What are the odds of Jesus being the Messiah? - 02/17/2009

I LOVE YOUR WEB SITE !!! AFTER SEEING ALL THE MESSIANIC PROPHECIES THAT JESUS FULFILLED, CAN ANYONE COME UP WITH THE ODDS OF HIM DOING THAT? ONE PERSON FULFILLING EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT MESSIANIC PROPHECIES, IS THERE EVEN A NUMBER THAT HIGH? I LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT THOSE THINGS. KEEP UP THE GOD WORK. BOB




CONTENDER MINISTRIES RESPONSE:


Hi Bob.  Thanks for writing, and thanks so much for the encouragement!  You've asked a good question.  The odds against one person fulfilling all the messianic prophecies, as Jesus did, are astronomically high!  In answer to your question, I'm going to present the following excerpt from the book Taking A Stand for the Bible, by John Ankerberg and Dillon Burroughs.  The excerpt is a little long, but worth it:

Professor emeritus of science at Westmont College Peter Stoner has calculated the probability of one man fulfilling the major prophecies made concerning the Messiah.  The estimates were worked out by 12 different classes of 600 college students.

The students carefully weighed all the factors, discussed each prophecy at length, and examined the various circumstances that might indicate that men had conspired together to fulfill a particular prophecy.  They made their estimates conservative enough so that there was finally unanimous agreement even among the most skeptical students.

But then Professor Stoner took their estimates and made them even more conservative.  He also encouraged other skeptics or scientists to make their own estimates to see if his conclusions were more than fair.  Finally, he submitted his figures for review to a committee of the American Scientific Association (ASA).  Upon examination, they verified that his calculations were dependable and accurate in regard to the scientific material presented.

For example, concerning Micah 5:2, where Micah prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, Stoner and his students determined the average population of Bethlehem from the time of Micah to the present.  Then they divided that figure by the population of the earth during the same period.  They concluded that the chance of one man being born in Bethlehem was one in 2.8 x 105 - or rounded, one in 300,000.

After examining only eight different prophecies, they conservatively estimated that the chance of one man fulfilling all eight prophecies was one in 1017.

To explain how large the number 1017 is (a figure with 17 zeros), Stoner gave this illustration:  Imagine covering the entire state of Texas with silver dollars to a level of two feet deep.  The total number of silver dollars needed to cover the whole state is 1017.  Now choose just one silver dollar, mark it, and drop it from an airplane flying over the state.  Then thoroughly stir all the silver dollars all over the state.

When that has been done, blindfold one person, and tell him he can travel wherever he wishes in the state of Texas in an attempt to reach down into all those silver dollars and pull up the one that was marked.  The chance of his finding that one silver dollar – in the entire state of Texas – would be the same chance the Old Testament prophets had for eight of their prophecies coming true about any one man in the future. 

In practical terms, is there anyone who would fail to invest in a financial venture if the chance of failure were only one in 1017?  This is the kind of sure investment we are offered by God for belief in his Messiah. 

But, of course, Jesus fulfilled many more than eight prophecies.  In another calculation, Stoner used 48 prophecies (even though he could have used as many as 456) and arrived at the extremely conservative estimate that the probability of 48 prophecies being fulfilled in one person is 10157.

How large is the number one in 10157?  Well, 10157 includes 157 zeros.  Let’s try to illustrate the size of this number, this time using electrons.

Electrons are very small objects.  They are smaller than atoms.  It would take 2.5 times 1015 of them, laid side by side, just to add up to one inch.  If we counted four electrons every second and counted day and night, it would take us 19 million years just to count a line of electrons one inch long.

But how many electrons would we have to count if we were dealing with 10157 of them?  Imagine building a solid ball of electrons that would extend in all directions from the earth a length of six billion light years.  The distance in miles of just one light year is 6.4 trillion miles.  That would be a big ball!  But not big enough to measure 10157 electrons.

In order to do that, you must take that big ball of electrons measuring six billion light years long in all directions and multiply it by 6 x 1028! How big is that?  It’s the length of the space required to store trillions and trillions and trillions of the same gigantic balls and more.  In fact, the space required to store all of these balls combined would just start to “scratch the surface” of the number of electrons we would need. 

Assuming you have some idea of the number of electrons we are talking about, imagine marking just one of those electrons.  Then stir them all up, and appoint a person to travel in a rocket for as long as he wants, anywhere he wants to go in that mass of electrons.  Tell him to then find that one marked electron.  What do you think his chances of success would be?  One in 10157. 

Remember, this number represents the chance of only 48 prophecies coming true in one person.  This affirms that it is absolutely impossible for anyone to have fulfilled all the Messianic prophecies solely by chance.  In fact, a leading authority on probability theory, Emile Borel, states in his book Probabilities and Life that once we go past one chance in 1050 (from a human perspective), the probabilities are so small it’s impossible to think they will ever occur. 

The passage above comes from pages 84-87 of Taking A Stand for the Bible (a book we highly recommend).  Even the last calculation mentioned only used 48 prophecies, when the total number of messianic prophecies Jesus fulfilled is 456!  This shows the divine inspiration of the prophets and the divine nature of Jesus Christ.  This is not only an awe-inspiring example of God's power, but also an excellent witnessing tool.  I hope this serves as an encouragement for you and a tool you may use when contending for your faith.  And may God richly bless you when you do so!

In Christ,

Ben Rast
Contender Ministries