Messiah as bearing his people’s sicknesses). In the Midrash on Samuel, the Messiah is also pointed to as a bearer of these sufferings. Yet, though the Messiah was understood as a sufferer, He has also been understood as ruling and reigning, via verse 10.

Yet, the Messiah was also understood triumphantly by the Rabbis. The passages relating to the Son in Psalm 2 were understood to be Messianic, and to describe His future accession to power and rulership. The Genesis Rabbah applies Psalm 2:8 to the Messiah in the role of asking for the rulership from God11. A similar theme, expounded more fully, also appears in the Midrash on Psalms, where the Rabbis take vv. 7-8, apply them to the creation of the Messiah on the day of redemption who will both suffer and yet triumph for the redemption of His people. Isaiah 63 was understood Messianically, as in the Pirqe of Eliezer, where the Messiah is said to come “to the land” after having seen the destruction of the Gentile opponents of God and His people.”

I guess, Jeff, this all comes down to interpretation. How do you view the Messiah? I guess if you wanted you could say that the Messiah was suppose to rule and defeat the Romans with an iron fist. However, if we were to look at Scripture that idea of the Messiah is false. Jesus, the Messiah, took the role of a servant.
All in all, Micah 5:2 is very, very much a messianic prophecy.

Jeff, I hope you’ll be objective as you study and research this more.

Cheers.

#### Jeff

With regard to Micah 5:2, I’ll concede the point about Bethlehem being a person instead of a city for the sake of argument. I’m not an expert in Hebrew, so I don’t want to push the point too far.

But regardless of that, the prophecy still doesn’t apply to Jesus. He never ruled in Israel, and no amount of reference to other verses changes that. I’m not denying that this is a Messianic prophecy, but Jesus just doesn’t fit it. He didn’t “rule over Israel”, he didn’t bring Israel to the point where they would “live secure”, and he definitely didn’t bring “peace”. Heck, the passage mentions the Assyrians, which were conquered by the time Jesus came around. I know that Christians love to say that “Assyria” and “Babylon” all have metaphorical interpretations, but once again, there is no indication in the passage itself that this is supposed to be interpreted this way. It is only by twisting and distorting it to say “well this really means that” and “well this also refers to this” that you can make it into a prophecy that Jesus fulfills.

And referring me to other passages about the “suffering Messiah”, which I equally do not consider to be Messianic, I don’t think is very effective. Certainly Jewish tradition was not at all unified about the nature of the Messiah, but it is clear that a significant portion of them believed that the Messiah was going to be a triumphant conqueror. If Jesus did not do this, then even if there was some “other role” for the Messiah as well, he seems to have only completed half the job. That’s not much of a Messiah.

Anyway, thank you once again for your comments, JB. I appreciate you coming by and look forward to hearing your own responses to what I’ve said.

#### JB

Sorry about the link in the above rebuttal.

Respond to those and then I’ll do the other ones.

Happy New Years all.

#### Frank

Gandy, you wanted me to read your link.

I agree with all that about neurons. But where did the first neuron come from that transmitted information?

For the brain to evolve, the first neuron had to exist? Therefore, where did it come from?

If you can answer that question, I’ll jump ship.

#### Jeff

Frank, I wasn’t aware that explaining brain function required you to explain the ultimate origin of all its parts. I can explain what a machine does without knowing where each part was manufactured.

The simple answer, of course, is that neurons come from undifferentiated cells called stem cells. These cells are the first cells that develop after conception, and they eventually branch off and differentiate to become each type of cell needed – blood cells, skin cells, liver cells, and yes, neurons as well. But of course, I know your next question is, “Well where did those stem cells come from?” And then, “Well where did that precursor come from?” And we can go back and back and back until the question is, “Well where did the universe come from?” But the answer to all these questions–even if we have no answer–does not automatically become “God”. Because then, the next obvious question becomes, “Well where did God come from?” And if you say that he just is and has no origin, then I’ll suggest we save a step and say that the universe just is and has no origin.

So I want to know why you think that if we have no explanation, that therefore God must be the right answer. There’s no reason to jump to that answer just because of a lack of some other answer (although the scientific answer is that evolution produced neurons, etc.). What we need is an answer with evidence to support it, not a convenient catch-all like “God did it.”

#### Frank

Jeff,

You said ” I can explain what a machine does without knowing where each part was manufactured.” Yes that is true, you can do that, but you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that every part of the machine was created by someone. None of the machine evolved. You may not where it was created, or how it was created, but you do know that it was created.

You said “Because then, the next obvious question becomes, “Well where did God come from?” And if you say that he just is and has no origin, then I’ll suggest we save a step and say that the universe just is and has no origin.”

Here is an idea: Let’s pretend that before beginning of the universe, there was no physical universe, no matter, nothing, everything that we know to be matter did not exist. Also, the dimension of “time” did not exist either, there was no beginning or no end, everything just was. Following me?

Now, if this is the case, it is possible in theory, that something could exist outside of the element of time. Because the element of time, has a beginning and an end, therefore, take away time, there is neither a beginning or an end.

With that in mind, God could have existed, without a beginning and without an end. Therefore, when (in the Bible) the author refers to the creation of the world, we also have to assume that not only was matter created, but the element of time was also created.

If you believe that the universe was some how created out of some matter, that just happened to exist, you have to ask yourself how did that matter get there, there has to be a creator. It goes against scientific law, to suggest that something could exist without a creator.

What takes more faith? Believing some gas and randomness created the complexity of the universe, or that someone outside of the universe created the universe?

Scientific law, would suggest that everything in the element of time, has a creator. You cannot disprove that.

Anyways, just a thought Jeff.

#### Jeff

Frank,

Yes that is true, you can do that, but you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that every part of the machine was created by someone. None of the machine evolved. You may not where it was created, or how it was created, but you do know that it was created.

Well, while that is true, I also know that none of the machine parts are living organisms that can self-reproduce and that slowly accumulate reproduction errors over time. So therefore, I wouldn’t expect the machine parts to evolve, whereas I can’t say the same for actual living organisms.

Now, if this is the case, it is possible in theory, that something could exist outside of the element of time. Because the element of time, has a beginning and an end, therefore, take away time, there is neither a beginning or an end.

I am not so sure this is true. I don’t know what it means to “exist outside of time”. How does a being exist, in any meaningful sense, without time? For instance, you say that God created the universe. But creation is an act, and acts require time: You need a time before the act occurs, a time while the act is occurring, and a time after the act is completed. How else could one act? To say that a being can exist without time implies that this being cannot act. And a being which cannot act seems like more of an inanimate object rather than a being.

I will admit that it is a strange notion to think about matter appearing out of nowhere (if that’s what in fact happened…the other alternative is that it was always there), and to think about time starting. “What was before time?” is a non-sensical question, because “before” is a time-based word. And to just claim that in order for matter to get there, there has to be a creator simply avoids the question. It’s a non-answer. Why does matter have to have a creator? And why doesn’t the creator himself need a creator? And how the hell does a being that exists with absolutely no concept of time create anything? The answer to “How did the universe get here?” that you provide, that “there just has to be a creator”, simply hides the much more honest answer which you and I should both state: “I don’t know.” I don’t think anyone truly knows how the universe got here. It’s just that some of us are honest enough to admit it, and others make up answers that are more comforting and convenient, even if they make no logical sense.

I’m not trying to say that you’re an idiot, so please don’t interpret me that way. I’m just saying that the popular answer really doesn’t work.

#### Gandy

Hey Frank im glad i never offended you and really happy you had a look at that link.Frank i think you`ll find Jeff is an extremely fair person, as he has shown when dicussing matters with JB , where he showed he is even willing to concede matters and give peoples thoughts the benifit of doubt.

Im no expert on brains ,infact im no expert on anything much.Thankfully Jeff has jumped in and explained things a little more .

But i think maybe i understand where your line of questioning might be coming from .How did our brains and ability to think evolve .I find this an interesting thought too.

Jeff explained why do we feel such a need to jump to the conclusion that the God did it.And i cant help agreeing why do we? .

It seems so hard to think thought processes could have evolved over mega amounts of years?.Im not so sure this is impossible even if it might seem crazy …It seems crazy to us maybe because we are like a blip on the radar ,compared to the lenght of time this planet has most likely existed ..Just a blip

But back to this thing about how things might be able to slowly evolve until they get into a situation whereby they might suddenly start to make rudimentary type decisions.

Jeff what do you think about viruses and bugs and suchlike that seem to suddenly change and gain new charactors .Like bugs that become immune to antibiotics and stuff , or deseases that seem to suddenly “learn” how to “adapt” and “jump” to being able to infect new species..What do you think Jeff could this be classed as a kind of rudimentary form of decision making.

Im way out of my depth here ,so if it sounds like a kinda dumb suggestion.Dont let it stress anyone.Im thinking off the cuff here.

#### Jeff

Gandy, I totally sympathize with the difficulty in understanding where consciousness and decision-making comes from. It’s an amazing system that we have, and it’s hard to even imagine it coming from simpler processes. But then we can look at apes, who show emotions, creativity, problem-solving, social systems, rituals, etc. We can go further back to other mammals that show some of these skills, but to a lesser degree (think about dogs or dolphins showing emotions, for example), and on we go. When you take a look at the animals with simpler versions of the same processes, I think it becomes easier to see the gradual development of them throughout the evolutionary tree.

However, when you talk about viruses and bacteria “learning”, that’s a very, very different process. These are single-celled organisms (well, viruses aren’t even really “cells”), so they do not have brains or even the processes that neurons have. What we do have here, though, is an excellent display of evolution in action. When you take a random sample of, say, ten million bacteria, chances are that random mutations in their DNA have made some more resistant to a certain antibiotic. When you then introduce that antibiotic to this population, the resistant ones are clearly more likely to survive and reproduce, and so over time, the weak ones are killed off and the strong ones survive, so that now the population is entirely resistant to that antibiotic. This isn’t “learning”, but rather survival of the fittest. And the reason we have a different flu shot every year is precisely because the flu virus keeps evolving to combat our attempts to kill it off.

It’s a similar process with “jumping” to infect new species. Natural variation in a certain virus will make some more able to infect humans, so if it comes in contact with a human, the population can evolve to become able to infect humans on a broader scale. This shows evidence for evolution on two levels. First, the evolution of the virus itself. But second, one would only reasonably expect that a virus that can infect, say, cows or chimpanzees, could “jump” to humans if cows and chimpanzees were closely related to humans. That’s why we are much more likely to get diseases jumping from cows (mad cow disease) or chimpanzees (HIV) than we are to get them from, say, lizards or fish. More distant jumps can occur (like avian flu from birds, for example), but they are much more rare.

I feel like I’ve answered your question with way too much information, but at any rate, there you go. When we’re talking about precursors to human thinking, we need to look at closer relatives like mammals, instead of going way back to viruses and bacteria. At the very least, we need to look at multi-cellular organisms, since these have the ability to combine cells with different functions – one of the requirements of having a brain/nervous system. If you really want to get into the development of the nervous system, probably the best place to start is to look at sponges (with no nervous system) and jellyfish (with a decentralized nervous system and no brain), and then roundworms (with a very simple set of “ganglia”, a precursor to the brain). See here for more info. To get to human brains from there, there are some improvements in neurons (myelination, organization), but the biggest factor is essentially just multiplying the number of neurons by about 10 billion or so. More connections between neurons = higher brain power.

#### Gandy

Thanks Jeff.

Yeah i understand the word “learning” was the wrong word to use.And i understand apes and whatnot are closer to our thought processes.

But what i was trying to get at is when you said …”This isn’t “learning”, but rather survival of the fittest”

I was originally thinking couldnt the action “survival of the fittest” be considdered almost like a very early form of learning evolving ? .And thats why i had mentioned these bugs and deseases what that evolve .

I realise its nowhere near being a “thought process” as such ,its just a matter of “survival of the fittest” . But i was wondering could this thoughtless action of “survival of the fittest” be one of the earlies steps of thought processes evolving.

I could be totally way off course.

But im trying to figure out what Frank mentions.

Frank asked…”For the brain to evolve, the first neuron had to exist? Therefore, where did it come from?”

Couldnt it start from this mere action of “survival of the fittest” and then over “mega time” very slowly evolve until it becomes like the earliest form of an extremely rudimentary thought process

Once again im thinking right off the cuff here and merely guessing.

#### Jeff

Well, that’s a good hypothesis, but the difficulty with it is that individual neurons, by themselves, don’t “learn”. It’s only by the changes in the connections between neurons that brains learn new things. Not to mention that survival of the fittest works on organisms, whereas learning is a process for parts of organisms (in other words, the brain isn’t an independent organism, but rather part of an organism). What would be more helpful I think would be to view learning as a strategy that is likely adaptive for most organisms. The ability to react to one’s environment and learn causes and effects is going to aid the survival of pretty much any organism. In essence, learning can be a way to become more “fit” and thus survive. So the two aren’t completely unrelated, but survival of the fittest encompasses much more than just learning.

If you want to get into the origins of learning, something which didn’t cross my mind earlier would be classical conditioning. You may have heard of Pavlov’s experiments with teaching dogs to salivate at the ring of a bell. But such techniques can be used on organisms at least as simple as sea slugs. Classical conditioning is simple cause-and-effect learning. Once you get into more complex organisms, operant conditioning also can take place–where an organism can learn to change their strategies based on past success or failure. These are the building blocks of how we learn as humans (though we have a few more options as well), and these stretch back as far as invertebrates. So if you want to look for the simple processes that make up learning, that’s your best bet for where it all began.

Anyway, I’ve decided that one of my future posts is going to be on the development and function of the brain. Since I’m in psychology, it’s of interest to me, and I think it is a topic that might interest a number of others as well. So perhaps I can go into more detail then.

#### Gandy

Jeff said ….”Anyway, I’ve decided that one of my future posts is going to be on the development and function of the brain. Since I’m in psychology, it’s of interest to me, and I think it is a topic that might interest a number of others as well. So perhaps I can go into more detail then.”

Yeah please do.

#### Darin

The argument–based on sculpture–that Caesar is a more realistic historical figure than Jesus is preposterous. We have many statues of Zeus. Does that indicate the existence of the Greek and Roman pantheon? Furthermore, the attack on Messianic prophecies is not new. It comes from the perspective as old as the Jews of Jesus day who believed that the prophecies indicated the coming of an earthly kingdom and a ruler who would defeat the human enemies of the nation of Israel. Prophecy often refers simultaneously to two things: see, for example, Jesus apocalyptic reference to the destruction of Israel by the Romans which he combines with images of the final judgment. Prophecy often has small fulfillment in types (Jonah, for example), as shadows of the ultimate prophetic reference. Christ did defeat the enemy (the ultimate Enemy of Satan). Furthermore, a woman bearing a child as a sign to contemporaries of the prophe would hardly be a sign of anything since, presumable, the royal family was full of pregnant women soon to have children. The prophecy is that a “young woman” (which, incidentally, has been convincingly demonstrated to be “virgin” by scholars of Hebrew and Greek who have studied the languages and the earliest manuscripts extensively) would be with child is hardly indicative of the divine, and whatever the denotation of the word, the connotation is that the pregnancy of this young woman would be a sign–obviously a young woman who bore a child under unimaginable circumstance. The circumstance unimaginable is a virgin birth, not the natural birth from a young woman who simply bore a child either from her husband or from a secret lover out of wedlock. The last two are preposterous as prophecy. Finally, if the author believes that the words are prophetic at all, isn’t that an acknowledgment of divine interaction with man. If so, why could not a prophecy be communicated concerning things far into the future? Men who deny the divine nature of Scripture do so to assuage a sinful conscience in order to avoid that thought of facing a righteous God before whom they will one day stand in judgment. They will pray for the mountains to hide them, but to no avail. Now is the day of salvation. Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.

#### Jeff

The argument–based on sculpture–that Caesar is a more realistic historical figure than Jesus is preposterous. We have many statues of Zeus. Does that indicate the existence of the Greek and Roman pantheon?

Of course not. The argument is not just based on sculpture—like I said, we have Caesar’s own writings, unlike Jesus who never wrote a single thing down.

Prophecy often refers simultaneously to two things…

See, the problem with this is that there is never any indication in Scripture itself that these prophecies are intended to have two meanings (I’ll get to your example in a second). The reason Christians say that prophecies have two meanings is because otherwise Jesus really wouldn’t fulfill any prophecies at all. He certainly doesn’t fulfill most of the Messianic prophecies that Jewish tradition had firmly established as “Messianic” before Jesus even arrived on the scene—most of those are about a ruler and conqueror, so Christians push that off to say that Jesus will fulfill those on his second coming. In the meantime, let’s reinvent some Bible stories and claim (with no basis) that they were meant to have a second meaning.

see, for example, Jesus apocalyptic reference to the destruction of Israel by the Romans which he combines with images of the final judgment.

That’s one way to interpret it. The much simpler way is that Jesus believed that the destruction of Jerusalem would be itself a part of the final days. It’s not “combining” two prophecies, it’s just all one prophecy that you’re artificially breaking apart into two sections (primarily because the destruction of Jerusalem did not in fact bring about the end times). It’s a nice little way of pretending that Jesus didn’t just get it wrong.

Furthermore, a woman bearing a child as a sign to contemporaries of the prophe would hardly be a sign of anything since, presumable, the royal family was full of pregnant women soon to have children.

Well, I never said it was a good prophecy…but the point is kinda that we don’t really know what he meant. It’s just that the most straightforward interpretation of it is that he was talking about a woman who was living at the time. Even if these prophecies have “two meanings”, as you say, you’re still admitting that he must have been referring to someone living at the time as well. Interesting that you’d be willing to admit that Mary was actually the second virgin birth, not the first…

Finally, if the author believes that the words are prophetic at all, isn’t that an acknowledgment of divine interaction with man.

Prophecy, in its most basic sense, is prediction. It doesn’t need to have divine origin.

Men who deny the divine nature of Scripture do so to assuage a sinful conscience in order to avoid that thought of facing a righteous God before whom they will one day stand in judgment.

Ahh, here we go. Well, let me just say this then: Men who deny even the possibility that someone could have a more reasonable interpretation of their “divine scripture” do so to assuage the notion that their treasured beliefs could possibly be wrong. It’s defensive motivated reasoning at its finest. Someone who is truly interested in the truth, on the other hand, is able to hold their beliefs tentatively, open to the possibility that they could one day be proven wrong.

Listen, I don’t mind hearing your viewpoint on what these prophecies mean, but let’s not resort to saying that I’m just doing this because I’m trying to avoid facing judgment. Even if that were the case, it’s still an ad hominem—let’s focus on the arguments, not the motivations.