Friday, August 28, 2020

Concerning the Alleged End-Time Prophecy of Abba Moses the Ethiopian

As with many alleged end-time prophecies distributed in Orthodox Christian literature, what is known of the origins of the "Prophecy of Abba Moses the Ethiopian" is almost impossible to determine. You can come across its title in a catalogue of Athonite manuscripts from 1895, where a manuscript is found at Philotheou Monastery in a translation into simpler Greek. The first time this prophecy is published, it appears in the Athonite periodical Αγιορειτική Βιβλιοθήκη (ετ. Ε΄, 1940-41, αρ. 50-51, Νοέμβριος-Δεκέμβριος 1940, σ. 108) in the November-December 1940 issue (pictured below). There it says that it came from a manuscript of a cell of the Great Lavra Monastery, specifically the Cell of Symeon the God-Receiver of Elder Benjamin the Monk. As far as I can tell, this manuscript is never mentioned anywhere before this time.

The contents of the alleged prophecy deal with what monasticism will be like in the end-times. However, according to this prophecy, these end-time events are supposed to take place specifically in the middle of the seventh century, or around the year 650 A.D. To be clear, the prophecy does not say specifically that it is concerning end-time events, as many have promoted it today, but it only says that these things will take place "in the latter days", which can simply just mean the future. If the original manuscript for this prophecy was written before the seventh century, then it appears it is predicting what will take place in 650 A.D. If it was written around 650 A.D., then it is describing current events as a warning. But if it was written after 650 A.D., then it simply is no prophecy at all. Abba Moses the Ethiopian lived in the fourth century, so this is the date we are to believe this prophecy has its origins in, and we are looking about three hundred years into the future.

The prophecy describes the monasticism of the future as very bleak. In summary, the monks of the future will be entirely corrupt and given over to vice. It is written in the context of someone describing how Abba Moses is having various visions of these future monks being given over to vice. It is written with such generalizations, that it can almost be compared to a horoscope. There are no specifics given. If you pictured the future of monasticism in the worst case scenario, then what you would imagine is generally described in this prophecy. But then it says that after a period of persecution for these monks by heretics, a time of peace will come for a short time, only to take on a second wave some time after, and this second wave of temptations and persecution will be worse than the first. During this second wave monks will be committing fornication with nuns, and priests will be committing adultery, and they will be condemned to hell.

It is at this point in the prophecy where something curious is written. It says that "this will take place because today they are preaching to abolish the fasts." This is followed by a long quote from Zechariah 8:19-23 in the context that Christians should keep the fasts of the Church and should obey the canons establishing these fasts. This is a very important clue revealing when this prophecy was written. In the fourth century, there weren't any ecclesiastical canons establishing fasts for the Church, but each monastery had its own rule for fasting practices. Many centuries would pass until we got established canons approved by universally acknowledged synods for the various fasts of the Church. Plus, there was never an issue in the Church and more so in monasteries regarding abolishing the fasts until we got into the nineteenth century, though this increased in the early twentieth century. So when the prophecy says that it is because "today they are preaching", it wants us to believe that this was being preached in the fourth century, when it absolutely was not.

From all that we have analyzed, my assessment of this alleged prophecy is that it is a forgery. That we are informed of this manuscript in 1895, tells me it probably dates to the mid-nineteenth century, at the latest. This prophecy is a warning to monks to not abolish the fasts of the Church, but to keep them strictly, otherwise they will be given over to the pleasures of the flesh, which will condemn them to hell. Such a prophecy, like many circulating today among Orthodox, indicates by its contents that it is of a modern origin. The fact that it dates the future events to 650 A.D. is to probably indicate that Abba Moses the Ethiopian a few centuries prior foretold the coming of Iconoclasm (which actually began in the eighth century), which was to come in two waves, the second being worse than the first, and the persecution was indeed primarily aimed against the monasteries. This indicates that the author in the nineteenth century was probably warning the monks of his day and of the future, that if they abolished the fasts of the Church, then they will suffer like the monastics under Iconoclasm. Though by such an odd comparison, it is almost condemning the monks that suffered under Iconoclasm.