History of Predicting the Future


Many people have tried to predict the future. It seems deeply embedded in various religions. Jesus was part of a group predicting the apocalypse. However the meaning of the word has changed. It originally meant a revelation of God’s will rather than the end of the world as it has come to mean now.

Jewish Predictions

Jewish belief in the apocalypse is that the current world is ruled by evil and that a Messiah will come and deliver believers to a new era that will by ruled by God. Predictions of when the Messiah would come were discouraged so that people wouldn’t lose their belief if the prediction was wrong. We have been waiting 2,000 years.

There have been many false predictions over the years. You would think that people would look at the track record and avoid making predictions of the end of the world. Here are some of the ones.

The final battle was going to be fought in the year 66-70 as the Jews battled the Romans. Then Hilary Poitiers said it would end in 365 and Martin of Tours said it would happen before the year 400.

Christian predictions

Then the year 500, 793 and 800 and a waffle by Gregory of Tours saying 799-806. Have you noticed that a lot of the predictions are for turn of the century and turn of the millennium. They probably didn’t stop to think that telling time in this way was a human construct and there was nothing special about these dates.

Then there was 848, 992-5 by an assortment of Christians, January 1, 1000 and 1033. We skip the 1100s and the end of the world predictions start up again in the 1200s. and 1300s, skip the 1400s and then more in the 1500s. (There might have been some in the 1100s and 1400s but they weren’t mentioned in the article we read.

The Demise Gets More Frequent

There were many predictions of the end of the world in the 1500, 1600s, 1700s and 1800s. Some reworked their calculations when the world didn’t end after the first date they predicted. Cotton Mather tried 3 times. It is not clear if the increase was because with a greater population and therefore more people who might make predictions or that historical recordation improved and we just will never know the true extend of predictions in earlier times.

Aliens enter the picture

In the 1900s the bad predictions did not let up. Jeane Dixon got this one wrong. Unfortunately for Jim Jones’ followers in Guyana, Jim Jones decided not to wait for the apocalypse and created his own. Then Charles Manson murdered people to start a race war that would create an apocalypse. The Heaven’s Gate Cult believed an alien spacecraft was in the shadow of Halley’s comet and we were supposed to die as it came by so that our souls could get to the spacecraft. Thirty nine of them committed suicide so they could get to the spaceship.

And the hits just keep on coming. It seems like they are getting more frequent. When will people learn?