Prominent pastor John Hagee’s “blood moon prophecy,” the claim that eclipses track with significant events in the history of Israel, has gained coverage if not much credence in USA Today, the New York Daily News, and other outlets. There are political and religious responses that could be offered to his prophecy, but as an astronomer I had one question in mind: Do Hagee’s factual claims hold? The answer is no.
Hagee’s prophecy claims that “tetrads” (the occurrence of four total lunar eclipses over two years) which occur on Passover and Succot (P&S) coincide with significant events in the history of the Jewish people. To support this claim, Hagee says that P&S tetrads in 1493-94, 1949-50, and 1967-68 can be associated (within a year or two) with expulsion of Spanish Jews (1492), establishment of the state of Israel (1948), and Israel’s six-day war (1967).
Not all tetrads are P&S tetrads. In every single year, eclipses occur during two preferred intervals of time (the “eclipse seasons”), but the eclipse seasons shift systematically as time goes by. The shift occurs because the lunar orbit around the Earth is continually drifting relative to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Thus, eclipses can occur in any month, depending on where the Moon’s orbit lies that year.
Hagee uses his claim to make predictions that significant events may occur in the near future in Israel. The timeliness of Hagee’s book is heightened by the fact that a P&S tetrad started recently (on April 14, 2014).
To see if Hagee’s claim is correct, we should examine the historical record to see whether major events of Jewish history have coincided with P&S tetrads. Some definite conclusions can be drawn, however, even without having to pore through old religious calendars to find the dates of Passover and Succot, for we know that if there were no tetrads at all in a certain year, then there couldn’t have been P&S tetrads. And, as we shall see, many hugely important events in Jewish history occurred when there were no tetrads at all.
There happens to be a table of eclipses which occurred (or will occur) between 2000 bc and 3000 ad is available online. The number of tetrads occurring in each century from the current back to the first are as follows: 8, 5 (including 2 cited by Hagee), 0, 0, 0, 5, 4 (including one cited by Hagee), 6, 0, 0, 0, 6, 8, 3, 0, 0, 3, 4, 6, 3, 0. From the twentieth to the first century bc, the numbers were as follows: 1, 0, 0, 3, 8, 6, 2, 0, 0, 4, 7, 7, 1, 0, 0, 1, 7, 6, 3, 0.
It is difficult to imagine any list of significant events in Jewish history which would not assign pride of place to the following 7 events, for which fairly reliable dates can be assigned. Here we compare these dates to the occurrence of tetrads.
(1) The last Jewish-Roman war (the Bar Kochba revolt) in 132-136 ad: but there was no tetrad during those years (the nearest one is in 162-163 ad).
(2) The destruction of Jerusalem (70 ad), and
(3) The siege of Masada (73 ad): but there were no tetrads in the 1st century.
(4) The Babylonian captivity, starting in 587 bc, ending in 538 bc: but there were no tetrads in the 6th century bc.
(5) The Assyrian invasion 721 bc and
(6) The destruction of the northern kingdom: but there was no tetrad in that year (the nearest one is 782-781 bc).
(7) The Exodus from Egypt: estimates of the date vary from as late as 1250-1200 bc or as early as 1313 bc: the first of these occurs in a century when no tetrads occurred. And although two tetrads did occur in the 14th century bc, the nearest to 1313 bc was more than 50 years prior, in 1368-1367 bc.
Comparing the above 7 major events in Jewish history with the list of eclipses fails to reveal any overlap whatsoever with any kind of tetrad (let alone with P&S tetrads). From the time of Exodus to the present time, altogether 20 (bc) + 54 (ad) = 74 tetrads have occurred. Hagee carefully chooses three of these seventy-four and associates them (within a year or two) with certain events in Jewish history. But Hagee fails to inform his readers about the complete absence of tetrads in the seven major events listed above.
These numerical results suggest that, contrary to Hagee’s claim, little or no connection exists between tetrads and major events in Jewish history.
Dermott J. Mullan is Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Delaware.