From SkepticFroum.com 4/5/2005: "There are at least 456 Old Testament prophetic references that pertain to a future person that ALL were fulfilled in the life of Jesus. Science and mathematics professor Dr. Peter Stoner, professor emeritus of science at Westmont College and Pasadena City College, estimated a reasonable probability that one man might have fulfilled just 8 of these 456 prophesies at one chance in 10 to the 28th power (10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000)."
Most web sites refer to a probability of 10 to the 17th power, but the 1963 version of Stoners book, Science Speaks, and the on-line version published by his son Donald Wayne Stoner uses 10 to the 28th.

In another calculation, Stoner used 48 prophecies and arrived at the extremely conservative estimate that the probability of 48 prophecies being fulfilled in one person is the incredible number 10157.
This work became widely known when it was mentioned by Josh McDowell in his "Evidence that Demands a Verdict."
Much of Stoners data seems to be taked from George T. B. Davis, Fulfilled Prophecies That Prove the Bible (1931).

McDowell doesn't give the calculations either. He quotes a part of the forward to Science Speaks, which says the book was reviewed by members and the executive committee of the American Scientific Affiliation, a group of Christian men and women in science. He doesn't tell you that 7 of the 8 probabilities are arbitrary estimates by students at Pasadena City College with no facts to back them up.

Following is a response to the data posted on SkepticForum by "Beleth":
He comes up with a probability of 1:10
Note 1: I think the truth is somewhere between 1:1028 and 1:10; Ed.
Note 2: Stoner's estimates are shown in [ ]
Stoner uses actual population estimates in his first calculation. The rest are based on arbitrary estimates from students in several years of a class on Christian evidences at Pasadena City College. Stoner revised some down to make them more conservative.

  1. Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; fulfilled in Matt. 2:1-7; John 7:42; Luke 2:47). [Population of Bethlem 7,150, divided by the population of the earth (2 Billion) = 1:2.8 x 105]
    Current estimates of the world population in 2350 BC at the Census Bureau is 27 Million.

    "Bethlehem Ephratah" in Micah 5:2 refers not to a town, but to a clan: the clan of Bethlehem, who was the son of Caleb's second wife, Ephrathah (1 Chr.2:18, 2:50-52, 4:4). Jesus did not fulfill this prophecy.

  2. Messiah is to be preceded by a Messenger (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; fulfilled in Matthew 3:1-3; 11:10; John 1:23; Luke 1:17).
    [1/1,000 (103)]

    Given that anyone bucking for Messiah position would know this passage already, the odds of this coming true are 1:1.

  3. Messiah is to enter Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9; fulfilled in Luke 35-37; Matthew 21:6-11).
    [1/100 (102)]

    It helps to read the entire prophecy:

    9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. 9:10 And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. 9:11 As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. 9:12 Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee; 9:13 When I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim, and raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and made thee as the sword of a mighty man.

    It is clear when taken as a whole that this is predicting a great military leader.

    Jesus did not fulfill this prophecy.

  4. Messiah is to be betrayed by a friend (Psalms 41:9; 55:12-14; fulfilled in Matthew 10:4; 26:49-50; John 13:21).
    [1/1,000 (103)]

    Who in their lifetime has never been betrayed by a friend? Odds of this happening 1:1.

  5. Messiah is to be sold for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12; fulfilled in Matthew 26:15; 27:3)
    [1/1,000 (103)]

    God's not talking about any Messiah in Zech 11:12. He is talking about the severance of a relationship. Zech 11 is talking about God-as-shepherd. He has two staves; he breaks one, asks for his severance package, and then breaks the other. The severance package he is given is the aforementioned 30 pieces of silver, which was slang for the times for a small amount of money; what we today might call "chicken feed".

    If this is truly a Messianic prophecy, we have to include what comes directly after; Zech 11:15 says that the next shepherd will be "foolish". 11:16 goes into some detail, actually: 11:16 For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces.

    So, yeah, that doesn't sound much like Peter or Paul to me.

  6. The money for which Messiah is sold is to be thrown "to the potter" in God's house (Zechariah 11:13; fulfilled in Matthew 27:5-7).
    [1/100,000 (105)]

    Simply didn't happen. Not according to the Bible at least. Money is thrown at the priests, and given to the potter (for his field). Still, I'll be generous and call it 10:1.

  7. Messiah is to be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7; fulfilled in Matthew 27:12).
    [1/1,000 (103)]

    Fulfilled because of pre-knowledge, as #3 was. Odds therefore 1:1.

  8. Messiah is to be executed by crucifixion as a thief (Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; Isaiah 53:5,12; fulfilled in Luke 23:33; John 20:25; Matthew 27:38; Mark 15:27,28).
    [1/10,000 (104)]

    I'd buy Ps 22:16 if the stuff in Ps 22:12-14 happened too. But they didn't. So not applicable.

My final odds tally is 10:1. How many people over the years have claimed to be the Messiah?
Books:
"Evidence that Demands a Verdict.", Josh McDowell
Science Speaks, 1963, Peter Stoner
Fulfilled Prophecies That Prove the Bible, (1931), George T. B. Davis

Links:
On-line Book: Science Speaks
Peter Stoner at wikipedia
SkepticFroum.com 4/5/2005
Critique of Josh McDowell's Non-Messianic Prophecies, Steven Carr, The Secular Web Library.
The Fabulous Prophecies of the Messiah, Jim Lippard (2004), The Secular Web Library.

Last updated 23 May 2008