The power of failed prophecy.

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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DCHindley
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Re: The power of failed prophecy.

Post by DCHindley » Thu Sep 05, 2019 1:40 pm

Giuseppe wrote:
Sat Aug 31, 2019 3:55 am
Thanks for the info.

What do you think about the following aocaltyptic prophecy:

And one shall come again from heaven, a man Preeminent, whose hands on fruitful tree By far the noblest of the Hebrews stretched, Who at one time did make the sun stand still When he spoke with fair word and holy lips.

No longer vex thy soul within thy breast By reason of the sword, rich child of God, Flower longed for by him only, goodly light And noble branch, a scion much beloved, Pleasant Judea, city beautiful, Inspired by hymns

https://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/sib/sib07.htm

Is the text Christian? I don't think.
That quote is from R H Charles' Apocrypha & Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament volume 2, the work being his ET of the Sibylline Oracles book 5 section 256-259, plus a bit from a second oracle that followed.
(256) Then there shall come from the sky a certain exalted man,
(257) whose hands they nailed upon the fruitful tree,
(258) the noblest of the Hebrews, who shall one day cause the sun to stand still,
(259) when he cries with fair speech and pure lips.

The footnotes say:
256-9. A Christian interpolation.
257. MSS. 'whose hands he spread out', ... Fehr, ... renders ' whose hands the company of the Hebrews spread out '. Blass refers this line to Moses (Exod. xvii. 12). [RSV 12 But Moses' hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.]
258. In the MSS. the verb is in the past, ... Many commentators treat this as referring to Joshua [10:12-13], but manifestly the allusion is to St. Luke xxiii. 43, 44. [RSV: 43 And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." 44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. (personally, I do not think this is the "manifest," i.e., obvious, referent at all)]
FWIW, Craig Evans' electronic Greek text (from J. Geffcken (ed.), Die Oracula Sibyllina (GCS 8; Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1902) as:
256 εἷς δέ τις ἔσσεται αὖτις ἀπ᾽ αἰθέρος ἔξοχος ἀνήρ,
257 ὃς παλάμας ἥπλωσεν ἐπὶ ξύλου πολυκάρπου,
258 Ἑβραίων ὁ ἄριστος, ὃς ἠέλιόν ποτε στήσει
259 φωνήσας ῥήσει τε καλῇ καὶ χείλεσιν ἁγνοῖς.
which is very difficult to interpret and subject to many emendations by various scholars.

Per J J Collins' translation of this passage in Charlesworth's The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha
(256) There will again be one exceptional man from the sky
(257) (who stretched out his hands on the fruitful wood)e3
(258) the best of the Hebrews, who will one day cause the sun to stand,
(259) speaking with fair speech and holy lips
Per the footnotes:
e3. At least this verse is Christian.
A parallel is drawn to Lactantius Divine Institutions, bk 7.13:
ANF vol 7 wrote:the impious king [i.e., the AntiChrist], inflamed with anger, will come with
a great army, and bringing up all his forces, will surround all the mountain in which the
righteous shall be situated, that he may seize them. But they, when they shall see themselves
to be shut in on all sides and besieged, will call upon God with a loud voice, and implore
the aid of heaven; and God shall hear them, and send from heaven a great king to rescue
and free them, and destroy all the wicked
with fire and sword.
You can see clearly how this could relate to Joshua 10:12-13
12 Then spoke Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the men of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel, "Sun, stand thou still at Gibeon, and thou Moon in the valley of Aijalon." 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.
The rest of what you quoted is from the following unrelated oracle, which the footnotes say is about "The coming prosperity of Judaea and the plight of the ungodly."
Charles wrote:(260) Let thy spirit within thy breast no longer be vexed, thou blessed one,
(261) child of God, excellent in wealth, only longed-for blossom,
(262) pleasant light, august offshoot, longed-for branch,
(263) well-favoured Judaea, fair city, inspired in hymns.

(264) No longer shall the Greeks' unclean foot run riot in thy land,
(265) for they shall have within their breasts a mind that conforms to thy laws.
(266) But thy noble sons shall encircle thee with honour,
(267) and with holy music they shall attend thy table,
(268) with divers kinds of sacrifices and prayers to the honour of God.
(269) All those righteous men who from short-lived affliction have endured troubles,
(270) shall have a more ample and well-favoured rope of life.
(271) But the evil men who trim to the breeze a lawless tongue
(272) shall cease to speak one against another,
(273) and they shall hide themselves /until the world pass away/.
(274) And then shall come from the clouds a rain of flaming fire.
(275) No longer shall men gather in the blithe corn-blade from the earth.
(276) All shall remain unsown and unploughed, until mortal men take note of
(277) God, the Chief of all, the Immortal and Eternal,
(278) and no longer pay homage to mortal things,
(279) nor dogs and vultures, which Egypt has taught
(280) to reverence with vain mouths and foolish lips.
(281) But the holy land of the godly alone shall bear all these things.
(282) An ambrosial stream distilling honey and milk_shall flow from rock and fountain for all the righteous.
(284) For they fixed their hope on the one God, the Father who alone is excellent,
(285) and they held fast to great piety and faith.
You are reading a lot into this passage.

DCH

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Re: The power of failed prophecy.

Post by DCHindley » Thu Sep 05, 2019 4:50 pm

Ben,

You will find equally interesting changes in belief among Jehovah's Witnesses, and among Latter Day Saints for that matter.

Festinger had a model for how the modifications occur, namely his theory of Cognitive Dissonance.

His rules for how it worked are as follows:
Leon Festinger, _A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance_

A Assumptions:
1 Pairs of elements can exist in irrelevant, consonant, or dissonant relations.
2 Two cognitive elements are in an irrelevant relation if they have nothing to do with each one other. (e.g., your opinion about the relative value of precious metals for investment has nothing to do with your preference for tea or coffee)
3 Two cognitive elements are in a dissonant relation if, considering these two alone, the obverse of one element follows from the other. (e.g., you hear from an authoritative source that an automobile's gasoline engine can be made to run on water, and your knowledge that water does not burn)
4 Two cognitive elements are in a consonant relation if, considering these two alone, one element follows from the other. (e.g., knowing that eggshells must be broken to make use of eggs as food, and seeing eggshells in the kitchen before being presented with an omelet)

B Situations implying existence of cognitive dissonance:
1 Dissonance almost always exists after a decision has been made between two or more alternatives.
2 Dissonance almost always exists after an attempt has been made, by offering rewards or threatening punishment, to elicit overt behavior that is at variance with private opinion.
3 Forced or accidental exposure to new information may create cognitive elements that are dissonant with existing cognition.
4 The open expression of disagreement in a group leads to the existence of cognitive dissonance in the members.
5 Identical dissonance in a large number of people may be created when an event occurs which is so compelling that as to produce a uniform reaction from everyone.

C Two basic hypotheses about the magnitude of dissonance:
1 The magnitude of the dissonance or consonance which exists between two cognitive elements (i.e., "facts") will be a direct function of the importance of these two elements.
2 The total magnitude of dissonance which exists between two clusters of cognitive elements (i.e., opinions) is a function of the weighted proportion of all the relevant relations between the two clusters which are dissonant, each dissonant or consonant relation being weighted according to the importance of the elements involved in that relation.

D Operational implications of these hypotheses:
1 The magnitude of postdecision dissonance is an increasing function of the general importance of the decision and of the relative attractiveness of the unchosen alternatives.
2 The magnitude of postdecision dissonance *decreases* as the number of cognitive elements corresponding identically to characteristics of chosen and unchosen alternatives *increases*.
3 The magnitude of postdecision dissonance resulting from an attempt to elicit compliance is greatest if the promised reward or threatened punishment is either *just sufficient* to elicit the overt behavior or is *just barely not sufficient* to elicit it.
4 If forced compliance is elicited, the magnitude of the dissonance *decreases* as the magnitude of the reward or punishment *increases*.
5 If forced compliance fails to be elicited, the magnitude of the dissonance *increases* as the magnitude of the reward or punishment *increases*.
6 The magnitude of dissonance introduced by the expression of dissonance introduced by others *decreases* as the number of existing cognitive elements consonant with the opinion *increases*.
7 The magnitude of dissonance introduced by disagreements introduced from others *increases* with *increase* in the importance of the opinion to the person, in the relevance of the opinion to those voicing disagreement, and in the attractiveness of those voicing disagreement.
8 The greater the difference between the opinion of the person and the opinion of the one voicing disagreement, and, hence, the greater number of elements which are dissonant between the cognitive clusters corresponding to the two opinions, the greater will be the magnitude of dissonance.

E The central hypotheses of the theory:
1 The presence of dissonance gives rise to pressures to reduce that dissonance.
2 The strength of the pressure to reduce dissonance is a function of the magnitude of the existing dissonance.

F The major ways by which dissonance can be reduced:
1 By changing one or more of the elements involved in dissonant relations.
2 By adding new cognitive elements that are consonant with already existing cognition.
3 By decreasing the importance of the elements involved in the dissonant relations.

G Practical applications:
1 Postdecision dissonance may be reduced by increasing the attractiveness of the chosen alternative, decreasing the attractiveness of the unchosen alternatives, or both.
2 Postdecision dissonance may be reduced by perceiving some characteristics of the chosen and unchosen alternatives as identical.
3 Postdecision dissonance may be reduced by decreasing the importance of various aspects of the decision.
4 If forced compliance has been elicited, the dissonance may be reduced by changing private opinion to bring it into line with the overt behavior or by magnifying the amount of reward or punishment involved.
5 If forced compliance has been elicited, dissonance may be reduced by intensifying the original private opinion or by minimizing the (private opinion about the) reward of punishment involved.
6 The presence of dissonance leads to seeking new information which will provide cognition consonant with existing cognitive elements and to avoiding those sources of new information which would be likely to increase the existing dissonance.
7 When some of the cognitive elements involved in a dissonance are cognitions about one's own behavior, the dissonance can be reduced by changing the behavior, thus directly changing the cognitive elements.
8 Forced or accidental exposure to new information which tends to increase dissonance will frequently result in misinterpretation and misperception of the new information by the person thus exposed in an effort to avoid (the resulting) dissonance increase.
9 Dissonance introduced by disagreement expressed by other persons (with whom one associates) may be reduced by changing one's own opinion, by influencing the others (with whom one associates) to change their opinion, and rejecting (association with) those who disagree.
10 The existence of dissonance will lead to seeking out others who already agree with a cognition that one wants to establish or maintain, and will also lead to the initiation of communication and influence processes in an effort to obtain more social support.
11 Influence exerted on a person will be more effective in producing opinion change to the extent that the indicated change of opinion reduces dissonance for that person.
12 In situations where many persons in situations where many persons who associate with one another all suffer from identical dissonance, dissonance reduction by obtaining social support is very easy to accomplish.

H Effectiveness of attempts at dissonance reduction:
1 The effectiveness of efforts to reduce dissonance will depend upon the resistance to change of the cognitive elements involved in the dissonance and on the availability of information which will provide, or of other persons who will supply, new cognitive elements which will be consonant with existing cognition.
2 The major sources of resistance to change for a cognitive element are the responsiveness of such cognitive elements to "reality" and the extent to which an element exists in consonant relations with many other elements.
3 The maximum dissonance which can exist between two elements is equal to the resistance to change of the less resistant of the two elements. If the dissonance exceeds this magnitude, the less resistant cognitive element will be changed in order to reduce the dissonance.
That is a lot to digest, however. But dissonance caused by differences between assumptions and actuality drives the process along. In early Christianity, a human Jesus preaching the coming of the end days kingdom of God on earth with its anointed leader (not necessarily himself), with some folks hoping he would be that leader, is overturned by his arrest and execution.

His flock do not want to believe it, and rationalize (using principles much like Festinger's) that God's *real* plan is to resurrect Jesus *first* on the last day, around which will be gathered the living saints, plus other resurrected dead saints, and he will usher in the new age with the help of God's angels. Everyone is still thinking of an earthly kingdom of plenty, with diverse opinions regarding whether there will be a human attempt to establish it or an entirely angelic battle, maybe a little of both.

The Judean revolt starts 40 years later, and everyone is hoping this will be "it" and all sorts of factions arose - some choosing human action and some choosing angelic, with others still feeling the angels will come if humans start the revolution. What was at stake was a change of world regimes from Roman Empire to the Kingdom of God. The utter failure of the revolt, however, with the Roman destroying the temple with its sacrificial system entirely, caused dissonance once again.

This dissonance caused some elements of the original Jesus movement to swing away from a Judean kingdom on earth that would rule all, and Jesus is then rationalized into a divine savior figure here to save mankind from its inherent sin. It is Hegelian dialectics on steroids. Thesis (the original expectations), Antithesis (the influence of the surrounding cultures), and Synthesis (creation of modified expectations), with dissonance fueling the rationalization process that creates the Synthesis. This outcome (a savior cult) is what sticks and is easy to stomach for gentiles.

DCH

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Re: The power of failed prophecy.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Sep 05, 2019 5:55 pm

DCHindley wrote:
Thu Sep 05, 2019 4:50 pm
Ben,

You will find equally interesting changes in belief among Jehovah's Witnesses, and among Latter Day Saints for that matter.

Festinger had a model for how the modifications occur, namely his theory of Cognitive Dissonance.

His rules for how it worked are as follows:
....
That is a lot to digest, however. But dissonance caused by differences between assumptions and actuality drives the process along. In early Christianity, a human Jesus preaching the coming of the end days kingdom of God on earth with its anointed leader (not necessarily himself), with some folks hoping he would be that leader, is overturned by his arrest and execution.

His flock do not want to believe it, and rationalize (using principles much like Festinger's) that God's *real* plan is to resurrect Jesus *first* on the last day, around which will be gathered the living saints, plus other resurrected dead saints, and he will usher in the new age with the help of God's angels. Everyone is still thinking of an earthly kingdom of plenty, with diverse opinions regarding whether there will be a human attempt to establish it or an entirely angelic battle, maybe a little of both.

The Judean revolt starts 40 years later, and everyone is hoping this will be "it" and all sorts of factions arose - some choosing human action and some choosing angelic, with others still feeling the angels will come if humans start the revolution. What was at stake was a change of world regimes from Roman Empire to the Kingdom of God. The utter failure of the revolt, however, with the Roman destroying the temple with its sacrificial system entirely, caused dissonance once again.

This dissonance caused some elements of the original Jesus movement to swing away from a Judean kingdom on earth that would rule all, and Jesus is then rationalized into a divine savior figure here to save mankind from its inherent sin. It is Hegelian dialectics on steroids. Thesis (the original expectations), Antithesis (the influence of the surrounding cultures), and Synthesis (creation of modified expectations), with dissonance fueling the rationalization process that creates the Synthesis. This outcome (a savior cult) is what sticks and is easy to stomach for gentiles.
This is a great post, David.

I view the belief that the Messiah would be the first to be raised from the dead in the future as a quite possible node along the trajectory of early Christianity.
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Re: The power of failed prophecy.

Post by Kapyong » Thu Sep 05, 2019 6:38 pm

Gday Ben,
A little tyop in your 2nd paragraph - to for go :
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Aug 30, 2019 6:15 pm
The authors to on to briefly recount several historical examples...
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Re: The power of failed prophecy.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Sep 05, 2019 6:44 pm

Fixed. Thanks.
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Giuseppe
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Re: The power of failed prophecy.

Post by Giuseppe » Thu Sep 05, 2019 8:39 pm

DCHindley wrote:
Thu Sep 05, 2019 1:40 pm
,

(257) (who stretched out his hands on the fruitful wood)e3

Per the footnotes:
e3. At least this verse is Christian.
You are reading a lot into this passage.

DCH
have you given some evidence of the verse being Christian as opposed to his being a reference to Numbers 13?
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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Re: The power of failed prophecy.

Post by Giuseppe » Fri Sep 06, 2019 2:15 am

DCH:
His flock do not want to believe it, and rationalize (using principles much like Festinger's) that God's *real* plan is to resurrect Jesus *first* on the last day, around which will be gathered the living saints, plus other resurrected dead saints, and he will usher in the new age with the help of God's angels.
(my bold)

The idea that emerges is that the man Jesus was insignificant, and that the Christianity was born around him. If an embarrassing fact was necessary to gave origin to the entire process, why did they need to wait the death of a particular historical man to have it, especially when the defeat of a Theudas was decisively more embarrassing insofar it was more famous? Wasn't the mere delay of the kingdom already enough embarrassing per se and as such sufficient to make accept blindly the belief that the Messiah was already arrived but was killed?
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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Re: The power of failed prophecy.

Post by rakovsky » Fri Sep 13, 2019 10:13 pm

To address the OP:
The end of John 21 seems to deal with the issue - it says that there was a saying that Jesus would return in the life of John. So you could theorize that Jesus had said something like this, or that an apostle or the apostles took the resurrected Lord as saying this. Then in order to deal with this saying, John 21 interprets the saying to be a rhetorical question that was not a declaration that He would return in John's lifetime.

My research on the prophecies of the Messiah's resurrection: http://rakovskii.livejournal.com

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Re: The power of failed prophecy.

Post by neilgodfrey » Sat Sep 14, 2019 4:17 am

Do we have any evidence that such prophecies were extant prior to 70 CE? And when in the record do we find anyone paying particular attention to those prophecies? Not for some generations after the time the gospels were apparently written. Nothing before, nothing after.

The "generational prophecy" allowed for people of that same generation to die before the coming of the lord so death and failure over the years seems hardly to be a prompt for disillusionment of the kind being described. The same prophecy appears easily enough converted into a general statement that "we" who are alive could be applied to any generation at whatever time the Lord came. The vague "prophecy" in Josephus is well taken care of by Steve Mason in his latest work on the Jewish War. 70 weeks etc cannot be applied to 70 CE without benefit of hindsight.

Our extant evidence informs us that the prophecies were manufactured by the author of the Gospel of Mark (or some would say be a later redactor) -- that is, after the fall of Jerusalem.

The reason prophecies leading up to that event is surely evident. Such a major catastrophe "had" to have been divinely ordained and therefore divinely forewarned. It had to be given meaning, so scriptural justifications were naturally sought to explain it.

If it is asked why anyone would say a generation now passed would live to see those events when those events supposedly had not happened, the same question should be asked why any such pre-70 CE prophecy should be preserved in tact, without any qualifying redaction, by the authors of Mark and Matthew. "When Prophecy Fails" tells us that failed prophecies are rewritten, rationalized, -- not kept in tact to remain a source of embarrassment. Luke knew how to do such a rewrite but not Mark or Matthew.

If we think the author of the first gospels understood the nature of "Old Testament" prophecies then it follows (tautologically) that they knew stories of falling stars and signs in heaven were metaphors for the fall of nations. See Isaiah 13's depiction of the fall of Babylon.

I think it's fair to suggest that Isaiah 13 was another prophecy written after the fall of Babylon. In the same language we find parallel prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem -- with all the evidence indicating it was composed after that fall.

The coming of the Son of Man? Again we find in the OT passages that God comes down to earth in clouds and lightning (e.g. Psalm 18) but again we are reading either metaphor or a coming that is only known to the saints (e.g. David) -- and unknown as a descent of the deity by the rest of the world.

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus is made to prophecy that the high priest standing before him would see the coming of the Son of Man in power. Now that was written, without qualification, with no rationalization, after 70 CE. If we are to apply the principles of "When Prophecy Fails" to this prophecy we would expect a qualifying or explanatory addition of some kind to remove the embarrassment -- on our present literalist interpretations of the gospel.

The reasons for embarrassment were not extant before the prophecies were written and then written with some exculpatory statement (as per the Millerites/SDA's) but the evidence we have indicates that those prophecies were composed and written down after 70 CE.

That forces us to step back and take a rethink about the "conventional wisdom" with which many of us have approached Mark 13 and Matthew 24.

Ditto for John 21. I think we would be more consistent if we interpreted this passage in the same context with which the conversations with Mary at the tomb, Thomas at the collective meeting, Peter outrunning the "beloved disciple"... part of a later dialogue tackling different "Christian schools" that were rivals of each other.

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Re: The power of failed prophecy.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Sep 14, 2019 5:31 am

To address the OP:
The end of John 21 seems to deal with the issue - it says that there was a saying that Jesus would return in the life of John. So you could theorize that Jesus had said something like this, or that an apostle or the apostles took the resurrected Lord as saying this. Then in order to deal with this saying, John 21 interprets the saying to be a rhetorical question that was not a declaration that He would return in John's lifetime.
Yes, it is exactly this sort of reinterpretation of failed predictions that When Prophecy Fails addresses. Just as with the Millerites, the original prediction was reinterpreted in various ways after the deadline passed. When Prophecy Fails deals with the same phenomenon regarding a space cult, which Robert M. Price summarizes as follows:

Robert M. Price, Jesus Is Dead, page 61: Social psychologists Festinger, Riecken, and Schachter devoted their great book When Prophecy Fails to this question. It dealt with the plight of a UFO sect that predicted a space invasion on a certain date and had to face the embarrassment when it failed to materialize. They explained that their own zeal, though unheeded by the public, convinced the aliens to grant a reprieve — sure, that‘s the ticket!

One can see such "tickets" all over early Christianity when it comes to the generational prophecy, of which the saying about the Beloved Disciple is a specimen.
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