The end of the world may be tomorrow and we all know the present day apocalypse scenarios—a secret planet will smash earth, a giant black hole will swallow earth, there will be epic floods—but people have actually been predicting the end of the world for a very long time.
Digital Dying put together a list of other instances across history in which the world was supposed to end, and just who was behind the prediction…
365, Hilary of Poitiers – Hilary’s name in Latin means cheerful, his parents were famous pagans but Hilary studied the Old Testament and became an avid Christian. In 353, he was elected bishop of Poitiers, a city in west-central France. He had numerous disagreements with church officials and was banished to Phrygia. Hilary wrote a series of treatises, one of which proclaimed the world would end in the year of 365. When it didn’t one of his students, Saint Martin of Tours, pushed the date back to 400. It didn’t end then either. Hipplytus changed the date to 500. The German emperor Otto III later changed it to 968, and finally to Good Friday of 992. All of them got it wrong.
1533, Michael Stifel – Stifel was a German monk and mathematician. In 1532 he anonymously published the book, Ein Rechenbuchlin vom EndChrist. Apocalyps in Apocalypsim (A Book of Arithmetic about the AntiChrist. A Revelation in the Revelation). The book, a careful examination of both the Bible and mathematics, predicted Judgement Day would occur at 8am on October 19, 1533. A small group of followers, many whom had sold their homes and farms in anticipation of the apocalypse, joined him atop a hill near the Austrian city of Lochau to await the end. When it didn’t come the villagers became enraged and Stifel was placed in protective custody.
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1688/1700, John Napier – Napier was a mathematician and astrologer, he was born in Scotland and lived much of his life in isolation in a large castle in Edinburgh. He is best known for inventing the logarithm and an abacus made of small bones, a tool referred to as Napier’s Bones. Napier also developed a keen interest in the Book of Revelation. From that book, and information garnered from the Sibylline Oracles, a collection of divine revelations ascribed to the Greek prophetess Sibyls, he calculated the world would end sometime in either 1688 or 1700. Napier never provided an exact date.
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1843/1844, William Miller – Miller was born in New England and fought in the War of 1812, where he participated in the famous Battle of Plattsburgh. A small group of American soldiers overcame the much larger and better armed British forces. “Bombs, rockets, and shrapnel shells fell as thick as hailstones,” wrote Miller. One shot exploded two feet from him, killing a man and wounding three others. Miller survived without a scratch and deemed the incident a miracle. Miller experienced another religious awakening one day during services at his local Baptist church. By carefully reading certain sections of the Bible he came to believe that the earth’s purification by fire at Christ’s second coming was not so far off. The exact date the world would end was to occur sometime between 1843 and 1844, said Miller.
During the 1830s Miller spoke frequently about the end of the world and published a series of articles on the topic in local New England newspapers. In 1834 he published a 64 page paper entitled, Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ, about the Year 1843: Exhibited in a Course of Lectures. By 1840 his teachings had become a powerful national movement. At this point Miller had pegged his predicted date the world would end as March 21, 1843. Thousands of “Millerites” quit their jobs, sold their homes and prepared for the second coming. March 21 came and went without incident. Miller proposed a second date, October 22, 1844. Again, the world failed to end. The entire event became known as “The Great Disappointment.”
1919, Albert Porta – Porta was a well-respected meteorologist who believed that six planets would fall into alignment on December 17, 1919, leading to the end of the world. According to Porta, the phenomenon would “cause a magnetic current that would pierce the sun, cause great explosions of flaming gas and eventually engulf the earth.” The event did not occur and Porta’s career as a meteorologist was ruined. He left the field and became a journalist.
2000 (Y2K), Computer Geeks Worldwide – On January 1, 2000, many people believed not God or Jesus or floods or asteroids or magnetism gone awry was going to bring about our demise, but computers. Networks across the globe would crash, said analysts, causing mass chaos. Trains would stop running, planes would fall from the sky and pretty much anything with an electronic chip was bound to malfunction. January 1 came and the world went on, in all its beauty and chaos. As for tomorrow, well, we’ll know soon enough.