When performing a hypothesis test, you must make an assumption in order to perform it. Assume that the hypothesis you are testing (the null hypothesis) is true. This assumption allows you to calculate the probability of the test results. You then use that probability to decide whether or not to accept the hypothesis and the claim associated with it. The more likely the results, the more readily you accept the hypothesis.
This kind of analysis can be used to evaluate any idea for which there are enough facts or data. For example, what about the premise that Jesus is the Son of God? Josh McDowell takes a similar approach to answering this question in his book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972).
In his book, McDowell collects a variety of information that attests to the Bible’s validity and Jesus’ claims to being the Son of God. He includes the interesting results of a large volume of research. In the section about messianic prophecy, he quotes the probabilistic analysis of Peter Stoner in Science Speaks (Moody Press, 1963).
Stoner used the assumption that Jesus was just a man and not the Son of God to perform a probability analysis and hypothesis test on some messianic prophecies. In this case the hypothesis was that Jesus was not the foretold Messiah or the Son of God. He then examined the probability of a selection of prophecies coming true if Jesus was in fact not divine.
Using a selection of 8 prophecies, Stoner showed that the probability of all 8 prophecies being fulfilled is 1 in 1017. Using the language of hypothesis tests, this means that you would reject the hypothesis that Jesus is not the Messiah for any α > 10-17. To put it another way, α > 0.00000000000000001. The smallest α that is normally used for a hypothesis test is α = 0.01. This means that you can safely reject the hypothesis that Jesus is not the Messiah or the Son of God.
For more on this, I recommend Josh McDowell’s book Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Peter Stoner’s work can be found in Science Speaks, published by Moody press. Stoner’s book might be difficult to find, but McDowell’s book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict is still in print.
The references for the 8 Old Testament prophecies that Peter Stoner analyzed are listed below along with the verse references for their fulfillment. It is likely that most students in this course believe that Jesus Christ is divine, so listing probabilities of Him doing certain things is irrelevant. However, what Stone is doing is playing the devil’s advocate. He’s saying to the skeptical, “Okay, let’s have it your way for a second. If Jesus of Nazareth was just an ordinary man, what is the probability that he could fulfill all the prophecies by chance?”
In Discussion Board Forum 2, post a thread that includes the following:
1. Think more about the probability of each event. For example, what is the chance that a person born in Israel would be born in or be from Bethlehem? What would the probability be that a person would be crucified in Israel given that he lived in that time period? Put numbers on each of the eight prophecy fulfillments. Some of the probabilities will be subjective, but put values that you feel make sense and write a short justification for the value you picked. For example, if one of the prophecies said that the Messiah would come from the house of Judah, you could say that the probability is 1/12, since there were 12 tribes. Do not put probabilities of 0 or 1. You can get closer than you might think—Google can tell you what the population of Israel was in the days or Christ, for example. The important thing is to write down your justification as to why you assigned the probabilities you did to each prophecy.
The verse references are as follows:
|Zech. 11:12-13a||Betrayed for thirty pieces of silver||Matthew 26:14-15|
|Zech. 12:10a||The Messiah’s body would be pierced||John 19:34-37|
|Zech. 11:4-6c||Rejected in favor of another king||John 19:13-15|
|Zech. 11:8a||Unbelief forces Messiah to reject them||Matthew 23:33|
|Gen. 12:3||Seed of Abraham will bless all nations||Galatians 3:8, Acts 3:25, 26|
|Gen. 28:12||The Bridge to heaven||John 1:51|
|Gen. 49:10||Messiah to come before Judah lost identity||John 11:47-52|
|Gen. 49:10||Unto Him shall the obedience of the people be||John 10:16|
2. Choose one of the eight prophecies in Stoner’s research. Explain how he might have arrived at the probability he assigned. Do you think his estimated probability is too high(conservative) or too low? What probability would you assign and why?
You will need to consult the eight prophecies used by the author of the book, Science Speaks. Stoner’s prophecies can be found at:
Starting on page 46.
3. Given the new probabilities you associated with each prophecy, what is the probability that all eight happened at once?
Hint: Recall that for two independent events A and B, P(A and B) = P(A)*P(B).
Now apply this to our case:
P(1st and 2nd) = P(1st )*P( 2nd)
P(1st and 2nd and 3rd) = P(1st)*P(2nd)*P(3rd)
What can you say about P(1st and 2nd and 3rd and … and 7th and 8th)?
4. Reflecion Question: Do you think it is possible that someone other than Jesus could have fulfilled the prophecies of the Bible? Why do some religious groups claim to believe the Bible, but reject Jesus as the Messiah?
Submit your thread of least 100 words by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Thursday of Module/Week 7. Submit your 2 replies of at least 25 words each by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Monday of Module/Week 7. Feel free to contact me for help with this project. However, each student must turn in his/her own work.
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