Statistical Probabilities



Although we are currently studying the Gospel of Mark on Sunday morning, we also remember (and often refer to) the other Gospel writers and the additional lessons they provide about the Savior. Consider Matthew. One of Matthew’s favorite lessons is to remind us that Jesus did things in fulfillment of God’s Old Testament prophecies. As we study the New Testament we continue to see the fulfillment of God’s plan laid down in the beginning and slowly unraveled throughout the Old Testament. But one obvious question comes to mind, “Are we sure that Jesus is really the one?” After all, even John the Baptist raised the same question (Matthew 11:3).


The answer comes from the field of study known as Christian evidences and, like the proof for any good case, is found in an abundance of proofs that certify Christ as the promised one of God. The apostles themselves point throughout the New Testament to two proofs that Jesus was the Messiah. One is the resurrection and the other is the fulfillment of messianic prophecy.


The Old Testament contains hundreds of references to the coming Messiah, all of which were written more than three centuries (and in some cases over 1,000 years) before His birth. Included in these are about 100 major, detailed prophecies relating such things as His place of birth (Micah 5:2), time of birth (Daniel 9:25; Genesis 49:10), manner of birth (Isaiah 7:14), betrayal, manner of death, the people’s reactions, His piercing and burial. Now what are the chances that such predictions totally beyond the human control of Jesus could accidentally come true?


Josh McDowell in his book Evidence That Demands A Verdict quotes a study of the probabilities published by Peter Stoner in Science Speaks to answer this very question. “…We find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled [these] eight prophecies is 1 in 1017.” That is just 1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000.


To help us understand what this really means, Stoner illustrates it by supposing “we take 1017 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of those 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, from their day to the present time, providing they wrote them in their own wisdom.”


Just in case you are wondering, Stoner also considered the chances of 48 prophecies being fulfilled in any one man. The chances of that happening are just 1 in 10157 (to see the number you write 1 followed by 157 zeroes. And one scholar lists 127 direct prophecies fulfilled in the life of Jesus. What we end up with is less than 1 chance in 10300 that the prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus by chance!


Seeing that the Bible is right about all these things, what sort of people should we be and what kind of life should we be living?


And this is the God we have to share with other folks in our community! Will you invite someone to come with you and learn more about God and His work? Why not begin right now, this very day, to share the Good News!