Jesus: The Only Man Ever Born Who Could be Messiah! Just Figure the Odds.

by Joe Plemon on December 25, 2010

This is a Christmas Day post for nerds. In the first place, only a nerd would be reading blog posts on Christmas Day. In the second place, this is about numbers and odds — a nerdy topic.

My point is that 1) the odds of anyone filling every single prophecy written about the Messiah are astronomically high and 2) Jesus of Nazareth is the only person ever born who actually fulfilled all of those prophecies. He, therefore, must be Messiah.

The way one calculates the odds of repeating events is to multiply the odds of each event times the odds of each other event. For example, when one flips a coin, the odds are 1 in 2 that it will be heads. However, the odds of it being heads twice in row are 1 in (2 X 2), or 1 in 4. The odds of heads five times consecutively are 1 in (2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2), or 1 in 32. Are you with me?

Now the odds of a person fulfilling any of the following prophecies is not an exact science, so I have used what I consider conservative numbers. For each of the following prophecies, I will give the scripture reference and the odds of fulfilling it. At the end, I will calculate the odds of any one person fulfilling every one of the prophecies.

Here we go:

  • Born from the tribe of Judah…Genesis 40:10 / Rev 5:5 … 1 in 12
  • Born in Bethlehem…Micah 5:2/Mat 2:1 … 1 in 200
  • Preceded by a messenger…Isaiah 40:3/Mat 3:3… 1 in 20
  • Came into Jerusalem riding on a colt…Zechariah 9:9/Mat 21: 1-11… 1 in 50
  • Betrayed by a friend…Psalm 41:9/Mat 25:25 … 1 in 100
  • Hands and feet pierced…Psalm 22:16 … 1 in 200

Note that the prophecy is from 1000 years BC, 400 years before this Roman form of execution was invented.

  • Exact amount of payment to Judas (30 pieces of silver) …Zechariah 11:12/Mat 27:9…1 in 100
  • What would happen to the betrayal money…Zechariah 11:13 … 1 in 200
  • Spit upon and beaten…Isaiah 50:6 … 1 in 10
  • Silent before accusers…Isaiah 53:7…1 in 100

What are the chances of an innocent man, accused of a capital offense, staying silent?

  • Crucified with thieves…Isaiah 53:12…1 in 100
  • Soldiers gambled for his garment…Psalm 22:18…1 in 50
  • Side would be pierced… Zechariah 12:10…1 in 100

Normally, soldiers would break the legs, but this was not needed in Jesus’ case because he was already dead. This preserved the prophecy that not a bone would be broken.

  • Body would not decay…Psalm 16:10…1 in 10,000

This has never happened to anyone in history.

  • Buried in a rich man’s tomb…Isaiah 53:9 … 1 in 100
  • Born of a virgin…Isaiah 7:14

Again, not something that had ever happened before in history.

By now we have more than enough fulfilled prophecies to make our case, but here are a few extras:

Hung on a tree…Deut 21:23

Jesus would return from Egypt…Hosea 11: 1

Israel would reject him…Isaiah 53:1

He would be mocked by a crowd…Ps 22: 7-8

He would begin his ministry in Galilee…Isaiah 9:1,2

Would raise from the dead…Psalm 16:8-11

While all of the “odds” (other than being of the tribe of Judah) are subjective, these are also conservative. Not even considering the virgin birth, the chances of one person meeting all of these prophecies is 1 in 480,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or one in 480 thousand trillion trillion.

If every planet in every solar system in the billions of galaxies in the universe were all covered with silver dollars, and one happened to have a black dot painted on the back of it, a person would have the same odds of picking that silver dollar on the first try as he would to fulfill all of these prophecies pertaining to the Messiah.  Yet Jesus did it.

Here is wishing every reader a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS as we celebrate the birth of the Christ child; the Messiah of the world.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave@50plusfinance December 25, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Great post. Hope your having a great day. Merry Christmas.

By the way. I’m a nerd and proud of it.

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Josh December 26, 2010 at 8:41 am

wow!

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Tim @ Faith and Finance December 26, 2010 at 6:18 pm

I’m with Josh…The chances of anyone else fulfilling those exact prophecies are mind blowing. Great post!

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Mark December 27, 2010 at 12:32 am

Great post. I love the title too!

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joeplemon December 27, 2010 at 3:02 pm

@Dave,
We nerds need to unite! Thanks for reading.

@Josh and Tim,
The numbers ARE amazing.

@Mark,
Thanks. I wasn’t sure about the wordy title, but I guess it works.

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Evan December 27, 2010 at 3:19 pm

I don’t get it…where did the “in X” Come from?

Regardless…MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Roger, the Amateur Financier December 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Hum, interesting calculations, and a rather convincing argument. That said, if I may play Devil’s Advocate for a moment (quite literally, in this case), I’m not sure that this will convince all non-believers. First, the primary evidence for all the claims noted here is the Bible, and more to the point, the recorded testimony of Jesus’ disciples; they’re hardly the most objective source of information. Second, there are more than a few arguments that what is included in the Bible has been altered, mistranslated, and distorted by the time the Bible has reached us. Lastly, and perhaps most likely to make the argument less convincing, is that even if Jesus fulfilled all these prophecies, that only matters if you believe that the predictions made by Jewish prophets actually represent the word of God; the argument is about as convincing to those of non-Abrahamic backgrounds as a Shintoist’s argument about the fulfillment of their prophecies (no matter how incredible the odds) would be to you.

Now, all of this is not to say that I’m not convinced by the argument you make here; the odds are pretty incredible, and you’ve definitely helped to strengthen my faith (but then, I’m already a Christian, so I’m easy). I just have a tendency to be a bit of a Doubting Thomas, and thought I should share a few comments about where some problems might lay. Regardless, I hope you had a very Merry Christmas, and that you have an enjoyable New Year!

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joeplemon December 29, 2010 at 9:22 am

@Roger,
Thank you for your thoughtful comment. You make some interesting arguments (playing the Devil’s Advocate) which deserve answers, so here we go.

1. You state properly that the primary evidence for all the claims is the Bible. However, contrary to what you say, none of these prophecies are the recorded testimony of Jesus’ disciples. All were written hundreds if not thousands of years before Jesus was born.

2. You say that there are arguments that the Bible has been altered, mistranslated and distorted by the time the Bible has reached us. Yes, there are those arguments, and most scholars don’t believe that the text we have in our hands today is verbatim from the original authors. However, because the word has been considered sacred for thousands of years, utmost pains have been taken to preserve it. The science of textual criticism, which compares the oldest known writings to the most recent writings and which also compares various ancient documents in which those same writings occur, can easily validate that the Bible is more accurate than any other ancient writings of the same era.

3. You say that even if Jesus fulfilled all of those prophecies, it only matters if one believes that they were made by Jewish prophets who represented the word of God. I disagree. The facts are that these prophecies were made and are well documented and accepted as historically accurate by all serious scholars. There is no question that they were made long before Jesus was born and that they weren’t tampered with after he was born. They are just as valid whether they represent the word of God or not. The facts are that Jesus actually fulfilled many well known prophecies. It is up to the reader to determine whether he believes God’s hand was at work throughout history or if these are a bunch of coincidences. But one cannot deny that these predictions came true through the life of Jesus.

Roger, I am glad that you are a Doubting Thomas. I am too. I have always been reluctant to accept beliefs or doctrines because someone says I ought to. I also believe that only by “doubting” and digging, can one uncover truth, which is never true because someone or some religion says it to be so, but simply because it is true. I am also glad that this post strengthened your faith.

Again, thank you for taking the time to think these things through and sharing those thoughts.

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Everyday Tips December 31, 2010 at 11:26 am

I really enjoyed this post. I too play the role of Doubting Thomas sometimes as I am a very logical person. Here is a real doubting question for you: Jesus knew about all the prophecies and some would be easy to fulfill (for instance, riding in on a colt). However, even eliminating the fulfillment of the prophecies he could control, the odds are still amazing.

It is hard because so much of the Bible is ‘up for interpretation’. I believe I read somewhere that ‘virgin birth’ could also mean ‘maiden birth’, depending on the translation. (I read that a long time ago.) In the end, so much for me comes down to faith, and just the natural connection I feel.

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joeplemon December 31, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Everyday,
Thanks for your “doubting Thomas” question. As you said, Jesus could have orchestrated some of those events, but the odd of fulfilling the ones he couldn’t manipulate are still enormous. To begin with, he had no control over where he was born, so if he hadn’t been born in Bethlehem, no other fulfilled prophecy would mean anything.

About the “virgin birth”…you are right. The original words in the original prophecy could mean “maiden birth” or “virgin birth”. Interestingly, Matthew interprets that for us by using that original prophecy and explaining that it meant virgin birth … see Mathew 1: 18-23. Now this being said, our Devil’s Advocate argument from Roger that the disciple’s testimonies could be less than objective, could be used.

Still, I can’t imagine any of the disciples, who were all tortured and eventually martyred for their faith, agreeing to die for what they knew to be a lie. In other words, if Jesus wasn’t really Messiah, they would have known it and would have had to have formed a pact to continue to spread what they knew to be a lie, even if it cost them their lives. Surely these same men who all denied Jesus while he was still alive, wouldn’t have agreed to fabricate a lie and die for it after he was gone.

As a logical person, does this rationale make sense to you?

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Mr Credit Card December 31, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Nerdy indeed..But methodical, mathematical and correct. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

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Everyday Tips January 2, 2011 at 10:34 am

Joe, for me, one of the strongest arguments that Jesus is the Messiah is the very point you mentioned: so many died for their belief that Jesus truly was Messiah. Many things may be up for translation in the bible, but I do think it is clear that many gave their life for their faith in Jesus. As you said, who would pay the ultimate price for something that wasn’t believed to be true?

I find religion to be fascinating, and I like reading the history of the times of Jesus as much as the bible itself. I like getting the whole picture in a sense as I feel my own interpretation of the bible is skewed by the fact that I live in a world completely different than Jesus. Heck, I can’t even imagine being forced to cook on a wood stove! I am a Christian, but I will say I do not take every word of the bible entirely literally.

Good discussion!

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