Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Does the Bible Guarantee Camping's Prediction?

Harold Camping has widely asserted that "the Bible guarantees" his prediction regarding the end times. This invites us to us examine his Biblical claims. One large chunk of the basis for Harold Camping's claims with respect to May 21, 2011, is that 2011 is allegedly 7000 years from the flood. Camping's date for the flood is unique and springs from work that he published as "Adam When?" in 1974 (I understand that the book may have undergone some revisions or editions since then, and in the following discussion I am referring to the current version available at his website.)

Adam When? purports to be a book that seeks to uphold the integrity of the Bible, and particularly the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible. These are noble and right aims. The book quickly goes astray, however.

At page 36, Camping begins a section entitled "Inspired Verbs." While the verbs of the Bible are inspired, Camping treats them as though they represent a code. In short, Camping says that in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11, whenever the text describes A begetting B and living a set number of years, this should be interpreted as A being just an ancestor of B, with B being born the year of A's death.

There's no Biblical proof for this approach. In other words, Camping cannot point to any passage where the Bible explains that this way of speaking is being used. This is a key point: nowhere in Scripture does it tell us that when it says "A lived so and so years and begat B and lived so and so more years after he begat B and he died," that B was actually born not after the first so and so years, but rather at the very end of A's life. This particular patriarchal generation idea is just something Camping dreamed up.

Moreover, Camping is forced to admit that in certain cases it is clear that this terminology is used of direct father-son relationships. Camping actually provides an exception for those cases in the genealogies where the text says that the father "called [his son's] name [name of the son]."

But this exception is as arbitrary as the rule. Camping does not provide a Scriptural basis for why the expression "called his name" should be a sign of direct father-son relationship that holds water. After all, the term is frequently used to refer to a mother naming her son, or even to neighbors of the grandmother naming a child:

Ruth 4:17 And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

And, of course, a very old man could name his grandchild born in the year of his death just as easily as neighbors could name their friend's grandchild. So, again, the idea that "called his name" is a special sign of direct father-son relationship is yet another thing that Camping just dreamed up.

What is truly bizarre is that begetting is something that only a father actually does, whereas calling a child's name is something that the mother or even the neighbors of the grandmother can do.

Camping's only answer to this objection is to point to Matthew 1:8 and to allege that Matthew declares that Joram begat Uzziah, although there is not an actual father-son relationship between the two. According to Camping: "Ahazial, Joash, and Amaziah should come between Joram and Uzziah."

Various explanations have been given as to why there are those three apparently missing generations in the Matthew genealogy. What is key about the Matthew genealogy, however, is that it does not purport to provide us with a chronology (i.e. dates). There are no ages or years of life mentioned. Instead, it is providing a lineage, much the way the Ezra 7 lineage does (the Ezra 7 lineage apparently omits 6 generations).

We could speculate about the apparent missing generations (are there really missing generations? have they been omitted because of a curse placed against Ahab? or does Ozias not correspond to Uzziah, but rather to a brother of Ahazial?), but such speculation isn't really necessary.

Why isn't such speculation necessary? Matthew 1's genealogy does not follow the patriarchal generation model that Camping has described. In Matthew 1's genealogy the only "called his name" is - you guessed it - Joseph calling Jesus' name in Matthew 1:25. It would be blasphemous to assert that Joseph was Jesus' biological father.

Thus, we see the arbitrary nature of Camping's pick-and-choose hermeneutic. Camping picks the apparently missing generations of Matthew 1:8 to establish a mere ancestry interpretation of the term "beget," while ignoring the "called his name" in the same genealogy, where such usage undermines Camping's theory.

In summary:

1) Camping simply dreamed up his unique patriarchal generations theory. The Bible does not tell us that, for example, the following passage should be understood as saying that Jared was born in the year that Mahalaleel died:

Genesis 5:15-17
And Mahalaleel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared: and Mahalaleel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters: and all the days of Mahalaleel were eight hundred ninety and five years: and he died.

2) Camping simply dreamed up the "called his name" exception. The Scriptures do not tell us that "called his name" is a special clue that there is direct father-son relationship between the person who called the name of the other person. Indeed, many times it is a woman who calls the name of the child (Genesis 4:25, Genesis 19:37, 1 Chronicles 4:9, 1 Chronicles 7:18) and sometimes it is even the neighbors of the grandmother, as we saw in the case of Obed.

3) Camping appeals selectively to irrelevant texts to make his case. As we noted above, Matthew's genealogy does not provide years, only lineage. Thus, Matthew's genealogy is not especially relevant to the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies. Moreover, if Matthew's genealogy is relevant, Camping ought also to take into account the fact that "called his name" in Matthew 1:25 refers to Joseph naming Jesus, though Joseph was only the adoptive father of Jesus, much like Pharaoh's daughter was only the adoptive mother of Moses where she "called his name" in Exodus 2:10.

So, to answer the title question of this post, no - the Bible does not guarantee Camping's prediction. Camping's prediction is something that Camping dreamed up and attempted to impose on the Bible. Even if a very generous person would say that the Bible does not unequivocally deny Camping's imposed reading, certainly Camping's claim that "The Bible Guarantees It" falls short.



donsands said...

I've learned the hard way, to let your yes be yes and your no be no. Actually, I'm still learning.
I surely do long for our Savior, Jesus Christ to come and take us home. Oh, wow! Whata thought, to see Jesus. To see His hands and feet, while He smiles and says Shalom to us His beloved, whom He gave every drop of His blood, so that he would take our wrath given Him in the cup from His beloved Father, who also loves us, and gave us to His Son.

Thank You Lord for drinking the cup we all deserve; to the last sip. Praise Your holy name forever. I long to see untold hosts of angels worshipping You!

Thanks for all the hard work you have done on exposeing Harold. Goor stuff.

have a grace filled day; grace on grace.

Anonymous said...


one sure way to "see" Jesus while you are waiting to "see" Jesus is to see Him with your ears and mind in listening to the Word of God by an audio Bible or reading it from it's pages. As you know already, Faith comes by hearing.

Full of the Spirit, when one does this, seeing Jesus is very easily done!

Seeing Jesus in this way sure increases the strength of His Faith to our Faith which follows an increased longing in our spirits for Him to see Him as He is in His Eternal Glory and to know Him and to know and be placed in our allotted place in Him in His Eternal Glory!

A digression though about human nature.

One man pointed out to me something about God's defined "number" and man's coming to fulfill it is different and can be understood with the Words of Scripture in the Torah and elsewhere by this comparison.

For instance, we read this in Genesis:

Gen 15:13 Then the LORD said to Abram, "Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.

Clearly the Word/number is 400 years.

Then, we read this in Exodus:

Exo 12:40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years.
Exo 12:41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

We read this in Jeremiah:

Jer 25:11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
Jer 25:12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the LORD, making the land an everlasting waste.

And then in Daniel we read this:

Dan 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans--
Dan 9:2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
Dan 9:3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.


Dan 12:12 Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days.
Dan 12:13 But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days."

From the Words in the book of Daniel when read one learns that what happens by the Word of the Lord in the civil realm maybe quite different than what happens by the Word of the Lord according to His timetable in the Eternal realm where time comes from and those destined for the Eternal Glory end up in from the civil realm.

With Abraham, God showed him his children would be in Egypt 400 years and once the Word of the Lord began to be fulfilled in the civil realm, it took, to the day, 430 years before the Children of Israel started heading back to the Promised Land.

With Jeremiah and then Daniel, we see once captivity began, after seventy years had passed, then Daniel, undoubtedly being led by the same Spirit of Grace as we, and after reading the Words of the Prophet Jeremiah read the prison sentence was a 70 year term. The sentence now served now the Children of Israel could go free; and as soon as Daniel realized that, he got the ball rolling getting the "High" Officials in Eternity to get the release papers in order so the Children of Israel could get out of jail, quick! Once that began, it seems from the one point of view, it took about three and half years from start to finish to get them to leave Babylon and enter back into the Promised Land.

It seems the Children of God in their human nature are just slow responding on the up tick to the Word of God's Promises! :)

zog said...


Too often I have ignored your comments because they are long and I couldn't understand your train of thought. But after reading your posts the past few months I have been humbled by your use of scripture and your unwavering love of Jesus.

I can't wait to meet you! whether in this life or the next. We are best friends with the same Person.

You should start a blog and I would be happy to read it daily.

c.t. said...

It's 3:07 in the afternoon of May 21, 2011 where I am. Monitoring the situation.