How Many Prophecies Are in the Bible?

Wayne Jackson
Questions dealing with biblical statistics

This week, we will address several questions related to the Bible and statistics.

I have heard it said that prophecy is one of the stronger proofs pointing to the fact that the Bible is from God. Can you tell me approximately how many prophecies the Scriptures contain?

Various books cite different figures, depending upon the manner in which one counts the prophecies. For example, one writer may count a single verse as a prophecy, while another may see three or four prophetic elements within the same passage.

J. Barton Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy lists 1,239 prophecies in the Old Testament and 578 prophecies in the New Testament, for a total of 1,817. These encompass 8,352 verses.

Do we have any idea about how many people there were on earth at the time of the flood?

The Genesis narrative indicates that Adam and Eve were charged with the responsibility of multiplying and filling the earth (Genesis 1:28). By the time of the flood, which seems to have been in the tenth generation of human history—and a span of at least 1,656 years (based upon the figures in the genealogical records)—Moses records that “the earth was filled with violence” (6:11, 13). This suggests an extensive population already. The language indicates a tremendously rapid expansion. This conclusion is supported further by the fact that the flood was designed to destroy living creatures of the entire globe (7:19, 22).

Based upon a rather conservative rate of human expansion, in 1961 John Whitcomb and Henry Morris estimated that the population of the earth at the time of the flood was approximately one billion people (1961). However, when he wrote his book, The Genesis Record, in 1976, Henry Morris opined that the earth’s population at the time of the deluge was in the neighborhood of seven billion (144). Obviously he somewhat expanded the figures upon which the earlier estimate had been based.

One does not precisely know, of course, but the figure must have been significant.

Is there any information about how many people there would have been in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover when Christ was crucified?

There are conflicting data; we offer the following for your consideration:

In his book, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim says that the normal population of Jerusalem in the New Testament era was in the neighborhood of two hundred to two hundred fifty thousand, which, he suggests, swelled enormously during feast times (1947, 116).

On the other hand, noted scholar Joachim Jeremias, in his book, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, said that Jerusalem’s normal population was about fifty-five thousand, and that some one hundred twenty-five thousand additional people visited the city at Passover time (79-83). His estimates were based upon the area available in the temple for offering sacrifices. His figure, therefore, for the city’s crowds at Passover would be about one hundred eighty thousand people total.

In a later estimate, however, Jeremias suggested that the normal population of Jerusalem was only twenty-five to thirty thousand at the upper limit (1966, 84). This revision, of course, reduces the total from one hundred eighty thousand to about one hundred fifty-five thousand at Passover time.

The Jewish writer, Flavius Josephus, suggested that the population in the city at Passover time (ca. A.D. 65) was three million souls (Wars of the Jews 2.14.3). But many think that Josephus inflated figures on occasion.

  • Edersheim, Alfred. 1947. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  • Jeremias, Joachim. 1962. Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. London, England: SCM Press.
  • Jeremias, Joachim. 1966. Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. London, England: SCM Press.
  • Morris, Henry. 1976. The Genesis Record. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
  • Payne, J. Barton. 1973. Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
  • Whitcomb, John and Henry Morris. 1961. The Genesis Flood. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.