The religious argument is that the prophecies that appear in the Bible (Old and/or New Testament, depending on one’s religion) were fulfilled precisely. In fact, the fulfillment of the prophecies is, in the opinion of many believers, “proof” that God controls history. So here’s a little about biblical prophecy:
The study of the biblical text indicates that many prophecies (and lots of text in general) were written or edited retroactively by later authors who edited the words of “prophets” or ancient writers. Such studies use a number of methods, such as: Analysis of the use of language and “slang” that are appropriate for the period of the late author and not the early prophet; Detecting mentions of events that occurred in the late author’s time (or shortly before) and not in the early prophet’s time; Analysis of descriptions of objects (battle uniform for example) that were typical in the region in the late and not early writer’s time, etc. Some good examples of all of the above may be some texts in the Book of Daniel, or the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17;
In many cases we observe various prophecies that simply did not come true, for example: Huldah the prophetess predicts that King Josiah would die “in peace” (2 Kings 22:18-20), nevertheless he is murdered by Pharaohnechoh king of Egypt (2 Kings 23:29-30). Ezekiel prophesies that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon would collect much loot from the city of Tyrus (Tyre), that the city would be made like the “top of a rock” (“arid/barren rock” in the original Hebrew version) and would never be built (Ezekiel 26:7-14). Yet he later on describes how Nebuchadrezzar had nothing taken from Tyrus (Ezekiel 29:18), and we all know that Tyre hasn’t remained an arid rock. He also prophesies of the “exile from Egypt” that should return to Egypt forty years later (Ezekiel 29:9-14) – an event that never really happened. Anyone who relies on the fulfillment of prophecies from the Bible as proof of the existence of God – hereby declares God’s non-existence in light of unfulfilled prophecies.
A large part of the prophecies have no date at all (“it shall come to pass in the last days” – unsurprisingly), so it can always be said that they will be fulfilled in the future. The Jewish religion has found a way out of unfulfilled prophecies, by saying that prophecies apply to a situation of not sinning (Talmud, Yevamot 50/1 Tosafot). This is a text that would not have been necessary to come up with if prophecies were always fulfilled.
In fact there are disagreements among researchers, not only about certain texts, but also as to the very existence of various prophets. Moses, for example, is considered an unreal figure, or at least very far from the biblical story. The prophet Elijah is also considered by some researchers a legend, perhaps as a part of some late editing that attempted to merge the two ancient Hebrew gods “Elohim” and “Jehova”. The amount of different “Isaiah” included in the Book of Isaiah is also under dispute, based on both analysis of language and comparison between texts found in the scrolls of the Judean Desert and the biblical texts.
History tells that topics of different prophecies, such as the exile of peoples by ancient empires, were common in the ancient world, and accordingly also the preaching of various “prophets” on the same subjects. The various prophecies in the Bible on this subject were not aimed at all at our present era (and certainly did not mention specific dates or time periods, for obvious reasons) – This is in order to be able to threat with punishment of exile on the one hand, while sowing hope and clinging to faith on the other hand.
— * — * —
One of the fascinating points about religion is the possibility of justifying everything and reconciling any contradiction. With a little creativity one can put together an interesting explanation for each difficulty. In fact, much of the ancient Jewish religious content (in the Talmud for example) is made of such explanations. Wherever something “does not work” in the text – there is always a religious excuse or explanation that will settle the contradictions. There has to be one, or else the whole religion’s house of card may collapse.
One may say, for example, that Huldah the prophetess meant for King Josiah to be buried peacefully, not necessarily to die peacefully. One may come up with stories loot from the city of Tyrus that went into obscure hands. One can look for different definitions of what an “arid rock” means, and so on or and so forth. You, the reader, can also try and retroactively invent such excuses and interpretations – this is actually a fun game. Many of these explanations carry the nature of “the previous text said X but actually meant Y”. Of course, since you do not have a religious reputation and are not ancient enough – your interpretations will not be studied by future generations.
It must be told honestly to those religious preachers: Have you ever tried to think, instead of all those thousands of twisted interpretations, that perhaps this is simply an ancient and human-written text, bearing human flaws – something that does not make it less worthy of reading?