Saturday, December 13, 2014

Hystaspes And Prophecy About The Time Before The End Of The World

AP: I want to present some texts concerning the end of the world, taken from Lactantius–a Christian poet who lived from about 245-325 and one of his major works, the Divine Institutes, which is a defense of the Christian religion. In it Lactantius writes down some alleged prophecies of Hystaspes, who is either the father of King Darius I (second successor of Cyrus I [the first was Cambyses I, the founder of the Persian Empire and Persian king from 521 to 486 B.C.) or a legendary monarch from the time of Zarathustra (sixth century B.C.?).

Lactantius, Divinae institutiones 7 15.17-19
"And that it will so come to pass, the predictions of the prophets briefly announce under the cover of other names, so that no one can easily understand them. Nevertheless the Sibyls openly say that Rome is doomed to perish, and that indeed by the judgment of God, because it held His name in hatred; and being the enemy of righteousness, it destroyed the people who kept the truth. Hystaspes also, who was a very ancient king of the Medes, from whom also the river which is now called Hydaspes received its name, handed down to the memory of posterity a wonderful dream upon the interpretation of a boy who uttered divinations, announcing long before the founding of the Trojan nation, that the Roman empire and name would be taken away from the world." (Lactantius, 213)
Lactantius, Divinae institutiones 7, 15.11
"[T]he cause of this desolation and confusion will be this; because the Roman name, by which the world is now ruled, will be taken away from the earth, and the government return to Asia; and the East will again bear rule, and the West he reduced to servitude." (Lactantius, 212)
Lactantius, Divinae institutiones 7, 16.4-14
"And at length, the name being changed and the seat of government being transferred, confusion and the disturbance of mankind will follow. Then, in truth, a detestable and abominable time shall come, in which life shall be pleasant to none of men. Cities shall be utterly overthrown, and shall perish; not only by fire and the sword, but also by continual earthquakes and overflowings of waters, and by frequent diseases and repeated famines. For the atmosphere will be tainted, and become corrupt and pestilential—at one time by unseasonable rains, at another by barren drought, now by colds, and now by excessive heats. Nor will the earth give its fruit to man: no field, or tree, or vine will produce anything; but after they have given the greatest hope in the blossom, they will fail in the fruit. Fountains also shall be dried up, together with the rivers; so that there shall not be a sufficient supply for drinking; and waters shall be changed into blood or bitterness. On account of these things, beasts shall fail on the land, and birds in the air, and fishes in the sea. Wonderful prodigies also in heaven shall confound the minds of men with the greatest terrors, and the trains of comets, and the darkness of the sun, and the colour of the moon, and the gliding of the falling stars. Nor, however, will these things take place in the accustomed manner; but there will suddenly appear stars unknown and unseen by the eyes; the sun will be perpetually darkened, so that there will be scarcely any distinction between the night and the day; the moon will now fail, not for three hours only, but overspread with perpetual blood, will go through extraordinary movements, so that it will not be easy for man to ascertain the courses of the heavenly bodies or the system of the times; for there will either be summer in the winter, or winter in the summer. Then the year will be shortened, and the month diminished, and the day contracted into a short space; and stars shall fall in great numbers, so that all the heaven will appear dark without any lights. The loftiest mountains also will fall, and be levelled with the plains; the sea will be rendered unnavigable. And that nothing may be wanting to the evils of men and the earth, the trumpet shall be heard from heaven, which the Sibyl foretells in this manner:—

'The trumpet from heaven shall utter its wailing voice.'

And then all shall tremble and quake at that mournful sound. But then, through the anger of God against the men who have not known righteousness, the sword and fire, famine and disease, shall reign; and, above all things, fear always overhanging. Then they shall call upon God, but He will not hear them; death shall be desired, but it will not come; not even shall night give rest to their fear, nor shall sleep approach to their eyes, but anxiety and watchfulness shall consume the souls of men; they shall deplore and lament, and gnash their teeth; they shall congratulate the dead, and bewail the living. Through these and many other evils there shall be desolation on the earth, and the world shall be disfigured and deserted, which is thus expressed in the verses of the Sibyl:—

'The world shall be despoiled of beauty, through the destruction of men.'

For the human race will be so consumed, that scarcely the tenth part of men will be left; and from whence a thousand had gone forth, scarcely a hundred will go forth. Of the worshippers of God also, two parts will perish; and the third part, which shall have been proved, will remain." (213-214)
Reflections from these texts:
  1. Rome would be considered today like the United States, China, or some other emerging empire. 
  2. This is like a broken record: I believe it would be unreasonable. 
  3. Really these texts could be applied for a number of repeated circumstances throughout history. 
  4. However, there are many who believe that what is described here is what will probably happen. They believe that not because these words are prophetic, but rather because it is the real battle of Islam against the West.

TWH: Hystaspes "prophecy" is preserved for us today in Lactantius' writings. Justin Martyr tells of how it was prohibited in his day to read from this work, although he and others did anyway (1 Apol. 44).


Lactantius, “The Divine Institutes,” in Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. William Fletcher, vol. 7, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886).

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