Jesus went up to Jerusalem at Passover to proclaim himself King of Israel, and two of the prophecies he made were:
“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40)
“I will destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.” (John 2:19)
Christians claim the first event physically happened, and the prophecy was fulfilled. Because the second event clearly didn’t happen, they claim the words were metaphorical and therefore the second prophecy was also fulfilled.
This technique allows anyone with a good sense of metaphor to be 100% accurate in predictions about anything, regardless of the outcome. Checkmate, atheists!
As for the Temple prophecy, I can think of four things it could have meant – though some are only “obvious” after the fact:
- I will physically destroy the Temple and physically rebuild it within three days. (That’s what his listeners thought he meant, and they taunted him with it while he was being crucified. But I think he had just been provocative and attention-seeking, i.e. genuinely metaphorical.)
- I will take over the Temple, get rid of the moneychangers and their idolatrous foreign coins, destroy the corrupt gang of priests that runs the place, and have a godly administration in place by Passover. (That’s what I think he meant, because that’s what he tried to do, and he got executed for it. This was a reasonable prophecy, but it failed.)
- I will allow myself to be killed, and I will come back to life in three days’ time, as I am my own Temple to myself. (That’s the mystical view of Paul and the Christians to justify their faith, because the takeover failed. End-of-the-world predictors do this kind of redefining all the time. And it’s unscientific gibberish.)
- I, being God, will destroy the Temple in 30-40 years’ time, using the Romans under Titus as my tools. Then at some point a couple of thousand years in the future I will rebuild it, using as my tools whoever ends up rebuilding it. The “three days” will mean whatever I want it to mean at that point. (C’mon, folks, work with me on this, it’s just as possible as the previous one!)
OK, so that last one is a little flippant, but that’s how the redefining works. Check out the prophecies of Nostradamus, and how each generation thinks all his verses apply to themselves. It’s a fascinating human trait.
When people want to believe something, they will mangle grammar, logic and plain common sense to satisfy themselves. But you don’t have to listen to them. Review the facts, and work it out for yourself.