Famines, Pestilences & Earthquakes
“…and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” (Mt. 24:7).
In Position Paper #1 we listed a number of events that Jesus told His disciples would take place during the generation of time that they were living in. In this Position Paper we will provide evidence to support the actual fulfillment of another of the statements that Jesus made on that particular day, the arrival of famines, pestilences and earthquakes.
1. Agabus prophesied a great famine in Acts 11:28. “And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth [a severe famine] throughout the whole world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.”
The first important thing to note about this prophecy is that the Bible itself confirms that the prophesied famine did occur just as Agabus prophesied “…which came to pass…”
Tacitus writing in AD 109 and Eusebius (AD 260–340) also confirm this famine taking place during the reign of Claudius Caesar.
Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20, Chapter 2, Paragraph 1, Line 1, Paragraph 3, Line 37, and Paragraph 5, Lines 51–53, states the following with regard to this prophecy by Agabus:
“…Helena, queen of Adiabene [who was queen during the period of AD 66–70]…[during the time of] Claudius Caesar…Now her coming was of very great advantage to the people of Jerusalem; for whereas a famine did oppress them at that time, and many people died for want of what was necessary to procure food withal, queen Helena sent some of her servants to Alexandria with money to buy a great quantity of corn, and others of them to Cypress, to bring a cargo of dried figs; and as soon as they were come back, and brought those provisions, which was done very quickly, she distributed food to those that were in want of it…and when her son Izates was informed of this famine, he sent great sums of money to the principal men in Jerusalem…”
In the footnotes of Josephus, the following additional supportive information is given.
“…but of this terrible famine itself in Judea…Dr. Hudson’s note here:–This (says he) is that famine foretold by Agabus, Acts 11:28; which happened when Claudius was consul the fourth time…”
“…Scaliger says upon Eusebius…there happened a great famine in Judea. Whence it is plain that this famine continued for many years…this famine fortold by Agabus, happened upon the 5th, 6th, and 7th years of Claudius, as says Valesius on Eusib.2.12.”
2. Philostratus (AD 170–244/249) records in the life of Apollonius that earthquakes occurred in Crete during the reign of Claudius.
3. In addition to item #2 above, Philostratus records earthquakes during the time period in Chios, Miletus, Samos and Smyrna.
4. Tacitus mentions earthquakes in Laodicea and Rome during the reign of Nero in addition to Colosse and Hierapolis.
Tacitus, The Annals, Book 12 and 14, written in approximately AD 109.
5. The Roman philosopher Seneca (3 BC–AD 65) records an earthquake at Campania.
6. Suetonius (AD 75–160) records an earthquake in Rome during the reign of Galba (AD 68–69).
7. Josephus writes in, The Wars of the Jews, Book 4, Chapter 4, Paragraph 5, Lines 286, 287, of an earthquake in Judea, “…for there broke out a prodigious storm in the night, with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continual lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake…anyone would guess that these wonders foreshadowed some grand calamities that were coming.”
8. Josephus writing on the magnitude of the famine that existed during the siege of Jerusalem states that, “…there perished, for want of food, eleven thousand; some of whom did not taste any food, through the hatred their guards bore to them; and others would not take in any when it was given them. The multitude also was so very great, that they were in want even of corn for their sustenance…there came a pestilential destruction upon them, and soon afterward such a famine, as destroyed them more suddenly…there were also found slain there above two thousand persons, partly by their own hands, and partly by one another, but chiefly destroyed by the famine.”
Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book 6, Chapter 9, Paragraph 2, Line 419, Paragraph 3, Line 421, Paragraph 4, Line 430.
9. Continuing with his historical record of the siege of Jerusalem, Josephus writes that, “for there was no corn which anywhere appeared publicly…nor did they [robbers] think it proper to kill such as these [those in misery], because they saw they would very soon die of themselves for want of food…children pulled the very morsels that their fathers were eating out of their very mouths; so did the mothers do as to their infants…the seditious everywhere…broke open the doors, and ran in and took pieces of what they were eating, almost up out of their very throats…”
Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 10, Paragraph 2, Lines 425, 426, Paragraph 3, Lines 430–432.
It would seem to the writer of this Position Paper that it has been well documented in the historical records that the prophecy given by Jesus in Matthew 24 at the beginning of this Position Paper was fulfilled during the lifetime of those to whom Jesus had spoken these words.