When I researched this, I found many Christian apologists citing the same person’s article, Peter Stoner, and his numbers didn’t have any data driven scientific or historical basis. He would propose the probability someone would be betrayed to his death by a friend as 1 in 10, for example, without any real justification, and so on. My step daughter, who teaches high school math, quipped “how can you do that to calculate a probability?” So I decided to carefully evaluate the prophecies and known facts to come up with real numbers.
I show below that the probability of only 13 of 50 specific prophecies about Jesus life can be reliably estimated. The other prophecies are not calculable (for example, what is the probability of a virgin birth? – it’s not calculable). There is less than a 1 in 15,000,000,000,000 chance that one person in the history of the world could randomly fulfill those 13 prophecies alone. Consider this – if you were to mail a letter, using only 8 specifics (first name, last name, house number, street, town, state, country, zip code), it would arrive at only one specific person out of 7 billion people on the planet. That’s a 1:1 correlation. The 13 prophecies about Jesus are not 1:1, which would be good enough, but the Bible is 15 trillion times more specific, and that is just the beginning, because there are 40 more prophecies at least which are not even calculable.
I’ve attached an excel spreadsheet to show all the prophecies I’m listing, including the 13 and how they were calculated. I’ll discuss it a little as follows for those who are interested in the mathematical and historical details (as my step daughter Ashley would!)
1.He had to enter the temple (Malachi 3:1), fulfilled in (Matthew 21:10-12). So, the Messiah has to be living when the temple is existing to enter. Since 70 A.D. there has been no temple, it was destroyed by the Romans. The Messiah hadn’t come at the time of Malachi, so that’s about 430 B.C. Even if the Temple is rebuilt today, the genealogical records were destroyed in 70 A.D. when the temple was burned so no Jewish person today can know for sure they are in the line of David, therefore the Messiah had to be alive before 70 A.D.
2.The Jews had to have the power to rule, (Genesis 4:10 “the scepter will not depart from Judah until Messiah comes”) which was taken away from them in 7 A.D. by the Romans. So the Messiah had to be alive in 7 A.D. This is a 63 year period the Messiah has to live in (7 to 70 A.D.).
- Messiah has to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, see also the Scribes and Pharisees know this in Luke 2:4-6). We know that Bethlehem had a population average of less than 500 during this time, from archeological data. Some archeologists put it as high as “below 1,000” but the likely number is below 500 looking at the remains of buildings and artifacts from that period. A high birth rate would be about 4 babies per 100 people (some too old to bear children, some too young, some single, etc). This makes about 20 babies per year born in Bethlehem, but only half are boys, so 10 babies a year. So there are about (63 years x 10 babies/year – 630) people in the history of the world who could fit the bill.
4-8. The Messiah would be in the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Jesse (I’ll just list the last descendent Jesse here – prophecy in Gen 49:10). Jesse left with the Israelites from Egypt and Exodus says about 1.25 million people left Egypt at that time. If half the people are male, that means being Jesse was a ½ chance out of 1.25 million, or 1 in 2.5 million chance. So 630 people / 2.5 million makes the chance of one man fulfilling these prophecies about .0005 or a 1 in 2,000 chance.
- Messiah is the son of David (Isaiah 9:7, fulfilled in Luke 3:32), one of 6 sons of Jesse, making it now 1 in 12,000 chance.
- The babies have to be murdered in Bethlehem, so that limits it to one year out of the 63. Now the chance is 1 in 756,000.
That covers his birth (which no man could orchestrate). There are only 3 prophecies which can be actually calculated with real numbers from Jesus death.
- His hands and feet are pierced, indicating crucifixion, which was invented and executed by the Romans. During that first century it’s hard to estimate, but 3 were crucified on the day Jesus died. Rome was brutal, but a reasonable number would be 3 per day or about 1,000 per year in Jerusalem (that’s a lot of executions, glad I wasn’t alive then) for a city of about 600,000 people at that time, not counting visitors at the time of the Passover, which Jesus was at the time. This makes a chance of executionby crucifixion if you were alive in the first century Jerusalem 1 in 600 (wow those are bad odds for a first century Jerusalemite!). Taking this probably conservative number, the chances go to 1 in about 450 million.
- Messiah would die on the Passover (Exodus, Leviticus, Deutoronomy). The Lamb of God is sacrificed on the Passover, prefigured from the time the Israelites were freed from Egypt. This is only one day out of a 360 day Jewish calendar year, so 1 in 162 billion chance.
- He was buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9). There were about 25,000 rich people in that quarter of Jerusalem, out of 600,000 people. That’s a 25/600 chance. But this was a virgin tomb so nobody was in the tomb from the rich person’s family already, according to prophecy. Estimate 4 persons per family on average, so to have nobody buried yet in the tomb built for at least 4 people, let’s say 1 of 4 chance. This means a 25/600/4 or 1 in 96 chance, making the total probability of all 13 prophecies 1 in 15,000,000,000,000 or 1 in 15 trillion!
In other words, there is no way one man could fulfill these by chance. In fact every one of the 13 prophecies is outside of human control (can you determine the place and date of your birth, who your parents are, how and when you will be captured, tried and executed, that babies will be killed when you are 1 or 2 years old, that some rich guy will decide to ask for your dead body and bury it in his tomb, etc?)