Credibility Gap

by George F Spall

There used to be a calendar hanging on our wall, which kept the virtues of the victuals sold by our local grocer ever before us. In those happy days, humour rather than sensuality drew our attention to sugar and spice, tea and tapioca. The calendar carried the picture of a rueful small boy, well-fed if not well-spoken. His grubby face spread with jam and sticky crumbs, he was ably assisted in his penitential gaze into his grim-faced mother's eyes by his small dog still slavering over an empty plate. The picture carried the caption: "I ain't done nothin'." Her face, as might be expected, answered his with a very decided "Don't believe you" expression as she held a wooden spoon of commendable size in her determined hand.


In these sophisticated days of course, the caption would read -- "Credibility Gap". The phrase became fashionable in Watergate days, remember? The prophets of Israel were acutely conscious of the need to beware of Credibility Gaps. Moses wrote: "And it shall come to pass that whosoever will not hearken to my words which he (the prophet) will speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou shalt say in thine heart, how shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass; that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him." Deuteronomy 18:19-22. Jeremiah confirms this principle when he said: "When the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known that the Lord hath truly sent him."

Both of these men themselves spoke very plainly in their own day. Though they spoke of things supernatural, they were not mystics. Their language was plain enough, and in their day they did not employ or seem to need a special class of teacher to help their hearers comprehend it. They did not expect to have their words misunderstood or to lose their meaning through sophistry or through what passes for "philosophy", ill-used word that that is.


A very well-read Jewish acquaintance told me in a recent discussion: "Ah. No one can know the Torah. There are so many opinions, so many philosophies about the texts that our Rabbis offer, it would take a hundred years to have a final opinion."

My reply could only be: "Then God would need to cause all men to live far more than a hundred years for them to know what He says. Therefore this philosophy cannot be right, for Torah says clearly, and human experience confirms it, that seventy to eighty years is a common and desirable life span. God would not mock us so." My friend could only offer a shrug for comment. Surely both Moses and Jeremiah and other Hebrew prophets were not out shopping for human opinions that might require a hundred years to reach finality! Opinions are so easily ignored anyway.

This article opened with a quotation from Deuteronomy 18:19. Perhaps we really ought to have started with the verse before it, or perhaps even verse 15 which says: "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, LIKE UNTO ME; unto him shall ye hearken," The Soncino Edition of the Pentateuch and Haftorah and Commentary, edited by the late beloved Dr. J.H. Hertz comments on this verse: "A prophet in each generation." That well illustrates the point I am making for the Rabbinic comment dilutes the original words of Moses. Verse 18 that follows is of tremendous importance because in it, the Almighty confirms what Moses said with "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, LIKE UNTO THEE, and I will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him." Again, Dr Hertz regrettably dilutes the force of the words with his comment when he remarks on the phrase "all that I command him" only, significantly passing over the main message of the verse itself. His comment is this: "The office of the prophet is thus conceived, not so much as a foreteller, but in spiritual succession to Moses as the Teacher and religious Guide of his age though the gift of predicting the future, where this serves a moral purpose, cannot be denied him." (Soncino 2nd edition. p. 827).

The original carries no suggestion that there would be a number of prophets in succeeding generations. The words are entirely in the singular number, not the plural. The comment tends to divert attention to each and every prophet of Israel and makes it easy to miss the true identity of that one of whom Moses speaks. Moses was a unique figure. It would be astounding if there were several like him in succeeding generations.


There is one notable figure in Israel's history who deserves to be considered and checked out against the facts, for this one measures up very accurately to Dr Hertz's requirements and to the specifications that Moses laid down. Hundreds of his contemporaries recognized this, for He said, "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me." (John 5:45) Let us turn the spot light of investigation on Moses.

What special features marked Moses so that other prophets could be checked by comparison? We will, for the time being and for the purpose of this essay, pass right over the eighty years of his life before he began the great task of leading his nation out of Egypt and into Canaan. We do this for the sake of space for as a matter of fact, there are so many features that the period deserves an article to itself. Added to the salient points of his final forty years, which we will consider, the total weight of evidence is overwhelming. There is no Credibility Gap to be bridged.

  1. Moses did make a number of predictions which, as Dr Hertz says, are permitted to a prophet, if they bear or serve a moral purpose. The four chapters of Deuteronomy, 28 through 31, are all predictive and have been fulfilled in great detail, T'isha B'Av under Babylon and Rome and even the Holocaust being examples.
  2. Moses was a Teacher and Guide to his age without a doubt. His teaching based on the ten commandments is still fundamental to the Jewish faith. All the distinctively Jewish rules which govern eating and drinking, dress, marriage, social security, hygiene, and more, begin with Moses even if they go beyond what he taught in some particulars.
  3. Moses was in direct communication with the Eternal as no prophet after him, not even Elijah, ever was.
  4. He worked miracles many times. The Ten plagues in Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, and later, of bringing water from the Rock, of bringing the quail to provide meat are examples.
  5. He spoke with authority, saying so often "The Word of the Lord came to me" and "Thus saith the Lord."
  6. He had a priestly ministry with power to anoint other priests, and, like no other prophet, he went into and stayed in the Presence of the Eternal for periods of forty days and forty nights.


If a prophet is to be like unto Moses and so meet the demands of Deuteronomy chapter 18 verses15 and 18, then he must match all of these. No other Hebrew prophet did -- not Elijah, not Daniel, not Jeremiah or Ezekiel. Only One Person measures up to the Mosaic specifications and He not only does that in these six particulars but in those several others that could be quoted from the life of Moses during his first eighty years.

Three of His contemporaries have left records of all that Jesus of Nazareth said and did that support the claim being made and that He and He alone matches Moses, and indeed, transcends Moses. Then, a fourth writer Luke left a very human document, dated and verified, which is as valuable as the other three. Even if one has no intention or desire to accept the Christian view of Y'shua HaMachiach, Jesus Christ, this study of the four Gospels, as they are designated in the New Testament, is fascinating and rewarding.

It is proposed to look only at point number 1: The Predictive aspect of Moses as a prophet, and of Jesus of Nazareth in that role. We must reserve for another issue some challenging items and now merely introduce the subject by mentioning what He said about earthquakes. He mentioned seismic disturbances in a special way as being pointers to the dawn of the Messianic Age and the passing of the present "Times of the Gentiles" . For my part, this one item -- Earthquakes -- closes the Credibility Gap completely, without anything else.

In the late nineteen sixties, there was a congress of Vulcanologists held in Otago, New Zealand. Among the papers presented to it was one dealing with earthquakes. The Congress was not in any way concerned with prophecy, with Arab-Israel relations or Christian theology.

Mention was made of the increasing number of quakes each decade, and for some reason not made clear in the report, the decades began with 1897-1906. The figures relate only to 'quakes above magnitude 6 on the Richter Scale.' They set out in tabular form thus.

1897 - 1906 = 3

1907 - 1916 = 2

1917 - 1926 = 2

1927 - 1936 = 3

1937 - 1946 = 3

1947 - 1956 = 7

1957 - 1966 = 17

Is there any significance in this? It would certainly seem that there is for in June 1967, Israel regained possession of the ancient City, Jerusalem. In that year, the number of earthquakes leaped from 17 in ten years to 17 in that year alone. After Israel became a nation in 1948 the number climbed from seven in a decade to 17 and then 17 in ONE year. There is more than coincidence in this. There are some who would dampen the impact of these statistics by saying: "There are not more earthquakes now than formerly. It is only that more are being reported because of the increasing use of seismographs across the world." To this, permit the reply that the 'quakes making up these figures were so big that they were reported in the Press as having news value because of the casualties and destruction they caused. Buildings crashed. Dams broached. Refugee programmes implemented. You do not need a seismograph for disasters of this magnitude. Nor do the objectors offer any data to indicate that there were just ten times more seismograph observers in 1967 than in 1966.

Sceptics, just because they are sceptical might reject this conclusion, if the statistics about earthquakes alone were all we could offer, to show that prophecy was being fulfilled but, you see, they do not stand alone. Seismic disturbances are mentioned as just one of several other factors, all recorded by these witnesses who agree together in their testimony as to what was said. That the present decade frames an increasingly gloomy world may be explained by scientists, economists, meteorologists, geologists, ecologists, technologists, each in turn or all together, but the gist of the matter rests in the inescapable question: How did that "Prophet like unto Moses" know they would all occur at this time when Israel is a nation in possession of Jerusalem? How could He have known 1940 odd years ago? He said it, and there is no Credibility Gap between His prediction and our perception of the facts. Let us mark the difference there is between Unbelief and a genuine Credibility Gap.