Vaticinium ex eventu
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Vaticinium ex eventu ("Prophecy from the event") is a technical theological or historiographical term referring to a prophecy written after the author already had information about the events being "foretold". The text is written so as to appear that the prophecy had taken place before the event, when in fact it was written after the events supposedly predicted. Vaticinium ex eventu is a form of hindsight bias. The concept is similar but distinct from postdiction, where prophecies that were genuinely written or spoken before the event are reinterpreted after the event to fit the facts as they occurred.
In religious writings
The Bablyonian "Marduk Prophecy", a text describing the travels of the Marduk idol from Babylon, "prophesies" of the statue’s seizure during the sack of the city by Mursilis I in 1531 BC, Assyria, when Tukulti-Ninurta I overthrew Kashtiliash IV in 1225 BC and took the idol to Assur, and Elam, when Kudur-nahhunte ransacked the city and pilfered the statue around 1160 BC. A copy was found in the House of the Exorcist at Assur, whose contents date from 713–612 BC and is closely related thematically to another vaticinium ex eventu text called the Shulgi prophecy, which probably followed it in a sequence of tablets. Both compositions present a favorable view of Assyria.
As we see in Daniel 7:2–11:39, especially Daniel 11, the Book of Daniel utilizes vaticinium ex eventu, by its seeming foreknowledge of events from Alexander's conquest up to the persecution of Antiochus IV in the summer of 164 BCE. However, Daniel knows neither about the re-dedication of the Temple (1 Maccabees 4:52–54) nor about Antiochus's death, both of which happened late in November and December of 164 BCE. Therefore, Daniel 11:40–12:3 is no longer vaticina ex eventu but genuine predictive prophecy. Modern scholarship considers the stories of the first half legendary in origin, and the visions of the second the product of anonymous authors in the Maccabean period (2nd century BCE). Its inclusion in Ketuvim (Writings) rather than Nevi'im (Prophets) was likely because it appeared after the canon for those books had closed, and the dominant view among Jews and scholars is that Daniel is not in any case a prophetic book but an apocalypse. However, in the Christian canon Daniel is listed under the Major Prophets.
Some scholars regard statements attributed to Jesus in the Gospels that foretell the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple as examples of vaticinia ex eventu, these scholars believe that the Gospels were all written after the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, in which the temple was destroyed. However some Christian scholars reject this notion as the fulfillment of the acclaimed prophecy; the destruction of the temple is not recorded in the gospels or in the other letters and date the new testament scriptures before AD 70.
- The Ancient world saw the technique of vaticinium ex eventu used by a wide variety of figures, from Pindar and Herodotus to Horace and Virgil.
- References in the late correspondence of Virginia Woolf to "how I love this savage medieval water ... and myself so eliminated" are sometimes taken as presaging her suicide by drowning a few months later: the danger of vaticinium ex eventu has however also been observed.
- Tablet K. 2158+
- Ehling, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der späten Seleukiden, 111, esp. fn 1; D. Gera, Dov and W. Horowitz, "Antiochus IV in Life and Death: Evidence from the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries", JAOS 117 (1997): 240-52; J. J. Collins, Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Hermeneia; Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press), 388--389 Lester L. Grabbe (2001). "A Dan(iel) For All Seasons". In John Joseph Collins, Peter W. Flint. The Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception. supplements to Vetus Testamentum ( vol. 83). 1. Leiden & Boston: Brill. ISBN 9004226753. page 230.
- Collins 2002, p. 2.
- Soulen, Richard N.; Soulen, R. Kendall (2001). Handbook of Biblical Criticism (3rd ed.). Westminster John Knox Press. p. 204. ISBN 9780664223144. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
- JJ O'Hara, Death and the Optimistic Prophecy in Vergil's Aeneid (2014) p. 128-9
- Quoted in H. Lee, Virginia Woolf (1996) p. 752
- Olivia Laing, To the River (2011) p. 195-8
- Vaticinium ex eventu (or post eventum) Dictionary of the Bible