Prophecy of St. Nilus
The Prophecy of St. Nilus is an apocryphal work of uncertain origin (thus often referred to as the Prophecy of Pseudo-Nilus) predicting the apocalypse to occur in the 19th or 20th century (depending on the version of the text). As there are serious problems with the text, it is clear that it was either not written by St. Nilus or that it has been altered in translation. With the advent of the Internet, the work has taken on the status of urban legend.
The Prophecy claims to be written by a saint named Nilus, variously the 4th century St. Nilus the Ascetic, the 17th century St. Nilus the Myrrhstreamer of Mount Athos, or someone from the 14th century.
An "opposing views" piece asserts that there is an urban legend version, but one that sprung from genuine hagiography and a genuinely old source (not that what is arguably vindicated is not the status of St. Nilus's alleged prophecies as prophecy, but their status as a genuinely old historical document that didn't exactly date things to the mid-twentieth century.
Problems with the text
The most obvious problem with the text is one of dating. It claims to be regarding either the 19th or 20th centuries with varying levels of internal consistency in the actual text. Some, for instance, read "After the year 1900, toward the middle of the 19th century," which is contradictory, since starting with the year 1901, the 20th century began. Additionally, with several different versions circulating, especially with variances in this key opening phrase, it would seem that the text has been altered, so one cannot be sure about the period it supposedly is addressing.
The claim that the Prophecy is from the 4th century is also problematic, as in the 4th century it was not yet the practice of Christians to date from the birth of Christ, a practice introduced only in the 6th century by Dionysius Exiguus ("the Short"), a Roman monk. In the 4th century, dating was still calculated from the Creation, the founding of Rome, from the accession of the current emperor, or from the time of Diocletian according to the Indiction. Even after its introduction by Dionysius, it did not come into general use in the West until the 8th century.
Eastern Christians waited even longer to use the Nativity as a dating point. Most Orthodox Christians began the practice only after the fall of Constantinople, while the Church of Russia introduced it only with the time of Tsar Peter the Great (16th/17th c.).
Even aside from these problems, a "21st century" version has yet to surface, meaning that the Antichrist supposedly appeared around 1950 and has yet to take over the world.
The ethic of the Prophecy has problems, as well. It focuses on external appearances much more than the more serious problems of immorality, which were just as much present (and arguably even moreso) in the various eras in which the text was allegedly written.
Further, no known source for this text has yet surfaced.
One of the versions of the text circulating on the Internet.
The Prophecy of Saint Nilus
The Plight of the World and the Church during the 20th Century
By SAINT NILUS (d. circa AD 430)
After the year 1900, toward the middle of the 20th century, the people of that time will become unrecognizable. When the time for the Advent of the Antichrist approaches, people's minds will grow cloudy from carnal passions, and dishonor and lawlessness will grow stronger. Then the world will become unrecognizable.
People's appearances will change, and it will be impossible to distinguish men from women due to their shamelessness in dress and style of hair. These people will be cruel and will be like wild animals because of the temptations of the Antichrist. There will be no respect for parents and elders, love will disappear, and Christian pastors, bishops, and priests will become vain men, completely failing to distinguish the right-hand way from the left.
At that time the morals and traditions of Christians and of the Church will change. People will abandon modesty, and dissipation will reign. Falsehood and greed will attain great proportions, and woe to those who pile up treasures. Lust, adultery, homosexuality, secret deeds and murder will rule in society.
At that future time, due to the power of such great crimes and licentiousness, people will be deprived of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which they received in Holy Baptism and equally of remorse. The Churches of God will be deprived of God-fearing and pious pastors, and woe to the Christians remaining in the world at that time; they will completely lose their faith because they will lack the opportunity of seeing the light of knowledge from anyone at all. Then they will separate themselves out of the world in holy refuges in search of lightening their spiritual sufferings, but everywhere they will meet obstacles and constraints.
And all this will result from the fact that the Antichrist wants to be Lord over everything and become the ruler of the whole universe, and he will produce miracles and fantastic signs. He will also give depraved wisdom to an unhappy man so that he will discover a way by which one man can carry on a conversation with another from one end of the earth to the other.
At that time men will also fly through the air like birds and descend to the bottom of the sea like fish. And when they have achieved all this, these unhappy people will spend their lives in comfort without knowing, poor souls, that it is deceit of the Antichrist.
And, the impious one!—he will so complete science with vanity that it will go off the right path and lead people to lose faith in the existence of God in three hypostases. Then the All-good God will see the downfall of the human race and will shorten the days for the sake of those few who are being saved, because the enemy wants to lead even the chosen into temptation, if that is possible... then the sword of chastisement will suddenly appear and kill the perverter and his servants.
- "After the year 1900, toward the middle of the 19th century..." (4th c.)
- "After the year 1900, toward the middle of the 20th century..." (5th c.)
- "After the year 1900, toward the middle of the 20th century..." (14th c.)
- "After the year 1900, toward the middle of the 20th century..." (1651)
Criticism and debunking
- "Spooky-doxy", by Fr. Joseph Huneycutt, listing many links and uses of the Prophecy
- On the dating issues, a listserv post by Fr. Dimitri Cozby
- A listserv post, by Bp. Tikhon (FitzGerald) of San Francisco and Los Angeles