Who do you Trust - Nostradamus of the BIBLE?
Why is there renewed interest in Nostradamus and the Bible? And can we trust either to tell us what the future holds?
In the Aftermath of Horror
There have been many consequences of the events of September 11, from the galvanizing of the Middle East peace talks to a shortage of gas masks. More recently, acts of terrorism have become common place in Russia, Spain and the Middle East. Many people have tried to find answers to what these terrorist attacks mean for them on a personal level. Most notably sales of the prophetic writings of Nostradamus, and also of the Bible, have rocketed.
For the first time ever, "Nostradamus" became the most popular word entered in Internet search engines: "Robert Carroll, who runs the Skeptic's Dictionary Website, reported... 'I usually have about 300-400 hits a week on the Nostradamus entry. I've had 140,000 in the past three days'" (Roland White, The Sunday Times, 30.09.01)
Why, then, is there renewed interest in Nostradamus and the Bible? And can we trust either to tell us what the future holds?
Who was Nostradamus?
Michel de Notredame (Nostradamus) was born in 1503 to a French Jewish family who had converted to Christianity. He studied medicine and astronomy, and rose to fame when he gained a measure of success in treating plague victims in Aix and Lyons in 1546.
At the age of 44 he began to dabble in the popular art of prophecy, going on to write around 1200 short, four lined prophecies. Obviously these predictions must be fairly vague, as it is simply impossible to go into any degree of detail in just four lines.
Nostradamus gained much credibility when Catherine de Medici, wife of Henry II, believed that he had predicted her husband's death. His fame continues to escalate.
One of Nostradamus' Most Famous Prophecies
Most of Nostradamus' followers are united in their interpretations of the following prediction:
At night they will think that they have seen the sun,
When they see the pig-like half-man,
Noise, shouts, battles seen in the heavens:
Brute beasts will be heard speaking.
Just pause for a moment and ask yourself some specific questions about this prophecy:
- Who is the message from?
- Who is the message to?
- For what reason is the message being given?
- What does it mean?
The prophecy is so vague there is no answer given to the first three questions. As to what this actually means, it seems to suggest that: it will look like the sun is shining at night time; there will be some sort of battle; and animals will talk. What on earth could this mean? Well the interpreters of Nostradamus, believe that this forecast found its fulfillment in aerial battles, from the first and second world wars, to the present raids on Afghanistan.
The sun at night would be the flashes of anti aircraft missiles; the pig-like half-man would be the pilot with his helmet and oxygen mask; and, finally, the brute beasts heard speaking would be the pilots talking into their radios.
A concluding point to make at this stage, is that it is obviously nigh on impossible to state beforehand what Nostradamus' prophecies actually mean. His interpreters often make claims that a prophecy has been fulfilled after certain events have taken place.
When the interpreters try to predict the future using these prophecies, their predictions do not come to pass. According to Roland White, one Nostradamus scholar predicted the following events:
- The world would end in 1999;
- Prince Charles would be crowned in 1994;
- Prince William would take the throne before the age of 18.
We all know that these things have not happened. Can you honestly still trust Nostradamus?
Nostradamus and September 11
Almost immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, an E-mail was circulated highlighting the following prediction:
In the year of the new century and nine months
From the sky will come a great king of terror
The sky will burn at forty five degrees.
Fire approaches the great new city
In the City of York there will be a great collapse,
Two twin brothers torn apart by chaos
While the fortress falls the great leader will succumb
Third big war will begin when the big city is burning.
The first line was thought to indicate the month of September 2001 - the month of the attacks. In terms of line two, the hijacked planes obviously came from the skies. "Forty five degrees" was thought to have been a reference to New York - with its line of latitude of forty degrees. The "twin brothers" were thought to be the twin towers of the trade centre, and so on. Pretty conclusive stuff hey? Nostradamus must have known what he was talking about.....
Well, maybe we would give him some credence - but, and it's a very big but, the E-mail was a hoax. One of Nostradamus' quatrains does have a reference to "45 degrees" and the "great new city" but that's where the similarity ends.
To crown it all, the final four lines are not from Nostradamus at all. They were written five years ago by Canadian High School student, Neil Marshall. In his paper Critical Analysis of Nostradamus he explains the "infinite monkeys principle":
"If I make say a thousand prophecies that are fairly abstract, for example: 'In the City of God there will be a great thunder, Two brothers torn apart by chaos, While the fortress endures the great leader will succumb', [then some are bound to come true, as they could be interpreted in many different ways]."
The terrorist attacks on New York have proved Marshall's thesis to be true.
The Verdict on Nostradamus
So then, a summary of what we have seen so far is now needed:
- We do not know who Nostradamus' prophecies are from;
- We do not know who the message is being given to;
- We do not know why the message is being given;
- It is virtually impossible to interpret Nostradamus' prophecies in advance of the event which they are said to predict. Interpretations are usually made to fit afterwards;
- Neil Marshall's "infinite monkeys principle" has been proved true: the laws of probability dictate that if anyone makes a thousand or so vague prophecies, then some of them are bound to "come true".
I would suggest, then, that we cannot trust Nostradamus to show us what our futures hold.
By stark contrast, Bible prophecy is completely different from Nostradamus' vague predictions. The Bible gives very detailed and specific prophecies about people,places, and nations. The Bible's prophecies are fulfilled against all odds. One such prophecy will be studied here to prove the point.
Attention has been drawn to the fact that the Bible has accurately and repeatedly predicted that the Jews would be:
- Scattered: Deuteronomy 28 v 64 (fulfilled in AD 135 by the Romans),
- Persecuted: Deuteronomy 28 v 65 - 67 (fulfilled down the ages, and most notably by Hitler),
- Regathered: Deuteronomy 30 v 1-5, Ezekiel 37 v 6, 13; 38 v 23 (fulfilled in 1948 when the state of Israel was once again declared),
- Have ongoing conflicts with the Arabs: Ezekiel 36, Obadiah, Psalm 83.
It is this third point which will be focused on - the regathering of the Jews to the land of Israel after almost two thousand years of dispersion. It must be emphasized that no other nation in history has been: driven out of its homeland, persecuted wherever its people went, and finally regathered to its original homeland after a period of nearly 2000 years. Other nations which have been driven out of their lands, or their empires have been defeated, and they have simply ceased to exist. When did you last meet a Roman, a Babylonian or a Phoenician? You never have, and you never will, for these nations have gone the same way as the dodo. But not Israel. Israel is unique.
A few verses from this chapter will demonstrate key points about Bible prophecy:
"'However, the days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when men will no longer say, 'as surely as the LORD lives who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,' but they will say, 'as surely as the LORD lives who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the North and out of all the countries where he banished them.' For I will restore them to the land that I gave to their forefathers... Then they will know that my name is the LORD'" (Jeremiah 16 v 1 4-16, 21).
If we ask the same questions which we asked about Nostradamus' prophecies, the answers are now much more satisfactory:
- Who is the message from?
- Who is the message to?
- For what reason is the message being given?
- What does it mean?
The message, Jeremiah claims in verse 14, is from God. The message is given to Jeremiah to give to the Israelites (v 1, 10). The message is given to them so that they will know that God does exist, and is in control of their futures (v21: "Then they will know that my name is the LORD").
As for the meaning of the passage, this is very clear. The Jews would be brought back to the land of "their forefathers", namely Israel. This happened in the last century, when, against the laws of probability, the nation of Israel was once again declared in 1948.
Which seems the more trustworthy so far? Nostradamus or the Bible?
Made to Fit?
The point was made that Nostradamus' followers often try to make his prophecies fit events after they have happened. This is not true of the prophecy which we have just looked at. In 1849, after reading passages like Jeremiah 16, a Bible student wrote the following words:
"There is.. a... restoration of the Jews before the manifestation [i.e. return of Jesus]... The... colonization of Palestine will be on purely political principles; and the Jewish colonists will return in unbelief of the Messiahship of Jesus, and of the truth as it is in him.." (John Thomas, Elpis Israel, 1849).
The writer of these words clearly expected the Jews to return to Israel, or Palestine as it was then known. He did not claim to be a prophet, he merely stated what the Bible had clearly said would happen. Note that he wrote these words almost one hundred years before the state of Israel was established, and well in advance of the Zionist movement.
Unlike Nostradamus' interpreters then, Bible students are often able to accurately say what will happen before it happens. This is not due to any skill of their own, but because many Bible prophecies are so veryspecific, detailed and clear.
So Who Do You Trust?
Nostradamus cannot be trusted, but the Bible can. The reason God gives us so many predictions is that when we see that they have happened (as is the case with the restoration of Israel) we will believe that God exists.
Not only this, but the fulfillment of these prophecies gives conviction to believers, and also warns unbelievers to repent before it is too late. The Bible clearly tells us that we must be baptized to be saved (Jn3 v 5, Mk 16 v 16). For Jesus will soon return to judge the world and set up God's kingdom of peace (Acts 1 v 6 - 11; Acts 17 v 30 - 31).
Why do so many people so readily believe that Nostradamus has the key to the future? Could it be that if we believe Nostradamus then we do not need to change our behaviour or life-styles in any way? Yet, if we believe the Bible there is a moral imperative - we must change our lives and put God first.
Sadly, then, many people choose to ignore the Bible, and refuse to consider overwhelming evidence (countless fulfilled prophecies; archeological evidence;scientific proof; internal coherency; and personal experiences) that it is the Word of God.
Please look into this further - for David, one of the kings of ancient Israel, did not lie when through him God said:
- "You will show me the path of life: in your presence isfullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16 v 11).