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Probability & Statistic
When performing a hypothesis test, you must make an assumption in order to perform it. Assume that the hypothesis you are testing (the null hypothesis) is true. This assumption allows you to calculate the probability of the test results. You then use that probability to decide whether or not to accept the hypothesis and the claim associated with it. The more likely the results, the more readily you accept the hypothesis.
This kind of analysis can be used to evaluate any idea for which there are enough facts or data. For example, what about the premise that Jesus is the Son of God? Josh McDowell takes a similar approach to answering this question in his book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972).
In his book, McDowell collects a variety of information that attests to the Bible’s validity and Jesus’ claims to being the Son of God. He includes the interesting results of a large volume of research. In the section about messianic prophecy, he quotes the probabilistic analysis of Peter Stoner in Science Speaks (Moody Press, 1963). Stoner used the assumption that Jesus was just a man and not the Son of God to perform a probability analysis and hypothesis test on some messianic prophecies. In this case the hypothesis was that Jesus was not the foretold Messiah or the Son of God. He then examined the probability of a selection of prophecies coming true if Jesus was in fact not divine.
Using a selection of 8 prophecies, Stoner estimated that the probability of all 8 prophecies being fulfilled is 1 in 1017. Using the language of hypothesis tests, this means that you would reject the hypothesis that Jesus is not the Messiah for any α > 10-17. To put it another way, α > 0.00000000000000001. The smallest α that is normally used for a hypothesis test is α = 0.01. This means that you can safely reject the hypothesis that Jesus is not the Messiah or the Son of God.
For more on this, see Josh McDowell’s book Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Peter Stoner’s work can be found in Science Speaks, published by Moody press. Stoner’s book has recently been rereleased in e-book format. You can find it in the Module/Week 4 Additional Materials folder.
The references for the 8 Old Testament prophecies that Peter Stoner analyzed are listed below along with the verse references for their fulfillment. It is likely that most students in this course believe that Jesus Christ is divine, so listing probabilities of Him doing certain things is irrelevant. However, Stoner says to the skeptical, “Okay, let’s have it your way for a second. If Jesus of Nazareth was just an ordinary man, what is the probability that he could fulfill all the prophecies by chance?”
Old Testament Prophecies New Testament Fulfillment
Micah 5:2 Matthew 2:4–6
Malachi 3:1 Mark 1:2-8
Zechariah 9:9 Matthew 21:4–11
Psalms 41:9 Luke 22:21
Zechariah 11:12 Matthew 26:15
Zechariah 11:13 Matthew 27:3–10
Isaiah 53:7 Mark 14: 60-61
Psalms 22:16 John 19:17–18