Nostradamus the Prophet?

August 18, 2011 | by

Someone forwarded me an email that showed how Nostradamus predicted the attack on the World Trade Center. Already in the first line he predicts the date: "the first year of the new century" (2001), and "the 9th month" (September).

That's pretty impressive. Are these prophecies real?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

Nostradamus was a French astrologer and physician who lived in the 16th century. His book, Centuries, contains rhyming verses that commingle French, Spanish, Latin and Hebrew words. The "prophetic" quatrains of Nostradamus are very vague and can be interpreted to apply to almost anything. For example, the lines of a "prophecy" are often cut-and-paste from different quatrains.

The following text, attributed to Nostradamus, has been making the rounds on the web:

    "In the year of the new century and nine months,

    From the sky will come a great King of Terror...

    Fire approaches the great new city...

    In the city of York there will be a great collapse,

    Two twin brothers torn apart by chaos...

    Third big war will begin when the big city is burning"

In light of current events, the prophecy seems startlingly accurate.

All this would be interesting, except for the fact that these words were never written by Nostradamus. The text apparently originated in an essay, "A Critical Analysis of Nostradamus," in which the author made up some quatrains, in order to demonstrate the fallacy of Nostradamus' supposed prophecies. Ironic that these same words are now part of a hoax to prove the power of Nostradamus!

I think there's a bigger issue here as well. In the weeks following the 9-11 attacks, "Nostradamus" was one of the top search items online, and bookstores reported a run on Nostradamus literature. Why are people so eager to find out that the attacks were prophetically foretold?

I believe it's because we cannot bear the thought that all this death and destruction was meaningless. Intuitively, we humans sense that the world has a greater purpose, and that world events – even the unpleasant ones – are somehow connected to that bigger picture. So we grasp for meaning amidst the mayhem. Even if it is false.

Of course, Judaism is the first to say that there's a deeper meaning in current events. But you have to make sure the meaning is objectively true. Otherwise it just numbs the wound, without providing any genuine relief.


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