Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Dark Skies of 536 AD

The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss.  When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss.  -Revelation 9:1-2

I find Biblical prophecy fascinating.  I think it is remarkably accurate from a historic perspective.  There are different views on how to interpret Biblical prophecies though.  I'm not sure what the statistics are on how many people adhere to one or the other viewpoints, but I think the futurist view is probably the most popular and well known.  Simply put, the futurists view many Biblical prophecies as events that have not yet happened.  This type of view is what the popular Left Behind book series is based on.  It's a very faith based view point, and at one point in time, it was the viewpoint I took.

But there are a couple of other interpretations too.  Preterists view Biblical prophecies as historical events that already happened a long time ago around the time the books were written.  Historicists, on the other hand, view the prophecies as events that have occurred throughout history.  As a history buff, I've come to realize the futurist view just doesn't seem accurate anymore.

For instance, many futurists are expecting a new pagan temple to be built on the site of Temple Mount in Jerusalem with a statue of the anti-christ in it.  But it's known that Emperor Hadrian already built a pagan temple to Jupiter on the site of Temple Mount back in the 2nd century.  It's a prophecy that has already been fulfilled.

So it seems the futurist view may not be all that accurate.  History has taught me the other two views have more merit.  And although I think the preterists have made some good arguments for their case, it's the historicist view that I find most accurate.  The prophecy at the beginning of this post is one of the reasons why.

In the year 536 AD, a dry fog or veil of dust darkened the skies of Europe and Asia minor for around 12 to 18 months.  This event brought decreased temperatures, drought, and food shortages.  Contemporary reports indicate the effects of the event extended to Africa, Mesopotamia, and China.

It's not certain what caused the persistent fog or dust, but it's speculated it was the result of either a volcanic eruption or cometary impact (or even a near miss by a comet).  In the prophecy above, it almost sounds as if both of those events could have happened.  The star falling from the sky could have been a comet and the abyss smoking like a furnace could have been a volcanic eruption.  Could both of those events have happened around the same time?  I'm not sure what the odds are, but I think it's certainly possible.  They could have been separate, unrelated events, or it could be that the cometary impact set in motion a chain reaction under the earth that cause a volcano to erupt.  I think it's also possible that the impact alone could have achieved the description of the prophecy.  The impact could have created an "abyss" and fires could have occurred that caused the smoke.  Regardless of the cause though, reports indicate the skies were darkened for at least a year in 536 AD.

I only recently heard about this historic event.  But in my mind, this is just another example of why I consider the historicist interpretation of Biblical prophecy to be the most accurate.  The event doesn't fit with the preterist view because it happened long after the Bible was written, but it has already happened, so it's not a future event either.

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