Magnificent stories of the predictive powers of Nostradamus the Seer travelled throughout the French town Salon de Craux. The tales of his fulfilled predictions were on the tongue of every person as all struggled to decide whether this controversial man was a magician or a charlatan. Among such sceptics was an elderly nobleman who wished to test the claims made about this strange seer.
The nobleman arrived at the home of Nostradamus carrying two pigs in his arms: one black and one white. The nobleman enquired of the seer, “Which of these pigs will I eat first?” Nostradamus replied, “The white one.” The sceptic laughed as he had so easily proven the seer wrong.
The nobleman returned home and ordered his cook to prepare the black pig for his meal. Within the hour, the sweet aroma of roast pork had entered the nobleman’s room and he began to eat his meal. As the nobleman devoured his victory, his cook stammered a few words that caused him to lose his appetite. “I’m sorry sir, but the black pig was stolen by a wolf, so I had to cook the white one.”1
Nostradamus is a prevailing figure of history, and yet can be a seemingly awkward individual for Christians to discuss. During a Bible study I was conducting regarding Daniel 2, my keen listener asked, “But what about the predictions of Nostradamus? What makes them any different from the prophecies in the Bible?”
It was an intriguing question to which I honestly had no answer. Little did I know then that Nostradamus had supposedly predicted the spread of the bubonic plague, the growth of Protestantism, the birth of the Russian Revolution, as well as countless other significant events in history.
However, after some research, I discovered that Christians should not fear Nostradamus or his predictions, and that when compared to biblical standards, pure logic and sound reasoning, it becomes apparent that Nostradamus and his writings fall short of the God-inspired Scriptures.
To begin with Nostradamus’s writings are written in an incredibly cryptic and vague style. For example, consider the following prediction:
The bold and shameless great talker,
Will be chosen as head of the army,
The audacity of his contention,
The broken bridge, the city faint with dread.2
This prediction has commonly been attributed to the actions of Oliver Cromwell during the English revolutionary period. However, several scholars have also attributed this prediction to Leon Trotsky during the Kronstadt rebellion of 1921.
So what is the immediate problem with Nostradamus’s predictions? Nostradamus offers no clear date or time when this event will occur, or any historical timeline or context for which to expect these events. This allows for what sceptics refer to as “retroactive clairvoyance” in which hindsight bias allows for an interpreter to match a vague prediction with significant events (thereby nullifying the intention of it being a prediction if only identifiable after the fact).3 This is incredibly unlike the specific dating and historical timeline of prophecies found in both Daniel and Revelation, as God reveals human history in a sequential order until His second coming and beyond, not allowing any such room for retroactive clairvoyance.
Furthermore, Nostradamus used vague symbols, metaphors and imagery within his predictions. Using such methods does not immediately nullify the authenticity of these predictions, as several prophetic biblical books utilise similar conventions of writing.
However, such a method is only useful when an objective code or legend is given in order to understand each symbol or image. The Bible instructs Christians to study the Word “line upon line, precept upon precept”,4 to interpret the writings, “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit”5.
Put simply, the Bible interprets itself. Comparatively, the predictions of Nostradamus are written incredibly cryptically, and with no objective legend to decipher them. For this reason, Nostradamus fails to achieve the biblical classification of an authentic prophet, as there are several interpretations to each of his predictions, and none can be objectively claimed as superior or even correct (Deuteronomy 18:22).
Finally, despite the vague and cryptic nature of Nostradamus’s predictions, supporters still fervently believe that these predictions were fulfilled, and some of their arguments even seem compelling and viable. However, even if it were objectively possible to determine that Nostradamus’s predictions were fulfilled, it should neither surprise nor intimidate Christians. Both Jesus and the apostles spoke regularly about the abilities of false prophets, who during the end times would be able to perform miracles and wonders, leading people away from God (Matthew 7:15, 2 Peter 2:1, Matthew 24:24, Revelation 13:13). [pullquote]
Throughout history it is evident that Satan has deceived countless unsuspecting individuals with counterfeits of God’s original creations. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Satan would have concocted counterfeit prophecy.
Now Christians should not necessarily advocate to label Nostradamus as being aided by demonic forces, as this is impossible to know with certainty. However, his fascination with the occult and astrology should be reason enough to discredit his predictions as godly, as his methods of divination clearly contradict biblical standards (Deuteronomy 18:9-12, Isaiah 8:20). Nostradamus’s false predictions should serve as a reminder to Christians that Satan will deceive who he may, and that as we approach nearer to the return of Christ, we should be exceedingly vigilant to avoid falling into his snare.
So regardless of whether Nostradamus was a magician, a charlatan or a tool of a greater force, his predictions fall short of the high biblical standard. The predictions of Nostradamus are never clearly contextualised in time, utilise vague imagery while providing no objective legend, and are derived from unconventional and unbiblical methods. Comparatively, the Bible stands as the inspired, inerrant Word of God, which has yet to fail in its clear predictions of the events of history.
Christians can rest assured that there is no better foundation on which to base their beliefs than the Word of God.
Christopher Petersen is studying a Bachelor of Ministry and Theology at Avondale College. He manages the online ministry “The After Sermon Podcast” and uploads sermons regularly to YouTube.