To believe the television documentaries and books, you would think that the predictions of Nostradamus in the 16th Century mentioned Adolf Hitler, America, French president Charles De Gaulle, the moon landing, submarines, airplanes, space station, nuclear war, and the invention of the light bulb and radio.
But when you dig deeper, you find a cryptic hodge-podge of vague riddles that could be interpreted any number of ways. People have applied the same lines of his verse to several different historical events.
Nostradamus wrote thousands of prophecies in four-line verses called quatraines. They are assembled into centuries and numbered. Here are several examples:
In the year that is to come soon, and not far from Venus, The two greatest ones of Asia and Africa, Shall be said to come from the Rhine and Ister, Crying and tears shall be at Malta and on the Italian Shore. (C4 Q68).
The great one of Mayence to quench a great thirst, Shall be deprived of his high dignity, Those of Cologne shall mourn him so much That the Great Groppe shall be thrown into the Rhine. (C6 Q40)
If you were going to “believe” in Nostradamus, what are you supposed to believe about the above quatraines? (Some interpreters see Hitler in the verses.)
The problem with his prophecies is that they have no context. They are so vague that if you read enough of them, you should be able to find a passage that mirrored some event that occurred. Of what use are they if you can only link them to events in the past?
Now let’s compare his random passages with the Bible prophecies. Biblical prophecies have a context: God used prophecies to prove that he is God, help the Jews recognize the Messiah when he came, and warn us to be ready for the Second Coming.
First, God used prophecies to prove himself as God. He challenged the Israelites to get their idols to foretell the future. If God could foretell the future and they could not, then they would know who God was. God has left his fingerprint on the Bible through the many literally fulfilled prophecies.
Second, when Jesus came, the prophecies had already been in print for the previous four hundred years. When he started performing miracles, the people began comparing his life with the prophecies. Many believed in Jesus because his life clearly matched up with the words. “And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?” (John 7:31).
Third, the prophecies of the end times are clear enough that we can see them shaping up in our lifetime. The previous generation saw Bible prophecy fulfilled when Israel became a nation again (Isaiah 11:11). We are seeing Bible prophecy fulfilled in our day as the nations surrounding Israel unite against it (Zechariah 12:2). That will continue until Jesus comes again. Thanks to their clarity, we may stand firm in the faith, knowing that Jesus will come indeed and reward us for our labors.
We have no reason to look to Nostradamus and his perplexing writings when we already have the Scriptures with God’s clear lessons to guide and encourage us.
What Do You Think?
a. Why would someone turn from the Bible for instruction to Nostradamus?
b. Have you seen any of the television specials on Nostradamus? Where they convincing regarding his prophetic powers? Why or why not?
Comfort, Ray, The Secrets of Nostradamus Exposed. (Living Waters Publications, California 1996.)