Today is Friday the 13th, so I suppose I rather expected my social media accounts to contain more than the usual cargo of wacky warnings about black cats, planet alignment and dire doomsday predictions. Sure enough, some group is claiming the biblical rapture will happen on April 23 because of a fictional planet known as Nibiru.
As I read one report refuting of the end-of-the-world forecast (does such nonsense even deserve refutation?), I wondered what ominous signs caused men to quake in medieval England, before our supposedly enlightened knowledge of the world.
Not unexpectedly, natural disasters often invoked end-of-life-as-we-know-it fear. One such disaster is known as The Great Drowning of 1362 (in England they called it The Great Wind). No matter what you call the storm, it was a winter tempest of epic proportions. Chroniclers record a minimum of 25,000 to 50,000 deaths across primarily England, Germany and the Netherlands (they weren’t very good at counting living people, so it is hard to know how many died). A monk at Canterbury Cathedral wrote that it caused…
…houses and buildings for the most part to come crashing to the ground, while some others, having had their roofs blown off by the force of the winds, were left in the ruined state; and … trees standing in the woods and elsewhere, were wrenched from the earth by their roots with a great crash, as if the Day of Judgement were at hand, and fear and trembling gripped the people of England to such an extent that no one knew where he could safely hide, for church towers, windmills, and many dwelling-houses collapsed to the ground, although without much bodily injury.
(Chronicle of Anonymous of Canterbury; http://www.medievalists.net/2015/02/08/great-wind-1362/medieval-wind-storm/)
Between the wind and waves, a few communities disappeared altogether (see The Lost Town of Dunwich, England at https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/lost-town-dunwich).
It’s no wonder medieval people were so superstitious – they experienced otherworldly events with no way to understand them. But what is modern man’s excuse for the outrageous things that some people believe?
Will the world eventually come to an end? Absolutely. The Bible is pretty unequivocal on that point. However, Jesus himself said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36). The take-home message in all of this? That part is easy.