Coronaviruses and prophecies: Did a psychic predict the pandemic in 2008?
Many Bible commentators are being accused of forcing the words of the New Testament to attract attention and gain followers.
A mysterious book has just risen to number 2 on Amazon's bestseller list. It's called The End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies about the End of the World by Sylvia Browne, a psychic and writer who died in 2013. In the book, she said that in the year 2020 a disease similar to pneumonia would arrive and destroy the lungs of millions of people. The coronavirus, perhaps?
Browne's visions began in the summer of 2008, and she wrote them down five years later, just before her death.
It's another sign that helps all sorts of prophets and doomsayers announce the end of the world. The Internet has been filled these last weeks with visionaries who recommend you to have a Bible close by and pay attention to the announcements of the end times: the African locust, Australian fires and now the coronavirus crisis give wings to the preachers who are fanning the mental bonfire of the western populations.
A global crisis as severe as the COVID-19 crisis causes a desire for rapid response to such an aggressive and global virus. The problem is that there are false preachers who stimulate panic and can become a threat to social coexistence.
Serious theologians such as Ulrich Lehner, from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, warned false preachers by claiming that Jesus, as specified in the Gospel according to Matthew, stated that no one could know the time of their return or the time of the Final Judgment.
Just as Browne's statements were soon refuted or disputed, many Bible commentators are being accused of forcing the words of the New Testament to gain attention and followers.
Browne prophesied that she would die at 88, but did so at 77. She also wrote this prediction in the context of a famous SARS outbreak, which is in the same category of virus as COVID-19. It was not so difficult to make the vague prophecy and its story fit with everything happening.
Similar things happened frequently in the Middle Ages: plague epidemics generated speculation about the end of the world and the imminent arrival of the divine Judgement. The Modern Age was not spared from millenarianism either. For example, many feared that in 1666, the Apocalypse would come because it had reached the figure of the Beast in the Book of Revelations.
It is not surprising that the coronavirus crisis generates episodes of collective hysteria. What is interesting, is to see how, in today's world, social networks make this type of apocalyptic thinking flourish in times of pandemics and prophets.