Prophets, according to the Hebrew Bible, cannot really afford to be wrong. Deuteronomy 18:20 in fact singles out accurate prediction of the future as a necessary characteristic of the future. Yet several of the prophets of ancient Israel – the very ones preserved in the Hebrew Bible (not to mention what must be assumed to be scores more who did not make it that far) – in fact made such incorrect predictions. Later interpreters throughout antiquity would assume the authority of these prophets and seek to reinterpret their predictions, but how did such prophecies, and prophets, gain authority to begin with?
I don’t have a complete answer to this problem, but I will be using the Book of Daniel (which of all books of the Hebrew Scripture might hold the prize for incorrect prophecies) as a test case to explore this problem in a conference paper that I will be giving in Edinburgh on May 6. The conference title is “Power, Authority, and Canon,” and details can be found here.