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Paton J. Gloag

Heathen Oracles and Hebrew Prophecy

"The heathen had their prophets as well as the Israelites, but the difference between them is very apparent; nor must the false prophecies of the heathen prejudice us against the prophecies of the Israelites. The predictions of the heathen, when they were fulfilled, can easily be accounted for without the aid of supernatural intervention. A great amount of artifice accompanied them; they were secretly divulged; they were seldom delivered, and then only after great preparations were made; they ministered to the passions and wishes of men; they were expressed in equivocal language; their fulfillment generally depended on chance; they were as often wrong as right; and when they failed, the fault was not laid to the charge of the prophet, but was imputed to some error committed by the inquirer. 

Several of their predictions were the result of a far-seeing sagacity, similar to the prediction of Josephus that Vespasian would ascend to the throne of the Caesars. The answers of the heathen oracles also were often so cunningly devised, that whatever way the event happened, the credit of the oracle would be maintained. Indeed, among the numerous predictions of the heathen, not a single authentic case of a true prophecy can be produced, of a prediction the fulfillment of which cannot be accounted for from purely ordinary causes, either as a happy guess or as the anticipation of sagacity. Those which have been adduced are so vague, so obscure, and so general, that no reasonable man can class them among the number of genuine prophecies.

The predictions of Scripture are widely different. They were openly published; they were delivered without solicitation; they were expressed in no artful language; the events predicted were beyond the power of human sagacity to foresee, or even when the general event might have been foreseen, yet minute circumstances were added which were beyond the wisdom of man to predict; and there was a particularity in these prophecies which clearly distinguished them from the conjectures of wise men. 

In short, the prophets of the heathen prophesied, as Jeremiah expresses it, 'a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart' (Jer 14:14), whereas the true prophets of Israel 'spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.'

...Hence, the prediction of the future is declared to be a characteristic distinction between Jehovah and the false gods of the heathen. 

'Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? Have not I the Lord? and there is no God beside me' (Isa 55:20,21).

In short, a genuine prophecy is as much a miracle as to give sight to the blind or to raise the dead; for as miracles, commonly so called, are exertions of power above human, so prophecies are exertions of knowledge above human; both involve the supernatural."

Paton J. Gloag, "The Messianic Prophecies" The Baird Lectures for 1879 delivered at the University of Glasgow, (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1887) pp. 13-16