Prophecy: Biblical and other 

Prophecy: Biblical and other

A guy who often rides the commuter bus with me (and who generously organized the canoe trip), brought up some prophecies the other day:

1. Socrates (he said) said that if a truly good man ever came about--kind, generous, helping others, turning away wrath--that man would be killed. Sure enough, Jesus was born, and he was killed.

I'm not an expert on Plato, but I gather this is a paraphrase of part of the Apology of Socrates. In my own paraphrase, Socrates says (at a fairly ripe old age) that if he had done the things a good man would do, including the just things, he would have been killed (31d-32a, 32e). Although earlier in the same work he emphasizes his willingness to take risks, even die if necessary, for a cause, and compares himself to Achilles, now he makes it clear he would have regarded his premature death as a bad thing, precisely if it happened because he was supporting a good cause. To what does he attribute the good fortune of not doing the things a good man would do, and not, as a result, dying young? He says his daimonic voice turned him away from doing public things, such as counselling the city (31c-d). If he fought for the just at all, he would have done so in such a way as to anger the (democratic) authorities, and thus he would have been killed. The only rational alternative, if he wished to avoid premature death, was to live a strictly private life, giving up fighting for justice; that is what he has done, fortunately counselled, he says, by his daimonic voice. (See also Republic 496c-d).

This is not exactly an exhortation to do the good and just things, or to be a good man in that sense. If a good and just man comes along who is killed fairly early in life because of his noble activities, one can imagine Socrates saying to him: You poor sap! Don't you have a daimonic voice to protect you?

2. Isaiah (according to my fellow commuter) prophesied that Cyrus would conquer Babylon, and that the city would hardly put up a fight. This was new to me--I didn't know Cyrus was explicitly mentioned in the Bible.

The prophesy in Isaiah about Cyrus starts at 44:28; the prophesy of the destruction of Babylon is at 13-14, agreeing closely with Jeremiah 50-51. I don't know the chronology of the Old Testament, but it is Ezra, which comes earlier, which confirms Cyrus re-establishing Jerusalem for the Jews. (My friend thought it was Daniel).

One site points out that several of Isaiah's prophecies did not come true. The prophecy implies the violent destruction of Babylon, which did not happen. My friend said, as more friendly commentators have said, there is some support in the Bible for believing the conquest of Babylon was supposed to be non-violent.

Another presents the whole Cyrus story more coherently.

UPDATE: Various accounts of Cyrus here.

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