Friday, December 17, 2010

Prove a Prophet

We are halfway through Deuteronomy, where now Moses is repeating most of God's Law, as well as appending to it. After reminding the Israelites to participate in holidays in Deuteronomy 16, God provides rules for Israelite kings in Deuteronomy 17; a kingship which He will later consider to be sinfully requested. Deuteronomy 18 begins by defining the Levites' share in the offerings to God, their permanent role as God's ministers, and their freedom to live anywhere in the nation, and then provides a warning against divination, witchcraft, and consultation with the dead. What follows next is perhaps one of the most important Old Testament passages in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Prove a Prophet
When reading the Bible, there are times when a slight change in interpretation of a single word make a huge difference in the overall meaning. For someone trying to parse out the truth, this is an incredibly dangerous pitfall, especially if you already have an idea you are trying to support. Remaining true to the full context is often your only hope for accuracy. In the passage we examine in this study, we will see how Christianity and Islam both change the interpretation of words and ignore the context to promote their own agendas.

Deuteronomy 18:14-22 has Moses describe how God will send a prophet to guide the Israelites. In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses says:
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like [Moses] from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” NIV
First, we will consider the misinterpretation specific to Islam. The claim is that this verse refers to Muhammad, because they say the reference “from among your brothers” refers to the Ishmaelites (Genesis 16) instead of the Israelites, because Muhammad lived and died as a mortal man like Moses, and because an angel of God told Muhammad what to say (Deuteronomy 18:18).

The problem is that the context of “brothers” in the extended sense beyond immediate family is the same as it has been used throughout the Torah since the Exodus, and that is referring to the limited kindred of the Israelites specifically (Leviticus 21:10, Numbers 8:26, Numbers 20:3, Deuteronomy 33:9, Deuteronomy 33:16, Deuteronomy 33:24). So, from a single misinterpretation, the entire foundation of the Islamic faith is seriously challenged.

Yet even a step before figuring out what “brothers” really means, we find a misinterpretation which both Islam and Christianity stumble on; the meaning of “a” prophet. Both Islam and Christianity interpret this “a” as referring to a singular person, but that is far from what the context would allow.

Preceding the first statement specifically about the prophet, we find this in Deuteronomy 18:14:
“The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so.” NIV
So other nations seek means of telling the future or gaining other guidance from occult resources, but God will not allow the Israelites to do that. The implication is that these other nations seek this guidance on a regular basis, or at least whenever troubles or great uncertainties arise, which is going to be often throughout life.

By contrast, what God says in the next verse is that He will provide a prophet to the Israelites, with the implication being that such a prophet would provide this often needed prophesy and guidance. As Deuteronomy 18:18 later makes clear, this prophesy and guidance would be coming directly from God, being voiced through the prophets.

These verses suggest that a string of prophets will be provided throughout different generations, as opposed to there being only one prophet in the future. Coincidentally enough, that is exactly what we see in the continuation of the Old Testament. There were several prophets and other leaders who were not specifically known as prophets, but who had direct connection with the knowledge of the will of God as these verses depict.

Deuteronomy 18:18-19 claims that God will put words into the prophet's mouth, and that God will personally hold non-listeners accountable. It seems odd that God (the Father) would put words into God's (the Son's) mouth, but this is exactly what the Gospels claim. Oops, did I say “Gospels”? I meant only one Gospel; the rather-suspect Gospel of John records this curiosity on multiple accounts while the other three Gospels never mention it (John 8:28, John 12:49-50, John 14:10, John 14:24, John 17:8).

The chapter closes out with an interesting twist. In Deuteronomy 18:20-22 we find:
“But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death. You may say to yourselves, 'How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ?' If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” NIV
First, again note the use of “a” prophet denoting any particular prophet, not one single entity.

Next, we see how God calls for killing a prophet who speaks falsely, and the test of such a prophet is whether or not what the prophet says comes true. That implicitly means that the prophet will prophesy things which will occur during his lifetime. Otherwise, how could you kill a false prophet after he is already dead?

Therefore, this passage could not be referring to Jesus. Jesus' own prophesies referred to things after his death, such as the Temple destruction (Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2, Luke 21:5-6). Plus, there is the glaring fact that Jesus' prophesies about the Kingdom of God coming within one generation were dead wrong (such as Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27), which, per God's own instructions, certainly makes Jesus a false prophet worthy of death.

As we have seen, when you consider the entire context of a passage, its true meaning can come out. In this case, the truth irreparably damages the claims of both Islam and Christianity in the most fundamental aspect of all; confirmation of what is to be expected from God's prophet, or rather God's prophets, as it truly is intended. The claims of John 1:45, John 6:14, and Acts 3:17-22 disintegrate.


  1. I don't know any Islamist, but no wonder Christians hate to read the context. This is a great example of why, when one does read the whole bible Christianity cannot be seen but as a bunch of convenient lies.

    Great work, keep it up!

  2. Thanks for the kind words Carlos! What really baffles me is the few Christians who actually do read the Bible, yet somehow miss this kind of stuff. :-)