We see patterns in things. What is this?
No it’s not. It’s three circles and a line.
Patternicity, as coined by Michael Shermer in this article [scientificamerican.com], helps illustrate how and why we see patterns in otherwise meaningless things.
Pareidolia, as explained by Wikipedia, is why you hear your phone ring when it doesn’t. Or, more often for me, I feel my phone vibrate, even when it doesn’t. When presented with noise of one type or another, we see patterns in it. Our brain does this with pretty much everything. As an engineer, I’m hit with this a lot when trying to debug something. A pattern appears, I pursue it to fix a problem, and in the end, it didn’t exist (or was just unrelated). Even though I’m not trained out of patternicistic behaviour, I know that I do it.
Add that together with our own desire to be validated. If I believe something, I’m going to interpret the world according to that belief [wikipedia.org].
This makes it somewhat psychologically inescapable to reinterpret things according to our pattern of thoughts. I’m mostly talking about modern Christian’s interpretation and Jesus-spotting in the Old Testament. I think it takes some suspension of disbelief and creative interpreting to pull out some of the prophecies of Jesus from places I wouldn’t expect them. Even one of the first prophecies they say apply to Jesus…
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel. -Gensis 3.15
It seems, just like many similar passages, this is interpreted as prophecy by a liberal application of Captain Hindsight. When you see how things are, its very easy to interpret things to prove that the thing you already know is true.
Party of the…beauty…or ugly…of it, is that there is no way of knowing if it is true. Jews don’t tend to see many of the so-called “Prophecies” Christians see in the Old Testament as prophetic works, Christians claimed them as prophetic after the fact. It just doesn’t seem fair to me.
And, one more thing. Every indication in the Old Testament was that the Messiah would be victorious when he came. I see no evidence of multiple comings, nor of Jesus fitting the bill as the Jewish messiah. However, if you creatively reinterpret afterwards, it’s very easy to claim “Now we see!”, and change the interpretation of the past to fit the present.
God gave some criteria for prophets. It doesn’t seem like many of these prophecies fit the bill. It very much fits in how we spend so much of our time seeing / imagining patterns. Some of them are real. Some are not. The mechanism to see which is real or not is lacking, and most do not even try to discern.