From the secular viewpoint, prophecy isn’t real. If you don’t belief in God or the supernatural, there’s no room for prophecy as well. Often times when I attempt to use prophecy as a means of justifying the Bible’s supernatural origins, the common rebuttal I get is a reference to the fact that Nostradamus’ wrote some “prophecies” as well. Usually this point is made to de-legitimize Bible prophecy. After all, if a mere human being can predict future events then prophecy isn’t so special anymore right?
Nostradamus: Astrologer and Physician
Nostradamus or also known as Michel de Notredame, was a 16th century French astrologer and physician. He began making prophecies in a book called Centuries (1555). The book consisted of “rhymed quatrains grouped in hundreds, each set of 100 called a century”. After some of his predictions seemed to have come true, he gained popularity and was even sought after by royalty. Some claim that he was able to predict that rise of Hitler as well as the terrorist attacks on 9/11, however these claims have been studied and debunked as being general statements without any truth or weight to them. Some people in their attempt to prove the validity of the prophecies have also mistranslated or misinterpreted the original French and have been known to combine unrelated parts of his writings together.
Using Nostradamus as a rebuttal against biblical prophecy not being specific or not true is a flawed argument to begin with simply because many of Nostradamus’ “prophecies” are noted as generic statements by those who have actually studied his works,
“Nostradamus wrote in Middle French, using vague words, metaphors, and obscure, dated references. There are dozens of different translations of his “Centuries” book, with many variations on different words and phrases. This wide variety of interpretations helps the prophecies come “true,” since if one translation doesn’t really support the historical evidence, another can often be found that fits better.” (Benjamin Radford, Nostradamus: Predictions of Things Past)
“Others maintain that because his prophecies tend to be about general types of events that occur frequently throughout history—and are written in a cryptic and vague manner—it’s possible to find one that seems to match almost any event that has occurred.” (Amy McKenna, Nostradamus and His Prophecies)
In my opinion, those who use Nostradamus as an example of prophecy haven’t actually studied what Nostradamus wrote and what experts in the area say about it. It only took me a quick google search to do my own research on the subject matter. So no, Nostradamus is not a prophet nor did any of his works have prophetic significance,
“Though widely regarded as a prophet, many who have studied Nostradamus’s works find that most of the amazing prophecies attributed to him are merely the result of poor linguistic and historical scholarship.” (Benjamin Radford, Nostradamus: Predictions of Things Past)
“Nostradamus did not in fact make predictions (statements that are read and known about before they happen); instead he made post-dictions (statements that appear to come true only after the events already happened).” (Benjamin Radford, Nostradamus: Predictions of Things Past)
Some of Nostradamus’ prophecies have an “end times” theme to it and closely matches what the Bible says. Nostradamus himself comes from a family with Jewish origins but one that eventually converted to Catholicism. However, those who have studied his writings have stated that his end time prophecies don’t only seem similar to the Bible’s, but that he copied what the Bible says. Ray Comfort, author of The Secrets of Nostradamus Exposed, examines many of Nostradamus’ prophecies and finds similarities to their origin,
“Five years ago, I decided to delve into the famed prophecies of Nostradamus. After comprehensive study, I began to see a peculiar pattern. Nostradamus warned that the future would bring signs in the sun. Interestingly enough, so does the Bible. He forewarned of earthquakes. So does the Bible. He spoke of the earth being round. So does the Bible. He warned of a coming world leader — the anti-Christ. So does the Bible. He speaks of the dead coming out of their graves. So does the Bible. He prophesied that the Jews would get Israel back. So does the Bible. To my amazement, I uncovered documented evidence that Nostradamus read the Scriptures in secret, stole Bible prophecies and claimed them as his own. That’s why he is so famous. Anyone who is ignorant of Bible prophecy will be impressed with the prophecies of Nostradamus.” (Ray Comfort, Nostradamus’ prophecies debunked)
From what I’ve researched, there isn’t much weight to the majority of Nostradamus’ “prophecies” and even if some of his prophecies did seem to foretell future events with greater detail, that is still not a problem from a biblical viewpoint. The findings of prophecy outside of the Bible doesn’t negate the Bible’s validity or origin, but instead adds to what the Bible has been saying all along regarding the supernatural/spiritual. I talk more about this here.
What’s the Source?
In my article Examining Prophecy: Prophecy in other Religions, we looked at how the Bible makes it clear of the supernatural reality of our world, the conflicts with this supernatural reality as well as the deception that comes with it. In Acts 16:16, Paul and Silas happened upon a slave girl while in the city of Philipi. She was indwelt by a demon and due to that was given the ability of divination, “Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling”. She was used for her ability as a fortune teller. This gift wasn’t from God but was still of a supernatural origin. So therefore, the occurrence or claim of people to have the ability to prophecy or be able to tell fortunes only confirms what the Bible says and is also something the Bible warns against and should be tested, which is exactly what we’re doing here.
In Deuteronomy 18, God makes it clear to the Israelites to not get into occult practices, “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.” (Deuteronomy 18:10). This isn’t only because it ultimately leads us away from God but it also opens doors into our lives for demonic oppression and deception. It all comes from satan, the father of lies, “…He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:33).
So how does this relate to Nostradamus? Nostradamus himself states that his prophecies came from a divine source, “Although for a long time I have been making predictions of events which have come to pass, naming the particular locality, I wish to acknowledge that all have been accomplished through Divine power and inspiration” (Ray Comfort, The Secrets of Nostradamus Exposed, pg 23). He also states that it comes from God, “… I confess truly that all comes from God, for which I give Him thanks, honor, and praise, without having mixed anything of the divination…” (Ray Comfort, The Secrets of Nostradamus Exposed, pg 30-31). However, the first 2 quatrains in Century I of his book tells a different story about his methods,
Sitting alone at night in secret study;
it is placed on the brass tripod.
A slight flame comes out of the emptiness and
makes successful that which should not be believed in vain.
The wand in the hand is placed in the middle of the tripod’s legs.
With water he sprinkles both the hem of his garment and his foot.
A voice, fear: he trembles in his robes.
Divine splendor; the God sits nearby.
His methods are very similar to what’s described in Frances King’s book Nostradamus where it relates this specific practice to a prophetess, “The prophetess of Branchus either sits upon a pillar, or holds in her hand a rod bestowed by some deity, or moistens her feet or hem of her garment with water… and by these means… she prophesies” (Francis X. King, Nostradamus, pages 138-139). Again, Nostradamus explains his methods,
“I emptied my soul, brain and heart of all care and attained a state of tranquility and stillness of mind which are prerequisites to predicting by means of the brass tripod… Human understanding, being intellectually created, cannot see hidden things unless aided by a voice coming from limbo by help of a thin flame…” (Ray Comfort, The Secrets of Nostradamus Exposed, pg 24-25)
Deuteronomy 18 also talks about how the authenticity of prophecy should be judged, “And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously…” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). Knowing that Nostradamus’ prophecies are vague at best, and many experts refute the fact that he was able to predict future events, how then can his claims be trusted?
Nostradamus’ “Prophecies” are vague writings that don’t offer much insight into what he may have originally intended and also comes from a questionable origin (the occult) once you dig further. Using Nostradamus as a source to refute Bible prophecy therefore is a weak argument and doesn’t properly address the prophecies written in the Bible but rather confirms what the Bible says about the spiritual/supernatural world we live in. Without properly digging into the Bible, one can’t claim that Bible prophecy is vague at best nor does the evidence of “prophecy” in other religions and beliefs discount the validity or uniqueness of the Bible. Again, all it serves to do is add to and confirm what’s been written in the Bible.
“And when they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God?…” (Isaiah 8:19)
“They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord!’ But the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed.” (Ezekiel 13:6)